Retro 51’s New Harley Davidson Pens Will Get Your Engines Running

Harley Davidson, Disney, and Tornadoes. What do all three have in common? They’re all Retro 51 pen collections, of course. Established in 1991, Retro 51 is redefining the way we think about pens. The company makes affordable, unique and original pieces that anyone would want. From Tinkerbell and Mickey Mouse to Full Throttles and Road Writers, Retro 51 has a pen for you, especially with the addition of new pieces to the already popular collections.

Image result for retro 51 harley davidson collection flathead lineIn continuation of the distinctive Harley Davidson collection, Retro 51 released the Flathead line. This includes three new pens designed around Harley’s Flathead engine. Like the flathead engine, the pens are powerful in their simplicity.

Along with the new line of Harleys, Retro 51 also added the Abbondonza pens. This collection was named for the Italian word meaning, “more of everything,” which pretty accurately describe these pens. They are made from acrylic resin to ensure their beauty and long life.

As if the Harleys and Abbondonzas weren’t enough, the company also updated some classics. The Scriptmaster is now available in the second series, and the Tornado Rollerballs now come in five new colors including ice blue, Venetian marble, purple, charcoalium and Verona marble.


One thing remains constant with these pens; they are unlike any designs I’ve ever seen. Check them out at Executive Essentials.

Executive Essentials Staff Picks

Graduation time has come to Montana. I know this very well, because last weekend I gathered up my two children, dressed them up in the finest threads we have to offer and ushered them 12 blocks to the University of Montana where they watched their mother graduate with an English Major and Sociology Minor. I’m incredibly proud of my wife for persevering through the trials and tribulations that came from raising a family (husband included) while wrestling with the studies of critical interpretation and social ethics. Good job babe!

But with the joyous rapture of graduation weekend comes the sobering and somewhat mournful realization that the last 4-5 year journey had a purpose. And that purpose – for most – was to get a J.O.B.

As the newly minted 2011 graduates explode across the social landscape, fulfilling want ad positions more efficiently than the city’s public works department fills potholes after the spring thaw, it’s our hope that they are capable of finding jobs that not only pay well but that they like. This task alone is harder than any final they’ve ever dared take. In that vein, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce our readers to some folks who truly do love their jobs. Those are the people here at Executive Essentials.

These are the folks who research, organize, filter and coordinate your orders. These are the very people that work with you at Executive Essentials to ensure that you have access to the finest pens the industry has to offer and that you receive exactly what you thought you were getting when you thought you were getting it. And it’s no small task.

With all this experience and knowledge and love of their job, it’s no wonder that a few of them might have some opinions about their favorite pens in the EE catalog. So here are a few of the staff and their favorite Executive Essentials pens.


Parker Duofold Ballpoint

Ellen Bjorvik is the general manager for Executive Essentials as well as a pen buyer and expert on all things writing. As a general manager, Ellen’s job requires a great deal of knowledge about the organization as a whole and the ability to multitask at a high level. She loves the Parker Duofold Pearl and Black ballpoint pen above all the rest. She enjoys this pen because of its gorgeous, classic beauty and the ease with which it writes due to its extremely well-balanced nature.






Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball

Sandy Langenfeld works at Executive Essentials as a customer service representative and is also one of the local pen experts you will find helping when you order. Sandy is in love with the Retro 51 Tornado in Purple which will be her next pen purchase. She likes the Tornado in Purple because she can use the easy flow refills with this ballpoint for a rollerball-like writing experience. Sandy also likes the Waterman Exception Rollerball in Raspberry for both the unique shape as well as the beautiful, feminine color.



Image result for Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Collection of Wood Pens
Graf von Faber-Castell Foutain Pen



Sylvia Draganova is another knowledgeable customer service representative at Executive Essentials that can answer all your questions and offer suggestions based on your writing needs. As one of the many pen experts on the staff, she has many opinions about the best pen brands and individual writing instruments.  Her favorite pen brand is Faber-Castell and her favorite pen is the Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Collection of Wood Pens and the Emotion Collection of Wood Pens which are a bit more affordable. She appreciates that these pens use a natural, sustainable resource –wood – and also admires their classic elegance. But above all else, she loves that the company is family owned, just like Executive Essentials.


