Jump to content
Classifieds is broken, please do not submit any new ads ×

Why Are Cross Pens So Underrated?



The Blue Knight

Recommended Posts

The Blue Knight

Today I brought my first Cross (century 2) for £30 and I surprised how good it was equally as good as my similarly priced Lamy Studio and Parker Sonnet. However Cross pens never seem to be held in the same high esteem as the likes of Parker, Lamy, Waterman and Shaffer. I was wondering why this is as on the face of it the pens seem as good as any other bigger brand.The price's on cross pens seem to be quite a lot lower than there RRP's

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 155
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • Florida Blue

    9

  • OcalaFlGuy

    9

  • whitedot

    5

  • fpconverted

    5

Montblanc owner and lover

I've always heard that the quality was less good than others...May be i'm wrong. I hope so for you

A people can be great withouth a great pen but a people who love great pens is surely a great people too...

Pens owned actually: MB 146 EF;Pelikan M200 SE Clear Demonstrator 2012 B;Parker 17 EF;Parker 51 EF;Waterman Expert II M,Waterman Hemisphere M;Waterman Carene F and Stub;Pilot Justus 95 F.

 

Nearly owned: MB 149 B(Circa 2002);Conway Stewart Belliver LE bracket Brown IB.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a long thread on the Cross forum addressing why Cross pens seem to be so under-appreciated in the fountain pen community, but it would be interesting to hear from non-Cross users what they think.

 

I have several Cross FPs and I think they represent an excellent value for your money and are good quality, well-made writing instruments. Plus, they have the best warranty of any pen maker in the business.

 

"All Cross writing instruments and desk set penholder mechanisms are unquestionably guaranteed against mechanical failure, regardless of age."

Parker: Sonnet Flighter, Rialto Red Metallic Laque, IM Chiseled Gunmetal, Latitude Stainless, 45 Black, Duovac Blue Pearl Striped, 51 Standard Black, Vac Jr. Black, 51 Aero Black, 51 Vac Blue Cedar, Duofold Jr. Lapis, 51 Aero Demi Black, 51 Aero Demi Teal, 51 Aero Navy Gray, Duofold Pastel Moire Violet, Vac Major Golden Brown, Vac Deb. Emerald, 51 Vac Dove Gray, Vac Major Azure, Vac Jr. Silver Pearl, 51 Vac Black GF Cap, 51 Forest Green GF cap, Vac Jr. Silver Pearl, Duovac Senior Green & Gold, Duovac Deb. Black, Challenger Black, 51 Aero Midnight, Vac. Emerald Jr., Challenger Gray Pearl, 51 Vac Black, Duofold Int. Black, Duofold Jr. Red.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking only for myself ... I've never cared for Cross fountain pens. The reason goes all the way back to my early years. In the 1960's Cross pens were the more elegant pens that one would purchase at a price of $15 or $20 for a person graduating high school or taking their first job.

These Cross pens were boxed and often came in a pen/pencil set or in a fountain pen with ball point pen combo. They were silver and shiney and expesive enought to be a respectable gift but inexpensive enough to be quite affordable and not to have any lasting value. Years later when I got into fountain pens more seriously I had no desire for a chrome pen.

So much of what is desirable is based on image and perception. I own Pelikans and Pilots because I see them as an incredibly well designed writing instrument. I own Nakaya, Delta, Yard-O-Led and Conway Stewart fountain pens because they translate in my mind to quality, craftsmanship, and even the fountain pen as a work of art. There is nothing about Cross strikes me as being exceptional.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's a couple things. Cross is the "fancy pen" sold in department stores, jewelry stores, etc. While it may be nicer than the Bic ballpoint hanging next to it, a lot of people see specialty items (for lack of a better term) like fountain pens as something that comes from a specialty retailer that knows the product. If I order a pen from the Goulets or Richard Binder or Fountain Pen Hospital or any of the other pen sites, I know that if I ask them a question about the pen, they will be able to answer it. The person working at Staples or the department store or wherever selling Cross pens will likely have no idea what a nib or a section or a feed or a converter is. That's not an insult to them. That's not their job. Fountain pens probably make up less than 1/2% of Staples total sales. So they may know about computers or printers or USB drives, but they won't know about pens.

