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April 2008: The Top 10 Modern Pens, As I See It

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • Doing the math, I recently figured out that it was exactly 10 years ago that I launched my fountain pen collection after hitting the 1998 Boston pen show.

In the intervening years, fountain pens have floated in and out of my possession as if our house were a tidal estuary connected to eBay. The major difference is that the ebb and flow of disposable income governs the fountain pens washing ashore, as opposed to saltwater and lunar gravity.

Without further belaboring that shaky metaphor, I submit to you what I think are the top 10 modern fountain pens — and when you’re done reading, I encourage you to tell us your favorites (as well as do the slings-and-arrows thing about my choices) by posting a comment in response to the April 1, 2008, entry on Richard’s blog. This represents where I’m at now; 10 years from now I’d be surprised if half of these remain on this completely subjective list.

For many years I didn’t like the Namiki Vanishing Point, and at times I could be heard ridiculing the people who did. Well, to all you victims, I’m recanting. Great pen! Extra Fine Points
  1. Namiki Vanishing Point/Pilot Capless: For many years I didn’t like the pen, and at times I could be heard ridiculing the people who did. Well, to all you victims, I’m recanting. (It’s about time, my Vanishing-Point-loving wife tells me.) Great pen! Wish it held more ink, but that’s about my only complaint — which I can say about pretty much every pen on this list, so that’s not a detractor in the debate.

    Fountain pen
  2. Parker 75 Ciselé: A great model with its checkerboard pattern and adjustable nib, which make it a classic of any era, modern or vintage. Some collectors might justifiably argue that it was the last great Parker pen before the mergers, acquisitions, and remixing of the current pen-company landscape.

    Fountain pen
  3. Sheaffer Imperial Touchdown: It’s kind of cheating to put this in the list, because while this was made from the early 1960s (1960 being my personal cutoff line from vintage to modern pens) into the 1970s, it utilizes the 1950s Touchdown filler. But hey, it’s my list and I can cheat. These come in plastic, gold fill caps, all-gold fill, and sterling a la the Parker Ciselé; in fact, forced to pick my favorite, I’ll take the sterling lattice variety that competed head to head with the Ciselé in the 1970s.

    Fountain pen
  4. Montegrappa Reminiscence: Specifically, the late 1990s sterling model, regular sized, Greek Key pattern. The only pen on either my vintage or modern favorites list that is here for the looks and design alone. I’ve owned a few of these, but I’ve invariably set them free in the secondary market again because my hand tires of writing with such a heavy pen very quickly.

    Fountain pen
  5. Bexley America the Beautiful: All right, Bexley pens deserve a place in the list, but it’s pretty tough to pick the exact writing instrument that deserves the best-ever Bexley billing. I choose America the Beautiful in the Strawberry for four reasons: One, I own it and willingly testify to its coolness; two, it’s an outrageous yet awesome design; three, it’s got rhodium trim, which is killer; and four, Howard Levy unabashedly invokes the Wahl Equipoised pens in its design. How can you go wrong?

    Fountain pen
  6. Delta Nautilus: A classic in design, function, and downright user-friendliness; i.e., it was the first pen I completely disassembled and reassembled — nib, section, and all — and it still worked. The two-tone nib is gorgeous, and the silver sheath around the barrel is stunning.

    Fountain pen
  7. Pelikan Souveräns: I’m putting the whole line in. Rock-solid good writers, and most of them are in the affordable range for most of us pen collector — and user — types, unless you’re into forking over the big bucks for LEs. Which one is best? Give me one with a sterling silver cap.

    Fountain pen
  8. Yard-O-Led Viceroy: One day I will own one of these bad boys, perhaps the classiest intersection of ancient styling, modern production, and silver. Lots and lots of silver. If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a silver fetish, and I am unapologetic about it.

    Fountain pen
  9. 1970s Sheaffer Triumphs: They’re not particularly pretty, but the Triumph 444 is a true “Flighter” type pen — a smaller, steel-nibbed, brick-outhouse-built pen that writes great and is the perfect size for people who don’t need a fountain pen the size of a horse’s leg with which to write. Economical yet well-built, these can be landed on eBay for $25, and for a little more if gold furniture and nibs are a priority for you.

    Fountain pen
  10. Sheaffer Targa: Ah, the classic trifecta for the pen collector: Great quality, great looks, and manufactured over a span of so many years that the chase for the complete set (and a maddening number of Slims, country-specific variations, and short-run editions for retailers like Harrod’s) offers a thrill for even the most avid hunters. Forced to choose which Targa is coolest, I’ll be unexciting and go with the 1004x — the classic lined sterling silver Targa with gold plate clip, gold nib, and of course the white dot.

    Fountain pen

Last month: Don counted down his favorite vintage pens.

cover Further Reading: Fountain Pens of the World, by Andreas Lambrou
FPOTW: Probably the best-known book in the hobby, and filled with enough pretty pictures that you might lose focus and forget that there are real pens out there. Don’t. Look ’em up, then go out and buy ’em — and use ’em. Isn’t that what pens are for?

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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