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Comparative Costs Of Inks


Mysterious Mose
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The costs of different inks vary considerably, even by a factor of almost 6. My question is: what do you get for your money? Why are some inks so much more expensive than others? Is there any common reason?

 

My data for comparison are inks listed and priced in the Annual 2020 Fountain Pen Hospital catalogue. Other relevant inks are sold by other dealers. They're not listed here. Also, prices will vary.

 

So here's the list, sorted from least expensive to most expensive. What is relevant is the price per ounce.

 

Noodler's: $4.17/oz. - $13.50/oz.

Diamine: $5.56/oz. - $14.29/oz.

Parker: $6.00/oz.

Sheaffer: $6.18/oz

Private Reserve: $6.47/oz.

Waterman: $7.06/oz.

Sailor: $7.35/oz. - $14.71/oz.

Pelikan 4001: $7.50/oz.

Cross: $8.00/oz.

Platinum: $10.00/oz. - $12.50/oz.

Montegrappa: $11.76/oz.

Montblanc: $12.00/oz. - $17.50/oz.

Herbin non-shimmering: $12.00/oz.

Ferris Wheel Press: $12.41/oz.

Pilot (iroshizuku): $12.50/oz.

Graf Von Faber-Castell: $12.80/oz.

Visconti: $12.96/oz.

Aurora: $14.81/oz.

Herbin shimmering: $18.82/oz.

Pelikan Edelstein: $20.59/oz.

Caran D'Ache: $24.41/oz.

 

Please feel free to add inks sold by other dealers.

 

 

Dan Kalish

 

Fountain Pens: Pelikan Souveran M805, Santini Libra Cumberland, Waterman Expert II, Waterman Phileas, Waterman Kultur, Stipula Splash, Sheaffer Sagaris, Sheaffer Prelude, Osmiroid 65, FPR Guru

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Now the following list is almost two years old but it will substantiate what you're getting at. I see no reason for the price differences other than the common, old trait of marketing. Some companies like Montblanc have a name that they want to pipe up. Others, like R&K and Herbin have been making their own inks for ages and just want to sell them as "normal" goods. Many companies don't even make their own inks, but just buy them from good, well-known (or even unknown) authorities and then sell them under their own name, just to make a bigger profit. I am convinced that there is no big difference in the "qualities" of ink ingredients like dyes used. There are only very few companies (like BASF, Merck, Sigma etc.) who sell such dyes, pigments, tensides (surfactants) and anticontaminants and practically all companies who manufacture inks don't worry or even care about where these constituents come from, as long as they aren't too expensive for them (including shipment).

 

Prices in Germany, in Euros, including our 19% sales tax:

-----------------------------------------------------

Ink List Price Bottle Price/ml

-----------------------------------------------------

Montblanc Elixir Parf. 70.00 50 ml 1.40

Montblanc Colorist 60.00 50 ml 1.20

Hieronymus 48.20 50 ml 0.96

Vuitton 36.00 50 ml 0.72

Montblanc (LEs) 35.00 50 ml 0.70

Caran d'Ache (new) 29.90 50 ml 0.60

Montblanc (LEs) 17.00 30 ml 0.57

Iroshizuku 24.90 50 ml 0.50

Montblanc (LEs) 17.00 35 ml 0.49

Caran d'Ache (old) 13.95 30 ml 0.47

Graf von F-C (new) 27.00 75 ml 0.36

Herbin 10.00 30 ml 0.33

Montegrappa 14.00 42 ml 0.33

Pelikan Edelstein 16.50 50 ml 0.33

Montblanc (regulars) 19.00 60 ml 0.32

Online 3.95 15 ml 0.26

Akkerman (60 ml) 15.00 60 ml 0.25

Graf von F-C (old) 13.75 62.5 ml 0.22

Standardgraph 6.45 30 ml 0.21

Stipula (Calamo) 14.00 70 ml 0.20

Lamy T52 8.50 50 ml 0.17

L'Artisan Pastellier 6.50 40 ml 0.16

Pelikan 4001 4.75 30 ml 0.16

Waterman 7.90 50 ml 0.16

Rohrer & Klingner 6.50 50 ml 0.13

Akkerman (150 ml) 16.50 150 ml 0.11

Parker Quink 6.00 57 ml 0.11

Seitz-Kreuznach 8.99 100 ml 0.09

-----------------------------------------------------

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Sure glad all the ink I buy comes in mL - my per mL costs are much cheaper than that expensive "per ounce" stuff! ;) :P :D B)

