2021 Year in Review

The pen world experienced ups and downs along with the rest of the world in 2021. Some changes were widespread and quite noticeable like fewer pen shows, with fewer vendors and attendees. There were other things that might not have been as obvious.

Secondary Income Streams.

Patreon screenshot
These are the Patreon projects I currently back. I would like to add a few more this year and help to support creators I love, like this lovely lady — you might recognize her name, Squidney, the inspiration for one of our favorite nib stamps!

A growing number of pen bloggers/tubers added Patreon subscription options (or similar) to their content. Gentleman Stationer continues to grown his online shop with more products along with his regular review content. Stationery Cafe and Erasable both expanded their content with videos, extra posts and subscriber extras on Patreon. These options have provided more options for content and new ways for creators to offset the costs involved in creating the content. Its also a great way for fans to get behind-the-scenes content, exclusives and create new niche communities through the Patreon-supported Discord servers, Twitch, Facebook groups and more. If you are a fan of any particular blog or podcast and would like to throw a few bucks their way to help them continue to produce great content, check to see if they have a Ko-Fi, Patreon or other tip jar option. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Zines became a thing. Again.

Pencil Revolution

Many folks, working in isolation, found that zines were a great way to connect and share content over the past couple of years. 2021 was ripe with new stationery-related zines but many folks from the stationery community also spread their wings and created other kinds of content like Johnny Gamber at Pencil Revolution.

Caution everywhere.

As far as I can tell, there was very little experimentation or NEW new products released in the stationery world in 2022. I was not expecting big innovation in our hobby this past year but, as far as I can remember, no one released an ALL-NEW pen design, notebook or other product that left the community gaping. There were new colors for products that often get a color refresh every year like Lamy, Kaweco, Pelikan and TWSBI. But overall, there were no “must have” new fountain pen designs like the TWSBI Go of 2018 or the Lamy Aion release of 2017.

The only “BIG” paper release in 2021 was the Midori-powered PLOTTER ring-binder and paper products.

New ink colors were released by all our favorites though not as many as in past years. The number of new inks from Robert Oster released in 2021 was well below his pervious yearly averages.  I think the number of Oster inks released in 2021 was below double digits (using  Vanness Pen Shop site for the count).

Probably the biggest standout in the ink world in 2021 is the relaunch of Birmingham Pen Co’s ink line. Not only did they begin developing all their ink in-house but they created multiple formulas to meet the needs of discerning pen users like their shimmer (Twinkle), permanent (Everlasting), quick-dry (Swift), sheening (Rich), washable (Wishy-washy) and traditional (Crisp). In each of these categories, Birmingham has released dozens of colors, making them the most prolific ink producer of 2021 (in my entirely unscientific analysis).

There were some new ink brands introduced to US markets in 2021 including Van Diemans, Kakimori, Dominant Industry, IWI and Scribo to name a few.  While 2019 and 2020 were the years of the “magic” inks (those color shifting, light colored inks like Vinta Sirena and Sailor Studio 123) and 2018 was the “year of the Shimmer”, 2021 was the “year of caution”.

With the endless raw material and supply chain issues, its easy to understand why risk-taking, in stationery as well as other product development, was not prioritized over meeting demands for existing products.

Vanness Pens relocated.

I can’t imagine anything more stressful than moving an entire pen shop, unless you try to move during a pandemic. Our friends at Vanness Pen Shop have relocated their shop (still in Little Rock) to a facility more conducive to their largely online business. There is still a small storefront area if you happen to be in the Little Rock area but the good news is that their new space allows for more storage, packing and photography space to make for a better online shopping experience.

NockCo closed.

NockCo Seed A6 Case

For each business that may be flourishing (or at least surviving) during these unprecedented times, others take this opportunity to re-evaluate their goals. In the case of NockCo, Brad decided to close up shop on this business venture, at least for the time being. When he started NockCo with Jeff, there was not a lot attention focused on how we carry our tools in the modern age. Using materials from outdoor gear world, Brad and Jeff created durable, usable, everyday carrying cases for our pens and sundry items. Since then, other companies have recognized a need in the industry so, while we are sad to see the end of NockCo, there are still lots of options available in the world.