 

So having said that, I believe they have gained the reputation for being "cheap" or "sub standard". People will rave about a Jinhao or Hero pen costing a few bucks, and then talk badly about a $40 Cross pen. And I think a lot of it is perception.

 

I have never owned a Cross fountain pen. I have been given several of their ballpoints and rollerballs as gifts throughout my life though. I have written with a Cross fountain pen, and it was okay. It didn't blow me away, but I had no complaints. I didn't like the metal body and section, but that's just personal preference. I know people that own and use Cross fountain pens and I haven't heard of any major issues with them.

 

Would I buy a Cross? Probably not. But, again, because I don't like metal pens. I have a metal Sheaffer Prelude, and it writes great, but I don't like the feel of it in my hand so I never write with it.

 

I do find it ironic that a $30-40 Cross pen is seen as "cheap", while a $3 Hero or Jinhao is not.

Edited by chad.trent
Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not own a cross fountain pen. I was given a cross ballpoint when I graduated high school which was nice but felt a bit cheap. As a non-user, I guess I do look down on cross as being somewhat cheap and probably for no good reason. I guess none of the styles ever appealed to me enough to give them a try.

PELIKAN - Too many birds in the flock to count. My pen chest has proven to be a most fertile breeding ground.

fpn_1508261203__fpn_logo_300x150.jpg

THE PELIKAN'S PERCH - A growing reference site for all things Pelikan

Link to post
Share on other sites

It loses its exclusivity because they are so ubiquitous in departmental stores, and bookshops, that it just becomes another nameless pen. Often given away as cheap corporate gifts for middle-low management level staff, or when signing insurance policies etc.

 

They did it to themselves. Not that they don't make good pens. Ive coveted a Townsend Medalist for a long time, but got sidetracked buying other things, may return to it someday.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It loses its exclusivity because they are so ubiquitous in departmental stores, and bookshops, that it just becomes another nameless pen. Often given away as cheap corporate gifts for middle-low management level staff, or when signing insurance policies etc.

 

They did it to themselves. Not that they don't make good pens. Ive coveted a Townsend Medalist for a long time, but got sidetracked buying other things, may return to it someday.

Yep, they are always on the spot. As the op said they are of unquestionable superb quality.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One reason is that Cross only re-entered the fountain pen business in 1982 after a long hiatus (I think of several decades). They missed the great Parker and Sheaffer heyday of the 1940's and 50's. I'm not sure what they were making at the time, other than ballpoints. Related to this is their lack of interesting filling systems. The only one commonly known is the cartridge/converter. No famous Vacumatic or Touchdown system for A. T. Cross. Thirdly, they started farming out production to Japan in the 1990's production of Solo and Radiance models. The Pilot quality was high but took away from Cross's own production. Farming out to China with questions about quality control came later, followed by the sale of the company and an unknown future.

Edited by rff000
Link to post
Share on other sites

I got a Cross Adventura maybe 5 years ago. I was not impressed; it was both a hard starter and a skipper, so it has been sitting in my desk drawer ever since. For a $40 pen, it writes worse than my $10 Pilot 78G. Perhaps I just got a dud, but it is unfortunately my only impression of the brand.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's probably because Cross was often sold more as a gift than as a writing instrument. You went to the store and a Cross pen set was a safe gift for a birthday, a high school or college grad, etc.

 

Parker and Sheaffer were like this in some ways too, but they also sold inexpensive models for everyday use. I think that made them thought of as writing instruments and not just as gifts. They did make good gifts as well, but it was the writing that came first.

 

This is how I perceived them anyway...

