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What Is The Definition Of A "cheap/inexpensive" Fountain Pen?

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#21 A Smug Dill

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 10:46

Question: What criteria do you use to establish whether or not a fountain pen is cheap/inexpensive?


Not speaking for anyone else:

A cheap fountain pen to me is a pen model of which it cost me A$30 or less to acquire a unit, and would cost me A$30 to replace. I don't care how sought after it is, what anyone else thinks of that make and model of pen, etc. If I manage to pick up a Platinum Balance in good nick for $25, it still wouldn't be a cheap pen to me because I don't think I can just buy another to replace it for $30 or less. On the other hand, the Monteverde Monza is a cheap pen, because it's always on offer for less than $30, even though one would argue that one could get almost exactly the same pen in a Jinhao 992 and spend much less to acquire it.
 
An expensive pen is one that cost (or would cost) me A$150 or more in item price alone to acquire. Most of the dozen or so Pilot Capless pens in my household would fall into that category, but there were some we bought at bargain prices (around A$90–$120 each) new. Anything that isn't an expensive pen, as the complement in set theory, is an inexpensive pen to me. If I lose one of those Pilot Capless pens that I bought for A$90 a long time ago, I'd say, "Oh well, that wasn't an expensive pen," even though there is almost no chance that I'd be able to replace it with a new one just by spending that amount of money.


Let's give each other due respect, and approach discussion rigorously. I believe we're all peers and equals here as fellow hobbyists, with common interests in the acquisition and use of fountain pens, but no shared values and no obligation to offer each other moral support for one's narrative.

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#22 SmurfK

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 18:17

Question: What criteria do you use to establish whether or not a fountain pen is cheap/inexpensive?

 

It's rather simple. I use my "pizza equation" to solve this problem. 

 

If the money I spend for a pen can be converted in pizza that can be eaten in one sitting, then it's a cheap pen. A Pilot V-pen is around $2. A slice of pizza is $1. I can eat two slices of pizza in one sitting, hence, the pen is cheap. 

On the other hand, Kaweco Sport is around $25. That means 4 pizzas. That's just too much to consider it "cheap". 

 

If you can visualize the quantity of pizza that you're gonna pay for a pen, then it's an affordable pen. A $50 pen means around 8 pizzas. You can visualize that quantity. 

 

If, on the other hand, your mind simply can't imagine that quantity, is an expensive pen. A $500 pen means around 84 pizzas. I can't visualize how much pizza that is. It's a bathtub of pizza? Less, more? I have no idea! It's just too much pizza! 



#23 miwishi63

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 20:09

Love the pizza analogy. In my case the more appropriate analogy would be how may yards of fabric my wife could buy for the same amount I might spend on a pen. We have an agreement of sorts...and she is the consummate bargain hunter!!!



#24 Arkanabar

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 20:50

I'm desperately poor.  I reckon when I'm paying more than I would for a stub FPR Himalaya (32 USD) I'm getting past inexpensive.  Exemplars include Pilot Kakuno, Metro/MR, and Plumix, Platinum Plaisir, Pelikan Pelikano & Pelikano Jr., Rotring Surf, Parker Vector, Waterman Phileas and Kultur (unless bid way up on ebay), old Sheaffer No Nonsense and school pens, Kaweco Sport, and many others.

Now I'd say cheap pens are Chinese and/or Indian, costing around $5 or less.  Some of them (e.g., Jinhao X750, X450, and 159, Hero 616) can be pretty darned good writers in spite of that.  Some are more durable than others (Mongoosey has a decent handle on that).  I wouldn't put Ranga pens in the "inexpensive" category, as they start over $30 even for eyedroppers.  An ASA Daily 3-in-1 is right on the border of "inexpensive".

I'm an advocate for beginners starting with a cheap pen.  What I recommend is buying a likely-looking cheap pen or two, with the understanding that you might have to do some nib tuning, and then using it for a few months -- certainly long enough for it to lose that "just-acquired" luster.  Pay attention to what you really do and don't like about the pen, asking yourself questions like "Is this pen too long /short /skinny /thick /heavy /light /triangular /textured /slick?  Does it write too fine /broad /wet /dry /need more line variation?  Is the filling system too inconvenient?  If so, why?"  

