Graduation Gifts 2011: A Pen Guide

Don’t look now, but graduation is coming and mid-may will be here soon. The hats will fly and so will the scholar in your life, off to a fresh start, in a big world filled with possibilities. Here at Executive Essentials we know that a graduation gift is more than just a memento of a job well done. It’s an opportunity to commemorate an important moment in a graduate’s life and giving the gift of a fine writing instrument is a hugely popular choice. We also know that there are literally thousands of pens from a multitude of manufacturers to choose from and picking the right pen, with the right personality to fit your graduate can be difficult.

guide to graduation giftsThat is why over the next few weeks building up to graduation we are going to do a series on the types and styles of pens that exist to help you get a better idea of what pen is the right gift to give. We will talk a little about fountain pens, rollerball pens, ballpoint pens, pencils and multi-function pens. We’ll also talk about the brands that exist and let you in on a bit of the history to help you better understand the quality and versatility each has to offer. And, of course, we will talk about price, offering up examples that are exquisite pieces of art (with prices to match) as well as offerings from the mid-to-lower end of the spectrum that are as beautiful as they are durable and fun. All of this, plus a healthy dose of staff favorites that can’t be beat.

The key to choosing the right pen for your graduation gift is to find one that has the right personality to fit your graduate. It may sound a bit dramatic to talk about pen personalities, but I think that once you begin to look around at the various styles and learn the history of the pens, you’ll begin to understand why we talk about them this way. You’ll find that some pens are royalty, a bit stuffy, but majestic. Others are carefree and embody a youthful spirit. Some look to the future, while others turn to the past. Some are scientific, without being nerdy, while others are nerdy without being geeky. Sleek and smooth or fat and bumpy, all kinds exist.

So take a look around, but come back soon and we’ll guide you through the world of pens that is Executive Essentials. And as always, don’t be afraid to leave a comment with a question.  We love to help.

Tis the Season — A Penaholic’s Gift Guide to Luxury Pens

For the next several posts we will be featuring guest blogger Tracy McCusker.Tracy is an avid pen buff & unrepentant word-slinger. Fascinated with pens from a young age, she converted to fountain pens in 2000 after being introduced to the Parker Frontier and Parker Vector. Today her pen collection numbers in the hundreds. Tracy is a staunch advocate of “going analog” for writing & creative brainstorming. When she’s not hanging out at her local fountain pen shop, her digital presence can be found guest posting at the Surly Muse.

The Penaholic’s Gift Guide Picks

While pens are seemingly becoming obsolete by touch-screen technology and ever-smaller keyboards on everything, time spent away from all of the screens that clutter our lives can be invaluable…and a pen can always be an invaluable part of that time. Writing longhand has its own pleasures, which for brevity’s sake, I won’t try to sell you on here.

If you are thinking of giving a luxury gift this holiday season, a pen can be a splashy, yet thoughtful, gift for a loved one or friend. A pen need not cost an outrageous amount. While there are some expensive pens (and some very much worth their sticker price), buying a pen doesn’t mean busting the bank.

A pen is a very individual tool. What works for one person may not be optimal for another. A buyer should ask themselves some questions to find the pen that fits their recipient best. If you’re familiar with basics of pen-buying (how thin/thick, how heavy, what type of pen, for what type of writer etc), skip on down this introduction for the Penaholic Gift Guide Picks. If you are daunted by the thought of selecting a good pen as a gift, read on.

Locate your favorite pen. You know the one I’m talking about. The pen that you reach when you need to write a check, sign a document, or jot down a sticky note.

If you are planning to give the pen as a gift, try to scope out your recipient’s usual writing instrument.

Take a moment to examine this pen. If the recipient likes thin to medium pens (e.g. a standard office-supply store Bic), you may want to stick to thin or medium pens. If the recipient uses a thick pen, a pen with a cushioned grip, or complains about uncomfortable thin pens–you should avoid buying a thin pen at all costs. Images may provide a clue to the thinness or thickness of a particular pen, but pictures don’t tell the whole story when comparing two pens against each other. You may want to hold one of these pens for yourself at a local pen shop. A good online pen shop will provide a description of how thin/thick a pen is to help you decide which pen is right for you.

