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.
Note that prices are only indicative of the range, and not absolute pricing. For actual pricing please contact your preferred retailers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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Chemist by day, slacker by night, fanatic of stationery all the time.
I write with my left hand, but can also do the same with my right hand – it just won’t look very pretty.