 

Cross has made some very nice fountain pens. I have a Cross Signature that's very high quality. The original Century fountain pen was quite good, and also of nice quality. The Century II can be very nice too, but only the earlier ones made in the US.

 

The big problem with Cross fountain pens, IMO, is that nobody at Cross knows how to work on a nib. It's a (bleep) shoot as to whether you get a good one or a bad one, and if you get a bad one all they can do for you is replace it with another and hope it's better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's an interesting question. The company has been making writing instruments since the mid-19th century, according the all-knowing Wiki. And they've apparently made fountain pens since fountain pens were first used in the US. But I can't recall every seeing a posting or an ad for a vintage (pre-cartridge) Cross pen.

In the late 1970s I had a Cross BP. At that point it was pretty much the standard for corporate people on the move. At that point, Cross was emphasizing BPs, and may not have even been making fountain pens. I remember they made a big push on fountain pens at one point, and I bought one. It never wrote--the only pen I've had that never wrote a word. The salespeople told me that the pen was a bad design and that Cross, knowing nothing about fountain pens, had withdrawn it. Now I own a couple, and they are both excellent, if otherwise unremarkable, writers.

I would agree with previous posters on several points: Cross has been very conservative with their distribution, focusing on retailers who could not support the pens adequately. They have been hyper-conservative on design, almost never introducing a new style, filling mechanism, or price point. And they seem to have backed away from fountain pens rather quickly when BPs arrived. That explains the current lack of popularity with enthusiasts, but it still doesn't explain the absence of vintage pens.

ron

Link to post
Share on other sites

One reason is that Cross only re-entered the fountain pen business in 1982 after a long hiatus (I think of several decades). They missed the great Parker and Sheaffer heyday of the 1940's and 50's. I'm not sure what they were making at the time, other than ballpoints. Related to this is their lack of interesting filling systems. The only one commonly known is the cartridge/converter. No famous Vacumatic or Touchdown system for A. T. Cross. Thirdly, they started farming out production to Japan in the 1990's production of Solo and Radiance models. The Pilot quality was high but took away from Cross's own production. Farming out to China with questions about quality control came later, followed by the sale of the company and and unknown future.

Exactly when I was young they only made quite expensive ballpoints and pencils of good quality. I think the fountainpen train already left the station when they would jump on it. Nowadays they have fallen btween two sttols, they are not cheap neither are they exclusive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hm. Interesting question. I'm not personally attracted much to solid metal objects (don't like the color, slippery, smudge easily, etc). So there's that. I just naturally gravitate to plastic, or at least to lacquered and painted metals.

 

I've never heard anything bad about Cross pens. I've only heard good things about them. But I've also never heard of Cross FPs having any special virtues other than the lifetime guarantee. I get Pilots for modern pens because they're the right nib size and easily replaceable, and Esterbrook for vintage pens because I love the colors and they're easily repairable / nibs are replaceable. What do Cross FPs do that other FPs don't? Are the nibs swappable? Is there something special about the mechanics?

Edited by WirsPlm
Link to post
Share on other sites
The Blue Knight

The reason why I brought the century 2 was that I was looking a department store just hoping there might be a nice mechanical pencil or 2 but there wasn't. However I saw the Century 2 in a barley finish and I've always really liked the design of yard O led pencil with this finish so I thought at a 10th of the price I couldn't go wrong. Also having had a bad experience with a Parker Sonnet which I had a nib exchange for fine coming back writing terribly skipping all the time I felt a need for a pen to tide me over as my Sonnet is set for another month away from home. At £30 it's a good pen and I would buy another Cross one day.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Had Cross ball points and pencils for years, the gold plated etc. kind. They were nice, dependable pieces with no real writing attraction for me.

 

About 10 years ago I bought a red Cross Century II set with an extra fine nibbed fountain pen and a rollerball. Although the those pens are very slender, because they are metal they are comfortable for me to use and I REALLY like the extra fine nib.