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Right! Milliliter-inks are cheaper than ounce-inks!! :lticaptd: :lticaptd:

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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We buy all these fancy inks because we are hopeless collectors. I could have stopped bothering years ago, especially as my favourite ink is one Ive been using since about 1989- Pilot BB. It remains the best behaved ink I know, and is also one of the cheapest inks available for a lot of the world.

 

Diamine and R&K pricing for the majority of their ranges is so low it does make the premium brands look horrible value. If we didnt buy so many bottles, more than we could theoretically use, it would be incredibly cheap for us...

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The OPs post is interesting, because it shows the discrepancies in prices around the world, when you compare it to wherever you live. Usually things are cheaper nearer where theyre from, though that doesnt always work when you can buy Lamy fountain pens cheaper in Asia than in Germany.

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The most expensive inks I have are Iroshizuku at USD 0.44 per ml. I also like Waterman and Pilot Namiki BB for almost half the price, and I have a couple of the chameap Diamine inks.

 

I use the Iroshizuku because I like some of the colors and can't find cheaper alternatives that behave as well.

 

Compared to some of my other hobbies, ink is cheap.

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My question is: what do you get for your money?

Ink, a liquid with which you make visible and generally persistent marks on paper or so other substrate such as fabric, furniture or floorboards.

 

Why are some inks so much more expensive than others?

It needs no 'justification' and no objective and/or scientific reason. It is not inherently logical to either regard or expect that price, in the first instance, would reflect either 'worth' or what you tangibly get in exchange for the amount one spends on a product, as if there are rules for such things in an evaluation framework.

 

Is there any common reason?

Yes – supply and demand in the market.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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The most expensive inks I have are Iroshizuku at USD 0.44 per ml. I also like Waterman and Pilot Namiki BB for almost half the price, and I have a couple of the chameap Diamine inks.

 

I use the Iroshizuku because I like some of the colors and can't find cheaper alternatives that behave as well.

 

Compared to some of my other hobbies, ink is cheap.

All depends on where one buys the ink. Price of 50ml Iroshizuku inks is only about $15 a bottle in Japan- -only $16 for the 100th Anniversary colors! Pelikan Edelstein is dramatically more expensive in USA than it is in Germany. Jacques Herbin inks are quite expensive in Japan compared to their European cost, even more expensive than they are in USA.

Edited by Intensity

“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.” 

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Part of it is what others have said: it depends on the market (because you have to factor in the shipping costs).

Part of it is marketing: fancier bottles, "name recognition".

Part of it is the availability of the materials (the dye components, lubricants/surfactants, iron gall vs. "standard", etc.).

And part of it is just the behavior of ink A vs. ink B in a pen.... A few years ago I tried samples of Edelstein Topaz and Diamine Havasu Turquoise, and did a side by side comparison, trying to put the inks in two pens and then swap which ink went in each. It wasn't a total success because I lost one of the pens. To my eye, the inks on the page were identical. But there was just something about the flow of Topaz that I preferred. I ended up getting both -- a bottle of Topaz and a small bottle of Havasu Turquoise. But really still prefer the behavior of Topaz. Of course, at the moment, KWZI Turquoise is giving them both a run for the money, in that it has a bit more shading (although that could just be the pen it's in, combined with possible fading of the other two inks since it's been a couple of years.

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."

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All depends on where one buys the ink. Price of 50ml Iroshizuku inks is only about $15 a bottle in Japan- -only $16 for the 100th Anniversary colors! Pelikan Edelstein is dramatically more expensive in USA than it is in Germany. Jacques Herbin inks are quite expensive in Japan compared to their European cost, even more expensive than they are in USA.

Yes, of course. I can only discuss the cost for me, and didn't intend to say those are everyone's costs.

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(I know many of my fellows here see me as an intentional antagonist or ‘troll’, but nevertheless...)

