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What Am I Missing About Expensive Pens?


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#1 stephenfountain

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 13:01

I recently got a 40 year old vintage PaperMate back up & running thanks to help on this forum, and am delighted with it. Writes really smoothy, with free flowing ink, and feels great in my hand. I also got a similar vintage Sheaffer back in action too, (a slim white dot), but it's not as impressive being a little 'scratchy' for my handwriting.

 

However, in my new found love for the fountain pen, I have bought a few cheapies, 2 disposables (a Platignum TIXX and a 'zebra V301') both of which I am really impressed with. Yes, they have plastic casings, and are not family heirlooms, but as writing instruments are just lovely.

 

I also splashed out on a Platignum No.4 fountain pen, which does have a metal case and a lovely balanced heft in the hand, and it was less than £5 delivered!

 

So, what should I be looking for in an expensive pen? Obviously quality of manufacture is one, but then does 'brand' simply suck up the £££s after that?

 



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#2 Charles Skinner

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 14:14

Well, it depends a many things.  High dollar pens, regardless of who made it, are almost always "good."  You might get one that need a little adjustment, but on the whole, you can not go wrong with high quality pen makers.  I have two Montblancs that I love, 146 and 144.  I also have a couple of Pilots that I also love.   I have one high dollar Pelikan that I love, but it has become not smooth. My fault, not the maker.  

 

Now, for some "cheap pens."  I really, really love my "cheap" Jinhao 159.  I have three of them!  

 

Hope this helps. 

 

C. S. 



#3 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 14:16

My 65 euro Kaweco AL Sport is very well made, all-metal and indestructible. So sturdiness by itself doesn't account for it. It's the nib (gold is expensive), the material of the barrel and cap and the design. Purely in terms of writing (not materials), the respons of the nib might be softer and more springy than cheaper pens (I'm not saying that all expensive nibs are flex nibs, they're not). A more refined experience, so to speak. Whether or not that is worth any money is personal. I tend towards cheaper pens and am very happy with them (I have only one gold-nibbed pen and several steel-nibbed pens). Others swear by expensive pens.

#4 gary

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 14:39

You might look for several things:

>Nib:  gold, or something other than F, M, or B.

>Material:  celluloid, precious metal, horn.

>Scarcity:  genuinely rare pens, whether surviving vintage pens or limited editions.

>Craftsmanship:  hand-made.  Think Yard-O-Led hand hammered sterling silver, Hakase made of horn, urushi or makie from a number of makers, custom pens from any number of skilled craftsmen.

gary



#5 pseudo88

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 15:25

The main differences I can see between my few higher end pens and my mid rangers:

 

Pelikan m600, Sailor Pro Gear:

More reliable, no starting or flow problems, don't evaporate quickly.

 

Mid rangers: Lamy Vistas, Mujis, Platinum Cool.

 

The exception higher range pens that do evaporate quickly: Parker Sonnets.

The exception lower range pen that doesn't seem to evaporate that quickly or have any problems: Pilot Metropolitan.

 

I am considering as lower range something from $10 USD to $30 USD, given that there are low cost fountain pens going for $0.99...

 

The main advantage is if you need a reliable pen, a higher end one will usually not fail.


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#6 Corona688

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 15:46

Obviously quality of manufacture is one, but then does 'brand' simply suck up the £££s after that?

There's clocks, there's nice clocks, and then there's Faberge Eggs. Beyond a certain point you're paying premium for rare art and limited runs. Decide what your priorities are and focus on them.

Personally I wouldn't pay more than $50 for a pen I intended to carry around and use. Which alas excludes the Vanishing Point but a gimmick they can put in a $2 marker should not cost $200...

Edited by Corona688, 06 March 2018 - 15:47.


#7 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 16:14

The main advantage is if you need a reliable pen, a higher end one will usually not fail.

 

I'm not sure I agree with that, for two reasons. First, look at a brand such as Visconti and the QC issues they have. Second, cheaper pens tend to be mass produced whereas expensive pens are produced in limited numbers. Mass production means small tolerances, low variability, high predictability. Limited numbers and especially handwork usually (though certainly not always) mean more variances.



