Are expensive pens really worth it? At some point in our lives, we have all seen a glossy advert for an expensive pen from one of the luxury pen bands and been tempted to buy it. Some of us may have even parted with our hard-earned dollars to purchase this latest object of our desires. For those that have, they will already know for themselves if buying that expensive pen was worth the cost and fulfilled their needs.
But for those of us who held back maybe because we could not afford it, perhaps we wanted to shop around first, or for another reason, there is still that nagging doubt in our minds should I have bought it? was it really a better pen because it was expensive? If this sounds familiar or you are considering buying an expensive pen, then the answers may surprise you.
I highly recommend reading the next section Why Do You Want an Expensive Pen before skipping down to the different types i.e. ballpoint, fountain pen, etc,
Table of Contents
1. Why Do You Want an Expensive Pen?
When you are thinking of buying an expensive pen and wondering if it is really worth paying a lot of extra money for It may sound strange but the first thing you need to do is a little soul searching and ask yourself why do you want to buy this particular pen?
If you search Google to find out if other people think if it is worth paying more money, then you will find that generally speaking, they fall into two distinct camps these are:
The Definitely Yes Brigade
The definitely yes brigade will undoubtedly own several expensive pens and will have lots of reasons to justify why they paid such a high price tag for these pens. If they own an expensive fountain pen then they will more than likely be an active member of the Fountain Pen Network, on Reddit r/fountainpens, or even have their own blog or YouTube Channel extolling the virtues of their pen collection.
The Absolutely Not Camp
Absolutely not camp will tell you that a pen is its just a writing instrument. A one-dollar pen bought from Dollar Tree does the same job as a $500 pen it puts ink on to paper which dries to leave a permanent mark. Some of the absolutely not advocate will revel in their frugality and may also be as equally vocal on social media.
So with two such polar opinions, you may be even more confused? And why is there such a difference? The answer lies in the psychology of buying luxury goods which is usually what an expensive pen is.
This is explained in more detail in this article on Psychology Today Why Do We Buy Luxury Brands. The highlights that we can take from it. are.
Consumers purchase luxury goods because they convey a sense of status, wealth, and exclusivity. This desire is termed “authentic pride”
Using and displaying luxury products can elicit various feelings on the part of the user. Namely snobbery, or what is called “hubristic pride.
Other people can make rapid interferences about the character of the purchaser e.g., successful, arrogant, among many others.
Despite the psychology of buying luxury or expensive pens up to a certain point there is some truth in the old adage you get what you pay for and In some cases, a slightly higher price tag may be a reflection of the R&D costs and technical superiority amongst its peers.
In the following sections, we delve into the merits of cost vs performance for ball pens, gel, pens, fountain pens, and rollerball pens.
2. Are Expensive Ballpoint Pens Worth It?
In answer to are expensive ballpoints worth it? from a technical point of view, a ballpoint pen is only as good as a refill. A $7.00 refill should have a smoother rolling ball and a better quality of ink than a $1.00 refill. Whether or not it is $6.00 better is a whole different subject.
Where it gets really interesting with ballpoint pens is that a $20.00 pen has the same refill as a $250 dollar pen.
A good example of this is from the luxury pen Cross their Classic Century ballpoint pen retails at around $30.00
And a Cross Townsend ballpoint pen anything up to $300 for a limited edition. However, they all use the same refill which costs around $6.50. Purely from a writing performance point of view, there is no difference in how the ball of the pen interacts with the paper between the cheaper ball pen and the more expensive one as they both have the same refill.
So if you have not already you need to ask yourself Why Do You Want to Buy the More Expensive Pen. (if you skipped past this section it’s worth going back up the page and reading it before you shoot off and buy the more expensive ballpoint pen.
3. Are Expensive Gel Pens Worth It?
As with most things in life what we perceive something to be is based on our personal circumstances and experiences. Generally speaking, a gel pen is a relatively inexpensive item to buy. So when answering are expensive gel pens worth it? partly it depends on how much spare money that you have to spend.
Gel Pens tend to be in the $1.00 to £5.00 price bracket and for a couple of dollars you can easily pick up a smooth writing pen. Gel pens are not usually sold as a luxury pen with a high ticket but there are always exceptions to the rule.
The Karas Pen co. sell their Copper Bolt V2 pen for $110 which contains a Pilot G2 Refill. A twin pack of refills can be bought for a couple of dollars and a Pilot G2 07 for around $3.00.
