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I personally use all of the products below and I purchased all of the products below with my own money.
Top 5 Fountain Pens Under $50
1. TWSBI Eco – The best fountain pen under $50. The high-quality crystal-clear polycarbonate body stands out at this price point and provides unusually excellent haptics for a plastic pen. You also get piston filling mechanism with a large ink capacity and the tools to service the pen. Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.
2. Lamy Safari – A design icon. This pen looks like nothing else with its ergonomic three-sided grip section, big paperclip-like clip and bold colors. The Safari has easily swappable nibs and the nibs are produced in-house by Lamy in Heidelberg, Germany. The Safari is the most collectible pen under $35 too with highly collectible special editions. The Safari uses a proprietary ink cartridge and converter, named the T10 and Z28 respectively.
3. Pilot Metropolitan – Probably the best beginner fountain pen. With it’s metal body and excellent “in-house” nib the Metropolitan is a reliable workhorse. The Metropolitan takes proprietary Pilot cartridges and can be fitted with most Pilot converters such as the Con-40.
4. Wing Sung 601 – An excellent homage. This is 95% as good as a vintage Parker 51. Yes, it is a Chinese clone but I don’t care…the Parker 51 is long out of production. The quality is excellent for $20 and you get a vacuum filling system, a great hooded nib, and in my experience great reliability. Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.
5. Kaweco Sport – A portable pen with a historical design. This is compact German pen that can trace its design back to 1911. I have had several Kaweco Sports over the years including a vintage model from the 1960s. The Kaweco Sport comes in a variety of nib widths and takes standard short intentional cartridges. (Kaweco has released a short converter for this pen. I have not tested it.)
Top 5 Fountain Pens $50-$100
This is a challenging price range and my top pens in this category are only from two brands: TWSBI and Lamy. TWSBI does very well here by offering real upgrades from their cheaper pens while Lamy is successful in providing very attractive modern designs.
1. TWSBI Vac700R – My favorite pen for travel. This is the king of the TWSBIs. The Vac700R is a big vacuum filler with a large ink capacity and a #6 Jowo nib (big nib). This is a perfect travel pen because it has an ink shutoff. When the knob on the back of the pen is tightened down ink will not flow. I have brought this pen with me all over the world and not had any issues with leaks. The pen also has an optional ink well the Vac20A. The pen screws directly into the top of the ink well for no mess easy filling…again perfect for travel. Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.
2. TWSBI 580ALR – The latest evolution in the Diamond series that made TWSBI famous. This is a fantastic piston filler like the TWSBI Eco but with a larger nib, and more metal parts. If you don’t like metal grip sections I recommend the 580 (non-AL, non-ALR version). Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.
3. Lamy CP1 – Beautiful minimalistic slim design. This is my favorite slim fountain pen to use. It looks great with its all matte finish and design by Gerd A. Muller (he designed the Lamy 2000). Slim pens are not great for long writing sessions but for quick note taking this pen is perfect.
4. Lamy Aion – Minimalistic masculine pen design by Jasper Morrison. This pen has great haptics; I love the feel of this pen. You get a light weight aluminum pen in a large comfortable size with brushed and sandblasted finishes. The nib was specially designed for this pen and has more rounded tines than the typical Lamy nib.
5. TWSBI Vac Mini – A smaller Vac700 with styling more resembling a 580. This pen is a nice comfortable size and just like the Vac700R, it is perfect for travel; it too screws into the Vac20A inkwell and has an ink shutoff and large ink capacity. Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.
Top 5 Fountain Pens $100-$200
1. Pilot Vanishing Point (Capless) – The best retractible fountain pen by far. These have gold nibs and are cartridge converter filled. The current version has a high quality and metal body. This is the most convenient fountain pen and a must-have in my opinion. They are so nice and so easy to use that I have three of them. One word of caution though, if you have a nonstandard grip the clip may get in your way.
2. Lamy 2000 – An icon of design. This is so much pen for the money. Gold nib, piston-filler, award-winning good looks. The non-flashy style of this pen is perfect for the office. It is also one of the easiest piston fillers to clean and maintain as it is easy to disassemble without any tools. Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.
3. Aurora Ipsilon / Ipsilon Deluxe – An underrated Italian gem. The Ipsilon is a cartridge / converter filled pen that comes in lots of different finishes. Apart from the attractive design the best part of the Ipsilon is the nib. The nibs either steel or 14kt gold, in the case of the Deluxe, are made in-house by Aurora and are slightly toothy by design. This gives great feedback and a writing experience that is unique to Aurora.
4. Platinum 3776 – The best classic style fountain pen. This pen is an incredible value. You get a full-sized pen and Platinum’s best nib. These are the same 14kt nibs (with different decoration) that you get on a Nakaya. The alternatives from Pilot and Sailor are compromise pens…you either get a pen with a disproportionately small nib (Pilot) or you simply get a much smaller pen (Sailor).
5. Pelikan M200 / M205 – A classic German-style pen. Pelikan has been making pens in this style and form factor since the 1950s. Screw-in nib unit (easily swappable and upgradable to a 14kt gold nib) and a piston-filler mechanism. The quality is excellent and this is by far the most collectible series in the modern Pelikan line-up. Note: I recommend that those new to fountain pens opt for a cartridge/converter fountain pen first.