The second factor to consider is the weight of a pen (whether light or heavy). How heavy a pen is may not matter to someone who uses a pen to sign checks; in fact, the heavier a pen feels in the hand, the more important it feels. If you are buying a pen for an avid journaler, a student, or an office worker who prefers to work non-digitally, lighter pens are preferable because they can be held longer without hand fatigue. Sometimes it takes a bit of research to find out how heavy a pen is. A good pen store may provide a description of the pen’s weight or of the material the pen is made from. Resin and plastic barrels tend to be on the lightest pens. Pens with chrome or brass barrels that are lacquered are usually on the heavy end. Depending on how heavy the pen is, you may prefer to write with the pen cap posted (on the end of the pen) or unposted (off). If losing track of small objects is a concern, it may be prudent to look for pens that are balanced (and feel comfortable) with the cap posted securely on its end.

Image result for types of pensThe third factor is the type of pen you are looking for (ballpoint, rollerball, fountain pen, pencil). Does your recipient prefer a type of pen—the smooth ink-to-paper feel of rollerballs over ballpoints, for example? Is your recipient interested in trying a fountain pen for the first time, or maybe they are a fountain pen only collector? Ballpoints are the most-used and most-gifted types of pens. Most people are intimately familiar with ballpoints: they write uniformly; they don’t dry out; their refills are easily available at most office-supply stores. Fountain pens are nibbed pens that are used mostly by enthusiasts who like the richness of their ink and the feel of the nib against the paper. Rollerballs are somewhere in the middle; smoother than ballpoints, they lay down a thick, wet line. Rollerballs do this without the hassles and joys that come with a nib.

Once you have settled on the type of pen to buy, then the color, brand, and “look” of a pen be the final set of decisions. The Penaholic’s Gift Guide will help you narrow in on the right pen.

Traditionally, a gift guide is broken up by budget range. I have selected pens for every kind of budget. A good gift pen generally is a pen that writes reliably, has a solid reputation, and/or is stylish or colorful enough to be a pen worthy of gifting. At the same time, a good gift pen will likely please any and all recipients. If you know that your recipient has certain tastes (dislikes the color blue, enjoys colorful pen barrels, wants something high-tech), be sure to check out the entire line of a pen that strikes your eye.

Pen recommendations also can differ based on the type of person who is receiving the pen, so this guide provides further recommendations depending on what kind of recipient you are buying for.

Pens Up to 50 dollars

Fountain Pens: Lamy Safari Vista ($27.99) and the Lamy Safari Al-Star ($35.99)

Al-Star Limited Edition Fountain Pen Charged Green;
Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

For a fountain pen under 50 dollars, it is impossible to beat the Lamy Safari. With a distinctive large metal clip on its cap, the Safari has a modern, functional aesthetic. Its thick plastic barrel is light, yet resistant to denting/scratching. The Safari has one of the smoothest steel nibs on any fountain pen; the nib has a generous give (more than the gold-plated steel nibs on Parker Sonnets), rendering a line with subtle variations. The biggest draw is that the Safari has one of the least-scratchy extra-fine (EF) nibs for those of us searching for the holy grail of both a thin line and smooth pen-to-paper experience. Unlike some other pens of its size, The Safari is actually balanced to write with the cap posted or unposted. Its faceted grip provides a comfortable grip that is larger than a standard ballpoint/gel pen, but still comfortable for note-taking or journaling. Though the Safari range comes in multiple colors (including the Al-Star which is a very attractive purple), the clear Safari Vista demonstrator is the pen of note in the line. Not only is the feed system to the nib visible, you can also see how much ink is left in your cartridge/converter through the clear pen body. Demonstrator fountain pens are themselves a collector’s item; for the money, the Vista is the cheapest demonstrator that a budding pen aficionado can get on the market. This pen would be perfect for prolific writers, or recipients that enjoy functional German design.


