Whether you’re new to fountain pens or have been using them for a while, you know their options, prices, and popularity can vary. Because most fountain pens today serve a relatively niche audience, everyone knows the iconic models, like the LAMY 2000, Pilot Vanishing Point, and TWSBI ECO.
These pens’ popularity is justified because of their reliable and well-liked features, but others seem to slip through the cracks when discussing quality and timeless fountain pens. Because of that, I’ve compiled a list of seven overlooked fountain pens that deserve praise!
The Platinum Preppy has long been one of the best affordable starter fountain pens on the market, but the Platinum Plaisir is also a great writing tool for anyone new to the fountain pen community. This sophisticated-looking pen features an aluminum body that’s every bit as reliable a writer as the Preppy but with a more long-lasting design.
The Plaisir is cheaper than the vast majority of pens out there but seems like a “premium” over the Preppy, which shares the same internal parts like the nib and feed. The Plaisir comes in several gorgeous color options to choose from with the Plaisir.
My guess as to why the Plaisir might be overlooked by fountain pen enthusiasts is that some of the Preppy’s redeeming qualities, such as low cost, a transparent body, and the ability to eyedropper convert, are all somewhat lost in the Plaisir. But, this pen is great to show off in the office, take on the go, and can withstand some abuse that other more expensive pens might not. Although the Plaisir doesn’t come with a converter, I still think it’s worth a look.
Sailor Compass HighAce Neo Calligraphy Pen
Although true calligraphy pens aren’t fountain pens, they are still used in the fountain pen community for specialty cases. Calligraphy pens are usually inexpensive and sold at bookstores or craft stores, maybe with multiple interchangeable nibs, which frankly just don’t work well. But, a couple of calligraphy-style fountain pens are revered, such as the Pilot Parallel and LAMY joy.
The Sailor Compass HighAce Neo is another pen that deserves the same attention as the Pilot Parallel and LAMY joy, but doesn’t quite get it. This smooth writing fountain pen comes with a stainless steel stub nib in 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0mm width, provides crisp line variation, and balances these two contradictory features nicely. This pen’s basic design reflects its low price, which falls between the Parallel and joy. They also require Sailor’s proprietary ink cartridges, or you can purchase a Sailor converter and use any ink from any brand.
Though this pen does fall under a specialty use, I still think it’s a great pen to consider as a starter pen in the 1.0mm nib size, and is arguably more practical as a carry-around pen than the Pilot and LAMY ones because it’s not long and pointy, and has a clip you could actually use in a pocket.
The Explorer has only been around a few years and rides on the heels of the Metropolitan and Kaküno. It shares the same nib and feed as both of these other Pilots, as well as the higher-priced Pilot Prera. The Explorer is light, long-lasting, reliable, and comes in twelve different colors.
The biggest reason why I think this pen is underrated is because it’s the only one of any of the steel Pilot pens that can accept the CON-70 converter, Pilot’s largest ink capacity converter! That particular converter doesn’t come with it; instead, it comes with a CON-B converter, which is still a steal at this price. If you’re into lighter pens with significant ink-carrying potential, try this one!
Traveler’s Company Brass Pen
The Traveler’s Company Brass Pen is a pretty straightforward fountain pen with one color and one nib size.
This pen surprised me because it’s not one I’d typically like. It has a fine nib, which won’t show off ink shading or shimmer very much, but its reliability makes up for that! It’s a thin pen, so I don’t love it for long writing sessions, but that’s okay because it’s designed to be a stellar pocket pen. Usually, all-metal pens get really heavy, but this is so thin and small that it’s not an issue.
Quite literally, I think this is my favorite pocket pen because it’s pretty much unbreakable. It’s easy to cap and uncap and is virtually unnoticeable in your pocket. This pen fills with a cartridge only, meaning you can’t use any converter with it, including the mini ones from other brands. I use Standard International Cartridges and refill them with an ink syringe. You can also let the brass patina naturally, which adds character to the pen, or use a little metal polish to keep it bright and shiny.
