Fountain Pen Review: Truphae Monthly Subscription Box

Review by Laura Cameron

Have you ever tried a subscription box for something you love? We were sent an Inkredible Box from Truphae for the purposes of this review, and I was super excited to see what they’re all about!

Truephae is a small pen and stationary shop located in Greenville, South Carolina founded to share a love of fountain pens and writing instruments (and paper and cases and other accoutrements) with everyone. The Inkredible boxes were created as a monthly subscription for fountain pen lovers or new collectors to receive a box in the mail with new products to try. There are three levels: The Inkmeister ($25 monthly), The Penthusiast ($75 monthly) and The Collector ($125 monthly). We were sent the Inkmeister for this review!

The Inkmeister Box promises a budget fountain pen useful for testing new inks and a selection of inks to try. The box we received had a Baoer Carbon Fire Fountain Pen ($15.95) and 5 samples of J. Herbin Inks.

This was my first time using a Baoer Carbon Fire Fountain Pen, and actually the first time I had heard of the brand. The pen feels like a metal body, with a carbon design on the barrel, rose gold trim and a gunmetal cap. The nib is a standard steel nib iridium point in Fine. The cap is a snap cap, and is postable (with another snap!) but rattles a bit when posted, so I chose not to. The pen comes with a converter, and I went ahead and filled mine with J. Herbin Blue Pervenche, which was included in the samples. The ink flowed through the feed to the nib easily, and the nib wrote fairly smoothly. Overall, I would say it is a perfectly adequate pen to get someone started into fountain pens, and probably a good pen for testing out those sparkle inks!

As I said, the ink samples included were selections from J. Herbin (the inks included change each month) and there was a nice variety of colors included.

Overall, I thought the presentation was fairly good. I could make a few suggestions – perhaps a cardboard insert in the box with slots for the ink samples and a slot for the pen would make sense and keep everything a bit better organized. Although I love that they included a card with the ink swatches and names (and each sample tube was numbered) I think labeling the tubes themselves, even with printable Avery labels, would help ink collectors identify them in the future.

Finally, I’m left to decide whether I think monthly fountain pen subscription boxes are a good idea. The answer is: it depends. I think a subscription box is a fabulous gift for someone who has expressed interest in fountain pens, or who is new to collecting and eager to try a wider array of inks and pens. However, I do think that after the first  (or second? third?) box the journey becomes a bit more personal and enthusiasts would likely prefer to pick out their own pens and inks, so I’m not sure that a subscription model is sustainable. If the goal is to get new users or dabblers more interested in fountain pens and more knowledgeable about Truphae through the box, and then draw them into the shop to select their next pens and inks, then I think that’s more of a winning model.

What do you think?

DISCLAIMER: 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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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I agree with you about the longevity of a fountain pen focused subscription box. I would change it up and not necessarily always include a fountain pen or maybe included one that is more tester or a dip based, and lots of other stuff like paper and ink to keep it fresh. Or even add DIY kits or tutorials for various projects like fountain pen art. Currently, variation seems a bit too limited.

  2. I hesitate to post negative comments about a small business that – at least on the surface – seems to be trying to do good things for its customers and its community, but I would urge caution when dealing with this company. I placed an order for a single Penthusiast box (yes, that’s an option if you request it), and it took over a month from the date of payment, an exchange of 18 emails, and me opening a PayPal dispute before my box shipped. To be fair, this was during a time when the owner of Truphae was opening his storefront AND welcoming a new baby with his wife, so perhaps the kindest thing is to say he over-promised and under-delivered. I only hope my experience was the exception, and not the rule.

    1. Thanks so much for your reply – and I appreciate you taking the time to add it here. While of course we don’t want to malign small businesses, the Desk doesn’t always get the same “shopping experience” that you do, so we appreciate the other perspectives!

  3. I agree that it might be a nice thing for someone just starting out in pens, but after a couple of months you’d want to start picking your own. I have never been a fan of clubs and subscriptions like this because I want to get something for my money that I know I’ll really like, whether it’s yarn or pens or ink or chocolate or…

  4. Hard agree on the need to label the samples! I actually found this review because I was googling to find which colors had been included in the Herbin sample box as I had long ago lost the card with the colors. I love this as an idea for a new user, but for me — not a new user, and already awash in cheaper pens and with decided preferences — it’s feeling a little overwhelming to have more pens coming in (I was gifted the subscription). However, I love getting the ink because I would never explore some of the colors on my own, and I wish there was an option for just ink, no pen, like the old Goulet subscription.

    1. I have been getting the Inkredible boxes for about 6 months. I love the fact that I don’t know what I am going to get. Some pens I absolutely adore and some not so much. I enjoy the various colors in the samples included. That I did to keep track of the ink, I put small white lables on the tubs and and numbered by the month they arrived, like 9-1 and recorded that on the card with the discription (haven’t lost any of my cards).

      If you don’t like that idea, just use a label machine and label yourself what came in.

      I will continue getting my surprise each month.

  5. I got a year Inkmeister subscription when the standard sub included full bottles (That’s now a $5 up charge, which I totally agree with since shipping has become insane). About halfway through the year they changed to samples, which took me aback a bit, but I realized that I was trying inks that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise and have found some true winners! Labeling the vials would be a huge help, though as long as they don’t, I will. I also file the sample reference cards in one place so I can select an ink to meet whatever is needed. I have lots of economy pens, and am likely to use them with my own blends until I have perfected them – – especially things like shimmers. I also always have a pen or two to gift if someone is fascinated with whatever I’m using. I’ve probably hooked at least 30 new fountain pen users over the years.

    Also, Chris was awesome when I was out of the country for several months. He held my Inkmeister shipments and when I got home my ‘accrued due’ was swapped for a Penthusiast box which was a lovely treat.

  6. I love the idea, but think you’d eventually end up with millions of pens. An ink only box would be a great addition.

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