5 fountain pens for beginners (below 25 SGD / 20 USD)

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Finally, I’m writing a post dedicated to fountain pens for beginners. Let’s get started on fountain pens in the economy price range, which, by my definition, is below 20 USD. That would be approximately 25 SGD or 15 Euros. In the eyes of many non-fountain pen users, fountain pens seem to be luxury items that are valued at a full month’s salary or more. Well, it is true in certain cases, but let’s not go there today.

If you are just starting out on fountain pens, you’d probably prefer to invest in something that has decent quality but does not cost a bomb, and most likely not something that you’d spend even a tenth of your salary on. Many questions may have come to your mind when you consider that purchase. You may wonder if you will actually like fountain pens at all, since you’ve spent all your life using ballpoint pens, pencils, and rollerballs. You may have walked past a fountain pen store or a Montblanc boutique, and got a little freaked out at the 3- or 4- digit price tags (and probably with multiple zeroes at the back, if we are talking currencies like the Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, or Indonesian rupiah) on the beautiful pens on display. To cut it short, you just want a cheap pen to start off with, and then see where it takes you.

Let’s first set expectations: if you want to get an affordable fountain pen, you’ll have to lower your expectations on the pen design and materials. For 20 USD, you most likely would not get a pen looking like these top 10 costliest pens in the world (unless you buy a fake – but even those replicas may cost a few hundred dollars at least). Also, it is very difficult to get a pen with a gold nib for $20. At this price range, most fountain pens are steel-nibbed. But don’t let that get to you – some steel nibs write really well! Let’s have a look at 5 fountain pens that I have chosen for this range.

5fpbeginners

Note that prices are only indicative of the range, and not absolute pricing. For actual pricing please contact your preferred retailers.

Platinum Fountain Pen, Preppy, Fine Nib, Black (PPQ-200-#1)

1. Platinum Preppy – for kids and beginners (review)

3-5 USD, ~ 4-5 SGD

When we talk cheap fountain pens, the Platinum Preppy always comes to mind. It has a plastic body like many of the common ballpoint pens and rollerballs, in case you can’t get used to other materials. It has a coloured steel nib that matches the colour of the cap (and you can get matching ink colours in cartridges too). This coloured nib is something that fascinated many of my non-fountain pen friends, and they could not resist trying the pen out! One of them amusingly commented, “Wow, there is ink flowing out!” … I don’t know what to make of that… it’s a pen, isn’t it?

Pros: Comes in various colours (black, blue, pink, red, yellow, green, purple). Lightweight. Interesting coloured steel nib. Transparent so you can see the ink level in the cartridge, and if it’s fully clean inside when you rinse it out. And it’s really cheap, probably the cost of a McDonalds’ meal. Scrap the McDo, get this pen!

Cons: The coloured coating on the nib may peel off over time, exposing the steel nib. Many printings and writings on the barrel, making it look a little cluttered. Looks like the price it’s worth – cheap! But one can’t complain much about this pen at this price point. Also, it takes only proprietary Platinum cartridges.

Pilot Kakuno Fine-Nib Fountain Pen, Black Body Orange Cap Body (FKA-1SR-OF)

2. Pilot Kakuno – even better for kids and the young at heart (review)

13-17 USD, ~ 16-18 SGD

Enough said. This adorable and very popular little pen is clearly made for young people (either by age or by mind). The body is plastic and opaque, once again very lightweight. The Pilot Kakuno comes in either the grey barrel or the ivory-coloured barrel, and the highlight of it is the “smiling nib”! Its cap has a tiny protrusion to prevent the pen from rolling around due to the lack of a clip. The section has a triangular grip for you to hold on to properly, to “correct” your grip of the pen.

Pros: Also comes in various coloured caps, with the more striking colours for the grey body and the pastel colours for the ivory body. Lightweight. Has triangular grip for proper grip posture.

Cons: Looks a little kiddy. Takes only proprietary Pilot cartridges. No clip to clip onto books and pockets.

Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)

3. Pilot Metropolitan – suitable for both work and play (review)

14-18 USD, ~ 25 SGD

Moving slightly further up the range, we have the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen. This is a cigar-shaped fountain pen which is of a medium size. The outward appearance is rather elegant, and if you found the previous two fountain pens a little too casual-looking, you can think of getting a Pilot Metropolitan. Pilot has recently even launched their Summer Colours where bright, cheerful colours are depicted. Otherwise, their older Metropolitans have classic colours like black, gold, blue, white, etc. which may be more suitable for bringing to a corporate workplace.