Tiffany Pine Bough Rollerball

Renee Silverman is the Director of eCommerce for Executive Essentials and in charge of making sure the website, blog and online catalog are looking good and in working order — among a variety of other duties. Although she is a self-professed ‘non-expert’ she knows what she likes when it comes to writing instruments, having been in the pen business for a few years.  She adores the Metropolitan Museum of Art line of pens, specifically the Tiffany Pine Bough Rollerball. She is drawn to the Tiffany Rollerball specifically because of its elegant and beautiful exterior and its smooth writing feel, all of which remind her of Tiffany art. Her other favorite pen is the Montblanc Ingrid Bergman La Donna Limited Edition Rollerball. She loves the unique, feminine shape of this pen, especially the amethyst accent! But the attribute that really causes this pen to stick out to her is the unique contrast between the mother of pearl cap and the black body. Very striking.


Those are just a few of the suggestions from the wonderful people at Executive Essentials. These are the people that are ready to answer any of your questions about any of the pens you might find. So don’t be shy.

Pen Sets and a Unique Wedding Gift

The only thing better than receiving one pen as a gift is receiving a pen set as a gift. Here at Executive Essentials, we have 29 amazing pen sets available from 12 different manufacturers. Like the single pens sold at EE, each of these pen sets is unique pens that hold a unique character and quality to reach a broad range of styles and interests. So, it seemed like the right time to browse the EE catalog and pick out my top 5 favorites and tell you what they are all about. So sit back and relax and feast your eyes on these great executive pen sets.

Cross Windsor Ballpoint Pen And Pencil Set Polished Chrome

I wanted to start with this pen and pencil set from Cross, because I couldn’t believe the price when I saw it. Cross makes a wide range of wonderful pens and pencils, but getting two for $20 just blew me away. I know that these are on the lower end of the pen spectrum, but a cross pen from any part of their spectrum is a worthy investment.  This set comes in polished chrome with gold appointments to provide a smooth, elegant writing experience.


Retro 51 Disney Tinkerbell Pen & Pencil Set

My daughter’s birthday was on the 10th of this month and I’m sad that I didn’t see this pen set before hand. Even though at 10 years old she has long outgrown the Disney princesses obsession she is still a sucker for Tinkerbell and all fairies. In fact, she makes fairy food out of clay for her small fairy home filled with her tiny fairies. It’s a fairy world up in here. Regardless of if you are a true lover of fairies or just a casual fairy friend, this whimsical Disney pen and pencil set is a perfect addition to your writing instrument collection.  And the price is just right for those younger writers who might not have the best pen care habits at their young age.

Visconti Ragtime 20th Anniversary 3 Piece Set

41acqmm0-l-_sy355_.jpgVisconti writing instruments are handmade in Florence, Italy from precious and unique materials. With an eye toward re-discovering and preserving forgotten artisan traditions, toward devising and implementing advanced technology, and toward fitting inspired form to function, Visconti is the world leader in the design and technical innovation. This specific Ragtime pen set jumps up the scale from affordable to decadent, but the design and feel are worth it. This is a three pen set that includes an individual fountain pen, rollerball, and ballpoint.

Montblanc Mark Twain Pen Set Fountain Rollerball & Pencil

Image result for Montblanc Mark Twain Pen Set Fountain Rollerball and PencilSo much has been said about Mark Twain, that it’s hardly worth repeating. What is worth mentioning, however, is the blending of Montblanc and the Fabled American writer that used the mighty Mississippi as the backdrop to his novels and short stories. This exquisite fountain pen, rollerball and pencil set has look, feel and history. There are two different sets that have two different looks, but my favorite is the blue, which has all the qualities of Montblanc, with the color of Samuel Clemens eyes.

Omas 360 Wedding Set

Image result for Omas 360 Wedding SetOmas has a great pen ethic and I was happy to find this wonderful pen set made specifically for Weddings. Since North America is firmly entrenched in the wedding season it seemed only fitting to include this wonderful pen set as a unique wedding gift for those couples who love life and literature with equal passion. As wedding gifts go, this will be a piece that stands out for the bride and groom long after the casserole dishes have been sent off to Goodwill.

These were just five of the 29 pen sets available in the Executive Essentials catalog. Take a look in the pen set section for many more unique writing instruments by world renowned manufacturers.