The Safari is made in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, and Bold. Different nib sizes will have different availabilities. It takes Lamy T-10 cartridges or the Z24 Converter

Rollerball: Tombow Object ($20.99) or the Parker Urban ($36.80 – $48.00)

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Tombow Object Rollerball Pen

It is hard to find a good rollerball below 50 dollars, as my previous favorite rollerball on the market was bumped up to the next price bracket thanks to the upward creep of prices. I was, therefore, more than surprised to find two selections for under 50 to replace it. The Tombow Object has a brushed aluminum body that resists smudges and other minor blemishes. It’s tapered grip with rings make holding the Object easier than smooth, but the rings may begin to bite if you grasp your pens too tightly (I cling to mind like I’m drowning). The bright color of the Object makes it a cheerful companion for long study sessions, and the two-tone black Object looks just slick enough to be a fashion statement, just formal enough to use in the office.


If you have a few more dollars to burn, Parker offers a slightly more upscale rollerball in the Parker Urban. The curving line of the pen body, coupled with its signature arrow clip, is the kind of touch that I have come to associate with Parker. Parkers tend to be on the heavier side, and while I have never held an Urban in my hand, I would bet that the Urban (with its chrome appointments) would feel more solid in the hand than the aluminum Towbow. The Urban looks awkward with its posted cap; it is probably meant to be used with the cap unposted. The Parker also gets a thumbs up for its refill track record. Parker rollerball refills are usually superb; they aren’t finicky, or spotty like Waterman rollerball refills traditionally are.


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Parker Urban Rollerball Pen


Overall, I would recommend the Tombow for fans of brightly-colored pens or technical pens. The Urban is recommended for recipients looking for a more executive touch to their pen (and who aren’t likely to lose pen caps).

Ballpoint: Taccia Aviator ($36.00)

This is the pen that I would ask for from my loved ones. The Aviator is a lovely twist-action ballpoint that clocks in on the smaller side (around 5 inches), with a substantially thicker body than most ballpoints of similar size (the Aviator is thicker than the Cross Century or the Waterman Hemisphere). The thickness is slightly less than the Lamy Safari. The body is made of resin, making it lighter than the metal/chrome pens at the same price point. The Aviator has no dedicated pen grip, so maintaining a comfortable grip over long writing intervals may be tricky. The Red, White, and Blue Tie are, to me, the signature colors in the line. The tuxedo look of the single band of color below the clip is appealing—and quite unlike any other pen luxury/executive pen that I have bought. It looks elegant (reportedly even lovelier in person) and would not be out-of-place in a shirt pocket or a leatherette pen case. Like many international pens, the Taccia uses Parker refills, making it easy to find a refill that will match your writing style (Monteverde and Visconti ballpoint refills will fit this pen). Parker also offers gel refills that can make your ballpoint into a rollerball, making the Aviator one versatile pen.

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Taccia Aviator Ballpoint Pen

I recommend the Taccia Aviator for someone looking for a classy ballpoint to replace their cheap pens at work or to find a pen that looks equally good signing a contract as writing in a personal notebook.

Up Next, Pens From $50 to $100.

A Penaholic’s Gift Guide To Luxury Pens

This is part two in our three part series by Tracy McCusker.Tracy is an avid pen buff & unrepentant word-slinger. Fascinated with pens from a young age, she converted to fountain pens in 2000 after being introduced to the Parker Frontier and Parker Vector. Today her pen collection numbers in the hundreds. Tracy is a staunch advocate of “going analog” for writing & creative brainstorming. When she’s not hanging out at her local fountain pen shop, her digital presence can be found guest posting at the Surly Muse.

In an effort to help our loyal fans and customers find the perfect pen gift this season, Tracy has put together an in-depth guide culled from the experiences of her own pen obsessions. Last week she talked about buying pens in the up to $50 price range. This week she tackles luxury pens in the $50 – $100 price range. Take a look at her suggestions.

