A Primer on Shopping for a Pen Geek

Chances are, you're reading this article because you have a loved one or good friend that is a certifiable pen addict. You may have caught them listening to podcasts about stationery, browsing instagram for posts of serious nibbage, or see them try to guess which pen someone on TV is using.

Getting a gift for someone who is quite knowledgable about pens can be daunting. Even though you may know 0% about pens, we're about to give you a crash course that will help you make a great gift choice.

Being a certified fountain pen geek myself, I have to reverse-engineer my advice to you as if I was talking to my relatives and friends to advise them about what I would suggest getting for myself. All tastes aside, I contemplate what would be a welcomed gift (hey, anything would be nice) and what would be a great gift that would get a lot of use. Then, I also take into consideration the budget of the gift-giver. Being a pen enthusiast can be an expensive hobby, but there's fun gifts to be had at all price levels.

Step 1 : Figure out which pens they like

  • What pen(s) do you see the person use? Take note of the brand, writing mode (fountain pen, rollerball, ballpoint, mechanical pencil), color, and style.
  • Do they have a wishlist? If so, would they be willing to share that with you?
  • Do they post about pens on social media? You can do some discreet stalking of their feed to research the pens that have caught their eye or the ones that they fawn over in their own collection.

Go Over Your Options

  • If Money is no object - Get them their Grail Pen. If you want to be their favorite person and nothing less will do, then go for the top of their wish list, their "Grail Pen." For an average pen collector, this may mean a pen that values anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and up.
  • Get them a pen they already enjoy in a different color or finish. Most popular models of pens, like the Pelikan Souveran, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911, etc, come in a wide array of color choices, trim options and finishes. If your person loves their Lamy Safari, you can always opt to get them another color in the same model, that way they have a backup, or yet another one to add to their collection.
  • Get them a pen of a similar style. This route may require a little bit more research, but if you would like to show off your recently acquired knowledge about pens, you can pick a pen that may have a similar style, but in a different brand that they haven't tried yet. If they are a fan of a classic, vintage look, you can easily find a number of pens that match this type of aesthetic.

for those that have it all

  • There's never such a thing as too much ink or paper. Consumables like fountain pen ink, refills, notebooks or stationery paper are always welcome, especially if they're a brand that the writer is unfamiliar with.
  • What about a place to rest your nibs? Pen storage is sometimes an afterthought for most enthusiasts. Upgrade the desk mug to a pen stand, a display case or an on-the-go pen case solution.
  • A personalized pen. For a unique, one-of-a-kind gift that is sure to be remembered, get their favorite pen engraved with their name, commemorative date or a pet nickname, to give some examples. We've seen a lot of original ideas for engraving over the years, so get creative! This is your chance to put your unique twist on a gift that will be appreciated for a long, long time.
  • A limited edition pen. Short-run special editions or limited editions are all the rage for pen manufacturers these days. Many brands will use their flagship model as the basis for the edition. Pilot's Vanishing Point, Lamy's Safari, Pelikan's Souveran 800, Aurora's 88, and Parker's Duofold, etc are all example pen models that continue to have limited editions made year after year. They tend to be more expensive than the typical everyday model, but will easily go up in value when the edition sells out.

stocking stuffers

  • Fountain Pen Inks. If you're looking for a gift under $25 for the pen pal on your shopping list, then a bottle of ink would always be well appreciated. In the last few years, there has been an "inksplosion" of colors made by manufacturers around the world. Although the prices of certain boutique inks can go as high as $50 a bottle, most premium ink can be had for $25 and under. Find a color or name of an ink that your writer would have a personal connection with.
  • Notebooks. Like I mentioned above in what to get someone that has it all, notebooks are never a bad idea for a pen geek. Writers are always filling them up with ink! Most fountain pen friendly notebooks can be purchased for under $20 and will provide its user with many, many hours of writing enjoyment.
  • Pen Case / Sleeve. Pen care is an oft-overlooked facet of the fine writing hobby. Most pens are meant to last a lifetime, if not longer! Keep them looking pristine as possible by putting them in a portable pen case when they are not in use. Pen cases, pouches, and sleeves make great great stocking stuffers because, as a bonus, you can always throw in an inexpensive pen to go with it.
  • When in doubt, Gift Card to the rescue. When time is running out and your last bit of patience for shopping has burnt out, getting them a Goldspot Pens Gift Card is a fine idea to allow them to choose what they want. They can feel like a kid in a candy store, shopping our vast selection of pens, inks, notebooks, refills, and accessories.

A few tips on nibs

Extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, stub? Oblique? Flex? Dreamtouch? What have I gotten myself into?

Experienced fountain pen users are well-versed in nib terminology. Some may have a preference as to the nib sizes they would buy on new pens. Others are more carefree and would option to send them to nibmeisters for customization anyway. For some people, there is no wrong answer. For others, you may be walking a very fine line (pun intended) in choosing an ideal nib.

Sometimes, you don't have a choice. If you are in love with a particular type of pen to gift someone, it may only come in one point size. When you do have the option, a few points should be taken into consideration before hitting "add to cart."

  • Size matters. How large is the person's handwriting? If they have large or quick handwriting, go for a medium or broad nib. If they have small, neat handwriting, opt for fine or extra-fine if available.
  • Steel or gold. Don't panic thinking that you're going to have to spend $300 or more, just because you want the giftee to have a quality fountain pen with a gold nib. Gold nibs are great and are well appreciated by experienced pen users, but stainless steel does the trick as well.
  • Ask what they prefer. I know it would ruin the surprise, at least a little bit, but if you're completely lost on which nib size to get, then ask them casually as it comes up in conversation. If they are writing with their favorite pen, ask them what nib size it is.
  • East vs. West. When shopping the various fountain pen brands, keep in mind that Japanese nibs tend to run thinner than their European counterparts. A Japanese medium point might write more like a European fine point, for example.

BONUS TIP : You can filter our online catalog by nib size and material. If your writer is only interested in extra-fine, steel nibs, you can filter them quite easily.

One other consideration to make is the filling system. While most contemporary pens are cartridge / converter compatible, a number of pen models operate using bottled ink only. Some pen enthusiasts will prefer using cartridges for the convenience, while others perfer the internal filling systems for their increased capacities. If the giftee is comfortable with filling their pen using a bottle of ink, then you should be fine with any filling system.

QUestions?

The world of fine writing can seem foreign and daunting, but we're here to provide thoughtful, honest advice to aid your search for the perfect pen gifts. Please feel free to message us directly with any inquiries, or if you need specific direction in your gift research.


1 comment

  • A great primer for all who don’t know a thing about pen nerds! I’m going to try to cut and paste this address so I can send to my friends and and family!

    Beth Autrey

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