It may not surprise you that I track my pens and inks in a spreadsheet. It’s basic, I hardly ever update it, and I don’t look at it all that often — but sometimes it’s handy for a bit of introspection.
Today, I was thinking about joining the ranks of pen bloggers who’ve published a “top 5 pens” list, or even a “top starter pens” list. Then I thought: based on what, exactly?
I’ve never written with an Aurora. A Visconti. A Nakaya. A high-end Graf. A Monteverde. An Omas. A Mont Blanc. A Dunhill. And so on.
So really all I can give you, dear reader, is either a wishlist, or a “top 5 pens out of the ones I’ve handled”. And then the question becomes: “how many pens have you handled, Anthony? And how does that compare to my level of experience?”
So I turned to my spreadsheet, and the answer is surprisingly low.
- 47 distinct models since I started consciously buying fountain pens (in other words, I’m not counting all the pens I had at school).
- 22 manufacturers. 9 pens from Pilot, 4 from Lamy, 4 from TWSBI. 3 Pelikan. 3 Kaweco. 3 Platinum.
- 12 sold. 8 given away. Most of the rest I still have. A few are incoming, a few were review loaners.
- 17 gold nibs. 2 Ti. The rest steel.
- Roughly 7 available for <£30, thus qualifying as true starter pens.
And? So what? I can see some glaring gaps in my expertise, particularly at the high end of the market (see the list above). And there are some big gaps in the midrange-but-with-steel-nibs segment too: the Diplomats, Edisons, Kanileas, Conklins.
But I reckon I score pretty well in my target segments: mainstream budget/midrange steel pens (Kaweco, Lamy, Pelikan, Franklin-Christoph) and accessible gold-nibbed pens (Lamy 2k, all of the Pilots and Platinums). I think that’s where a lot of people in the pen community are. We may all pore over reviews of £500+ pens, but we’re much more likely to treat ourselves to a Lamy 2000 when it pops up on Massdrop next.
So there’s the transparency. Next I’ll tell you what my top five would be — but only out of those 47, mind…