 

Why can't we all just be happy with our retail purchases and what we have on hand as fountain pen hobbyists, instead of trying to also feel like smart shoppers and astute consumers, either in comparison to the next hobbyists in the community or stressing to find out whether we could do 'better' or get 'more' with our discretionary spending? If you like a particular ink, and the price is $1/ml (in whichever currency that matters to you), and in spite of the availability of cheaper inks you still want to buy it and can afford it even if it isn't the optimal use of your 'spare' cash, why worry about looking for reasons explaining 'why' about pricing or try to justify your want and your purchase decision?

 

I just bought another three bottles of wine. They cost me $50. By the end of the week, they'll be gone, and all I have to show for it are dead brain cells, more damage to my liver, and whatever ends up in the toilet. I don't agonise over why I spent the $50 with no justifiable gain but only arguably waste and harm to myself. Worrying about the difference in per-millilitre prices of ink just seems so... misguided as far as being a consumer goes. I want to know I'm not paying $50 for a bottle of a particular commercially available ink I could source for $20 if I bothered to look further and outside of my preferred suppliers; but not whether I could get a different ink in the market that delivers purportedly some 90% of the same outcome on the page for less money.

 

Trying to be smart, feel smart, and be happy about proving oneself to be smart as a consumer just seems counterproductive to being happy and enjoying one's hobby of individualistic pursuit and narrow focus.

 

Maybe some of my fellow pen users here use fountain pens and inks because they have no other viable choices, and they have to do just so much writing at work. So buy Hero ink or some such; 50ml bottle, and it'll be black, blue-black or blue — in other words, workplace-appropriate and/or could be used to fill in official paperwork for the government or legal purposes, etc. — and most likely have good water resistance besides. Every reason you can think of why you'd prefer to buy some other ink instead of those cheap Chinese inks is probably a 'reason' why the other inks will cost you more; just not in a way that you can try to manage/influence their asking prices down in the market.

 

If you enjoy purple ink, and some particular purple inks more than others, then buy and use them if you can afford them as a discretionary expense, and enjoy the user experience! Your contribution to the demand for your preferred inks will help the supply persist in the market, and possibly keep the prices buoyant at the same time; that'll explain the 'why' about pricing to others who want those same inks. It'll be a 'reason', because you like that ink and you can afford it; and not what that ink contains in terms of ingredients, what the manufacturing process is, and what logistics costs are involved for the ink to be available in your region. If someone else asks the question why they have to pay $X per ml for the ink, you can proudly say, "I'm part of reason. I like it, I have money to buy it at the previous asking price, and I bought it because I wanted it. Because I can. This is just a hobby, for Parker's sake; if I wanted to save money first and foremost, I'd be using a biro for all my handwritten content."

 

I know I'd save myself twenty or thirty grand if I wasn't into this 'hobby', but that's not exactly the point of being 'into' fountain pens, is it? Expressing oneself, and having some pretensions of sophistication and refinement, comes at a price — both to one's own wallet, and in terms of how it influences the market for others — and that's part and parcel of all that.

 

So, by all means, be analytical about the comparative prices, or costs of acquisition, of different inks, but asking why as if one could have a handle on the levers is rather misguided in my opinion.

Edited by A Smug Dill

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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Iroshizuku ink is a prime example of an ink from a stationer that treats Western countries, especially the UK, disrespectfully. It's only a £9 ink, and I know that because I paid that for the ink from a bricks and mortar store in Beppu. How that ink magically more than trebles in price before it reaches British stores I don't know. I'm sure the Japanese wouldn't be impressed if Apple sold them iPhones at over treble the US price.

 

Can I AFFORD to spend £30 on a bottle of ink? Of course, I can and I have... But having lived most of my adult life outside of England I'm more sensitive to international pricing discrepancies. I lived in New Zealand for a year, a decade ago, and I was literally offended by how expensive books were in Australia when I went in a bookshop. They cost 3-4x the UK price, and could be ordered internationally at 30% of the retail price (if you used a VPN at least). Or worse still, books cost about double the UK price in Sri Lanka, where the average salary at the time was about 1.5% of the UK average salary :-(. I think literature should be considered essential, and for the sake of the intellect of a nation should be taxed nothing and priced as low as possible .