Once you're sure you know what you'd change about the pen to make it better, you go and buy another one, with the desired characteristics, and use it for a few months, asking yourself the same questions as you go.  And from working through this process, I've learned that I won't like pens with a section that's faceted or too narrow (i.e., less than 9mm girth in section) or too thick (section over 11mm).  I'd like my pen to be short enough to fit well in the rather shrimpy breast pockets now made available for men's shirts, and even a 110mm pen isn't too short for me to use for writing.  I prefer the texture of ebonite over all other materials, and for the filled weight of the pen to be less than 30g.  And I've done it without acquiring a bunch of expensive pens that would be a huge bother to sell, and don't fit my needs.



#25 A Smug Dill

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Posted 14 May 2019 - 03:48

I'm an advocate for beginners starting with a cheap pen.

 

 

I take the opposite view, in a way. If a beginner wants a Montblanc fountain pen (which I don't like as a brand, and will probably never buy one with my own money, regardless of price) because it looks as if it fits his/her selection criteria — which experienced and/or 'learned' fountain pen users may question — or is just something that caught his/her eye and interest, then that's a good place to start. Not every beginner buys a 'first' fountain pen expecting that it'll be a long journey of multiple or ongoing acquisitions. I started off with a Waterman Expert, and even though I've long since discovered I could "do better" with my spending if value-for-money or functional outcomes were primary concerns, I enjoyed having, writing with and, yes, being seen using that fountain pen (as some semblance of 'sophisticated' eccentricity) in those early years was what kept my interest alive. Even if a $7 Delike New Moon 3 (which I enjoy using dearly) was on offer back then, it still wouldn't be as 'cool' to me, in spite of writing equally as well as the Waterman Expert in my opinion.


Let's give each other due respect, and approach discussion rigorously. I believe we're all peers and equals here as fellow hobbyists, with common interests in the acquisition and use of fountain pens, but no shared values and no obligation to offer each other moral support for one's narrative.

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#26 Honeybadgers

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Posted 14 May 2019 - 05:21

this question has been asked and debated hundreds of times.

 

It all depends on what you can afford. If you can afford to lose it and not be too heartbroken, in my opinion, that's cheap.


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#27 darkage

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Posted 14 May 2019 - 05:50

Hmm a Montblanc collection or a home deposit :P

 

https://www.ebay.com...&frcectupt=true


Edited by darkage, 14 May 2019 - 05:57.


#28 inkstainedruth

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Posted 14 May 2019 - 15:51

Hmm a Montblanc collection or a home deposit :P

 

https://www.ebay.com...&frcectupt=true

 

And this is why I will never buy a Montblanc.  I know people get all enthused about the nibs,  But yeah, this is more than my husband's and my first house cost.  And more than we *sold* it for.  I don't care how [expletive deleted] "rare" it is.  I have WAY better uses for my money.  I bought TWO Pellikan M405s -- including an Anthracite Streseman -- for less, I think, than I'd have paid for ONE Meisterstruck.  And, IMO, got better pens.  And two different nibs -- EF and B -- in the process....

I've tried someone's 146 and 149.  The 146 didn't have as nice a nib, to my mind, as the $9 plus sales tax Parker 45 I found in a box of random fountain pens in a little antiques mall in Coudersport, PA (and if you ask "Where's that?" -- well the answer is "butt-nowhere, northwest PA...  ;)).  Okay, it was a bit like comparing apples to oranges (M nib on the 45 vs. F on the MB), but still....  The 149 did have a better nib than the 146, but the pen itself was way too big and heavy for me (I have "girly" hands).  The only MB I ever saw that I wanted was one from the 1930s on eBay a few years ago that had a similar color to a Lapis Pelikan 100 or a vintage Parker Duofold Lapis).  But at a four figure price?  I didn't like it THAT much.  And all things being equal?  If I'd had the money I would have bought the somewhat similarly priced Pelikan instead.... [shrug]

And I just did the math.  I have seven Parker 51 Aerometrics -- including the Plum Demi.  And I paid less for ALL of those than I would have for a MB Classique.... at list price on MB's website....  So for all those MB snobs out there?  Happy for you.  But inwardly smug.  Because I have Parker 51s....  B)  And the most I spent for any of those Aeros?  $120 US for a UK-made Navy Gray with an OB nib at the auction at the Triangle Pen Show a couple of summers ago.  And even my 51 Vacs, which generally needed some TLC and new diaphragms and such?  Those didn't cost me an arm and a leg either -- even with the repairs, because I got the pens for pretty good prices to begin with.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

#29 miwishi63

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Posted 14 May 2019 - 16:56

Conclusions: "cheap" and "inexpensive" are relative terms. Personally, I'm going to go with "cheap" as a definition of quality and "inexpensive" as an expression of price, one that varies widely depending on the level of one's disposable income.