The zebra is one of those highly distinctive and well-loved animals. And, even though they live in only one country, Africa, they are known worldwide. They are primarily known for their black and white striped coats which give them striking physical features. The pattern actually evolved as a defense against predators, which blurs the outline of the animal and confuses distance, making the zebra harder to hunt during dawn and dusk. And, although in a group all zebras may look the same, each pattern is as individual as a fingerprint or a snowflake.

The zebra pattern has been lifted from the animal and used in fashion and design in clothing, furniture, and numerous other products. Here at Executive Essentials, we have several products that carry the distinctive zebra stripes including a few zebra print pens.

Cross Sauvage Fountain Pen Onyx Zebra

In the world of accessories for women, the Cross Sauvage Zebra Fountain Pen stands high above the rest. Cross specifically engineered this one of a kind pen to suit a woman’s hand for writing by adjusting the balance and shape. The Sauvage features a curvy outline of silver and onyx that echoes the feminine form. The deep engraving of this pen mimics that of an exotic zebra print. This pen is hand-polished and is covered in a jewel-toned lacquer. It is tipped with an 18-karat nib.

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JanSport Black and White Cosmo Zebra Elefunk Messenger Bag

Image result for JanSport Black and White Cosmo Zebra Elefunk Messenger BagIt’s been years since messenger bags replaced the standard backpack as the de facto carrying accouterment for urban dwelling individuals and the designs and styles just continue to expand and evolve. Case in point is Jansport’s Elefunk in zebra print. This is a great messenger bag for books, school supplies, or even hauling groceries from the Good Food Store. It comes complete with an adjustable shoulder strap with a removable pad, one large main compartment, an organizer that keeps essentials handy, dual side pockets with one for a cell phone and a fully padded back panel for cushioning comfort. Did I mention it has a zebra print? Classic!

Retro 51 Exotic Animal Prints Rollerball Pen Zebra

Retro 51 Pens goes 1980’s with this great Zebra print pen from their Exotic Animal Prints series. I am a huge fan of Retro 51. They know how to have serious fun when it comes to writing pens. Not to mention that many of their pens are extremely affordable for the quality you get in both the ink and the barrel. So slide in the Tears for Fears cassette, raise your bangs, cuff your pants and get your 1980’s on with this ultra fun pen.


Ogon Aluminum Credit Card Wallet Zebra

Image result for Ogon Aluminum Credit Card Wallet ZebraI don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that nothing goes together better than an aluminum credit card holder and zebra print. The Ogon Credit Card Holder is a unique carrying case that allows men and women to carry the essentials in a pocket size case. Easy to find in a purse, it also fits perfectly in a jean pocket. The open fan-shaped compartments are functional in design and allow easy access to each card. The wallet features seven expandable pockets made of resistant PVC to fit up to 12 cards. The aluminum is made of water-resistant material and it has a simple button that makes opening and closing easy.

Fashions, fabrics, and styles come and go like the tides. But some designs and patterns are timeless. Make sure to check out these and other great zebra print products from Executive Essentials. You won’t be disappointed.

Back To School: Ballpoint Pens

It’s mid-August and at least in the United States, summer seems to be slowing down. The rushing spring thaw has run its course and the rivers are returning to recreational normal. And, as if in inverse relation, the slower the rivers run the faster the back to school sales start to flow. That is if you live in the northern hemisphere, which typically sees a September to June school year. However, if you live in another country not aligned with the Northern hemisphere, your back to school season has either ended or is a long way off.

Being from North America, it’s interesting to think that in Australia, students attend school for 200 days a year from late January to mid-December. This is partially because Australia is in the southern hemisphere and they have their summer while it’s winter in the northern hemisphere. The school year in Australia has 4 terms.  Each of the terms lasts about 10 weeks. Between each term, students get roughly two weeks of vacation.  Other countries in the southern hemisphere have similar schedules with slightly different hours, such as Brazil, which only has school from 7 in the morning till noon.

But, just being in the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t mean that a country has a relaxed September to June schedule. China is in the northern hemisphere, but it has a summer school schedule that runs from the beginning of September to mid-July. Unlike the long summer vacations in the Americas, Chinese students spend their summer vacation in classes or studying for entrance exams. The typical Chinese school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with most schools stopping for a two hour lunch break.

