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Ranking Large Pen Brands

Posted in Fountain Pens

DISCLAIMER UPDATE (6/24/22): TWSBI and Narwhal have released a joint statement which I cover in my most recent TWSBIgate post. While not completely satisfied with TWSBI’s response to the situation, I no longer feel the need to dissuade people from purchasing their products.

DISCLAIMER (5/1/22): Since writing this post, TWSBI has been involved in some unsavory actions, and I am currently boycotting them. For more information, refer to the #twsbigate tag page.

I’ve seen this ranking system on YouTube a lot lately, and it seemed like a fun idea. I don’t know how well it will work in a blog post, but I’m giving it a try. Since I always want to jump to the end to see what the rankings are, I’ve started with that. You can continue reading after the ranking list if you want to find out why I placed a brand in any given ranking.

OK, so what am I ranking? Large/Mainstream pen brands. I’m not including Indie Brands because a) I don’t think that’s fair to them, given I have no idea how experienced any person is with pen making at this time and b) I think all Indie Brands that don’t have shady business practices should be shown more love, not shade. You can see the Indie Brand qualifications in my Indie Pen Makers Update post. For me, large/mainstream brands are those readily available in pen stores.

Let me know if I’ve missed any brands, I can write an update to include them. That said, I’m also not including defunct brands — sorry OMAS lovers. I’m also only considering modern experiences with vintage brands (e.g. Esterbrook, Sheaffer, etc.) not their vintage pens.

Let me know if you agree or disagree with my rankings. And if this looks fun, you can use my template to make your own ranking list.


  • I own multiple: I own more than one pen from this brand and am open to purchasing more.
  • I own one: I only own one pen from this brand, but am open to purchasing more.
  • I will/would buy one: I haven’t owned a pen from this brand, or have sold any pens I owned, but am open to buying from them. The slight difference to this category from the “Doesn’t Spark Interest” category is that the brands here have pens that I’ve at least considered buying. I’ll pay attention to new releases and see if I want something.
  • I own one or more, but things change: I have bought one or more pens from them, but am unlikely to buy more.
  • Doesn’t spark interest: There’s nothing from this brand that I actually want. That may change someday if they release something really interesting. I generally don’t pay attention to new releases, though, as they tend not to catch my eye.
  • Have heard negative things: I have never purchased a pen from this brand and have heard of sufficient negative experiences from others that I actively avoid purchasing from them.
  • Had one or more not-so-great experience: I have owned one or more pen from this brand and either the pens didn’t work well or had significant QC issues.
  • Don’t really know brand: I don’t know enough about the pens this brand produces to classify it.
Tier rankings. Brands listed below by category.
Click the image to view larger. Keep reading for my explanation of each listing.


I Own Multiple

  • Aurora: I own four. They’re good pens, if a bit pricey. If they released a fabulous model that caught my eye, I’d buy it.
  • Franklin-Christoph: I own two, both Goulet collaborations. I wouldn’t rule out buying another, but there aren’t many models of F-C pens I can use comfortably — only those that don’t have the threads on the grip.
  • Kaweco: I own three, all metal-bodied. As I mentioned in my Kaweco post, I like the Kaweco Sport model, although I don’t care for how light the plastic-bodied pens are, and I don’t like the metal-on-metal sound of the powder-coat editions. I’m definitely open to buying future Kawecos, the Sport model or otherwise.
  • Lamy: I own four. While, based on their current offerings, I’m not interested in buying more, you never know when they’ll come out with a really cool special edition that will open my wallet.
  • Pelikan: I own five. I really like Pelikans. There’s not much more to say.
  • Platinum: I own five. They’re lovely writing experiences (although I don’t care for the soft nibs, but that’s personal preference). I can see Platinum’s ranking potentially changing in the future, as I’m not happy with the elevated pricing of some of their recent special editions.
  • Stipula: I own three. I know Stipula has been having some QC issues, but I love the ones I have, and absolutely would consider future Stipula purchases.
  • TWSBI: I own eleven. If you read my TWSBI post, you know how much I love the TWSBI 580 series, both full sized and mini. I 100% will buy more of them as they’re released in the future.
  • Visconti: I own seven. I enjoy my Visconti pens. They, like Aurora, are pricey, but I wouldn’t rule out falling in love with a future edition.

I Own One

  • Benu: I don’t know why I only own one Benu. I love the one I have, maybe someday another will catch my eye.
  • Pilot: I already have plans to purchase two more Pilots. I adore my Custom 74, and will be getting another, plus the Rock Garden maki-e pen.
  • Tibaldi: Until they released the Bamboo pens, nothing Tibaldi had made caught my eye, but that Lipstick Red is such a gorgeous color. Maybe future releases will be equally interesting.