 

A couple of months ago a friend picked up a NOS Cross Solo, also with and ef nib. I like this one as well.

 

My experiences with the Cross FPs has been very positive. I would definitely consider another one but it's not at the top of the list.

“Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, because if you do it today and like it, you can do again tomorrow!”

Link to post
Share on other sites

That explains the current lack of popularity with enthusiasts, but it still doesn't explain the absence of vintage pens.

ron

That is a good point Ron. Parker, Sheaffer, Waterman etc. have remained so well-known and beloved in part due to their classic vintage models.

 

Cross' early history is not as well documented as the aforementioned companies, but there is some good info in Andreas Lambrou's "Fountain Pens: USA and UK."

 

He writes "Regrettably, however, fountain pens [[by Cross]] made before the 1930s are extremely difficult to find today." This makes me think that very few were made, but I don't know for sure. They seemed to have stopped making FPs before the introduction of the Century pencil in 1946 and resumed again in 1982.

 

According to Lambrou, they had an economy line of FPs in the 1910's and 20's called "Alwrite." They also supplied major manufacturers like Parker and even Eversharp with mechanisms for mechanical pencils.

 

It should be noted that Cross started out making pencils and stylographic pens and that's what they focused on for the first 100 years of their existence until the Century ballpoint was introduced in 1952.

 

Cross made some beautiful pens in the 1930s and this example is probably the most famous (and sought after):

http://www.penhome.co.uk/cross-art-deco-fountain-pen-and-pencil-set-c1938.html

Parker: Sonnet Flighter, Rialto Red Metallic Laque, IM Chiseled Gunmetal, Latitude Stainless, 45 Black, Duovac Blue Pearl Striped, 51 Standard Black, Vac Jr. Black, 51 Aero Black, 51 Vac Blue Cedar, Duofold Jr. Lapis, 51 Aero Demi Black, 51 Aero Demi Teal, 51 Aero Navy Gray, Duofold Pastel Moire Violet, Vac Major Golden Brown, Vac Deb. Emerald, 51 Vac Dove Gray, Vac Major Azure, Vac Jr. Silver Pearl, 51 Vac Black GF Cap, 51 Forest Green GF cap, Vac Jr. Silver Pearl, Duovac Senior Green & Gold, Duovac Deb. Black, Challenger Black, 51 Aero Midnight, Vac. Emerald Jr., Challenger Gray Pearl, 51 Vac Black, Duofold Int. Black, Duofold Jr. Red.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my opinion, Cross pens are middle-of-the-road, without personality or soul. Seeing one of their thin, twist-operated gold-plated BPs always makes me wince.

Deodorant can't fix ugly.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Jerome Tarshis

First, Cross pens are not underrated by everybody who posts to FPN. They are underrated primarily by Americans, who see them as a ubiquitous not-too-expensive gift item. In Pakistan the perception would be rather different. And not only Pakistan. In places where Cross has not positioned itself as a not very expensive business gift, the brand can and largely does have a good reputation.

 

Cross has tried with some success to obfuscate its history. I have even seen Cross advertising that says the company was founded in 1846 by A. T. Cross, who was in fact born in 1846. The truth is that for much of the company's history it was primarily a manufacturer of mechanical pencils. Some were sold under the Cross name, others supplied as a whole or as the mechanism alone to fountain-pen companies that wanted to sell pen-and-pencil sets but didn't want to bother with the pencil part of the set.

 

There is even, IIRC, a Cross ad on Jim Mamoulides's Pen Hero site, from 1947 or so, that gives the company's name as "A. T. Cross Pencil Company." The word "century" first entered their product lineup in 1946, when they began selling a mechanical pencil named to celebrate the company's centenary. (Whether a company was actually founded in 1846, ande what it made over the decades, are open questions in my mind.)