Pros: Suitable for corporate settings. Wide variety of colours. Some even have animal designs such as tiger stripes, leopard prints, etc.

Cons: Still takes the proprietary Pilot cartridges.

Ohto Poche Pocket Fountain Pen FF-15P-D, Silver Diamonds, Fine Nib

4. Ohto Poche – if you like metal and small pens (review)

~10-17 USD, ~13-20 SGD

The Ohto Poche fountain pen is a small, pocket-sized fountain pen which is slim and has a metallic body. If you like metallic pens and are looking for something simple to start out with, try the Ohto Poche. It uses a decent steel nib with some engraved patterns on it. The cap comes in a variety of designs, such as the arabesque, diamonds, and silver leopard. If you find the pen a little too short, you can post the cap and it becomes a full-length fountain pen!

Pros: Nice nib, smooth writing experience, takes international short cartridges. Some variety of design. Can post cap to turn it into a full length pen.

Cons: Small size, slim in diameter, which may be tiring to write with for people with large hands.

Platinum Plaisir Rainbow - 7 Colors Medium Point Fountain Pen - PGB1000-RBM

5. Platinum Plaisir – for an elegant appearance at the “normal” size (review)

~12-20 USD, ~15-25 SGD

Moving back into the range of “normal-sized” fountain pens, we have the Platinum Plaisir which is a cigar-shaped, metal fountain pen that comes in a variety of colours. The metallic colours can also be very attractive, and in combination with the pen material, allows it to be used in both work and casual settings. Having an aluminium body, it is lightweight and feels pretty solid.

Pros: Nice design, decent writing experience, many colours to choose from, looks like a “regular” fountain pen (cigar-shaped), air tight so it doesn’t not dry so easily.

Cons: Takes only the proprietary Platinum cartridges, uses the same nib as the Platinum Preppy

Others

In conclusion, you’ll have no short of fountain pens to choose from, even at a low price point. The list does not stop here. Pilot and Platinum seem to dominate the list, but there are also other pens that fall within this price range, and work well too. There is also a plethora of Chinese and Indian brands of fountain pens which can go as cheap as $1, but as they are less readily available (at least not in Singapore) as the ones above. I did not mention them in this post, but some of them are of pretty decent quality and design at the prices they are sold at. If you have come across of any good ones, do share about them in the comments below!

12 Responses

  1. bgroberts 9 September 2015 / 2:49 PM

    Great post!
    I may have to try a couple of these.
    Thanks!

  2. ferrazchCristiano ferraz 9 September 2015 / 12:04 AM

    Here in Brazil many of the pens mentioned are not available, or out of reach because of import dues. However, a Brazilian manufacturer has an agreement with the German firm Schneider, and they manufacture (or OEM) the Schneider BASE fountain pen, an excellent choice for beginners and very much in the line of the Lamy Safari. Although the German version sell in the US for around 30 US$, the Brazilian version, called Compactor SOLO, sells for R$ 74 (list) or even R$ 59 (discounted), or around US$ 15. This is actually a very attractive price for such a good pen. Other options here are the great Pilot 78G (available for around 15 to 20 USD, in F, M, B and BB stub), the Pilot 77G (for around 15 USD), or old-stock Compactor Pluma, a plastic pen with a fine nib, very nice, that comes with a converter and sells for a mere 7 USD — great value if you can grab one. I use the Compactor Pluma as a daily writer, it is a great little pen. The other import pens mentioned, if available, such as Lamy Safari, will set you back at least 30 or 35 USDs.

  3. andreakirkby 8 September 2015 / 4:57 PM

    German pen makers do offer relatively lowly priced pens, because they still care about teaching children how to write with them. There’s a very weird and wonderful Faber Castell school pen at about $20, though I think their bottom level adult pen breaks your budget level, and Lamy has some attractive options – the abc wooden pen, Joy calligraphy pen, and silver Nexx with different coloured caps, are all available in your budget range, as well as the better known Safari. And Pelikan has a whole range of pens intended for starters, of which I like the Twist best, but also the Junior (with a ribbed and shaped grip), Pelikano, and Future. Alas, it’s then a pretty big step up to the $75 plus adult pens.

