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I Want One Nice Pen: How To Choose?


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I've always been the sort of person who goes for things like the Lamy Safari, Noodler's pens, and heck, even two Platinum Preppies are in my daily use pouch. I can only really afford to get one cheap pen like that per year since I'm a college student living on a low income.


But I will be graduating in the next few months, and my family said they'd give me a generous gift of $400 or so. I am very thankful, obviously, and I want to use it wisely. One thing I think I'd really like to get is a wonderful fountain pen. One that I will cherish for the rest of my life.


The problem is, how do I choose? There are no pen boutiques near me where I can test them out. I don't even know where to start.

Should I get a custom Edison pen? Or many Visconti pens generally have good reviews, should I go with them?

Mont Blanc? Vintage or modern? Etc.

Basically I have no idea how to make this choice. A lot of pens have glowing reviews, so I can't really just rely on that.

And even though I've tried a lot of the cheaper pens, I don't really have a clear vision of what I like. Both thin and thick pens work for me. I like fine nibs and broads ones. Flashy and plain black barrels are both fine for me. I've used heavy pens and light pens and enjoyed them both. Etc. All I know is that I want a nice looking, smooth writing pen.



So yeah, any advice on how to choose a great pen?

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invest the money in something that will help you obtain gainful employment (eg suit). I'm sure many of your cheap pens are more than adequate in terms of looks and smooth writing. When your income becomes more than "low" you can take the time to decide on that one really nice pen (although it will be terribly hard to stop at one, don't ask me how I know).

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I don't have a big collection and all my pens are in the sub_50_USD category, but I'd suggest you to take a look at the official websites of all pen manufacturers you know of and make a list of the pens you find attractive. Then, you can read some reviews and ask for more details here.

Also, would you like one $400 pen or maybe 2-3 of the $150-200 category?




I don't really agree with the suit idea. It is obviously more practical and well thought, but then again, this pen is supposed to be a gift from your family, a symbol, a trophy for your effort.

Edited by inotrym
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Hah, thanks for the advice, pokermind, but I'm actually not doing as badly in the finance department as I let on.

Probably because I don't buy a lot of fountain pens.

(A suit wouldn't really help me either, being a lady.)


inotrym - I quite like the idea of just one very fancy pen. It's quite romantic when you hear about people who have one pen that they love and cherish for decades.

That said, I don't really care if it's $100 or $400 as long as it feels "luxurious", I suppose.


Thanks for the advice, though. Maybe I should focus first on looks and then on the other aspects, since I'll probably be happy with performance either way.

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There's a long list of stuff that would be suitable for a graduation pen...

See if any of these pique your interest:

Parker 51 Vac (with one of the nicer caps, i.e. sterling silver or gold filled/solid 14k gold.)

Sheaffer PFM III, IV, or V. (ironic for a lady to use one, to some degree, but they're really nice to use regardless.)

Sheaffer Targa (Sterling Silver)

Parker Vacumatic, blue/golden-web striated.

Pilot Vanishing Point, Raden finish.

Pelikan M600/800

MB 220/146

Parker 75 Cisélé (usually sterling silver)


A custom grind from a good nibmeister will also likely really make your day regardless of what pen you do end up getting.


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Don't celebrate the graduation. Celebrate when you get your first paycheck. Better yet, celebrate your first year of employment.


As for a specific pen: besides the deferment of pleasure and the more practical employment of your funds, it will give you time to look around, drool, and fantasize about that first pen.


I waited until I was 37 to buy my first nice pen, and I'm glad I looked around first. My original fantasy pen turned out to not be what I wanted (although it's still gorgeous). Also, all the waiting and thinking about the pen meant that I enjoyed it that much more when I finally got it.


My vote is a Pilot Custom 823. This pen is insanely awesome.

Proud resident of the least visited state in the nation!

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There are some incredible vintage pens out there. Parker Vacumatic Oversies, Conklin Nozacs, Mont Blanc 142 or 144s, Sheaffer PFMs, Parker Duofolds, Pelikan 500s, Soennecken 111s and 222s...the list goes on and on.

Edited by ele
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If you don't have access to actually try out the pens before you buy them, you should consider limiting your search to pens purchased from places that actually test out and adjust the nib before sending it out to you (for example, try Richard Binder but there are a few more out there as well) or from companies with an impeccable warranty policy, so that you can be confident in getting the pen fixed any time it goes wrong.


Personally, I have had only good experiences with Lamy's lifetime warranty, so if I had your budget I would probably consider either the Lamy 2000 Stainless Steel edition or the Lamy Dialog. Both ultra modern and very nice pens. But have a look around the forum for discussions of other manufacturer's warranties as well.

It's quite nice out here in the sunshine...

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Hi Frangipani.


I'm not going to list all pens I like. Chances are your tastes are quite different. I'm asking questions, or should ask them yourself.


You already answered two of the questions I was going to put:

Are you going to spend it on a pen or something else: --> pen

Are you going to spend it all on 1 pen: yes, you are going for the nice one.


First of all, make a list of pen-properties.

Big-fat-long/small-slender-short. Weight?

Are you going for classy? Modern? colours? Silver or resin?

Normal nib? or special- stub-italic etc.

Cartridge/converter? piston? other fill-type?


Then visit many websites. Look at the pictures.


If you like a pen: tick it against your list of preferences.


You will get the longlist that way.


Then visit the review section here. Read critically. Many people are way too positive in their reviews, it being a new pen and they don't want to admit buying a dud.


You'll get your shortlist.