Gift Pens from 50 to 100 Dollars

Fountain Pens: Lamy Studio ($67.99)Libelle Nature Mosaic ($94.99)

For the 50 to 100 dollar range, most fountain pens start to have steel nibs that are worth writing with. The Lamy Studio and the Libelle Nature Mosaic are both pens that come from well-respected pen companies. The pens mostly differ in their outward aesthetic. The Lamy Studio is a reserved German modernist design that prioritizes smooth lines over outward flashiness. The Libelle Nature Mosaic, on the other hand, has a glorious retro flourish from its chrome Grecian-inspired trim and its inlaid pearlescent resins. The Nature Mosaic from Libelle Pens is most likely similar to the Regatta or Paloma from Monteverde Pens which also use inlaid resins—a heavier pen, more likely to be used for shorter tasks… or to sit on a desk as a piece of functional art rather than to be used as a heavy workhorse.


Libelle Nature Mosaic Fountain Pen


The Lamy Studio would fit comfortably into an artist, designer, or writer’s hand. The Libelle Nature Mosaic would be a great gift for someone who liked a retro touch of elegance on their home office desk, or in front of their yellow legal pad.


Lamy Studio Fountain Pen


Rollerball: Cross ATX ($65.00 – $75.00)

The Cross ATX Rollerball (and its smaller cousin the ATX Ballpoint) are the number one gift pen that I give out to friends and loved ones. I have given these mostly on the occasion of graduations—their serious exterior brings to mind the idea of future success—but they work as holiday gifts too. The ATX gently tapers at the ends to create a subtle and beautiful profile that is reminiscent of the Cross Verve (a discontinued pen; it would have otherwise earned its own spot on this gift guide). The ATX’s chrome appointments don’t overwhelm the pen’s final weight; it feels very comfortable in the hand. I have heard a few complaints about the chrome grip being slightly too slick for some folks with damper palms, but I have personally never had a problem with the pen being slippery or hard to hold, even after marathons of frantic note-taking. Cross pens are quality instruments. My oldest ATX has taken 10 years of beatings from being shoved into bags, jammed between desks, and run over by my office chair with little wear or chipping. Still, the ATX should warrant gentle treatment; with good care, this pen could easily last me another ten years. Cross rollerball refills are some of my favorite; they are dark, quick drying, and provide a reliable line.


Cross ATX Rollerball Pen


The ATX is an all-purpose pen to give to anyone who enjoys writing. I’ve given mine to grads; the pen will look equally classy writing out notes to the latest novel as it is for doodling proofs to Fermat’s Last Theorem during lunch break.

Ballpoint: Cross Spire ($75.00 – $95.00)
It should come as no surprise that this guide is biased towards thicker pens; however, for the lover of thin pens, there is the Cross Spire. Cross’ classic style thin pen is a staple amongst luxury gifts. If you’re familiar with a thin, silver or gold pen, adorning pockets of office workers around the world, you know what the standard Cross has to offer. However, Cross has recently revamped its classic look in the Cross Spire; even I am tempted to return to trying thin pens (even though the fat ones are much better for my carpel-tunnel addled wrists). The Gold, Black, and Silver cross-hatched Spires are like dressed-up Cross Century pens; hardly any weight, and a bit tricky to hold for long periods of time. The Black & Red Spires are the ones that really catch my eye. They’re like the classier big brothers to the Cross Sport, with an eye-catching triple ring around the twist-action mid-section and the glossy lacquer that makes me such a big fan of the Cross ATX.


Image result for Cross Spire Ballpoint Pen
Cross Spire Ballpoint Pen


The Cross Spire is useful with calendars, planners, journals, or any other leather accessory that might have a pen loop. The Spire, as a thin pen, fits well into compact spaces. If your giftee is a fan of thin pens, the Cross Spire is a must-buy.

So take the time to browse the Executive Essentials catalog to see these great gift pens. Also, remember to come back and hear Tracy’s suggestions on pens over $100. Not to be missed!