#8 Bluey

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 16:31

 

 

The main advantage is if you need a reliable pen, a higher end one will usually not fail.

False.

 

You mention the Pelikan m600 as being "reliable" and "having no starting or flow issues". Mine had flow issues galore, and was so good that it as the first one I was glad to manage to sell off. A quick look around the forum, Reddit, and wider net shows this to be commonplace. Meanwhile my cheap Chinese have no problems whatsoever except with the [standard] converters.

As other posters have mentioned, you only have to look at the Viscontis and others such as MB, Pelikan to see that.

 

You will get a far better understanding of what the more reliable pens are by looking at the business model than by looking at the price. For reliable writing, I would far rather trust a cheap than a high end pen for reasons that the DutchGuy, above, mentions.


Edited by Bluey, 06 March 2018 - 16:40.

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#9 inkstainedruth

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 16:53

It all depends.  My most expensive pens are a couple of Pelikan M405s.  They write well, feel good in my hand, have gold nibs, and are well made.  I haven't had startup issues with them.  But I'm actually considering having the B nib on the Anthracite Stresemann reground at some point, because I think the B nib on my TWSBI 580-AL to be a better nib (and it was a LOT less expensive a pen).  But am I happy I spent the extra cash (which is considerable -- and caused a phone call from PayPal questioning whether it was a legit transaction, in that my account was sending that much money to Europe)?  Absolutely.

OTOH, I have a lot on <$25 US pens, too.  I used to be like Corona688 and couldn't envision paying more than $50 for a pen.  Well, that fell by the wayside when I started buying vintage pens....  And yes, the more expensive pens DO get carried around (although in future, I'm going to be a little more careful with that M405 Stresemann -- I almost lost it last summer when I went camping; fortunately, for me, it got turned in to lost and found, but for several days I was panicking that someone would run over it with an overloaded SUV pulling an overloaded trailer...).  

I've also used that same really expensive pen to write "To Do" lists, BTW.  Because it's a pen....

There are threads on here complaining that more expensive pens don't work any better (and can have more issues) than inexpensive ones.  And threads complaining about how some cheap pen doesn't work.  

It's all a case of YMMV.  Sometimes I think I'm worth a $300+ pen.  Sometimes I'm the self-professed "Queen of Cheap": one of my (possibly most valuable) pens I paid 50¢ for at an estate sale....  It's a Parker 41, which is relatively rare (they were only made for a couple of years -- as opposed to Parker 51s, the flagship of the brand at the time, of which Parker made an estimated 20 MILLION of them), and are the same grade of plastic as on Parker 21s (so prone to cracking).  And it is apparently worth roughly 100 *times* what I paid for it :o.  Or more (that was one of the pens I had professionally appraised a couple of years ago).  It's not a bad writer for being a 50¢ pen....  ;) 

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


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#10 DasKaltblut

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 16:55

The main advantage I see is more choice. More choice of nib, nib material, pen material, etc. And sometimes better service.

#11 mynamesricky

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 17:21

There's definitely a tangible benefit to buying more expensive pens. The quality of a Montblanc or a higher end Pelikan is worlds above a Noodlers or a Jinhao. There are some super nice cheap pens, don't get me wrong, but they never feel as solid as their more expensive counterparts. 

 

However I do think the biggest benefit is psychological. Having a pen you can be proud of, that pen enthusiasts will respect. There's a lot to be said for that feeling. I think the 159 is a great pen but I'd be embarrassed to use it in public. When I used my 149 people come up to talk to me about it and we usually have a great conversation. What can be said about a 159? There's nothing impressive about something being made in china and sold for a few bucks.

 

That's not to say cheaper pens can't be fun, they definitely are. But they don't conjure up the same awe.