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Iroshizuku ink is a prime example of an ink from a stationer that treats Western countries, especially the UK, disrespectfully. It's only a £9 ink, and I know that because I paid that for the ink from a bricks and mortar store in Beppu.

 

 

Ever notice that when you fly to Asia it's not free? Getting ink from there to here isn't free either.

How much is a bottle of Diamine in that shop in Beppu?

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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The costs of different inks vary considerably, even by a factor of almost 6. My question is: what do you get for your money? Why are some inks so much more expensive than others? Is there any common reason?

Hey, wanna hear a dirty joke?

How about a prohibition of inks? 100 years ago, they carried that out in the U.S. at least for beer and wine, gin and rum etc. (Yes, it was also implemented in many other countries and even earlier.) That caused the start of your own creation of goodies. It (and bootlegging) flourished. Now everybody knows that but I'm only telling you so in order that you now know how to try and save dough. :lol:

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Ever notice that when you fly to Asia it's not free? Getting ink from there to here isn't free either.

How much is a bottle of Diamine in that shop in Beppu?

That isn't taken into account in pricing as much as many would like to believe.

 

Price discrepancies across the world, or even across a single continent, are still all over the place for a single brand.

 

Sometimes a product costs less in a country on another continent than in the brand's home country (and country of manufacture!).

 

Some brands also try to establish themselves in one market as luxury brand, whilst going for a more "everyday" image in another and that reflects in the pricing.

 

Shipping/distance of a product seems to be the smallest of problems. Plus companies have deals, so their shipping conditions can be quite good compared to what normal people would have to pay.

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Shipping/distance of a product seems to be the smallest of problems. Plus companies have deals, so their shipping conditions can be quite good compared to what normal people would have to pay.

 

That doesn't change the fact that Japanese ink costs more in the UK than it does in Japan, or vice versa. Cost of transportation, brokerage fees, wholesaler, and retailer profits are all part of the cost of getting merchandise from "there" to "here." One can, occasionally, purchase directly from a Japanese merchant and pay 20% +/- less, but that is still considerably more that the price in Japan.

 

Most of us have many inks, and therefore a bottle can last years. Amortize the price over the time span, and the cost is negligible. Or don't purchase. Maybe purchase something locally made that's close enough for rock and roll. We have choice.

 

No one forced me to buy a bottle of Sailor Mita Club, Shooting Star of Jonuma, but I did. Probably because I have no sense, and happily paid the price.

Edited by Karmachanic

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Ever notice that when you fly to Asia it's not free? Getting ink from there to here isn't free either.

 

Come on, dont be silly... Theres genuine economic reasons for why Pilot choose to charge more in Europe, such as trying to create a higher perceived value of their products and the fact the market here is a lot smaller than in Asia. Transport, tax and duty do not turn a £9 ink into a £30 ink by any stretch of the imagination. How much do you think Iroshizuki bottles weight?! Plus, if an individual has to pay X for shipping products, a shop or a trader would not pay 100 times that amount for 100 units of said item, let alone 1,000 times the cost for 1,000 units. Economies of scale.

 

How much is a bottle of Diamine in that shop in Beppu?

I bet you any sum you like that each Diamine bottle doesnt cost £21 more than it does in England.
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Karmachanic- I wouldnt even consider the price differences if they were only 20%, or 30% or even 50%. When its closer to a 220% markup I get offended...

 

Note: Its still possible to buy a single Iroshizuku bottle from Japan at roughly the Japanese going rate, pay the same again for shipping, and still save £12 on the UK price.

Edited by RJS
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On a similar theme, a friend of mine flew to New York for the weekend earlier this year, effectively for free... he was going to buy a high specced MacBook Pro in London, before spotting the price difference in New York. Buying that laptop in America was so much cheaper that he was able to enjoy a cool weekend somewhere new for no added cost- the price difference covered the cost of flights and accommodation. Not technically legal to take said item back through customs without declaring it, but he wont be the last to do it...

 

Edit: Speaking of Apple, it seems I need to do the trick to this iPhone that I did to my iPad, because this forum doesnt like speech marks and apostrophes entered on iOS.

Edited by RJS
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