 

Cross seems to have made a fountain pen of Art Deco design for some period in the 1930s. Not, I think, a long period. Basically the company was never primarily in the fountain pen business, and when it began making c/c FPs, during the 1980s (by "making" I mean selling under the Cross name; there is also some lack of clarity about who was making the pens, or what parts of the pens; Barbara Lambert in her history of the company says, again if memory serves, that 1990 is the earliest year when one can confidently assert that they were making their FPs in their entirety.)

 

The company simply doesn't have the same kind of history as Parker and Sheaffer and Waterman, among other American FP brands, do have.

 

That said, I own and very much like several Century and Townsend fountain pens, which have been excellent writers and to my mind unusually handsome pens. To my regret, the company tends to be afraid it is boring and thus feels impelled to introduce all manner of grotesque designs to give a spurious vivacity to their product line. If it were truly a luxury brand in the way that Yard-o-Led is, there would be no need. (But Montblanc is also eager to push out what I think of as pens that look at once expensive and cheap-minded.)

 

I was surprised by how well my first Cross FP wrote; its design recalled the French 18th century, which is for me if not for everybody a rather good domain of reference, gold objects of neoclassical austerity, which could equally well be early American. I am a reluctant fan, brcause corporate gifts aren't me. But then the Parker 75 was also at a higher price level a ubiquitous gift item in its day. And the Parker 51, too. So that isn't really why people don't consider Cross FPs collectible. It is perhaps that Cross got the timing wrong and failed to catch the wave. But they have sold a lot of pens anyway.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Most Contributions

    1. amberleadavis
      amberleadavis
      37742
    2. PAKMAN
      PAKMAN
      30647
    3. Ghost Plane
      Ghost Plane
      28220
    4. jar
      jar
      26101
    5. wimg
      wimg
      25570
  • Upcoming Events

  • Blog Comments

    • Ferocity
      I hope you enjoy it ❤️ You are so very lucky ❤️
    • halffriedchicken
      Not sure if this has been suggested already but would a setting for localized regions or chapters in FPN be helpful? I don't know if there is a way to find local FPN members who would be nearby. I don't know if we want to be discoverable but a setting to know how many members are in 25, 50, or a 100 miles of each other might be helpful. We can create a regions specific network like Craigslist where people could use that to connect with nearby members, conduct in person sales, arrange FPN meetups
    • Daneaxe
      Hi again all, I forgot to tell y'all that I made the post about Sweden ink PIF. Most have probably found it long ago, but here's a link, anyway:      
    • Ayami_109
      I read your blog post and all the replies with much interest. I'm a FP user in Australia. Been part of this forum for years but rarely post. I did come across your ink sharing thread and considered participation. For me it's not lack of interest but lack of time to play around with FP and inks. I'd feel bad to put my hand up for the box and just have it sit until gosh knows when...   I also think that the FP community in Australia is smaller, and I wonder how many in the community are
    • A Smug Dill
      Even so, you'd end up with a fragmented list, and it becomes an O(N²) process for each prospective requestor to check what is available: effectively recreate the list of currently active servers (without any reliable up-to-date info upfront about the inks and number of samples on offer in the thread) from the sequential list of posts, which may be spread over two or even more pages, and then query each server independently to check what is currently on offer.   It comes down to not hav
  • Chatbox

    You don't have permission to chat.
    Load More
  • Expiring Soon

    • By benbot517
      51 years and 8 months
    • By benbot517
      51 years and 8 months
    • By benbot517
      51 years and 8 months
    • By Okami
      51 years and 8 months
    • By Okami
      51 years and 8 months
  • Random Adverts

  • Files

  • Today's Birthdays

    1. Alexander_Porterson
      Alexander_Porterson
    2. Ameliamdz
      Ameliamdz
      (33 years old)
    3. amossberg
      amossberg
      (59 years old)
    4. Anton32828
      Anton32828
    5. aura
      aura





×
×
  • Create New...