#12 Bluey

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 17:34

I think the 159 is a great pen but I'd be embarrassed to use it in public. When I used my 149 people come up to talk to me about it and we usually have a great conversation. What can be said about a 159? There's nothing impressive about something being made in china and sold for a few bucks.

 

 

What's wrong with that?

The 149 will go better with that immaculate suit, briefcase containing salad butties, and the Porsche. They will also help you to impress others of a certain mindset, if that's your thing. They're sure to think of you as wonderful.

 

The 149 used to be sold for little more than a couple of quid before it's price zoomed into the stratosphere for exactly the same pen. If you increased the price of the 159 by the same amount, it would also have the same awe that appeal to the same mindset that see quality in the price tag alone, because that's their only guide.

 

You could begin your conversation by mentioning that you have an excellent writer that you paid peanuts for that some other geezer paid 600 times that amount to get essentially the same thing but with enough gold content to be melted down and sold for about a quid. Who looks better now?


Edited by Bluey, 06 March 2018 - 18:00.

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#13 Corona688

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 18:03

Is montblanc really that well known? Until coming to this forum my untutored eye could hardly have told the difference. Really quite a lot of pens look like those.

#14 Ron Z

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 18:04

I handle a lot of pens because I repair a lot of pens.  I will agree that there are an awful lot of really expensive pens that are just garbage.  They aren't made any better than some very cheap pens, and because they are limited editions, by small manufacturers who go out of business, you're out of luck.  You have a very expensive piece of junk.

 

Having said that, there are a lot of expensive pens that are worth the price, from the quality of the tipping material, to the heavy plating on the trim, fit, finish, aesthetic and design elements, and how easily they can be repaired.  Vintage pens were made to be repaired, not so with many modern pens.  I love Pelikans because they CAN be repaired if needed.  I work on the assumption that any pen has the potential to need to be repaired.   We're all klutzes and drop things.

 

Even though a Wing Sung 698 with a gold nib may be  a wonderful writer, I would not put it in the same class with a Pelikan 800. Nor is a Lamy Safari in the same class as a  Dialogue 3 or even a 2000.  There is a difference in the materials, in the quality of the tipping material, and how carefully the nib is shaped and smoothed.

 

We can argue about whether or not a   MB 149 is worth the price.  But there are some people who really like the look and feel of the pen and enjoy using it.  It's their pen, their wallet, and if they can afford it, why not?  I can get buy with a Lamy Safari, but I enjoy my Esterbrook Visumaster,  Namiki VP and the Sheaffer Legacy in my pocket, and that's what matters.


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#15 aeba

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 18:27

I recently got a 40 year old vintage PaperMate back up & running thanks to help on this forum, and am delighted with it. Writes really smoothy, with free flowing ink, and feels great in my hand. I also got a similar vintage Sheaffer back in action too, (a slim white dot), but it's not as impressive being a little 'scratchy' for my handwriting.

 

However, in my new found love for the fountain pen, I have bought a few cheapies, 2 disposables (a Platignum TIXX and a 'zebra V301') both of which I am really impressed with. Yes, they have plastic casings, and are not family heirlooms, but as writing instruments are just lovely.

 

I also splashed out on a Platignum No.4 fountain pen, which does have a metal case and a lovely balanced heft in the hand, and it was less than £5 delivered!

 

So, what should I be looking for in an expensive pen? Obviously quality of manufacture is one, but then does 'brand' simply suck up the £££s after that?

 

Bolding is my edit.

 

Zebra v301 isn't disposable in the traditional sense as it uses international cartridges. Platignum Tixx looks a lot like Pilot Varsity / V-pen, so I guess it could be refilled by pulling out the feed; if one wants to.

 

That's all I'll say, as this is already one of Those™ threads.


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#16 stephenfountain

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 18:36

Bolding is my edit.

 

Zebra v301 isn't disposable in the traditional sense as it uses international cartridges

 

mmm... interesting, the listing I bought the pen from called it a v301, and it is definitely 'disposable', as the case is one solid piece unable to be unscrewed. Maybe I got the wrong name?

