What That Pen In Your Pocket Says About You

There’s lots to consider when choosing a fountain pen for daily use, from material to weight to nib options to price—not to mention aesthetics: color, shape and decor. So I thought I’d take a very short and unscientific survey of a few of my pen friends—some of whom are serious collectors—to peer into their pockets and find out what pens they’re using these days.

It’s a self-selected group, so there are a variety of vintage pens cited, as well as new. Good writing is of paramount importance, and while not all the responses I received are listed here, this sampling represents the overall gist of the larger group. Other brands mentioned include Montegrappa, Pelikan, S. T. Dupont, Visconti, Aurora, David Oscarson, Caran d’Ache, Retro 51 and many more. Each reflects one’s taste and budget, as well as the level of interest in collecting and writing.

What they said
One collector says his favorite contemporary pen is “by far the Montblanc Enzo Ferrari limited edition. I work for a company involved in all things motorsport (Motorsport Network) and am surrounded by a collection of Ferraris in my office,” he says. “Montblanc did a fantastic job capturing the spirit of both Enzo Ferrari himself and his fantastic red racing machines. It goes to work with me everyday.”

And in another mention of Montblanc, a collector from Cape Town, South Africa, says, “My everyday-use fountain pen is a Montblanc StarWalker, which I bought in St.-Malo, France, in 2003. It writes well, looks okay, I can carry two boxes of cartridges, it is understated (important in my work, a politically-loaded environment), and [it] is tough enough to take the knocks of daily life. I have a collection of 70 fountain pens, which I conserve and use with great care. The StarWalker is the workhorse of the collection.”

Joe McElyea of Dallas, former pen shop principal and Montblanc employee, shares, “The Pelikan M800 was always my favorite even though I had a great time working for Montblanc. My second choice is the regular Montblanc 146—an excellent-size pen with a great nib.”

Weighing in from the Metro Detroit area, Jeffrey Bourque says he enjoys his Bexley pens, including one from the Gold Line and a Submariner Grande. His Pelikan M800 is another favorite.

Worcester, Massachusetts, resident William Safer leans into the vintage, citing his Sheaffer Lifetime Triumph fountain pen, with a conical nib. “This fountain pen was my father’s, from the WWII Era. Some years ago, I was at the Boston Pen show at the Swiss Hotel. I talked to a pen repair tech and left the pen with him. A couple of weeks later it arrived in all its glory, ready for ink!”

Another pen collector names his vintage Waterman 56s and 58s as some of his prized pens. “But I take a Duke 805—that’s the one with the enamel ‘Opera’ band—to school with me to write letters when I’m not teaching.”

James from Virginia has been collecting Joe Cali pens for over 12 years. His favorite purchase from the now-deceased independent pen designer is a fountain pen he nicknamed the “Wheat” pen because of its color. “It has a 14-karat no-name nib—medium—that writes as smooth as silk.”

Finally, long-time pen collector Jon Messer, Scottsdale, says, “I’m a four-instrument guy in that I write daily with a fountain pen, rollerball, ballpoint and pencil.” He says he’s often accused of being “too picky” when it comes to the quality of his pens, which he has been enjoying for “well over half a century.” He mentions several great choices in his writing rotation, among them a Louis Cartier fountain pen with a stub nib and a Montblanc 264 with an oblique “ultra-flex” nib.