Cool pens: More Pen, Less Concept

I am a bloodhound for pen lists. I can’t get my fill of innovative pen concepts. Yet it’s always a bit of a let-down to find out that these pen concepts are just pens on paper. The RGB pen that samples colors from the environment will sadly just remain a concept (and not a real, useable pen) if only for the fact that RGB describes monitor color. A real-world application would require CMYK inks that mix on command. Could you fit all of those ink cartridges in a tiny pen body? Probably not affordable.

In recent months, I’ve grown tired of the pen-technology hybrids that promise the moon and don’t deliver a good writing experience (Wacom Inkling, I am so disappointed with you!). I’ve returned to the basics: a cool pen is one that has the look, the styling, and the track record as a good writer. And rather than hunger after pens that are yet to market, these pens are available *now* or will be in the next few months. Without further ado, here are my current picks for Cool Pens.

Jean-Pierre Lepine:

Jean-Pierre Lepine is a French pen maker who makes pens by hand in a small workshop. He and his team make pens that are based on surprising textures, materials, and forms. The Graphyscaf, made in honor of Jules Verne and other underwater explorers, is hand-riveted together from 195 different parts. The Free Ride is a motorcycle-inspired pen that looks road-ready. Despite the slickness of his limited edition pens (the Cybergraph looks like a single piece of metal), Lepine’s designs are full of whimsy. He likes squiggles, rounded ends, and strange juxtapositions of form & function (what else would you call a prickly cactus-inspired pen?). You really have to see some of his creations to be believed. Lepine is a mainstay of pen lists, but finding his pens might be a little bit harder. Lepines are generally small-run creations compared to other manufacturers, if not outright limited editions. The Graphyscaf is the dream of most pen collectors only.



My picks: The Free Ride, Zeementa


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Jean-Pierre Lepine Free Ride Ballpoint Pen


Whimsical Award: Cactus


Jean-Pierre Lepine Cactus Fountain Pen


Kickstarter, the Land of Plenty:

In the last six months, there has been an explosion of pen-makers who successfully fund projects through Kickstarter. Their pet projects have been mouth-watering. These pen-makers are mostly making slick metal pen casings for the Pilot High-Tec-C (an incredibly popular disposable pen with artists and technical illustrators alike). The technical styling of these pens is an aesthetic that is mostly overlooked by traditional pen makers. Even while the pens aren’t overtly trying to target the high-tech crowd, pens like the Clip ‘en FLEX (a pen and a clip in one!) are clearly banking on buyers who are more interested in utility and usefulness rather than the executive splendor of a luxury pen. Browsing through these offerings brings fantastic ideas to life–like the Pen Type-A that features a slick aluminum body and a ruler that slides over the body of the pen. One of the most recent offerings is the P1 by Premier Pen. With a run-away funding of over 80,000 dollars for their start-up pen, Premier Pen will doubtlessly be bringing other prototypes to market soon.

My pick: P1 Premier


P1 Premier Pens


Whimsical Award: Clip ‘en FLEX


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Clip ‘en FLEX


Michael’s Fat Boys:

I’m blown away by the strange designs and the clever lines of Michael’s Fat Boys. My wheelhouses are Waterman, Parker, and Cross–the good ole boys of the pen market. When I came across Michael’s Fat Boy with their luxury-pen price tags and their incredibly fat grips, I knew the pen world was changing for the better. As much as I might love the skinny Crosses or dowdy Parkers, my fingers crave a wide grip for comfortable writing. After hours of typing, I’m eager to give my hands a break when I put pen to paper. Michael’s Fat Boys have a reputation for pen quality, and they’re far easier to find than Lepines. My next pen will doubtlessly be a Fat Boy

My pick: Michael’s Fat Boy Comet (Red)


Image result for michaels fatboy comet
Michael’s Fat Boy Comet


Whimsical Award: Michael’s Fat Boy Arcangelo Raw Cut Gel Pen


Image result for Michael’s Fat Boy Arcangelo Raw Cut Gel Pen
Michael’s Fat Boy Arcangelo Raw Cut Gel Pen