 

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses.



#30 ISW_Kaputnik

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Posted 14 May 2019 - 23:06

"Cheap" need not mean poorly made; I recall it being a perfectly respectable term for something that didn't cost much relative to its value.  I blame sales talk for making it a pejorative compared to "inexpensive".  It's like cars being described as "pre-owned" rather than "used".

 

Regardless, "expensive" with pens starts for me at a point where an increase in price leads to minimal, if any, improvement in practical factors such as writing performance, reliability and durability.  If a Platinum 3776 with the nib tuned by the seller costs under $200, it's not expensive (and you can get one for under $100 and take your chances on whether you'll need to tweak the nib yourself).  A Nakaya that writes about the same for $500 to $1000, is expensive, as you're paying for that beautiful urushi finish.  Maybe they write a bit better, too.  I'll never pay to find out.  Personally, if I'm going for looks in a pen, I'll try to find a bargain on something vintage.

 

Where the point of diminishing returns for performance starts has been a point of debate here in the past, and many seem to go for somewhere around $200 to $250.  By the standards of someone starting out with no knowledge of fountain pens, they're all expensive.  To someone used to just grabbing whatever ballpoint is lying around, even $5 for a single pen may seem a little steep.


Edited by ISW_Kaputnik, 14 May 2019 - 23:07.

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#31 Mangrove Jack

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 16:22

An old Chinese saying comes to mind:

"Cheap no good. Good no cheap".

#32 miwishi63

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 19:36

An old Chinese saying comes to mind:

"Cheap no good. Good no cheap".

 Okay. That made my day!



#33 Mr5x5

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 20:04

 

And this is why I will never buy a Montblanc.  I know people get all enthused about the nibs,  But yeah, this is more than my husband's and my first house cost.  And more than we *sold* it for.  I don't care how [expletive deleted] "rare" it is.  I have WAY better uses for my money.  I bought TWO Pellikan M405s -- including an Anthracite Streseman -- for less, I think, than I'd have paid for ONE Meisterstruck.  And, IMO, got better pens.  And two different nibs -- EF and B -- in the process....

I've tried someone's 146 and 149.  The 146 didn't have as nice a nib, to my mind, as the $9 plus sales tax Parker 45 I found in a box of random fountain pens in a little antiques mall in Coudersport, PA (and if you ask "Where's that?" -- well the answer is "butt-nowhere, northwest PA...  ;)).  Okay, it was a bit like comparing apples to oranges (M nib on the 45 vs. F on the MB), but still....  The 149 did have a better nib than the 146, but the pen itself was way too big and heavy for me (I have "girly" hands).  The only MB I ever saw that I wanted was one from the 1930s on eBay a few years ago that had a similar color to a Lapis Pelikan 100 or a vintage Parker Duofold Lapis).  But at a four figure price?  I didn't like it THAT much.  And all things being equal?  If I'd had the money I would have bought the somewhat similarly priced Pelikan instead.... [shrug]

And I just did the math.  I have seven Parker 51 Aerometrics -- including the Plum Demi.  And I paid less for ALL of those than I would have for a MB Classique.... at list price on MB's website....  So for all those MB snobs out there?  Happy for you.  But inwardly smug.  Because I have Parker 51s....  B)  And the most I spent for any of those Aeros?  $120 US for a UK-made Navy Gray with an OB nib at the auction at the Triangle Pen Show a couple of summers ago.  And even my 51 Vacs, which generally needed some TLC and new diaphragms and such?  Those didn't cost me an arm and a leg either -- even with the repairs, because I got the pens for pretty good prices to begin with.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

I know where Coudersport is and have been there.  If you think that is nowhere try Sheffield and Kane!  Rt. 6 was an alternate for I-80 when we had to run from Warren to Lewisburg.

 

I'm going to add in my 2 cents and say cheap is a reference to quality and "cheap" can be expensive or inexpensive.  For me expensive is the Ranga 3C eyedropper I have coming in the group buy.



#34 Honeybadgers

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 20:37

 

And this is why I will never buy a Montblanc.  I know people get all enthused about the nibs,  But yeah, this is more than my husband's and my first house cost.  And more than we *sold* it for.  I don't care how [expletive deleted] "rare" it is.  I have WAY better uses for my money.  I bought TWO Pellikan M405s -- including an Anthracite Streseman -- for less, I think, than I'd have paid for ONE Meisterstruck.  And, IMO, got better pens.  And two different nibs -- EF and B -- in the process....

