I love the term “grail pen”. It conjures such great mental images of cathedrals and warm-glowing gold, of Indiana Jones on a quest, of the ultimate sacrifice for eternal salvation.
A Lamy 2000 doesn’t quite measure up, does it?
Depending on your financial means, a Lamy 2000 may be your ever-out-of-reach ideal pen — but you’ll find it if you pop in to any branch of WH Smith nationwide from now until the end of time.
A grail pen shouldn’t just be “any pen that I really want” or “any pen I can’t afford”. And there are plenty of those for me, from the Montblanc Martele to the Namiki Emperor.
No, to me a grail pen has to be a bit harder to get hold of, and not just in a monetary sense. Something that takes hard work, time and ingenuity (even a stroke of luck) to secure.
Of course, there are no shortage of hard-to-locate vintage pens, as the passage of time takes its toll. But there are also plenty of modern pens that qualify, especially as we move further into the pernicious age of the limited edition.
From my own collection, take the Visconti London Fog, for example, which I had to (metaphorically) dig to Australia for, the Ocean Swirl or Lamy Bauhaus that people are already asking to buy from me, or the Agatha Christie Montblanc.
Here are my personal picks.
Gimena: Pablo from FPnibs used to make pens. Beautiful, streamlined wooden pens with leaf clips in beaten silver. He makes them no longer, and I’ve never seen one for sale on the used market.
Romillo: Romillo was one of the few small makers to hand-produce gold nibs from scratch, in truly enormous proportions. And now it’s vanished, whereabouts unknown.
Oldwin Classic Arco Verde: The huge and super-streamlined, ringless Oldwin Classic is perhaps the ideal canvas to show off Arco celluloid. But good luck getting hold of one. Oldwin kicks out new Classics in all kinds of materials with some regularity, but an Arco hasn’t appeared for a couple of years. John Foye of St Johns Pens seems to own them all!
Nakaya Ama Iro: Nakaya no longer makes its beautiful sky-blue Ama Iro urushi, due to difficulties getting consistent colour. I keep hesitating.
OMAS Paragon Ludovico Einaudi: I lucked out and managed to secure one of the 255 OMAS Milords in the Ludovico Einaudi Signature Series, but I’ve not seen one of the Paragons for sale anywhere. Begging current owners on Instagram has so far produced zero results.
Delta Dolce Vita: I’m keen on an oversized Dolce Vita, in the proper orange colour, with silver trim, a piston filler, and the real gold nib, not a “fusion” monstrosity. But some folks in Japan seem to have bought them all and are trying to sell them for over a grand each on eBay.
Nakaya Dorsal Fin 2: Even if you can stomach the nearly £2k that the Dorsal Fin 2 commands, you’re looking at jumping on a small batch whenever one happens to hit Sakura or another Nakaya dealer somewhere in the world, or waiting at least six months for them to make one. I’m thinking of doing just so, because how long can the old guys at Nakaya keep going? The same goes for other Japanese artisans like Hakase, but luckily those don’t appeal to me nearly so much.
Conid Kingsize Monarch: Only available through fontoplumo, the orange ebonite Monarch is around 1,200 euro and in a limited numbered edition. Currently available, but for how much longer?
Thinking beyond the next paycheque, what’s your true grail?