CW Pencil Enterprise closed.

CW Pencil Enterprise staff
Farewell photo of the staff at CW Pencil Enterprise.

The pandemic took another victim in the closing of CW Pencil Enterprise. The shop, a destination for any pen fan traveling to NYC, shuddered its doors this fall. The web site was closed for business soon after. There were many homages to the trail forged by CW Pencil Enterprise and its founder, Caroline Weaver. As many have said before me, I look forward to seeing what Caroline does next.

The Tomoe River Saga.

Image shamelessly lifted from The Gentleman Stationer.

Tomoe River paper, beloved by many in the fountain pen community was the subject of debate, hoarding and conjecture throughout 2021 as inventory of the original Tomoe River stock began to dry up and the “new” 52gsm Tomoe River paper started to appear in the market. Then the late breaking announcement that the Tomoe River paper making equipment was sold to another company has furthered the questions and speculations for the future of Tomoe River. As the saga continues to unfold, fear not! We will continue to review and post about the status of the new, new iteration of this beloved paper.

Prices went up.

Price increases for USPS start January 9, 2022 and are mostly on parcel shipping, not letter or postcard rates. These increases basically instate the increases faced through the holidays as permanent adjustments to shipping costs.

With worldwide shipping and sourcing issues, prices across the industry have been creeping up. Some have been more noticeable than others and, unfortunately, the trend appears likely to continue well into 2022. Some price changes were negligible (a dollar here or there added to the price of an ink or notebook) or quite noticeable like the steep increase in the price of Sailor’s Pro Gear line at the beginning of 2021.

Shipping rates, both domestically and globally, have been on the rise all year too. Remember, when ordering from online shops that offer free shipping at a certain purchase amount, that the shipping really is not free. The vendor still has to pay shipping charges and no matter how much product they ship per year, they are not getting a sizable discount from USPS or UPS. Those shops offering free shipping are taking the cost of the shipping from their bottom line. In the US, any parcel starts at about $3-$4 to ship, even if it weighs one ounce.  Don’t be surprised if, in 2022, minimum order requirement for free shipping creep up in an effort to spread the costs over larger purchases.

What About You?

What changes in the pen and/or stationery world did you witness? Did I miss a favorite new release or event in the pen world in 2021? What changes do you expect to see in 2022?

Editor’s Note: I had intended to complete this post before the end of 2021 but the more I researched, the more I wanted to include. While I am sure I forgot numerous notable moments, thanks to waiting a couple days, I was able to include many more than I had initially planned.

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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. wow… what a year and a year that seemed to have more downs than ups in our community. In addition to the things you mention I also have seen a real paucity of Pelikan Souveran pens… especially the M800 series. I hope they are stronger in 2022. HNY everyone!

  2. Amazingly thorough writeup! Thank you 🙂

    I had a very different take on the ‘volume of new inks released’ from my perspective over here in the UK, and I spotted some innovative new pen releases too, but other than that, totally agree on the trends you pull out.

  3. I’m kind of new to the stationery/fountain pen world, but it seems like there has been a theme across a lot of the blogs about actually using the stuff you own. I’m continually surprised to hear of people who collect stationery things but rarely use them. I feel like the pandemic has caused a lot of people to take a good hard look at the stuff in their lives and make conscious decisions about said stuff: keep/use or toss.

    1. I think some of this is a result of the rate of acquisition — people get excited and buy a lot of stuff snd then forget they have it or “save it”. Then when you add in the pandemic and the amount of time people are spending in their homes, space has become a premium and many people, myself included, have discovered that they don’t have room to “save” all this goodness.

  4. Does the TWSBI Swipe not count as a whole new model? Yes, it’s a CC, but nevertheless a completely new design and a different direction for the company.

    1. Ahem and the Lamy Ideos and Sheaffer Icon? Both new designs that I have purchases in 2021 and will buy in 2022.

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