Then open a new topic here and ask people to name all NEGATIVE things they know about these pens.


You'll get a shorter list.


And then find a shop/seller you can trust.


In the meantime: are there any penshows in your neighbourhood, if so: go and have a look and feel.






Freedom exists by virtue of self limitation.





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Have a look at the Caran d'Ache Ecridor line of fountain pens. They're quite a bit less than $400 but they look great, precisely the sort of pen that looks like it was a gift.

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Note that pens unfortunately do disappear, no matter how hard you set your mind on keeping an eye on them. If you get one single great pen for $400, be ready to replace it without worrying about money.

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Buy yourself a Sailor with a 14kt nib, Engeika.com sells the PROFESSIONAL GEAR SAPPORO SLIM for approx. $100.


I too am a budget-constrained student and a Sailor is next on my list, I like their simple sleek elegance, the legendary nibs don't hurt either :lticaptd:


Use the rest to buy yourself a leather laptop bag too look professional; I have no affiliation with White Buffalo Republic but I am a very happy customer of one of their Guatemalan craftsmen-made leather bags!

Edited by lahlahlaw


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Here's an idea: buy a pen that you really, really like and that is comfortable to use. Then use it for the next forty years. Comes out rather cheaply, in the end.


For that, you'd probably need to visit shops. I've bought plenty of cheap pens online, but for my "this is definitely not disposable" pens, I've went and visited the shops. Nibs can be changed, but the actual body can get little customisation, so if it's too thin, too thick, too long, too short, too light, too heavy... you're going to be in hand cramp world.


Now, this is under the caveat that the pen is for use, not for accessory. For accessory, buy a fairly professional looking pen under 100 and buy something else. My polls indicate that hardly anyone would respect you more for using an MB rather than Lamy.


But if you are going to use it, every day, for the rest of your life... better make it an investment. Take your time, choose wisely. What I did with my second MB was I actually tested it out, went home, then bought it from an online retailer at a slightly cheaper price.


I might lose my Preppy, break my Lamy, leave my Pilot (not my mother's but my own) behind... but my MB I will be using for the rest of my life. So I chose one that I'd probably be happy with when I'm sixty.

Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié.

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923

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Things like this are so personal, it is almost impossible to decide on one nice pen... All of them are nice, and in their own ways too.


+1 for visiting shops and pen shows and finding what pen tickles your fancy. Many may, or may not. One will be heaven or will just rot. So don't get caught up in the fallacies.


+1 for the idea of getting your pen customized to the way you want to write with your pen. Yes, that will run you a pretty penny, but you can use it and never get tired of it.

Ultimately, it is up to you on what you should do. No decision is ever wrong. Try not to think about wrongdoings because past is past and you learn about what you want and need for yourself!

"Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often at times we call a man cold when he is only sad." ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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I just want to say, I think it's lovely to celebrate your graduation with a lasting pen. You've put a lot of time in. It's an achievement and a mile marker. Some special recognition that is both lovely in its own right and a lasting testament to the end result of time, vision, and achievement (not to mention a fair amount of financial distress) is well deserved and wise.


And, by the way, congratulations!

My Pen Wraps and Sleeves for Sale Here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DaisyFair

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Here's how I'd approach it.


I'd browse the websites of all the top pen companies (Pelikan, Aurora, Visconti, Sailor, etc) as well as bigger online merchants (nibs.com, etc) and make a short-list of pens that catch my fancy.


Then I'd try to cut down/modify that list based on:

- size

- budget

- any other requirements I may have


Then I'd start hunting for a place to buy the pen - if you can, try to buy from someone who has, at the very least, an exchange policy (most of them do, I reckon).

True bliss: knowing that the guy next to you is suffering more than you are.

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Here are some suggestions of iconic pens that usually get on any of the "best fountainpen lists". One of these should suit you well if you are looking for the one pen to last you a long time.


Parker 51

Pelikan M600/800/1000

Montblanc 146/149

Parker Duofold

Lamy 2000

Pilot Vanishing Point

Omas 360/Paragon

Sailor 1911

Aurora 88

Visconti Homo Sapiens


I have the P51, M600 and 146 and they all live up to the hype.

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It sounds to me like you're looking for THE One Pen. Right? There have been many good suggestions. I bought a pen when I graduated my Master's program...it was less-than-stellar. I would love to have a sentimental attachment to that pen, but it wasn't a good writer when I got it, and it fell out of favor with me. I'm working to bring it back into favor....but it won't be the same, you know what I mean?


So, the most classic pen you can buy today is, in my opinion, the Pelikan. You'll need to know which size fits your hand the best--likely the M400 or the M600. It's also possible you can find one of the limited edition Pelikans in either size too.


In any event, purchase your pen from a reputable and recognized nibmeister (like Richard Binder or John Mottishaw) who will tune your nib so that it writes like a dream out of the box. Use the pen for 30 years and then give it to one of your children--and have it be bittersweet to do so.





Tim Girdler Pens  (Nib Tuning; Custom Nib Grinding; New & Vintage Pen Sales)
The Fountain Pen: An elegant instrument for a more civilized age.
I Write With: Any one of my assortment of Parker "51"s or Vacumatics

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  • 5 months later...

Note that pens unfortunately do disappear, no matter how hard you set your mind on keeping an eye on them.

That is so true. +1 on that.

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In my opinion, you should get a fountain pen that you like. I wouldn't suggest vintage, and i would suggest getting something with a very solid re-sale value such as a Montblanc. You are graduating, that is an achievement, and get the pen you want!

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