Why Are Fountain Pens So Expensive?

Fountain pens have a certain image about them. They are generally seen as being more sophisticated and stylish than other types of pens and can be quite expensive. For this reason, they are often treated as a status symbol. Yet, what exactly makes a fountain pen more expensive than a standard rollerball or ballpoint pen?

The quality of a fountain pen is one of the major contributing factors to its price. Well-made pens can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars due to the materials used in construction, the history of the brand, and the image associated with owning a fountain pen. Nonetheless, not all fountain pens cost as much as you might think.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the factors that can raise the price of a fountain pen. We’ll also introduce you to some of the most expensive brands, as well as a few top choices for anyone who wants to purchase a pen without spending a small fortune.

The Cost of Materials

Fountain pens are made of three main parts – the nib, the ink reservoir, and the feed. The nib is the part of the pen that comes into contact with the paper to deliver ink. The reservoir holds the ink and the feed regulates how much ink flows into the nib. All of these parts are held together by an outer barrel and cap.

Depending on the materials used to produce these parts, a fountain pen can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10.

Fountain Pen Nib

The nib of a fountain pen is often the most expensive part. Less expensive pens usually use steel or titanium nibs, whereas luxury brands often use precious metals, such as gold and silver, to cast beautifully engraved nibs.

The second most expensive parts of a fountain pen are the barrel and cap. These two parts are often made from metals or wood and can sometimes be inlaid with precious gems, engravings, or other decorative features. One of the most expensive fountain pens in the world—the Aurora Diamante—sold for $1.4 million thanks to its solid platinum barrel encrusted in 30 carats of De Beers diamonds. [Check out our article about the Most Expensive Mont Blanc Pens]

Finally, the inner reservoir and feed are usually made from cheaper materials such as plastic or glass. Some luxury brands may choose to use crystal but this shouldn’t affect the price as much as the nib or barrel.

Branding and History

Fountain pens are often seen as luxury items because of their long history and connection to the business world. Many of the leading stationery manufacturers have been in business for more than 100 years and, in that time, have developed reputations for quality, style, and extravagance.

The modern fountain pen was first invented in 1884 by Lewis Edson Waterman. At the time, Waterman was working as an insurance salesman in New York City. One day, he accidentally dropped his pen and found that the ink inside had leaked all over his hands and clothes. He then set out to invent a pen that would not leak, and the result was the first modern fountain pen.

As the became pen associated with business, wealthy elites quickly bought into the trend and transformed a simple piece of stationery into a status symbol. The fancier your pen, the more illustrious your business, and the more wealth you had obtained. Today, the Waterman Pen Company is still in business and offers a wide range of products, some of which cost several thousands of dollars.

Luxury Fountain Pens as a Trend

Shortly after Waterman opened its doors for business, several other leading stationery brands soon established themselves as luxury pen makers. Today, Mont Blanc, Parker, and Montegrappa compete for the top spot as the premier luxury stationery brand. They all produce stylish, sleek, and well-designed fountain pens that sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Even luxury clothiers jumped onboard the fountain pen trend as Louis Vuitton and Cartier both produced their own high-price, luxury stationery. Although the two fashion houses don’t specialize in fountain pens, the image that comes along with an elite writing utensil pairs perfectly with their high-society aesthetics.

Quality Alternatives that Don’t Cost a Fortune

Although fountain pens often carry an air of luxury, you, fortunately, don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to afford a quality writing utensil. There are dozens of brands that make equally respectable pens at a fraction of the price. If you’re looking for a top-tier fountain pen for less than $50, we highly recommend these models:

  • Pilot Metropolitan – Pilot is a well-respected Japanese stationery brand with a history that stretches back nearly 100 years. Its Metropolitan fountain pen is one of the highest-rated models on the market and is perfect for anyone new to fountain pens. The Metropolitan features a sleek brass barrel, a devilishly smooth steel nib, and a deep refillable reservoir.
PILOT Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)
  • Pilot's sleek Metropolitan Collection signature pens
  • Finest quality at a mid-range price
  • Medium nib
  • Brass barrel with stainless accents
  • POWER TO THE PEN: Pilot makes exceptional writing instruments to suit all your needs. We have fountain, ballpoint,...
  • Waterman Graduate – Waterman may make some of the most expensive fountain pens in the world but the company never forgot its roots. Today, they still make affordable fountain pens for all budgets. The Waterman Graduate is a stylish model available in sleek chrome with a refillable cartridge. It looks professional and stately without costing an arm and a leg.
Waterman Graduate Chrome Fountain Pen, Fine Nib, Blue Ink
  • Choose from a range of sophisticated barrel colours
  • Engraved durable steel nib for consistent everyday writing
  • Comes equipped with vivid erasable blue ink
  • Refillable with short or long Waterman ink cartridges
  • Perfect for students and professionals; Presented in a Waterman gift box
  • Scrikss 419 – The Scrikss 419 offers a lot of style and useability for a fraction of the price of similar pens. It features a piston filling system, along with a viewable ink window that allows you to see how much ink remains in the reservoir. This stylish pen looks incredible but only costs $40.

As you can see, the fountain pen’s luxury image isn’t always true. Although these pens are high-quality, they don’t have to cost a fortune.

Closing Words

Fountain pens are often seen as expensive luxury items. While it’s true that some models cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, they only cost that much because of the materials used in construction and the brand name attached to the model. If you want to invest in a quality pen, you can still find top-tier fountain pens for less than $50.

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