    I think the difference is that the Japanese makers put out cheap adult pens. Granted the Kakuno is a bit twee, but you have other pens that are either stripped-down cheapies like the Varsity, or cheap and reliable adult pens, because we’re not all CEOs with an MB 149. The German pens are good, and mostly use excellent nibs, but they look like children’s pens with very bright colours and ‘funky’ designs.

    Of course I don’t know how available these pens are in Singapore and what the pricing policy used by the producers and importers might be… In Europe, they’re good budget pens. But then so are the Pilots and Platinums 🙂

    • Maybelline T. 8 September 2015 / 5:06 PM

      Hi Andrea, well said! As I mentioned, I would very much like to include the safari but it is out of the price range I indicated in this post. Watch out for another post on premium beginner pens. As for the others, less easily available in Singapore, plus I personally have never used them before, so it wouldn’t really be good for me to recommend them. 🙂 thanks for your detailed comment, it helps provide more options for those from other locations too!

    • Diarek 12 September 2015 / 1:14 PM

      Not only German makers, I has seen Claire-fontaine’s student fountain pens, and they looks just as gaudy as China’s dirt cheap pens, their body design is the classic cigar shape, but those bears and bunny and stuffs deter serious adults using them for any other than testing and review.

  4. Diarek 8 September 2015 / 12:48 PM

    The Metro is like, King of low cost pen, the weight, construct, nib performance are all excellence for its price. Its only downside, compare to the Plaisir, is its lack of inner cap to prevent drying out.

    I think its predecessor, the 78G (Metropolitan also called 88G in Asia market, or Cocoon in Japan), also worth noting. Classic shape, plastic body but doesn’t feel cheap, threaded cap, a 22k-gold plated nib give off luxury feel. If you go for a classic style in low cost pen, 78G is tough contender, and it sometimes comes with Pilot CON-20 aerometric converter, aka the squeezer, render the fact it only take Pilot properties moot.

    Another great pen from Pilot is the Varsity, granted, it takes know-how to refill but if you can, it will last longer than a brittle Preppy.

    Personally, two of my favorite cheap pen are Muji Aluminum and Schneider iD, the Muji’s sandy smooth body is almost erotic to swipe your finger on but scratchy nib need to be tuned before any good; the iD has superb rubber grip, butter smooth nib and solid build but only comes in M size, weird design and downright horrible clip.

    I think cheap and super cheap pen is something Western maker has largely ignored, most of their cheap pen still more expensive than their Eastern rivals. or inferior. Parker’s Vector and Frontier was decent at best, and their new plastic converter is China’s B-game-level of cheap. Sheaffer Nononsense no longer offer fountain pen version. Kaweco Sport and Lamy Safari stayed over $20, and I never bought any “cheap” Pelikan before, because at $15, they has to fight THE Metro (none of them looks good to me is another personal reason).

    • Maybelline T. 8 September 2015 / 1:02 PM

      Good breakdown, Diarek. The reason why I did not include the 78G is because it is not as readily available anymore, compared to the other pens in this list. But yes, it is worth noting as well!

  5. Cody H 8 September 2015 / 12:24 PM

    The Plaisir is great if you like the way the Preppy writes, but are looking for a less cheap look since they have the same nib. Great list!

    • Maybelline T. 8 September 2015 / 12:25 PM

      Yes indeed! I was surprised when I got my first Plaisir that it can write well and look good at the same time.

  6. Keith 8 September 2015 / 11:22 AM

    Hi Maybelline,
    Pilot Metro is a great starter pen. I bought a Metro before I bought a Platinum Preppy.

    Would add a Lamy Safari as a good beginner pen, which is a little more expensive, about $10 US. The Lamy Safari has easily changeable nibs. Buying different size nibs makes it easy to explore EF, F, M, B, etc. without the full expense of buying another pen.
    Keith

    • Maybelline T. 8 September 2015 / 11:24 AM

      Hi Keith, thanks for sharing. Yes I agree about the Lamy safari. I am planning out another post on more premium beginner pens in future, and will definitely include that.

I would love to hear your thoughts!