Sunday Notes

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with Montblanc Bordeaux

Like a broken record (for those who remember vinyl) the Visconti Bronze Age with Montblanc Bordeaux ink repeats as my favorite pen. As in previous weeks, I’ve used the pen enough to write it dry so it’s on its second fill of Montblanc Bordeaux.

There’s no current links this week, but since I don’t typically link to retailers I figured I’d comment about the retailers I used in the past. Except possibly for the last few shops, I don’t think there will be many surprises if you’ve shopped for fountain pens on the internet. If there’s any order to the the list it’s the order in which I began buying from them.

But first, Goulet pens published a list of prices due to increase in January. While the prices are specific to them, it’s due to price changes from the distributer so I’d expect all retailers, at least in the US, to be affected. I was most shocked at the price increase for Vanishing Point nib units (up $20, which is a 33% jump) even though I thought they we really inexpensive for gold nibs). There’s also price decreases listed for various paper brands so it may be worth waiting.

Initially, a long time ago, my fountain pens of choice were the Pilot disposables, now the Pilot Varsity but it may have been something different back then In fact, my memory of them being Pilot branded may be wrong too, but I think they were. I bought them in a local office supply store (now long gone). I tried a more expensive “real” fountain, I think it was a Parker but didn’t like it. In retrospect it was inexpensive (maybe $5 at the time, probably less) but I liked the disposables better so avoided new fountain pens as not worth the money. I had a no-brand lever filler that was passed down and used that for bottled inks.

Then just before the turn of the century I worked in New York City for awhile, so I was exposed to a wider variety of fountain pens. During that time I would visit Fountain Pen Hospital and Joon Stationery on a regular, but infrequent basis. I was using fountain pens but I wasn’t buying a lot of them at the time. So it was mostly window shopping or a few bottles of ink for the Lamy Safari I was now using for bottled inks.

I was no longer working in NYC by the time I became interested in adding to my accumulation. I’ve always been conservative when buying online, preferring places I know over the cheapest price from an unknown. Fountain Pen Hospital was a place I knew so I purchased online once I could no longer easily visit their store. They certainly weren’t cheap, but they did have specials on a regular basis so many of my early fountain pens were from them. If I had to guess I’d say I’ve bought more fountain pens (excluding disposable fountain pens) from them than any other single retailer.

Since I knew Joon Stationery they were also an early online destination for my purchases. Like FPH they weren’t cheap but they also had specials, although these were less appealing to me than the ones FPH had. It seems I wasn’t the only one who thought that, since Joon is no longer around.

As I began looking for fountain pen information online I came across Goulet Pens. My early education in ink and paper came from Brian Goulet’s videos and blog. After getting so much information from them, and reading compliments in various forums, I began to buy ink and paper from them. That was about 4 years ago and I’ve been a happy customer since. It’s been mostly ink and paper but I have purchased several fountain pens through them, including my latest obsession. One thing about Goulet Pens that I really like is their lack of coupons or site-wide sales. Sure, I like to save money, but I’ve found if any store (any product) that routinely uses coupons it means they are higher priced the rest of the time. I’ve always found Goulet Pens prices to be reasonable, even when compared to other store’s coupon deals. They do have closeout specials and a “bottom shelf” (slightly used items) but I like knowing anytime I buy from them I’ll be getting their best price without any extra effort.

Later I expanded to shopping at Anderson Pens online store. I had never been to a pen show but I knew they were active and well received at shows so I began shopping there. Eventually I went to a show and bought my first Esterbrook from them. I’ve always found their prices for vintage and NOS pens to be very fair and frequently less expensive than recent sales on eBay. Many of my Esterbrook nibs have come from them. Also, my favorite ink brand is Montblanc which they carry, so much of it has come from them.

Classic Fountain Pens has been my go to destination for expensive fountain pens, if they carry the brand. This way the nib can be tuned and checked before it is sent to me. I have also bought some vintage and NOS pens from them.

JetPens is probably the biggest retailer on this list, concentrating on stationery and inexpensive pens. When I first shopped with them I considered them a U.S. retailer of Japanese brands. That may have been more perception than reality. These days they do carry the major Japanese brands they also carry others, such as Kaweco and Diamine.

Nanami Paper specializes in Japanese brands of stationery products. Most of these items aren’t otherwise available in the US which is related to my main complaint about the shop. It’s difficult to wait and place a combined order for the products I use because many of their items will often go out of stock. Their Seven Seas Writer is my favorite notebook. It uses Tomoe River paper. I tend to buy the factory seconds when they’re available in order to save some money. It’s the same great paper and the defects are minor, if even noticeable. One thing to note – if you’re ordering paper, which is heavy, the shipping charge in your cart at checkout will be high. Their official policy is to charge actual shipping cost so they refund any overpayment. When I’ve ordered from them they’ve always shipped USPS flat-rate and immediately refunded the difference. It’s a small one-man (or family) operation (I’m guessing, but pretty sure) so the online store may be closed on holidays or other times he’s away. But this hasn’t affected shipping, my order has always shipped the next day, or same day if I order during the day.

Other regular, but brand specific retailers include Franklin-Christoph, Doane Paper, Nock Co. and Dudek Modern Goods.

There are plenty of fountain pen and stationery retailers out there these days, although mainly on the internet. Unfortunately I can’t afford to buy pens from all of them. Is your favorite on my list? If not, feel free to mention it in the comments.