This means that there is no actual difference in writing performance between a $3.00 pen and the Karas. The extra $107 dollars is down to aesthetics, the brand name, and the value that you place on this.
Is it worth $107 more than a Pilot G2 that’s a question you will need to answer yourself?
4. Are Expensive Fountain Pens Worth It?
Probably one of the most asked questions is are expensive fountain pens really worth it. As we mentioned earlier in the section why do you want an expensive fountain pen the definitely yes brigade will be firmly in the yes camp and the never in a million years camp will be absolutely not.
If we put aside the psychology of why we all buy luxury items and concentrate purely on a technical performance point of view, then the answer lies like a lot of things in life somewhere in the middle.
Image Credit Rogerthatkid
If you use the car analogy then a Ford Fiesta will do the same job as a Ferrari it will allow you to get from point A to point B sitting down, protected from the elements, and faster than you can walk. The Fiesta is an entry-level car with no frills and the Ferrari is a luxury item that few can afford. Therefore, people opt for something in the middle depending on their income level that is better than the Fiesta and more suited for their needs for example a family may opt for a Ford Fusion.
The same applies to fountain pens a $2.00 dollar pen and a $1.000 pen both leave a permanent mark on the paper and have similar components nib, feed ink converter, etc. With a fountain pen as you spend more money the quality of the components starts to improve and arguably its performance and the writing experience.
The biggest single factor in the performance of a fountain pen is its nib. Cheaper fountain pens use steel nibs, and the more expensive ones use a precious metal such as 14K/18K gold or even titanium. These nibs are tipped with an alloy that is hard-wearing so the softer nib material does not wear out and resists corrosion. Most of the more expensive fountain pens will have had their tips polished to provide a smoother feel when writing.
The benefit of using materials such as gold for the main body of the nib is that it is more flexible than steel. Some fountain pen users think that this offers a better writing experience as you can also change the line width with pressure.
Check out our Best Pen Forums guide to find out what people are saying about different fountain pen brands and pens.
The Lamy Safari fountain pen is extremely popular and retails at around $20.00 it has a steel nib, and most people who own one think that it is a good writing experience. Does it write a lot better than cheaper fountain pens not really is it better value absolutely not. It is a reliable plastic pen with a basic steel nib.
A Chinese made Jinhao X450 or X750 is an all-metal pen with a steel nib available for around $8.00 and write at least as good as the safari but don’t have the status of being manufactured by an international luxury manufacturer such as Lamy
IT is unlikely that you will find a fountain pen with a gold nib under $100 but not all steel nibs are made equal though. We explain in more detail about fountain pen nibs in our fountain pen nib size and replacement guide.
A pen with a steel nib made by a traditional Japanese manufacturer such as Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor or fitted with a German-made Bock or Jowa nib is usually going to write better than the cheaper fountain pens including Lamy fitted with their Z50 steel nibs.
Fountain pens with gold nibs may possibly write slightly better than steel nibs but you are looking at $150 and upwards which takes you back into the psychology of why do you want to spend that amount of money on a luxury item.
5. Are Expensive Rollerball Pens Worth It?
Expensive rollerball pens are exactly the same as expensive ballpoint pens their writing performance is based on the refill fitted and most luxury pen manufacturers use the same refill in a £20.00 pen as a $200 pen. The rest of the money is spent on brand name and possibly slightly more expensive materials.
Waterman is a luxury pen brand and their rollerball pens are a good example of this their entry-level Waterman Hemisphere rollerball pens carry a luxury price tag of around $50.00.
The top of the range Waterman Carene rollerball pens retail for around $250. Yet they both use the same refill which costs around $8.00
Does a $50.00 rollerball pen write better than a $5.00 pen? Not really again you are paying for the brand name but it depends on the reasons as to why you want to buy the pen in the first place.
6. Do Expensive Pens Improve Your Handwriting?
Last but not least do expensive pens improve your handwriting absolutely not they may make you feel better about yourself or provide more incentive to write but if you want to improve your handwriting then read our 5 Top Tips to improve your handwriting.
Spoiler alert using an expensive pen is not on the list although there are some junior schools that believe that using a fountain pen can improve children’s handwriting. This is partly down to the fact that they have to write more slowly and take care as they get used to writing with a fountain pen.