Often, as fountain pen collectors, we get wrapped up in finding our grail pen. That perfect balance of aesthetics and exquisite writing ability that will make it our favorite pen ever. Or we get caught up in FOMO (fear of missing out) and purchase pens that are all the rage. Sometimes it’s nice to go back to some basics and see what’s out there.
When I started with fountain pens several year ago, I actually skipped what I consider the truly “introductory” fountain pens and immediately went to the next level. I started with a Lamy Safari, a Pilot Metropolitan and finally, a TWSBI Eco. While they’re all great pens in a decent price range, I know that I skipped some of the even lower end pens that make a great introduction to those new to the fountain pen industry, and even beloved by more experienced writers.
So when the new limited edition “Maki-e” Platinum Preppys ($10) showed up on Jetpens site, I was compelled to take a look. The Platinum Preppy is an introductory level demonstrator-body fountain pen that is well loved and has been around since 2007. The pen itself is around 5″/12 cm (uncapped) and weighs in at just 13g. It’s durable, fun to use and comes with steel Platinum nibs, generally in extra fine, fine or medium. The pens can be used with cartridges or converters, but beware that Platinum uses proprietary ones so you won’t be able to just get away with standard international cartridges. The nibs write well out of the package, and the ink flows smoothly immediately.
I chose to purchase the Kachimushi 03 which comes with a blue body printed with silver dragonflies, intended to look like Maki-e. The pattern is aesthetically pleasing and hasn’t been damaged in the few weeks I’ve been using the pen, but I also haven’t see what long term use might do. I expect the pen may get scratched and the dragonflies may not stay intact forever.
A quick note: maki-e is a time-consuming Japanese technique of lacquer decoration. While the motifs in these Platinum Preppy echo what you might see in true maki-e, they are in fact printed on the plastic barrel. True maki-e would be far more expensive.
So what do I think? For a $10 pen, I think the Preppy provides a pretty great writing experience. In comparison, I did pull out my as yet unused Pilot Kakuno to compare. The Pilot Kakuno is also a plastic demonstrator pen, featuring a Pilot nib (this one is in medium). Capped, the lengths are a bit different (about 1/4″), but uncapped they are virtually the same length. The nibs are different – you can see the Kakuno is a larger nib unit. The standard Kakuno retails for $12.50, whereas the standard Preppy retails for $7, with the Maki-e limited edition coming in at $10. Pilot also makes use of proprietary cartridges and converters, so you’ll have the same issue there (that is, you can’t just throw a standard cartridge in there and go).
In truth, both of these are great little pens and I sometimes forget how you can introduce someone to a really fun writing instrument at a fraction of the cost of what many of us spend pursuing our hobbies. For what it’s worth, I have a slight preference for the Preppy but I don’t have a good reason to articulate why.
What’s your favorite low-cost or introductory fountain pen?