Regardless of where or when you go to school, one thing remains true: you’re going to need supplies. And here are Executive Essentials we have a great selection of back to school items like backpacks, messenger bags, laptop sleeves, pens, pencils and more. In fact, right now, Executive Essentials is having a ballpoint pen sale that includes a slew of great pens in all different styles from all different brands.

Yafa Poquito Ballpoint Pen in Red

Image result for Yafa Poquito Ballpoint Pen in RedThis extremely simple, yet sleek and stylish pen has a flair that cannot be extinguished or ignored. This mighty writer measures in at 3-3/4 inches long. It opens with a twist and has a refillable cartridge that will keep you in ink for a long time to come. The entire housing is made of solid brass to give this small pen a bit a weight. Besides red, this pen comes in white, black and gun metal. The perfect back to school companion for the pop quiz in you.

Fisher Bullet Ballpoint Pen in Black and Titanium

Back to school brings with it a lot of excitement, anticipation, learning, and…excuses. It seems that no matter how hard we try as teachers and parents, the kids always find a reason to go in the opposite direction we point them. Well, when it comes to homework, this Bullet Space pen from Fisher will narrow down their excuses to, “the dog ate my homework.” That’s because this pen can write in any direction, at any temperature, and in any liquid. It’s made out of brass with a titanium nitride finish, leaving it with a look that will make sure your student keeps it close at hand.

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Caran d’Ache Yellow Ballpoint Pen

Image result for Caran d’Ache Yellow Ballpoint PenDigging around in the bottom of a backpack or messenger bag, looking for the right writing instrument for class can be a drag. So why not gather up a few pens that are so bright they will be hard to lose? Caran d’Ache makes great, lightweight, durable pens that have a hip style and a ton of utility. Made of aluminum with a polished metal push-button, these fabulous ballpoints can take a heavy workload of papers and tests the yearlong. Besides yellow, these pens also come in red, orange, green, blue and purple. And of course, black.

Tumi Classic Ballpoint Pen in White

Coming in on the high end of the price chart is a wonderful ballpoint from Tumi Pens. At 50 percent off, this classic in white demands a student that understands the value in having a pen for the long haul. The ivory and silver colors combine to form a pen that exemplifies the word collegiate. The striking beveled pattern of the barrel-grip adds a sense of Victorian importance, while the slim, chiseled clip adds utility, without detracting from the pens overall, unique presence. By far, one of the best pens in the clearance section of the Executive Essentials catalog.

Retro 51 Disney Ballpoint Pen

Simply put, Retro 51 Pens is a fun pen company. They redesign our childhoods and our histories and roll them up into one of kind writing instruments that speak to us on a level like that of a good friend who we haven’t seen in a long time. This particular black Mickey Mouse pen is playful without being over done.  Its modern look and feel give it a place in the hands of those who aren’t just yet ready to let all work turn into no play. And, if you happen to be looking for other Mickey Mouse and friends pen, Retro 51 has a wide variety of colorful pens just waiting for you.


Take some time and look around the Executive Essentials catalog and find some great back to school savings on ballpoint pens, messenger bags, backpacks and many other items.

Back to School: Alarm Clocks and Planners

Summer vacation is over and it’s back to college for millions of students. Gone are the carefree days and nights with little to do but sit by the beach or float the river in an over inflated tube. Your mornings start to mean something a little different than a relaxing cup of coffee and catching up on the news. It’s time to get organized and make the most of your day. To do that you’re going to need a good alarm clock to roust you out of bed and a well-designed planner to reference in the morning to keep you on track and headed to the right class on time.

At Executive Essentials, we have more than just pens, pencils and messenger bags to get you back to school in style. We also carry a great assortment of planners and alarm clocks have style and charm to match any taste. Take a look at these well-priced items showcased at our back to school sale going on now!

Letts of London Compact Academic Agenda


2017 Sterling Week To View Agenda Red;
Letts of London Agenda

Many agendas on the market are over thought. They come oversized with extra pages of information that frankly, you just don’t need.  This simple and stylish academic calendar features soft touch covers and comes with a ribbon bookmark to keep your page. With its simple design, this calendar helps with your schedule information, holidays, personal info, classes and more. These academic agendas are great from the start of the school year to the finish. This particular agenda is hard cover bound with white pages and navy print. It comes in black, pink in red and right now at our back to school sale, it is priced right at under $7. Pair it with a Fisher Bullet Ballpoint Pen in Matte Black to get through your school in style.


