How Many Pens Is Too Many Pens?

This many, probably...

How Many Pens Is Too Many Pens?
Listen to this post in the authors voice

Just like many at this time of year, I have been reflecting on my pen purchasing patterns1 from 2023, and if/how I will be changing my spending habits in the year to come. 

I think I can comfortably say I bought too many pens last year. Way, waaaaaaay too many. The majority were from AliExpress—60 of them, to be precise—so they weren't particularly expensive. But still, that's a bit much. Add on purchases from my home turf plus a couple from the EU, US, & Japan, and we end up at a grand total of 952. Almost 2/3rds of my entire collection was attained during 2023. That's...that's a lot, and there's no way it's sustainable. But before we look at my purchasing plans for 2024, what were my favourite pens I picked up in 2023?

In no particular order:

Ēnsso UNO XL

Photo of an Ēnsso UNO XL rollerball pen made from stainless steel, showing the pen with the grip covering the tip.
It’s not just a steel wand, I promise

The Pilot G-Tech C3 0.25 is one of my all-time favourite pens thanks to the incredibly fine line it produces, but the body it comes in Thankfully, Ēnsso stepped in at the start of the year with a Kickstarter for a pen body designed specifically for the G-Tech C refills. The $110 retail price was somewhat eye-watering for something designed around a £3 pen, but during the Kickstarter they offered it with a significant discount. I'm glad they did, as I probably wouldn't have picked one up otherwise, which would have been a real shame because I believe it's absolutely worth the full asking price. It has a minimalist design, forgoing even a proper cap. But that's thanks to one of the great features of the G-Tech C refill—it doesn't easily dry out. So instead of a cap, Ēnsso opted for a knurled grip section that screws down to protect the tip when not in use. This is easily my favourite part of this pen because it's so. much. FUN! You see, you *can* manually screw the grip up or down, but who has time for that?! Instead, you do this:


This thing was made to SPIN! It's such a great pen to fidget with. Spinning the grip section up & down is incredibly smooth and oh-so-satisfying. Add to this a well-balanced precision-made stainless steel body that gives excellent control and a clear view of your writing, and you have an absolute blinder of a pen.

Gravitas Quark Pocket Pen Up — Ultem

Photo showing a small, semi-transparent yellow fountain pen made from Ultem.
It only just managed to fit on my acrylic stand

This was the last pen I acquired in '23, but it became a firm favourite incredibly quickly. The pen is *tiny*, yet it still somehow manages to fit a #6 nib in that itty-bitty body. While capped, it's a ludicrously small 84mm, but it converts to a comfortable 132mm when posted. It uncaps in just under 1 turn, so it's extremely easy to quickly access it when you need to, and it's just about long enough to write quick notes without posting. The version I picked up is made from Ultem, which is a durable engineered plastic with a pleasing yellow tint. It also means the pen is super light at under 9.5g (while fully filled with ink) and is perfectly suited to eyedroppering. The large #6 Extra Fine Gravitas-made nib is smooth & relatively wet, but I think I want to get it ground down to something a bit finer. I would like to put one of the double-sided Monty Winnfield nibs in it, but although it uses Jowo threads, most standard Jowo nibs are slightly too long to fit inside the teeny cap without damage. This one now has a permanent home on my passport-sized Traveler's notebook, inked with the chromashading Sailor Ink Studios 280 which compliments the Ultem uncannily well.

Sailor Pro Gear Fika II — Christmas Spice Tea

Photo of a sparkly transparent orange capped fountain pen
Subtly Sparkly Sailor

This pen was a special edition from '22 that I was in love with, but knew I couldn't justify/afford spending the £330 price tag. Fast-forward to July '23 and Endless Pens somehow got hold of more of these & made them available for pre-order. Awesome! Still can't afford it though. Then I saw that they were running multiple discounts on many items for their month-long Independence Day sale, including this one. It was still a little more that I was willing to pay, until they sent out a newsletter with a discount code that stacked on top of all the other discounts they had going on. That brought the pen under £100. A brand-new pen with a 21k nib & an RRP of £330, for less than £100! Even with the cost of shipping from the US to the UK being astronomical these days, it was still under £120. I couldn't say no to that, and I'm so glad I didn't. The pen is a beautiful shade of transparent orange with subtle sparkles and a 21k Medium Fine nib with the signature Sailor feedback. It's such a joy to write with! The standard-size Pro Gear body fits perfectly in my hand & is incredibly comfortable to write with. It's the kind of pen that, every now & then, I stop writing with it just so I can sit & admire it. I love it.

Shibui North Dragonfly — Blue Skies Koi & Seigaiha

Photo of a pale blue capped fountain pen with an intricate Koi fish engraved on the body.
Serene koi swimming in a pretty blue pen

I had been wanting to buy one of Ruth's pens for quite a long time, so when she had a sale on Fountain Pen Day I had to dive in. The one I picked up is a gorgeous light blue version of her Dragonfly model with a beautiful Koi fish engraved across the cap & body. But its beauty doesn't stop there. Unscrew the cap and we see both the section and the #6 semi-flex Jowo nib have the same blue ceracote coating, this time engraved with the Seigaiha wave pattern. This is another one of those pens that I love to just look at, but it's also a wonderful writer—especially when paired with Diamine Glacier from the most recent Inkvent calendar. It's an almost perfect match & I adore writing with it so much.

Tigerfish Starry Sky

Photo of an anodized titanium pocket fountain pen with a sharp point & brass clip
To the moon!