Acme Pens:

It’s true that I am biased towards the technical side of pens–I love a pen that reminds me of racing, cars, and industrial machines. But who couldn’t love the bright colors of Acme–or their incredible sense of play? Take the Acme #2. It looks exactly like the Number 2 yellow pencils that I grew up taking tests with. Right down to its attachable pink eraser nub (chew marks will have to be provided by the customer). Acme specializes in pens that reproduce art (the Mondrian inspired pen), cultural icons (Beatles Pens), or philosophical heavyweights (Homer from the Simpsons). While most of Acme’s pens are cool simply because of their playful patterns, I think the Acme #2 is one of the most clever pen concepts in the past ten years.

My pick & Whimsical Award: The Acme #2 Pencil and Rollerball set


Acme #2 Pencil and Rollerball Set



Krone Pens:

Krone pens are stunning. They are some of the most gorgeous pens I’ve laid eyes on. Their limited editions are like miniature paintings. Under the glass, the K-Class limited editions shine like emeralds. So why does a fairly conservative pen manufacturer like Krone make the “cool pen” list? While I’ve been taking swipes at the normal stylings of luxury fountain pens in this column, Krone pens really are too beautiful to be believed. If you can see one in person, you’ll know what I mean: deep, rich lacquers that catch the light; subtle underlays that catch the eye; the best quality silvers, golds, and gemstones. That is to say, any pen manufacturer that is studding a pen with jewels can’t be considered a “normal” pen company. And their price tag matches that quality. Be warned: a Krone is not for a first-time buyer or the faint of heart. But that K-Class pen. Boy. I’d keep mine in a jewelry box. Now that’s a very cool pen.

My picks: Krone Night Vision, K-Class


Whimsical Award: Any pen that’s studded with jewels. Go on, take a look!



The 2012 Penaholic Gift Guide: Part Two

Part One of 2012’s gift guide can be read here.

Last week, I gave the inexpensive pens picks for my 2012 gift guide. In this second half of my pen gift guide, I give my picks for mid-range and luxury collections. Though the price tags are larger, the prices are still small compared to the years of writing these quality pens can give.

In this second part, I also go over my picks for essential pen accessories–pen cases, stands, and displays. Every owner of a fine pen should have at least one good case to keep their favorite writer protected. Onward to the pens!

Mid-Range Pens ($75 – $150)


Ipsilon Deluxe Ballpoint Pen Blue;
Aurora Ipsilon Deluxe Ballpoint Pen Blue


Aurora Ipsilon:

Italian pens dominate the second half of the gift list this year. The first entry on the lists goes to an underappreciated writer, the Aurora Ipsilon. It and its more expensive big-brother the Aurora Ipsilon Deluxe (which boasts a 14k gold nib, and a $200 dollar ) aren’t stars in the fountain pen world. But among writers who want a pen that will always put ink on the paper, the Aurora Ipsilon is tops. The barrel has a thin brass core under the resin to give the pen a bit of heft; the body is well-balanced for long writing sessions. The Ipsilon has multiple nib types available, depending on your preferences: steel, gold-plated, or 14k gold. Aurora pens are known for their “tooth” – a distinctive, resistive feel when you put pen to paper that some like, and others don’t. Often the highest praise goes out to the broad-nib version, which puts a hearty amount of ink on the page (yet writes like a medium in American brands). It is a favorite for many pen collectors, earning it a place on this year’s list as an excellent buy. The only way to know for sure if it’s going to be your next favorite is to ink up one and give it a try.

Available as a fountain pen, rollerball, and ballpoint.

