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2023 New Pen Releases, The Tag

Posted in Fountain Pens, and Ink

This is a yearly tradition, now, so I HAVE to do it. If you’re curious, you can check out the 2021 and 2022 entries. This idea was originally based on the “New Makeup Releases | THE TAG” video from Angelica Nyqvist.

This tag is about evaluating the releases — in this case pens & inks — from the past year.

1. What release(s) lived up to the hype most this year?

From the ink side of things, definitely the Colorverse Nebula series. After the success of the Butterfly Nebula set, it’s hardly surprising that Colorverse released more colors this year. I own Cat’s Eye and Iris Nebula. I’m currently trying to decide between Monkeyhead Nebula and Mystic Mountain

Image from Coloverse's instagram account showing the Nebula Series ink bottles and writing with each ink
This isn’t my photo. I borrowed it from Colorverse’s Instagram account.

On the pen side of things, I’d say the Benu x Gourmet Pens Talisman True Unicorn. That sold like crazy! Per Azizah (Ms. Gourmet Pens), there have been four restocks. At the time of typing (12/10/23) they are currently available with a fine nib. If you haven’t gotten one, you should!

Image from Gourmet Pens Shop's instagram account showing the true unicorn with a unicorn sticker
Also not my photo. This one is borrowed from the Gourmet Pens Shop’s Instagram account.

2. Which release(s) did not live up to the hype?

It seems Platinum Chou Kuro didn’t do so well. Talk about it dropped off VERY quickly. I think it was inadvertently sabotaged. I heard — this is probably 3rd- or 4th-hand rumor — that at least one store refused to carry the ink because they didn’t want people complaining about ruined pens.

The rumor may appears to at least be correct about that store not carrying Chou Kuro — the jury is out on the reason — as a search doesn’t return any results. However, they do carry Sailor Kiwa Guro — which is basically the same thing, but from Sailor — and Noodler’s, which I’ve heard lots of complaints for regarding ruined pens.

Granted, pigment inks do require some additional care. You need to clean your pen better, and you probably don’t want to leave pigment ink sitting in your pen for a long time, especially a piston pen that can’t be disassembled.

Platinum itself acknowledges this:

When cleaning the pen nib after using Chou Kuro ink, use purified water available at pharmacies, etc. Avoid washing it with tap water as it reacts with minerals contained in the water and makes it difficult to remove the stains.

Platinum Press Release 2023.6.27

But, you can say the same for shimmer inks, or inks that are known to cause staining. So, I don’t see the big deal. In fact, the note of caution at the bottom of Goulet Pens’ listing for Chou Kuro is remarkably similar in essentials to their note for Colorverse Iris Nebula.

Caution: Pigmented inks are intended for use in fountain pens, though they require more diligent maintenance and should not be left to dry out in a pen. It is best to clean it from your pen at least once a week to prevent clogging. Certain pens may handle pigmented inks better than others.

Goulet Pens, Chou Kuro sale page

Due to the amount of particulate in this ink used to achieve the sparking look, you may experience restricted ink flow in some of your pens. We recommend shaking the ink thoroughly before filling and gently rolling the pen in your hands often to keep the shimmer effect consistent. This will also help prevent clogging. You will also want to be diligent about cleaning and maintaining your pen when using this ink.

Goulet Pens, Iris Nebula sale page

While I simply don’t use black ink in fountain pens, Jim likes Chou Kuro, especially for art and outlines, and hasn’t had any real problem with it.

3. What was the biggest curve ball?

In a remarkable parallel to last year’s answer, I have to go with Benu’s hand-painted pens. This time, though, it’s their one-of-a-kind pens that retail for $1,400 – $4,000!

Image from Benu's instagram account showing the lineup of one of a kind pens.
Another borrowed photo. This one is from Benu’s instagram account.

Considering their other hand-painted pens are in the $200-$300 range, that’s a MASSIVE leap in price. I asked Bryce Gillet at Luxury Brands of America about the jump at the DC Pen Show. If I recall correctly, he said they are done by master artists.

Granted, the paintings look gorgeous, and they cover more of the pen than the other hand-painted releases. However, the pricing puts them far outside any other Benu release, and, possibly, outside their customer demographic. But, if you want one, most of them are still available.

4. What was the most ridiculous luxury release?

Is anyone suprised that it’s another Montegrappa release? The “crazy” in this case comes from the price, given what you get. The pens don’t say “luxury” to me; they say “cheap memorabilia.” I’m sure there are people who will disagree with me, and they’re welcome to do so. But, I just can’t see paying $3,400+ for this.

Image from Montagrappa's instagram account showing the ken and barbie pens in their box.
This one is borrowed from the Montegrappa Italia Instagram account

5. What was the biggest letdown/snoozefest?

I have to give this one to Aurora. When I bought the 100° Anniversario in 2020, I thought I was getting a real piece of history. As I understood — correctly or incorrectly — that design was limited to anniversary pens. But, here we are, 3 years later, and they release a blue version, identical in every way except for the color. Even some of the marketing photos are very similar.

6. Which brand(s) had the best year?

Here’s one I never thought I’d say: Jinhao. Between their Sailor Pro Gear dupes — officially the Jinhao 82 — and new #8 nibs, they’ve been on the tip of everyone’s lips.

Image from AliExpress showing several color variations of the Jinhao 82.
This image is from an Ali Express listing.

7. Which brand(s) need to reevaluate what they’re doing?

It’s Pineider’s turn again. I will readily acknowledge that their pens aren’t really to my taste. But, they don’t seem to be to others’ tastes either. Pineider pens always seem to be on sale, even their limited editions. I’ve also noticed that several stores have recently had their entire stock of Pineider pens on sale, making me wonder if they’re trying to liquidate their stock.

8. Did your predictions from last year come true?

I made two predictions again last year: “I think we’re going to see more special editions themed around historical anniversaries… I’m guessing we’ll see some mixable inks.”

For pens, there were certainly quite a few anniversary pens — two Le Mans editions, two 007 commemorative pens, and Warner Bros. Tower to name a few. I expected there to be more, especially given some of the big anniversaries this year, but Montegrappa, at least, focused heavily on IP collaborations.

I was way off on the inks. This year was heavy on the shimmer. I didn’t see any mixable inks at all.

9. What are your predictions for releases next year?

This is difficult. I can only assume we’ll continue to see more IP collaborations, especially from Montegrappa. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Bridgerton pen.

For ink, since shimmer has been so big, perhaps we’ll see more duo- and multichrome shimmer inks.

Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed my post. Do you agree with my answers? Do you think I’m completely wrong? What are you predictions for next year? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Heather Burke
    Heather Burke

    Van Diemen’s Ink from Australia released a mixable range in 2023 so you were right!

    December 19, 2023
    • Oh, cool! Thanks for the info. I’ll have to check that out. 😊

      December 19, 2023

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