My pen hobby has, at risk of generalising, broadly trended towards larger and more expensive pens (I covered this in ‘boiling a frog‘).
I started with “normal” pens like the Pelikan M205, Lamy Al Star, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear, Kaweco Sport and Pilot 91, and have escalated to rare and costly giants like the Oldwin Art Deco, Conway Stewart Winston and Wahl-Eversharp Decoband.
I realised a while ago that, beyond a certain point, bigger is not always better. I love my Montblanc 149 and Conid Kingsize, but I’m actually just as comfortable with second-tier pens like the Desiderata Soubriquet, Onoto Magna and Montblanc 146. I don’t have the hands of a giant, and I started to accept that the really big pens like the Decoband actually just tire me out, just as much as skinny pens do.
Given this realisation, I’m gradually adjusting my perspective so that when I’m browsing, I don’t automatically gravitate to the biggest pen as being the best one for me.
This came out in my recent trip to Japan most starkly, where I didn’t even bother to look at the enormous Namiki Emperor, and instead went down a notch to its smaller brother, the Yukari Royale / Urushi 20. Sure, it’s not as flashy, and the nib is smaller, but it’s very very comfortable.
Now I’m trying to do the same with price. Over the last year or so I’ve pushed the boundaries of what I’m comfortable spending on a pen. I naturally equate “more expensive” with “better”, and I’ve rather lost interest in “cheaper” pens — anything under a couple of hundred quid I dismiss out of hand, on the grounds that it will probably feel cheap and get left in the drawer in favour of “better” pens.
That trend is of course harmful to my finances, but it’s also often unjust. Expensive pens are for sure more opulently packaged, more exclusive, use more exotic materials, and may have a higher standard of finishing. But if I’m pursuing beautiful pens that write wonderfully and offer me a new experience, there’s no intrinsic reason why that has to be at a premium price.
Case in point: I recently got an Opus 88 Demonstrator, which is big, solid, interesting, and a great fun writer, but also under a hundred quid. It joins the Karas Reentry and Faber-Castell e-Motion as less-expensive recent acquisitions that bring me great joy.
So in my browsing I’m consciously testing the water of gradually lower price points, looking at Sailor 1911s and the like for the first time in ages.
I certainly don’t want to use this trend towards cheaper pen as a reason to buy more pens for the same overall amount. As you’ll know from my regular sales, my goal is not to have a large collection of pens, and I know I shouldn’t be ordering new pens at all, really.
That said, most recently I’ve ordered a Pilot 823 FA (yes, my third attempt!) and Parker Duofold Centennial. These are both gold-nibbed and on the larger size of their manufacturers’ ranges, but by my standards they’re what I would consider to be smaller pens, and cheaper.
A step in the right direction? I hope so.