I've tried someone's 146 and 149.  The 146 didn't have as nice a nib, to my mind, as the $9 plus sales tax Parker 45 I found in a box of random fountain pens in a little antiques mall in Coudersport, PA (and if you ask "Where's that?" -- well the answer is "butt-nowhere, northwest PA...  ;)).  Okay, it was a bit like comparing apples to oranges (M nib on the 45 vs. F on the MB), but still....  The 149 did have a better nib than the 146, but the pen itself was way too big and heavy for me (I have "girly" hands).  The only MB I ever saw that I wanted was one from the 1930s on eBay a few years ago that had a similar color to a Lapis Pelikan 100 or a vintage Parker Duofold Lapis).  But at a four figure price?  I didn't like it THAT much.  And all things being equal?  If I'd had the money I would have bought the somewhat similarly priced Pelikan instead.... [shrug]

And I just did the math.  I have seven Parker 51 Aerometrics -- including the Plum Demi.  And I paid less for ALL of those than I would have for a MB Classique.... at list price on MB's website....  So for all those MB snobs out there?  Happy for you.  But inwardly smug.  Because I have Parker 51s....  B)  And the most I spent for any of those Aeros?  $120 US for a UK-made Navy Gray with an OB nib at the auction at the Triangle Pen Show a couple of summers ago.  And even my 51 Vacs, which generally needed some TLC and new diaphragms and such?  Those didn't cost me an arm and a leg either -- even with the repairs, because I got the pens for pretty good prices to begin with.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

 

As an owner of a 149, you're missing nothing. Are they nice? yes. Are they worth a thousand dollars? Not unless your focus is on impressing a board room. I have one just because I got it for $500 and it was from just the right vintage to still have some ebonite. 

 

Pelikan's piston is smoother too, anyways.

 

And all of the special edition MB's are so.. Gaudy. If you want to spend 20-300 grand on a pen, I'd recommend buying about 50-100 different maki-e pens instead. Or that 40 grand sailor nagahara set that includes one of every of their unbelievable custom nibs.


Edited by Honeybadgers, 16 May 2019 - 20:40.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)


#35 inkstainedruth

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 23:11

I know where Coudersport is and have been there.  If you think that is nowhere try Sheffield and Kane!  Rt. 6 was an alternate for I-80 when we had to run from Warren to Lewisburg.

 

Well, I don't particularly remember those two towns, because we drove through them at night (same trip as the one that took us through Coudersport; we had taken I-80 to Barkeyville, stopped at the truck stop at the junction with Rt. 8, and then cut up US 62 to Warren, then just started heading east on US 6).  And Smethport before that, and a whole bunch of other places after that until we hit US 220 and headed south back to I-80.  We ate a late lunch somewhere west of Wellsboro, IIRC; there was a hotel, but their restaurant was closed, and we continued a little further till we hit some biker bar....  Spent that Saturday night in Lamar, after going west on I-80 and got woken up by a bunch of utility trucks the next morning (it was around the 4th of July weekend and when a whole bunch of places in DC and Virginia and I think West Virginia had major power outages, and some company in Connecticut sent down a couple of dozen bucket trucks and their crews were staying the same place we did.  

In the morning, we took Rt. 64 down through Lamar to Happy Valley (I mean State College  ;)) and then went west on US 322 from there through Clarion.  Found a nice little winery somewhere along the way, but couldn't tell you where at this point.  

Sort of weird to think that I used to live a couple of miles off US 6, but in NYS.  One time when I was still living with my parents and was in a weird mood, I took 6 all the way into Rhode Island, which was pretty much an all night drive.  Lost the trail somewhere in Providence, and then I think I took I-95 back the next day, after sleeping in the car in a parking lot someplace.  And of course US 6 is one of the highways that goes clear across the US, I think, to California.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

ETA: Got my first vintage ink, a bottle of what turned out to be Quink Brown, at an antiques mall somewhere around Mansfield, on the same trip.


Edited by inkstainedruth, 16 May 2019 - 23:23.

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

#36 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 12:08

something costing less than 100$ but which can be used reliably


Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

#37 Brianm_14

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 17:13

As long as a Platinum Preppy writes as well as it does, I will continue having a problem paying over $35 or $40 for a pen, and calling it "inexpensive." I choke as I near $100 (although I will pay $600 for another [!] good used microscope).