I have no idea if this is the actual name of this pen, but it's the best I could garner from the AliExpress page. This is a small pocket fountain pen, but despite its small size it's the most expensive Chinese pen I've bought. It's an anodised titanium pen that's been engraved to look like the surface of the moon4. I swapped the little #5 nib out for a blue Naginata-style nib which changed it from an okay writer to a super-fun writer. It's currently inked with Sailor Date Gokoro which adds to the fun as it changes from blue to purple, matching the anodization on the pen. Strangely, it also has a little point on one end for breaking windows, which I assume was to appeal to the EDC crowd. This could easily be my favourite pocket pen. However, it takes 5½ turns to uncap, making it completely unsuitable for quick notes. That's a real shame, because it would otherwise be the perfect pen for carrying around. Despite this fairly significant drawback, I still love it.

Honourable Mentions:

Retro 51 Rocketeer rollerball — This is was my first Retro 51, modelled after the gorgeous Art Deco style of the Rocketeer. Every person who has borrowed this pen has gone on to buy a Retro 51 for themselves. Their reputation is well deserved.

Namisu N2 — This is the pen I kept permanently on my pocket notebook, until the Gravitas Quark came along. It's an amazing little pen with a #6 Bock nib that's even faster to uncap than the Quark. It’s so good that I now have 2 of them. Highly recommended.

Wing Sung 630 — The Jinaho X159 & 9019 have, quite rightly, been highly regarded for their excellent #8 steel nibs. However, there was another, lesser known, Chinese #8 nib doing the rounds last year which could be found on the Wing Sung 630. I’d go insofar as saying that I actually prefer this nib over the Jinhao. It’s every bit as good a writer, but unlike the stiffer Jinhao nib, the Wing Sung has the kind of bounce that you normally only see in gold nibs. What’ s more, they also offer a version with a 14k #8 nib for ~£130, but I haven’t tried that as yet. Just make sure to avoid the version with a heartbeat slit. It looks cool, but it seems to have significant flow issues due to the irregular cut, but this may have been sorted.

Duke 551 — Although I’m not a particularly big fan of some of the design elements of this pen, the nib is something special. It’s by far the longest fude nib I’ve ever seen. It’s so long that it requires an overfeed to help supply enough ink, something I’ve never come across on a factory nib before.

Asvine V126 — This one is such a great workhorse pen. This vacuum filler doesn’t really do anything exceptional, it just does its job really, really well. It helps that the matte grey finish looks and feels wonderful, too.

Plans for 2024

So, how am I going to change my purchasing habits in 2024? The main change I want to make is to make more deliberate purchases instead of just seeing something semi-interesting & instantly purchasing it like some kind of overgrown magpie. There are 2 pens I definitely want to pick up this year: The Pilot 743 with an FA nib, and the Nahvalur Schuylkill 365 Obsidian Pumpkin with literally any nib. The Nahvalur might be a little trickier, as there were limited quantities made & it's sold out in most places. There are a few stores that still have some, so hopefully they’ll hold out until I’m in a position to grab one. I'll just need to wait & see.

There are another 2 pens that I'd like to pick up, but wouldn't mind too much if it doesn't happen this year. A second-hand Omas 361, and a Sailor 1911 Profit with a zoom nib5. I'll be keeping an eye on the Ēnsso retractable fountain pen Kickstarter when it launches in a month or so, but I wont know if I'll be getting one until I know more about it. I'm also interested in seeing what version 2 of the Endless Creator will be like. I didn't get on too well with the original one, but I'm hoping they've learned some important lessons from it. There will undoubtedly be a few Chinese pens throughout the year. Hopefully a Majohn A4 or A5, maybe the odd new pocket fountain pen, and likely anything particularly interesting that Jinhao releases. I had hoped there would have been a Year of the Rabbit PenBBS released at the end of '23 as I loved the Ox and Tiger versions they made, but hopefully we'll get something this year.

I'd also very much like to pick up a few nibs this year, but again, they aren't priorities. A needlepoint nib is high on this list, as well as a stacked/reversible nib, a fine or medium stub, and either the 14k flex nib from The Good Blue, or version 2 of their steel Alchemy nib if it finally comes out this year. I'd quite like to send my vintage Sheaffer's off to get restored as well, but it's not a majorly high priority at the moment.

As you can see, there's still a fair few things I want to get this year, but I'm going to make a concerted effort to not buy things willy-nilly. I've already decided that I don't want to buy any pens at all in January, and I've managed to stick to that so far. Hopefully that will help me to curtail my spending significantly this year by showing me that it's actually possible to not buy a pen! Madness, I know. We'll just need to wait & see how I get on with that. I’d also highly recommend taking a look at I Dip Bananas in Coffee’s latest post where they give details on how you can spend less in ‘24.

Fountain pen resolutions for 2024
I’m a sucker for spreadsheets; been like that since 2014 aka since I entered the workforce way too late to brag but also way too early to feel ready (is anyone ever ready to devote 40h/week + commute of two hours on foot to a job?). Thanks to my obsession, I’ve been able to actually track my budget or, rather, expenditure for fountain pens, and I notice…

What are your purchasing plans for 2024? Are there any pens that you 100% plan on picking up this year, or are you going to just go with the flow? Let me know in the comments!

  1. Sweet, sweet alliteration.

  2. There were 2 more pens acquired in 2023, but they were gifts so I'm not counting them and you can’t make me.

  3. AKA Hi-Tec-C outside Europe.

  4. I love the moon. Like, a lot.

  5. Although I haven't decided which of the 20,000 versions of the 1911 I want yet.