Even though it's been years since I was a complete newbie in the fountain pen world, I still remember very distinctly how incredibly overwhelming all of the options seemed. Especially if you're shopping online, all of the different pens and their features all sort of seem to blend together and it can be paralyzing. Fountain pens are such a personal thing, and while you don't always know what will be the ultimate perfect pen for you, it's best to start out with a reliable writer that is a good introduction to the hobby.
After years of experience using hundreds of different pens and talking with thousands of customers, I have compiled my personal list of what I feel are some of the best fountain pens to consider for the newbie just getting into the hobby. While I didn't use any scientific reasoning, the main criteria I used were value, reliability (especially in writing), and positive reputation.
All of the fountain pens on this list can be found for under $35.
We made our initial list of our Top 5 Fountain Pens for Newbies back in 2014, based on what was available at that time. If you'd like to hear why I chose each of these pens, check out the video. Or, keep scrolling down to see the list!
Since my original video, many additional affordable starter fountain pens have been released. So in 2021, we released another list of 5 picks.
Without further ado....
The Top 10 List
Incredibly popular since its release, the reliable and durable metal-bodied Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen is available in a wide range of colors and styles. The Japanese steel nib runs on the finer side, though a stub nib is also available as an option. A squeeze-style converter is included, and it comes in a gift box.
One of the very first fountain pens we offered for sale at Goulet Pens! This plastic-bodied Platinum Preppy fountain pen has an excellent cap seal so it won't easily dry out. The Japanese steel nib writes on the finer side. It can accept a Platinum cartridge or converter (sold separately), or you can convert the pen to an eyedropper-fill for a huge ink capacity. It's offered in a rainbow of translucent colors, with occasional limited edition designs.
This is one of the easiest fountain pens to use, as it comes pre-filled with ink! The Pilot Varsity fountain pen is available in a colorful assorted set of 7, or in a limited selection of individual colors. While it's designed to be disposable, it can in theory be hacked to be re-filled with ink. The steel nib comes in a Japanese medium size only.
One of the heavier pens on this list, the Jinhao X750 is a metal-bodied fountain pen available in a few colors, made in China. The reason we like this one is it comes with a converter already installed, and it uses a #6 steel nib which is very easy to swap out with other nib sizes of our Goulet #6 nibs. The Jinhao X450 is another version of this pen, but with gold-plated trim instead of chrome.
One of the top recommended starter fountain pens, with good reason. While it's not the cheapest on this list, you can definitely appreciate the German engineering that goes into the LAMY safari fountain pen. From the triangular grip for ease of properly holding the pen, to the huge range of colors (including annual special editions), to the swappable nibs... there are a lot of reasons to like this pen. It comes with a LAMY ink cartridge, but also takes a LAMY proprietary converter for bottled ink (sold separately).
Jinhao 993 Shark
Maybe the most fun pen on this list, the Jinhao 993 Shark Pens feature a cap that is literally shaped like a shark. The barrel is clear so you can see your ink in the included converter. It has a hooded steel nib in extra-fine. Our kids enjoy writing with these! They also make great gifts due to their affordability and whimsical nature.
This fountain pen has been out for a long time, but only recently exploded in popularity in the US market. Made in Germany, the Diplomat Magnum is a fairly slender resin fountain pen, though some of the finishes do look metallic! It comes with a reliable smooth-writing steel nib, and a converter is included as well.
The Platinum Prefounte fountain pen is what we consider to be the "grown-up version" of the Platinum Preppy. Built with the same nib and excellent sealing cap, it's available in a variety of darker, muted translucent colors. It uses Platinum ink cartridges, or a Platinum converter (sold separately).
Our top selling pen model, year after year. The only piston-filler on our list, it's understandable why the TWSBI ECO fountain pen has such a huge fan following for those who like modern designs. The clear ink barrel holds a good capacity of ink, and it's available in a huge range of accent colors. Available in a wide variety of nib sizes, from Extra-Fine to Broad and even 1.1mm Stub nibs. There's also an ECO-T version with a more triangular grip for ease of holding in the proper hand position.
If you're looking for a "fancy" calligraphy-style fountain pen, the Pilot Parallel fountain pen is the way to go. It's offered in six different italic nib sizes, ranging from 1.5mm all the way up to 6.0mm. It uses Pilot ink cartridges, or a Pilot ink converter (sold separately). One of the coolest things about it, is that you can use two fountain pens with different ink colors, touch the nibs together, and write with a color gradiant! There's also a gift set available.
While there are many other pens that I absolutely enjoy, these ones are the go-to pens that I find best to recommend as an introduction into the fountain pen world.