Moshi Talking Travel Alarm in Black


Moshi Talking Alarm Clock

After a long night of studying it can be hard to remember to set your alarm clock for the next day. But, with this amazing technologically advanced alarm clock you can simply lay in bed and say, “Set Alarm…7:30 am” and your wish is its command. This Moshi Talking Alarm Clock allows you to set the alarm with only your voice. Not only that, but it has 3 alarm sounds, tells the temperature and has a split screen for time and alarm so you always know what’s going on. You might expect to pay a lot of money for a piece of technology this advanced, but at Executive Essentials you can wow your friends with this clock for under $21 at our back to school sale.


Letts of London Week to View Small Agenda with Dragonfly Pattern


Tornado Rollerball Pen Red;
Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball

Letts of London has a flair for bringing out the character in all their products whether it’s business serious, or playful and fun. These Week to View agendas come in a variety of patterns on the cover including dragonflies, flowers, kittens, and lizards.


Larger than the compact agenda, these allow you to view the whole week at a glance but still maintain the simplicity and organized layout that allow you to focus on what’s important: your schedule. Each has a durable, hard cover to protect what’s important inside and a stretch band closure to keep it shut.  At under $9 this is a true back to school savings. Pair it with a fun, Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball in Red to make a splash on the scene.

Movado Black Enameled Alarm


Movado Black Alarm Clock

Movado Clocks has a history of making the mundane exciting and elegant all at the same time. This unique, well thought out student alarm clock is no exception. It has a round design with a fold-out stand that props it up for use. The hands are made of stainless steel. The face of the clock has no numbers, only a full ‘moon’ at the 12 position in classic Movado style. A simple, stylish work of art, functioning to keep you on time and on task throughout the school year. At the back to school sale at Executive Essentials, this timepiece comes in under $76.


Bulova Reliable Wind Clock


Bulova Reliable Clock

Getting off the grid and conserving energy has a been a trend that many have been more than happy to embrace. Bicycles are the new preferred mode of transportation, gardening is back in vogue and local business is on the rise as people seek out items that are local to their town and region. That is why this Bulova winding clock makes more sense now than ever.  A key wind mechanism gives you 30 hours of tick-tock. That’s enough time to make a ritual of turning your energy into morning wake-up call.  It all comes wrapped in a handsome case of black for travel and large, easy to read letters for when your eyes start to blur from reading too much Plato. Right now at Executive Essentials, you can score this amazing clock for only $20.99. Eco-friendly timepiece.


So don’t wait any longer. Take a look for yourself at the back to school savings that are going on right now. And if you still don’t have your backpack or messenger bag, pens or pencils, well, we have those too. And at prices that make going back to school enjoyable.

Avoiding the Pitfalls: A Graduation Pen Guide

Hey, folks! Guest blogger Tracy McCusker is back again. This time with some great suggestions for graduation gift pen ideas with a step by step outline of what to look for and a list of favorites at the end. Take a look.

The graduation season is upon us.  Big box stores are sprouting pyramids of seasonal pen sets.  Pen shops, usually empty but for pen connoisseurs, welcome the flocking parents & loved ones looking for the traditional graduation gift: a respectable and luxe pen to signify success and future professionalism.

images (1).jpgIn my opinion, pens make for the best graduation gifts for high-schoolers, college grads, professional school grads and beyond.  Pens are more practical than similarly-styled “executive” items like watches, journals/planners or silver-cast desk stands which in this day and age are style/status statements your graduate may not share. As a parent of a graduate, what looks professional or managerial to you may look outdated or stuffy to them. Luckily, pens can successfully bridge the style gap between “old-fashioned” and “stylish”. Even the most paperless adherent can use a good pen to prop up on their desk, or a pen/stylus to interface with paper and technology. A gift pen can embody any range of moods (restrained, luxurious, playful, flashy) that the gift-giver wishes to convey to their graduate.

