Nice pens on the cheap…($10)

6 05 2008

Here’s the first of a few different posts outlining what I personally think are some of the best values in fountain pens today.  There’s a lot of great pens out there that can be had for very little money if you know where to look.  With limited exception, I’ve either written with or owned all of these pens long enough to have an opinion on them.  So…that said, let’s get to it, shall we? 

What’s the best you can do for less than a 10-spot?  Here’s my picks (in no particular order).

  1. Pilot Varsity: These are great little pens.  They come in a variety of colors, they’re super-cheap, and they write REALLY well.  They’re disposable, too, so if someone swipes one off of your desk, it’s nothing to freak out over.  They’re also probably the world’s most widely-available fountain pen, as they’re carried in many big-box office supply stores like OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, and Staples.  At less than $6 for a three-pack, it’s hard to go wrong, you know?

  2. Platinum Preppy:  The Platinum Preppy is probably my favorite of all of these pens.  It’s NOT disposable, which is a bonus in my book, writes outstandingly well, and it’s amazingly comfortable in the hand.  I’m not typically a huge fan of lightweight plastic pens, but this one is truly outstanding.  There’s several resellers who sell them converted to eyedropper-fillers, and if you buy a 4.5 oz. bottle of one of the new Noodler’s inks, they’re included!  These make terrific pens if you want to try your hand at nib-grinding too.  I ground mine to a fine stub, and I absolutely love it!  I got mine at JetPens, but they’re available from a handful of different resellers. 

  3. Itoya Blade: I stumbled across one of these by accident at a local art store, and I’ve been really impressed with them thus far.  They’re disposable, but the line is a fair bit finer than the Pilot Varsity, and they’re exceptionally nice.  I gave mine away to my boss about a year ago, and I still see him writing with it every now and again.  The only thing I’m worried about with these is that the chrome finish will chip/crack, and wear away.  Still, for $4, these things are terrific.  Reminds me…I need to pick another one of these up soon.  I’m not entirely sure where to find these things, but I think that I may have seen a can of them at a Hobby Lobby once, as well as The Art Store here in Des Moines.  If you know of a national retailer that stocks them, please let me know!

  4. Pilot Petit1: These are seriously short pens, kids.  They post out to almost full-size, though.  Great writers, too; I think that their nibs are the same basic nib as the one in the Varsity, but (if I’m not mistaken) a little finer.  These are cheap, and they come in a gazillion colors (or 12, whatever…).  Great for a knockaround pen for the glovebox, the purse, the pocket of your jeans, etc.  They’re also refillable.  Pilot sells cartridges of most all of their colors!

  5. Hero 329 & 330:  These two are probably the most traditional, or vintage-y, looking pens in the list, and for good reason.  They’re patterned after some of the classiest vintage pens in the world, the Parker “51” and 61.  They’re bottle-fill only, with squeezy-type filling systems, and they hold a ton of ink.  They both have steel nibs, and nearly without fail, they write REALLY well (quite a few of them write really fine lines, too).  For somewhere between $5 and $10, they’re excellent introductions to hooded nibs.  If you find that you like them, you’ll start looking for a Parker “51” shortly thereafter!  The two main resellers that I can think of off the top of my head are Todd Nussbaum at I Sell Pens, and Norm Haase at HisNibs.  I hope they don’t mind me borrowing a picture or two from them!

    Here’s the 329.

    Here’s the 330.


So, there you have it.  My list of best bets for under $10 or so.  I’ve got a few more lists up my sleeve, so stay tuned for more!



6 responses

6 05 2008
Patrick Rhone

Excellent list and reviews my friend. Keep it coming!

7 05 2008

I’ve had my eye on the Pilot Petit1, they look sharp. A few years ago I had the Hero knock-off of the P51, nice pen w/ surprisingly good nib.

15 05 2008

Great inky info! I work down the hall from a pen guru (INK) …. and was gifted a small pen that I fell in love with which looks to favor the Pilot Petit 1! So now I will check out the Pilot! Thanks much for all the research!


16 05 2008

Mac, I’m glad you found it helpful. Tell Barry I said hello next time you see him, eh?:)

25 06 2008

Thanks for the great info. I’m a fountain pen newbie (use mostly mechanical pencils / gel pens), but this was a great article to get me started on the cheap 🙂

I picked up both a Varsity and a Blade. Not a big fan of the Varsity (a bit too thick for my tastes), but the Blade I’m loving very much. I picked it up here –> ( ) in case you were still looking for a supplier.

Next up is the Preppy and then Pilot Vpen (I guess that’s a finer version of the Varsity). I think I’ve started a new addiction 🙂

6 08 2008
Guest Post: Patrick’s Picks « Brassing Adds Character

[…] Ten Dollar (and Under) Level: The Hero 329 & 330 – No one knows how to make a “faithful homage” like the Chinese and these Parker knockoffs are hard to beat. Especially if you are not ready to take the dive and troll the internet for the real thing. […]

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