Stipula Bon Voyage:

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Stipula Bon Voyage Fountain Pen

Before the Bon Voyage, Stipula tested the waters with a little pen, the Passaporto. The Passaporto revived a tradition of eyedropper fountain pens in mid-range priced pens. An eyedropper is a fountain pen where the cartridge is done away with completely, and the barrel of the pen becomes the ink reservoir. It is filled by (you guessed it) an eyedropper in the inkwell. The Passaporto could hold nearly five times the amount of ink a regular cartridge-filling fountain pen could. The downside: the Passaporto was diminutive in larger hands, and its lack of clip made it harder to carry around (not to mention, the Passaporto’s round body had the tendency to roll off the desk with a light nudge). Enter the Bon Voyage, which keeps the main aspects of its predecessor’s translucent design and adds a clip and O-ring to keep the barrel more secure when it is used as an eyedropper. The Bon Voyage can still be used with cartridges, for those who don’t want to hassle with bottled ink.  As an update to the Passaporto’s design, the Bon Voyage is a winner for long writing sessions, travel, or for folks who just don’t like to refill their pens every week.

Available as a Fountain Pen or Speedball (a rollerball that uses fountain pen ink cartridges).

Delta Markiaro Posillipo:


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Delta Markiaro Posillipo Fountain Pen

Delta is a company whose sterling reputation has made me keen to try a pen in their line but found them price-prohibitive as a casual pen collector. Enter Delta’s newest entry-level pens under the Markiaro name, the Markiaro Gaiolat and the Markiaro Posillipo.  Of the two collections, the Markiaro Posillipo is the more elegant; its body is a shining, gently marbled resin. The rich colors on the Posillipo are gorgeous reflections of their Italian origin. The lower cost of the collection (compared to Delta’s normal offerings) is, in part, due to its steel nib (rather than its wide array of more expensive gold, or fusion nibs that are gold with a steel inlay). Delta’s steel nibs are smooth, firm, on the wet writing side. The grip section on the pen is metal, which may detract some writers who find it to be too slick to comfortably grip for long writing sessions. But pen collectors and pen aficionados who are interested in branching out into Delta will be well-served by the Posillipo. Aside from the just-under-two hundred dollars Capri Day and Night collections, the Posillipo is the least expensive—and one of the more striking—ways to experience a truly classic Italian pen brand.


Available as a ballpoint, rollerball, or fountain pen.

Luxury Pens (over $200)

Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique:


Meisterstuck Classique Rollerball Pen Black & Gold;
Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique Rollerball Pen Black & Gold

I am a recent convert on the Meisterstuck Classique. When I had a chance to review the Classique this fall, I was struck by three things: the timelessness of its resin-and-gold appointments design; the way it felt like a natural extension of my hand after a few minutes of writing; how durable and well it had held up over the last quarter century. The Classique is durable, luxurious, and—well—priceless. The Classique is the first heirloom-quality pen on this list. I have no doubt that it will continue to function admirably for the next twenty-five years. The Classique has only a modest number of trims available: gold & platinum. But the number of options aren’t what you consider when you buy a Montblanc. You think about how effortless it is to write a page in a journal or sign a name to an office invoice.  The Classique does not come cheap, but it is worth the price.


Available as a pencil, ballpoint, rollerball, or fountain pen.

Montegrappa Emblema:


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Montegrappa Emblema Fountain Pen

Throw a dart at the Montegrappa catalog, and you will hit a vibrant pen that’s the envy of any desk. I’ll admit it was a struggle to pick between the Emblema and the expressive Piccola (which is half the asking price of the Emblema). In the end, the Emblema won out for its well-balanced celluloid body that seems to post its cap better than the Piccola. The Emblema features an 18k gold nib that offers a tiny bit of flex and a very smooth writing experience. Of all nibs, the 18k nib is in the sweet spot. 14k nibs are often stiff, and anything more than 18k is just fancy talk for a gold inlaid piece of jewelry. The 18k nib is just soft enough to offer the slightest bit of line variation in writing (called flex, this quality is highly valued by many pen collectors), but strong enough to stand up to hours of serious writing. Like vintage pens, the Emblema is crafted from celluloid, a plant-based resin that has been used in first-class pens for more than a century and a half. With its engraved silver band and its appointments, the Emblema looks like a piece of luxury furniture. It is, frankly, stunning. If you have the resources–go for the Emblema. You will not be disappointed.