Don't get me wrong. I love my 3776s, Pilot Custom 74 with the S m/f nib, and my Lamy 2000, plus a dozen real 9xxx Esties, most of which I bought for under $15. And my single Pelikan and Rotring pens each sing to the page as I write. But I am very, very happy to reach for my 9xxx Estie in it's inkwell (I have several sets, each cost me around $20 shipped on eBay) or even a Preppy when I just need to write. Either is so superior to a gel or ballpoint.

If anything, I find it is more important to spend money to buy a good writing pencil, than to spend extra cash on a pen.

To each his or her own. I criticize no-one. This is an avocation that harms no pets or children, and minimally damages the the environment. It heightens our awareness of the importance of color and of the truly written word. But as I have become more involved, I have started to pull back a bit, and ask what I value most.

Well, for one, all of you. You are a lovely, smart, thoughtful, and happy group. You bring me joy.
Secondly, I love the variety of colors of inks, so that's money well spent.
But thirdly, I greatly enjoy finding the economical pen (as opposed to just cheap,or inexpensive), the one that surprises me with an outstanding quality of writing at it's price point.

Recently, I gave my wife -who is just now joining our ranks after wonderfully tolerating my growing addiction- a Conklin Duragraph stub, and it knocked my socks off and then back on again! (Thank you, His Nibs!). A pure joy to use, and it seems so fitting for her as a Professor of English who loves and teaches words so well. That pen would be economical, a bargain, at a much higher price, given it's performance and classic good looks.

It is a pen one will never pick up without experiencing pleasure. Now isn't that what we all value most? Whatever we pay in obtaining that might be said to be a fair price, and as long as the family bills are still paid, that's fine.
Brian

#38 miwishi63

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 21:04

As long as a Platinum Preppy writes as well as it does, I will continue having a problem paying over $35 or $40 for a pen, and calling it "inexpensive." I choke as I near $100 (although I will pay $600 for another [!] good used microscope).

Don't get me wrong. I love my 3776s, Pilot Custom 74 with the S m/f nib, and my Lamy 2000, plus a dozen real 9xxx Esties, most of which I bought for under $15. And my single Pelikan and Rotring pens each sing to the page as I write. But I am very, very happy to reach for my 9xxx Estie in it's inkwell (I have several sets, each cost me around $20 shipped on eBay) or even a Preppy when I just need to write. Either is so superior to a gel or ballpoint.

If anything, I find it is more important to spend money to buy a good writing pencil, than to spend extra cash on a pen.

To each his or her own. I criticize no-one. This is an avocation that harms no pets or children, and minimally damages the the environment. It heightens our awareness of the importance of color and of the truly written word. But as I have become more involved, I have started to pull back a bit, and ask what I value most.

Well, for one, all of you. You are a lovely, smart, thoughtful, and happy group. You bring me joy.
Secondly, I love the variety of colors of inks, so that's money well spent.
But thirdly, I greatly enjoy finding the economical pen (as opposed to just cheap,or inexpensive), the one that surprises me with an outstanding quality of writing at it's price point.

Recently, I gave my wife -who is just now joining our ranks after wonderfully tolerating my growing addiction- a Conklin Duragraph stub, and it knocked my socks off and then back on again! (Thank you, His Nibs!). A pure joy to use, and it seems so fitting for her as a Professor of English who loves and teaches words so well. That pen would be economical, a bargain, at a much higher price, given it's performance and classic good looks.

It is a pen one will never pick up without experiencing pleasure. Now isn't that what we all value most? Whatever we pay in obtaining that might be said to be a fair price, and as long as the family bills are still paid, that's fine.

 

+1

 

Reading/participating in the FPN is one of the highlights of my day.



#39 james3paris

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Posted 21 May 2019 - 03:30

Hmm a Montblanc collection or a home deposit :P

 

https://www.ebay.com...&frcectupt=true

You can do better than that.  :yikes:

 

https://www.ebay.com...&frcectupt=true

 

 

I am just happy with my MB 149.  I found for $275.  Either one of the ebay pens, I should just be committed. 


Edited by james3paris, 21 May 2019 - 03:33.


#40 Intensity

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 06:54

Bargain Basement : under $5 shipped.
Cheap: under $20
Moderate: $20-60 or so
Expensive:$100+

I'm mostly going off common sense prices of fountain pens as utencils. Most people outside the fountain pen hobby would not justify a fountain pen of $100 and above. Some might rationalize specifically Montblanc pens as a status symbol / object that dictates certain level of well-to-do and professionalism.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: fountain pens, cheap, inexpensive



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