 

2629829.jpg


Edited by stephenfountain, 06 March 2018 - 19:36.


#17 Corona688

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 19:16

The v301 is a silver-and-rubber pen which says v301 on it. If I had to guess, I'd say this one's a Fuente.

#18 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 19:29

First, what do you want the nib to do....do you want a nail, like most modern pens. or even the P-51...do you want a semi-nail like a P-75 or a modern Pelikan 400/600.

Regular flex like the Pelikan 200s?

The stubbed semi-flex like the vintage German '50-60's nibs...or an oblique of that era....I don't recommend any other era for obliques for right handers.

Do you want a superflex.

Do you want to make the nib or buy a stub or Cursive italic.

 

Do you want the pen to have balance...medium-small, standard and medium-large pens have that posted.***

....out side the Large Snorkel....few Large pens do......do you want a fat pen? Many Large pens are fairly fat, and clunky. :rolleyes:

 

*** If for religious reasons you refuse to post your pen....don't waste any money on a good balanced pen, that is smaller than Large or huge like the 1000 or 149.

They will be too small for you.....in spite they are longer posted than an unposted Large pen....how odd. :unsure:

 

 

What is cheap?...well I use to buy 'cheap' used pens for E19 that slowly slid up to E30.....then come a day when I spent E50. :unsure:

This was my first E70 pen. A no name with real sharp chasing.

ESo591S.jpg

 

Then comes the first E/$100 pen, for me a Pelikan 605 on sale for E-99.

Now I flinch at E150....used of course............

My wife bought me a MB Woolf.

3zrdy3P.jpg

SW4ZGox.jpg

 

YwbAN7v.jpg

On sale from E750 down to E450......had I never touched the pen, I could sell it today for the same as new....NOS....new old stock....But I buy a pen to use.

Butter smooth....real pretty.......

:headsmack: I forgot the small print. :gaah:  :wallbash: I wasn't able to afford a cheap used pen, any ink nor paper for some 9 months.....small print.....'our bank account'..... :bunny01:

 

 

I seldom waste money on modern pens, in they don't have the nibs I want.

 

I did get a new Pelikan Brown Marbled for @ E-80.....that price is debatable as middle or low.....in many think middle priced pens start at $100.

I bought it because it's pretty. I could have gotten the nib I wanted....an EF for @E27....and put it in any number of old Pelikans I have...including that 'new' 605...or a Pelikan Amethyst or a 215, a metal barreled ''200''. The nibs are of the same class, regular flex....not the semi-nail 605.

 

DSPqv6F.jpg

 

 

 

I expect a better nib.....better material....and some good looks....even though I will buy a good 'cheap' vintage pen.....with common looks

 

In the '50's the Torpedo Shape was very much IN. The Pelikan 120/140, MB 146/9, Swan and the Geha 790/760. A real great nib on the standard sized  790 and the Best Buy for semi-flex. The 760 runs some 30% more, and is medium small that like the 140 posts long as a standard posted pen, due to a longer cap.

The basic 790 is sort of Plain Jane.....I Chase the Nib first. Well balanced pen.

Quite a good nib, I have three 790s and one 760...which has gray stripes, instead of green like Pelikan.

FcMRU9x.jpg


Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 06 March 2018 - 19:34.

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#19 ftnpenfan

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 19:43

IMHO opinion, "expensive" is a relative term according to one's position on the economic ladder. However, I suspect there is a point at which the cost of the pen moves it into the category of "pocket jewelry."



#20 minddance

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 20:14

Some pens have real technical issues, then the rest is taste and preference. After a certain price point, it becomes jewelry, with prices to match.

I guess it might help to know what the pen is tasked for. If it is meant to be some form of status or wealth symbol, then go for it, get that absolutely fabulous pen, don't buy something that is 'not quite there yet' and try to pass it off as a wealth symbol. If it is meant for writing, make sure it writes to your expectations, and do not settle for less unless it pleases you.

As always, prices and looks (and reviews) can be deceiving. Only your hands tell the truth when it comes to writing.






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