Available as a ballpoint, rollerball, or fountain pen.

S.T. Dupont Liberte:


S.T. Dupont Liberte Ballpoint Pen

Pen reliability could be called “S.T. Dupont,” and I would not argue the title. As the most expensive collection on this list, the S.T. Liberte is neck-and-neck with Montblanc for prestige, quality, and luxury in a writing experience. Whereas Montblanc pens are known for their lightness in the hand, S.T. Dupont pens have more heft. Liberte owners sing the highest praises of their flawless writing experiences. And they are gorgeous. More restrained than the colorful Montegrappas, the Liberte shows off its style in simple black or white with silver appointments. The Liberte is considered a “feminine” pen range; its “masculine” counterpart would be the Defi Collection, with finishes in carbon fiber (and an even higher price tag). Honestly, a sleek pen is a sleek pen to me, and I enjoy both the Liberte and the Defi. I find the prices on the Liberte to be slightly more in line with a pen that I’d want to show off on my desk (and use to write on special occasions). Whatever the case may be, any S.T. Dupont will give you as smooth a writing experience as money can buy.


Available as a ballpoint, rollerball, or fountain pen.

Pens Sleeves

Since I’ve rather breathlessly praised some very beautiful and very expensive pens, the next question that comes to mind is: how do you keep these pens safe?



Triple Pen Case;
Aston Leather Triple Pen Case


If your gift recipient is anything like me, they are not content to let their favorite writing instruments luxuriate on their desks, untouched and unloved. For the on-the-go writers, pen cases are a great gift accessory. A good case is key to keeping luxury pens pristine and work-horse pens free of infuriating dents and dings in their resin.


Libelle’s Double Pen Sleeves keeps everyday pens safe. For more expensive pens that I don’t want accidentally brushing each other, I turn to pen cases with individual pen loops like the Namiki Nylon Pouch or cases that look like cigar holders (Libelle or Aston Triple pen cases). For an extra touch of luxury, Montblanc offers pen sleeves with their distinctive logo on the front of the case. Of all of the pen cases that I’ve used, Libelle and Aston top my list as the most dependable and most stylish (for a reasonable price).

Namiki Nylon Pen Pouch

Montblanc Meisterstuck Pen Sleeves

Libelle Pen Sleeves

Aston Pen Cases

Pen Stands


Legal Eagle With Scales Pen Holder;
Jac Zagoory Legal Eagle With Scales Pen Holder

While I can’t say that pen stands are a necessity (I’m a true believer in a hands-on approach to pens—all of my work pens are hauled around in roll cases), there is some attractive pen stands that may suit your recipient… especially if you are purchasing a luxury pen that is meant to be ogled as much as it is to be used. Minimal pen stands are the best choice for pen-lovers, because they emphasize the pen. The Jac Zagoory Ripple Pen Stand does just that: the stand is no more than an attractive base that holds the pen upright. It shows off the pen as a true work of art. If having a pen-at-hand on the desk is more important than an artistic display, Bey Berk’s double pen stand may be just what your giftee needs.


Jac Zagoory Ripple Pen Stand

Bey Berk Pen Stands

Pen Display

Pen collectors will attest to how necessary it is to have a pen display case. They make a good gift for a budding collector who’s just bought their first few pens; they make a great gift for the collector who needs to upgrade their storage to accommodate their habitual increase in collection size.


Blond Collection Fiddleback Maple 10 Pen Case;
Venlo Pen Case


Reed and Barton make one of the most attractive pen chests on the market. Its cherry wood finishes pairs well with most dark wood furniture pieces. My cherry wood case (a six-pen display) next to my journal collection is the most conversation-starting piece in the room.

For us truly recalcitrant collectors, Laban makes a wonderful line of pen chests that range from 10 to 40 pens. Display case plus pull-out drawers for storage…could a collector ask for more?


Pen Chest - 10 Pens;
Laban Pen Chest