I Will/Would Buy One

  • David Oscarson: This one was difficult. I like several David Oscarson pens. But they’re FAR outside my budget. So I suppose I’d really only buy one if I won the lottery.
  • Diplomat: I have nothing against Diplomat, and considered buying one several times, but never quite pulled the trigger. Perhaps a future release will change that.
  • Edison Pen Co.: I had an Edison, but ended up selling it to get a different pen. I keep checking their tables at pen shows, though, hoping they’ll have a pen made out of the Tequila Sunrise material they use for a Goulet exclusive a few years back.
  • Esterbrook: They’re good pens, and I’m looking forward to an upcoming release to see if it’s the pen that makes me pull the trigger. I’d like to see them get even more creative with materials in the future.
  • Gioia: Jim loves his, and they do have a couple that are pretty. Just nothing that has sparked my interest enough to buy one.
  • Laban: I’m currently debating my first Laban purchase. I want to see them both in person before I make my decision. Hopefully they’ll be at the DC Show.
  • Marlen: I have a Marlen pen on my Do I Want to Buy This list, where I try to figure out if a pen will make me happy long term. Rainbows really hook me.
  • Namiki: I mean, this is more or less Pilot at this point, right? But I don’t actually own anything with Namiki branding, so it’s here. Otherwise, it would be with Pilot.
  • PenBBS: I fully intend to purchase their Year of the Dragon release in 2024. I also bought a pen specifically for the nib so that I could get a custom pen made for it, but I don’t really count that.
  • Taccia: Taccia is beautiful. And their new Katana pen is amazing. I’m not in love with how light their pens are, but the beauty may wear me down on that.
  • Wahl-Eversharp: I’ve long coveted a Wahl-Eversharp, but the price has put me off. As I continue to buy more expensive pens, that barrier is wearing down.
  • Yard O Led: They’re beautiful, but the prices are (justifiably) ouch. Maybe someday with a bonus or lottery winnings.

I Own One or More, But Things Change

  • Jinhao: I had a few Jinhaos in the early days. They aren’t bad pens, but they can’t compare to most of what I own.
  • Montblanc: I own one, purchased secondhand from Bertram’s Inkwell at a major bargain. I mostly bought it to say I have a Montblanc, and, as a result, may sell it someday. Montblancs typically just don’t interest me.
  • Montegrappa: I’ve had several issues with Montegrappa pens hard-starting — notably the Heartwood Pear I returned — and it makes me wary to buy any more. But, I also have one really good one, the Shiny Lines/Dove, so I’m conflicted.
  • Pineider: I sold the two Pineider pens I purchased. I don’t like their soft nibs, which seem to be on every higher-end model. And I don’t like the looks of the lower-end pens. I currently doubt I’ll buy any more Pineider pens.
  • Retro 51: This is specific to their fountain pens. I’ve owned two of them and sold them both, they just don’t do it for me. I still like their ballpoint/rollerball pens, although I’ve been getting fed up with the quick sell-outs and price scalping.
  • Sailor: If you read my Sailor post, you know why this is here. If you didn’t, suffice to say that bubble burst and I’m not feeling Sailor pens anymore.

Doesn’t Spark Interest

For this category, I’m only providing an explanation if it’s something other than “I just don’t find their pens interesting.”

  • Armando Simoni Club: Their pens are either huge, boring (to me), or too expensive.
  • Caran d’Ache
  • Conway Stewart
  • Cross
  • Faber-Castell
  • Ferris Wheel Press: I’m hoping they’ll release more interesting models as the brand grows. I don’t think they have very many pen models right now.
  • Graf von Faber-Castell
  • Karas Kustoms: Jim has one and likes it. I know several other people who have one and like or love them. This was really between Doesn’t Spark Interest and I Will/Would Buy One. One one hand, their models haven’t really caught my eye so far, but on the other, people really seem to like them, and that kind of makes me want one. Ultimately, I put it here because I don’t watch them for new releases.
  • Loclen
  • Leonardo Officina Italiana: I had one, but sold it. The material was interesting, but the pen itself did nothing for me.
  • Narwhal
  • Nettuno: Nettuno had a brief glimmering moment when they first announced the God of the Sea model, but when the pen released, it was completely different, and nothing else has been particularly interesting to me.
  • Opus 88: I don’t like that you have to unscrew the back to write. I want to uncap and go.
  • Parker
  • Penlux: Penlux seems overpriced for what they are. The pens aren’t interesting enough for their price.
  • Santini Italia
  • Scribo
  • Sheaffer
  • S.T. Dupont
  • Waldmann
  • Waterman
  • ystudio

Have Heard Negative Things

  • Monteverde: I hear over and over again how many QC issues there are. I’m also not particularly interested in the pens they create.

Had One, or More, Not-So-Great Experience

  • Bexley: My Bexley was finicky, a hard-starter, and leaked. Enough said.
  • Conklin: Jim has had a couple that he didn’t care for, and I owned one a while back that had serious drying and hard start issues.
  • Noodler’s: Is there anyone who hasn’t had a negative experience with Noodler’s? Both of my Noodler’s had nib and writing issues, not to mention that smell.
  • Wing Sung: I’ve owned several, and they’ve all been meh or bad, and neither Jim nor I could make them better.

Don’t Really Know Brand

  • Baoer: I’ve had one fude nib pen, from an iPenBox years ago. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t impress me and I haven’t looked into the brand.
  • Maiora
  • Onoto
  • Otto Hutt
  • Schneider: I had one cheap architect-ish nib pen, also from an iPenBox years ago. It was a good pen for its MSRP, but I never looked into the brand.
  • Venvstas

Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Are you going to make your own? If you do, please share and let me know. I’d love to see it.

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