Eye Candy: Retro 51 Retrospective

Review by Laura Cameron

Almost two weeks ago Retro 51 announced that they would be retiring and closing the business at the end of the year. This has caused quite a bit of discussion in the fountain pen world. When I heard the news, I immediately thought about how Retro 51 was really my introduction to the pen world. 


(L to R: Black Cherry Tornado Fountain, Tornado Rollerball Pink, Tornado Rollerball Silver, Fahrney’s Cherry Blossom Fountain Pen LE 2018, Limited Edition Twinkle Popper, Cioppino Fountain, Fountain Aquamarine)

In 2016 or 2017, after listening to Ana talk about Retro 51 Tornados, and using a few of hers, I bought my first Rollerball, the Tornado in Pink. I loved the feel of the metal pen in my hands and it wrote so smoothly. Soon another came to live with me, the Limited Edition Twinkle Popper.

From there, I branched out into fountain pens. I had a brief dalliance with a Lamy Safari, but I found the grip uncomfortable. My first fountain pen was the Black Cherry Tornado. Again, it felt weighty in my hand and wrote smoothly. The grip was comfortable to me (though I know others had complaints) and I happily still use that one today.

More followed: the Fahrney’s special Cherry Blossom in 2018, came to live with me as a 40th birthday gift from a friend. While I was confused why the US Treasury building was featured so prominently, I also got tickets to see Hamilton for my 40th, so it seemed oddly appropriate!

Perhaps my most treasured Retro 51 is my Cioppino Fountain Pen. Although Retro 51 re-released the Cioppino last year, mine is one of the original versions from the 1980’s. I bought it from a vintage dealer, and that part I love the most is the two toned nib, imprinted with the Tornado logo, so different looking from the JoWo nibs they use today!

It has also been fun to share my love of Retro 51s with my dad, who is also a fountain pen enthusiast. For Father’s Day a few years ago, I got him a Black Cherry Tornado Fountain Pen just like mine. When he received it, he called to let me know that he had another one in blue! And when we went through his pen collection, he pulled out the Tornado Rollerball in Silver and told me I should take it. I love that there’s a pen company that we enjoy together.

There have been so many versions of the Retro 51 that I have talked myself out of bringing home. They’re an amazingly creative company who makes so many amazing special editions. I regret missing the Vintage Surf Edition, I ogle Ana’s collection regularly, and I’m still dithering over this gorgeous special edition from Vanness Pen Shop. I’m looking forward to seeing Retro 51’s final releases and I’ll miss seeing them in the future. Luckily I have my own little collection to enjoy.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the items included in this review were provided to us free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hi Laura, we have 2 Retro 51 fountain pens in common. I have the Black Cherry and the frosted Aquamarine.

    My first Retro 51 was the Lincoln extended, and then the Farhney’s Signatures, which does not have room for a converter.

    I hope someone will buy Retro 51, and keep the brand going. I have quite a few of their pens, including rollerballs. I will miss them if they go away.

  2. I have the Retro 51 Copper Lincoln Tornado. Not only is it one of my most aesthetically beautiful fountain pens, it is one of the best balanced and comfortable writers I own. Writing with it is a joy.

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