Despite the burgeoning supply of pens at this time of year, buying a pen does not become appreciably easier during graduation season. The effusion of gift pens aimed directly at graduation gift shoppers if anything makes the choice harder. With these issues in mind, I have cribbed a short list of pitfalls that you should avoid to help you select the best pen possible for your grad. And because what guide would be worth their salt without some suggestions, I will give a few suggestions at the end of the article.

1. Don’t buy a fountain pen. Do buy a ballpoint or rollerball pen.

Sonnet Rollerball Pen Sterling Black & Silver GT
Parker Sonnet Rollerball Pen

If you read enough of this blog, you will know that I am the leading cheerleader for introducing writers to the joys of writing with a nib & ink. However, for a graduation gift, a fountain pen should be off the table. A fountain pen is an investment in time, money, and effort. Fountain pens require upkeep. They also have so many variables that relate to the nib & the writing style that the owner will need to keep in mind, you want to leave all of this baggage for a different purchase. For this purchase, give fountain pens a pass. If you see a fountain pen that has a style you can’t tear your eyes away from, consider buying the rollerball for your graduate instead.

2. Don’t shop by price. Do shop by form/function.

The biggest mistake I see when parents set foot in a pen shop for the first time is that they come in with a set budget (100, 200, whatever dollars) and ask to see pens at the maximum of that price range. Many will confidently exclaim to be taken to the most expensive pen in the store. This is a huge mistake! Not only will the most expensive pen be in the thousand dollar range (rather than the hundred dollar range), expensive does not automatically mean “better looking” or “better writing experience”. Instead, shop by the look and feel of the pen. Look at pens across a range of brands and prices. Try out a skinny Cross Century, a fat Waterman Expert against anything in the Montblanc line.

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Waterman Expert Fountain Pen

If you are looking at pens in an online shop, there are usually guides that break pens by price and other categories (like unique pens or luxury pens). If you are using prices guides, make sure to look at more & less expensive ranges than what you’d ideally like to spend. You never know if the perfect gift may be more or less expensive than you imagine them to be.


Consider very closely what kind of function this pen will serve in the next few years. Will this pen be going to a high school grad who has years of note-taking and dorm-hopping ahead of him/her? Will this pen be going to a college graduate who is looking to go into high-status professional training for business or law? Will this pen be going with a college graduate out into the workforce? What kind of functions will be most useful for each of these scenarios?

3. Don’t buy a pen set. Do buy a single good pen.

Pen sets are aimed at graduate gift shoppers looking for a “dignified” pen at a low price. Although these pen sets appear to be nice to graduates who are used to using chewed-up Bics, pen sets are usually fairly cheap-looking affairs. They show their wear easily. While their prices might sway you into thinking that they are a good bargain, I am more wary of the fact that you are usually buying a second-tier brand (like Franklin Covey) that has put a mediocre (and rather bland) pen and pencil together. Pen sets that actually would be worth your money are generally expensive because they are two well-made pens (or pen and pencil) together. A good pen set could be hundreds of dollars more than you will be willing to spend.

Rather, a better use of your gift-buying dollars would be to research a single pen that has been well-engineered, and will still look classy years down the line. If you happen to find this pen in a pen set (Retro 51 has pen sets that are quite classy) and the price is right, then by all means.

4. Don’t buy a pen without seeing reviews.

Image result for good reviewsBuying a pen online can be a tricky affair. Pens that appear fat/large/heavy online may turn out to be thin/small/light in person. Even experienced pen buyers can be surprised. A case in point: I have been buying pens for more than twelve years. When I picked up the Cross Sauvage for the first time in a pen shop, it was surprisingly light and small in my hand. I was, honestly, disappointed by it. I expected heavier and flashier, as most Cross pens fall on the extremes of thin/feather-weight or thick/lead-weight.
If you can, make a trip to a pen shop to view, hold, and compare pens. If a pen shop visit is out of the question, then look for pen reviews that compare the pen’s size and comments on its weight. Or, if you are dealing with an independent seller, ask questions about its feel/size compared to an average hand.

5. Don’t buy a pen whose refills will be impossible to find.

This “don’t” has become less important with time, now that online pen shops offer the ease of refill purchases for most to all of the major manufacturers. It is still a truism that Cross, Parker, Waterman and Montblanc refills are the easiest to find in big box retailers like Staples. Other pen manufacturer refills may be harder to lay hands on. One of the important things to check is what kind of refills are used by the pen. Some second-tier pen brands use Cross refills (as they are actually manufactured by Cross for the mass market but put under a different brand to not tarnish the “luxury” Cross brand).  Certain brands of luxury pens like Libelle and Monteverde are compatible with Parker refills, and can easily be refilled.

