This sounds like a dumb thing to write a blog post about. But I buy a lot of pens, and I thought it would be good to share some wisdom I’ve accrued – and maybe open your eyes to some new possibilities to snag a bargain.
Pen and ink retailers
Let’s start with the mainstream retailers.
I used to order a lot of ink and paper from BureauDirect, before it sadly went under. Now I get my Montblanc inks from Wheeler’s Luxury Goods, and pretty much everything else from Write Here (Scribo, Graf, etc), Cult Pens, the Writing Desk, or Pure Pens. All four have earned my trust with decent prices, wide range of stock, and fast shipping.
As recently as last month, I would have said that my go-to place for medium to high-end pens was Iguanasell (Aurora Optima and Talentum, Dialog 3, Van Gogh, Seiko Presage, etc have all come from them) . With its almost-across-the-board 18% discount, fast, free shipping and free returns, and great selection, it’s a good place to pick up a Pelikan, Aurora, Nakaya, Visconti, and plenty more besides.
But I’ve seen a huge hike in prices recently. I’ve had my eye on the Aurora 88 Nettuno, and the price jumped from about £540 to £605. I’ve seen similar increases on other pens, too. The prices are still fairly competitive, but not as irresistible as they used to be. And when I preordered the Pelikan M1005, it was at £540. Iguanasell then dropped the price to £460 and didn’t inform me, even though the order hadn’t been fulfilled yet. So, a little of the shine has worn off.
I’m lucky enough to travel to the US often for work, which means I also get to benefit from ordering from the wide range of amazing retailers over there when I need products not available over here – Vanness, Anderson, Goulet and so on. None of them have let me down.
I’ve only dabbled with other European retailers like La Couronne du Comte and Fontoplumo.
I regularly check out two other sites that I know and trust to have solid prices and truly excellent service. They’re Izods in the UK (where I bought my two Leonardos, a Montblanc 149 and a Rouge et Noir), and Chatterley Luxuries in the US (where I bought my Montegrappa Extra, Visconti Wall Street, Pineider and Wahl Decoband). If you’re in the market for something like a Montblanc or Aurora, check them out.
And lastly, a special shout out to Executive Pens Direct. Consider this a kind of sponsored post, because so far they’ve sent me a pen for free and I haven’t placed an order. But you might want to take a look, and try out a very special 20% discount code just for readers: UKFP20. Let me know if it works, I’ve had some problems with the site’s shopping cart today when testing it…
Direct from the maker
Over the years I’ve bought a number of items direct from makers like Karas Kustoms, Desiderata Pens, Nock, Birmingham pens, Galen Leather, GLP, Hurlestone, Dudek Modern Goods, Baughb Labs, Conid, and others. I like being able to support small brands and generally I’ve received excellent service from them, too. I’ve had bad experiences too – like Oldwin – but not many.
From the community
I’ve bought plenty of pens from Facebook groups, from friends at pen meets, from other bloggers’ ‘for sale’ pages, from Instagram and from Etsy. I’ve even bought a few pens from eBay (including a Visconti London Fog, a Montblanc Shaw and Conway Stewart Winston). I’ve sold through many of these channels, too (have you seen my ‘for sale‘ page?). Although many hundreds of pounds may change hands without any kind of buyer or seller protection, I’ve not been burned yet, and I like to think that this is an honest and friendly community.
From pen shows
Many of my big purchases – Visconti Homo Sapiens, Graf Classic, Visconti Medici, Onoto – are direct from traders, vendors and makers at the London Writing Equipment Show. There are downsides to buying at pen shows: notably, it’s the kind of environment in which it’s easy to get carried away and make bad decisions. But it’s a great place to actually hold the pen you’re planning to buy. When I saw the Visconti Medici online, I was ‘meh’ about it. In person, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful pen I own, and I had to have it.
I’ll be honest, this only really applies to Montblanc, but… if you want a new 149 or similar, there really is no better place to buy it than duty free at the airport. It’ll be around the same price as Iguanasell with its 18% discount, and you get to see the pen first-hand before you take it away. Note: the airport boutiques are also a good place to pick up inks for cheap!
So. What have I missed? Do let me know in the comments.