The biggest potential drawback is that it’s such an unobtrusive pocket pen you may accidentally run it through your washing machine if you don’t remember to take it out of your pocket!
TWSBI Vac Mini
I love the Vac700R because of its large features, but I know bigger pens may not be for everyone. The TWSBI Vac Mini is a smaller version of the Vac700R but doesn’t get nearly as much love. I think this pen slips through the cracks because TWSBI has so many enticing options. The Vac700R gets the attention for vac-filling, and the TWSBI Mini is known as the mini version of the 580. The Vac Mini gets overlooked, most likely because TWSBI hasn’t done any special edition color releases like they have for their 580’s, ECOs, and ECO-T’s.
I think this pen is great because you get a huge ink capacity. At almost 2ml, this pen’s ink reservoir is more extensive than any of the TWSBI piston pens. One drawback of this writing tool is that the cap doesn’t push to post. Instead, you screw it on to post, but at least it’s secure.
I’m going to break pace just a little on this one because I won’t be discussing a particular pen model but rather an entire brand. BENU has a following in its own right, and we consistently hear about the brand in online fountain pen communities. They feature bodacious designs that won’t win you any subtlety awards; however, I think they’re easy to dismiss because of their initial in-your-face impression.
Having several BENU models myself and hearing from others who use them regularly, I know the materials used in each design have a lot of nuanced aspects that give you long-term appreciation the more you use them.
The material has a lot of depth, so you’ll see some color variation, three dimensions of glitter, and other highly detailed aspects that you won’t find in other pens. If flashier pens aren’t your thing, I won’t try to convince you to love BENU, but you shouldn’t write this brand off just because of its eccentric fountain pen designs. There’s a fun theme for everyone, plus they write smoothly!
This pen probably gets overlooked because it’s the most expensive Kaweco fountain pen we carry at Goulet Pens. There are three things I really like about this pen:
- Large #6 stainless steel nib
- It can take a full-size standard international converter, which is too short to fit in other Kawecos
- It’s fun to fiddle with
The middle of the Kaweco Supra’s body can be removed to make it a shorter pen, allowing you to use it as either a pocket pen or a full-sized one. This model is well-constructed and has unique material and color options, unlike any other pen in your collection.
I’m a little conflicted about adding the Pilot Décimo to the list because it’s more popular outside the US, and some of the more recent colors have been on more peoples’ radar. But I still think the Décimo lives deep in the shadow of the Pilot Vanishing Point and is worth calling out.
Basically, it’s a slightly slimmer, slightly lighter Vanishing Point. It uses the same nib unit, comes in slightly different colors, and hasn’t been imported into the US until the last five to six years, so it just hasn’t been talked about as much. I definitely think more people should try them out, especially if they think the Vanishing Point is too big to hold.
Pilot Custom Heritage 92
I love the Pilot Custom Heritage 92, but I understand why it isn’t super popular. The price is pretty high, especially when directly compared with the Pilot Custom 74. The Custom Heritage 92 has the same nib and feed unit as the Custom 74, which is $60 less.
This pen has a couple of things going for it:
- Piston filler:
- The only piston filler in Pilot’s line that I’m aware of, or at least in the US
- You really get to see the ink clearly, unlike any other Pilot pen
- The large ink capacity is similar to the Custom 74 with the CON-70 converter
- A flat top which looks cool, though that’s totally subjective
This pen may not be as popular as the Custom 74 because it’s only available in Clear in the US, whereas the Custom 74 is in a variety of colors. I like this pen a lot, and I think it’s a solid buy, but it comes across as a premium pen for just a few subjective benefits over the Custom 74.
I hope you’ve learned something interesting about fountain pens you may not have been familiar with and can now appreciate their features. You can find all the pens mentioned on our website, where you can find other fountain pens, inks, and paper to try and enjoy. Have fun and write on!