Ballpoint Refill 2 Pack;
Montblanc Ballpoint Refill 2 Pack

But some brands that might be found at vintage pen sellers, or from second-hand retailers may be nearly impossible to track down. A vintage Cross may not be refillable with modern refills. Recife, a French pen brand that does not sell pens in the United States, refills are as common as unicorns. Handmade pens may have similar difficulty—unless the pen maker specifies what kind of refill he or she bases their pens on. Be very wary of “no-name” brands. If you don’t know what a no-name brand might be, do a quick Google search on it.

6. Don’t buy a pen that will be good for one circumstance.  Do look for a pen that will be at home in a range of circumstances.

A “one circumstance” kind of pen is a pen that is usually bright, colorfully, and “moody”—maybe it’s a good note-taker, but it doesn’t look particularly attractive. Or it’s beautiful enough to put on a pedestal but not practical enough to use. Or maybe it’s made from a novelty material (sewed-up leather, chain mail) that only the recipient can appreciate, but isn’t interested in using it in public. A good graduation pen will be one that will be functional for a variety of circumstances: taking it to an interview, using it to take notes, admired on a desk and in their hand.

This is a high order for a single pen to fulfill. It’s one of the reasons that graduation pen sets all start to look the same. A pen that can be used across a range of circumstances usually has a fairly restrained style: a lacquer body, a classic pen profile, chrome or gold appointments. Although I will normally advocate pens that off the beaten path, a graduation pen can be both classically beautiful and fairly unique.

7. Do consider one of the following pens.

This list is by no means extensive. How could it be? Your graduate will have his or her own sense of style, and practical needs. Do take these into account when selecting a pen. But ultimately, remember, the choice is up to you. Nothing is more surprising and rewarding than a well-thought-out gift.

Tombow Object
. Good for note taking. Can stand up to abuse. Colorful yet restrained with good lines. Catches the eye with its clean, modern design. It is not a luxury pen. Its silhouette recommends a person that is more interested in design, functionality, practicality than an unnecessary luxury.

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Tombow Ultra. Good for note taking. A step above the Tombow Object in terms of price. With its chrome body, it has more of the classic pen look/feel to it. However, it is clearly not a luxury pen. It appeals to someone who is interested in a pen built to last.


Waterford Pallas. Luxury styling. Fairly fat lines for a wide grip on the pen. Does not look like your average set pen. Available in a wide array of colors, from the tuxedo look of black/chrome to Tortoise shell celluloid patterns. (Currently over 50 percent off in the EE catalog)

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Waterford Metro. The clip offers interest on this doughty pen, offered in “classic” Cross colors, like the fighter (silver body with gold appointments), and the black/chrome, blue/chrome combos. The blue/chrome is one of the most attractive of the line. (currently 20 percent off in the EE catalog)

Waterford Marquis Metro Ballpoint Chrome and Gold

Cross ATX. My personal choice of graduation pen. I’ve given at least ten of these away to friends over the years. Cross is easy to refill, well-manufactured, able to stand up to decades of abuse. They look classic in any situation.

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Delta Vintage. A classy, luxury pen that can be found for under a hundred dollars (for the ballpoint). It has a gorgeous marbled depth that would be at home in the hands of someone that wants to project confidence, taste, and power. (Currently over 20 percent off in the EE catalog)

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Visconti Rembrandt. A luxury pen that clocks in around 150 dollars. Their arched clip is distinctive and sets them apart from the field. A Visconti is impossible to forget. The subtle resin in the Rembrandt means that it is a touch playful, even as its styling is at home in the most professional of settings.

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I also recommend that you browse around this blog, which has buying advice aimed at other situations but may still yield good recommendations. Check out my previous gift buying guides for Christmas. Just keep in mind that a graduation pen has a different kind of weight attached to it—a quiet dignity, a sense of pride and hard work. A gravitas. Failing that, you could always buy your graduate an Acme pen shaped like a No. 2 pencil.