Are Expensive Pens Worth It?: Debunking 5 Luxury Pen Myths (2021)
It's easy to be cynical about luxury pens and to think that their value is just "subjective", or that really luxury pens and limited editions are just like cheaper pens just with shiny veneers or fake gold nibs.
In this article, I'm going to talk about 5 reasons why that's not true.
I think high end pens are absolutely worth it, but it might take some considerations of what you value for you to agree.
We'll talk about that more in this article.
First, here are the top 6 reasons why I think good luxury pens are actually worth buying:
- 1. Luxury pens last longer.
- 2. They tend to write smoother.
- 3. They give a greater sense of purpose.
- 4. As gifts, they're much better suited for commemorating a special occasion (you wouldn't give a Bic to someone who just got a major promotion).
- 5. They become family heirlooms.
- 6. THEY'RE BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!!!
But before going deeper into the positive reasons for buying a luxury pens, let's take a look at the myths that stop people from feeling confident about getting one.
5 Myths About Buying an Expensive Pen
Here's the top 5 myths about luxury pens we hear a lot:
- 1. "A luxury pen is a waste of money."
- 2. "There's no real difference in writing quality between a luxury pen and a cheap pen."
- 3. "It's irrational to buy a luxury pen."
- 4. "Having a luxury pen means you have of a 'self-esteem problem.'"
- 5. "Luxury pens are too expensive."
Let's take a look at each one and see what the problem is...
1.) "A luxury pen is a waste of money."
We hear this a lot, but we couldn't disagree more.
They're not a waste of money for a couple of reasons:
1.) You might actually save some money.
Compare how much you might spend on pen packs over 5 years compared to buying a luxury pen just once.
They might be around the same price long-term, or you might even save a bundle.
You just need to be intentional about the reasons why you're getting a high-quality or limited edition pen.
2.) It's not like you're buying a luxury pen in order to make a profit. It's a gift and a tool.
You don't have to think about resale value when you get one; you're thinking about having the right pen for you, one that fits your hand, writing needs, and style.
2.) "There's no real difference in writing quality."
While it's true that a great way to save money on luxury pens is to find out what ink a more expensive pen is using and see if a cheaper pen uses the same ink, you're not always going to get the same writing experience that way.
Admittedly, some metal pens (mostly ballpoint pens) do use the same basic ink refill style.
So it's as simple as buying a cheaper pen barrel and refilling it with the same ink as the more expensive one. This means that some pens that have the higher-end refills might have the same functional value.
But not all luxury pens are that way:
For one, not all barrels and pen bodies are the same.
Have you ever gotten a hand cramp from writing?
How much effort you have to use to grip the pen, how much pressure you apply to write, how the pen feels in your fingers after scribbling for an extended period of time...these are all the factors that are influenced by the weight and size of the barrel, not the type of ink in the pen.
A lot of luxury pen companies spend an inordinate amount of effort making the pen body its own high-quality experience. And they labor over getting the weight and balance just right: these aspects are crucial for a good experience of writing too, not just the ink.
Spending more to get the right balance of size, weight, and ink, and barrel quality is usually worth it for the comfort and ease of writing.
3.) "It's irrational to buy a luxury pen."
Some reviewers seem to think that anyone willing to pay more for a luxury pen is irrational.
This is because they distinguish the value of normal pens (which is based on utility, functionality, and the capacity to fulfill its role as a tool) from the value of luxury pens (which they think is simply subjective, symbolic, and gratuitous).
This utilitarian mentality is just no fun. It devalues the subjective aspects too much.
The folks at The Gentleman Stationer have put it out there honestly: "Once you pass a certain price point, you stop paying for additional functionality and get into things like design, artistry, and, yes, branding and hype. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that."
It's okay to enjoy things like luxury pens that don't necessarily serve or improve upon some particular function or achieve some heartlessly mechanical result.
It is, therefore, completely rational to buy a luxury pen for the feeling alone.
4.) "Having a luxury pen means you have of a 'self-esteem problem.'"
If they don't have a huge qualitative difference in functionality from normal pens, then why do people spend lots of money on expensive pens? Some would say it's because they have a "self-esteem problem."
I think we can all find this sentiment super condescending to most people who own (and, what's more, enjoy) a luxury pen.
Plus, if that argument really made sense, then anyone who owns jewelry would really be better off with plastic fakes. Wedding rings would then be better off as plastic too, and those of us who think different would just have bloated mental images of ourselves.
The symbolism of luxury pens is appealing, and precious metals just naturally and culturally carry a lot more symbolic worth for us than plastic alternatives. You are also far more likely to value and maintain an item you have spent more on than a cheap throw away.
This myth is another result of too much utilitarian thinking about pens.
Really, there is something genuinely authentic about luxury pens, even if it's just gold-plated barrels around a normal ballpoint ink cartridge.
Let's use an occasion for gift-giving as a litmus test:
Say you want to give your dad a pen for Father's Day and you only have two choices: either you get him a plastic Bic pen or a gold-plated pen with a Bic refill.
The answer is obviously the second one, even if it's not functionally any different. This is because we put thought into what we give someone. To just hand them a Stick Bic seems like you aren't considering who they are and what they mean to you.
Even a little more luxury, however thin it may be, is a more fitting gift.
What separates the worth of the Bic from the gold pen isn't just a ruse.
Perceived value is real value. It shows we care about the person along with the contextual occasions and celebrations of which we find ourselves a part ever day.
It just doesn't help to be cynical.
5.) "Luxury pens are too expensive."
Not every pen has to cost $100+ to be luxury. Sure, some luxury pens net over $2000 easy, but you can easily find a lovely luxury pen in the $20-$50 range that is still going to write better, last longer, and just be more special.
An example from the world of luxury cars:
Not everyone wants to drive a Ferrari.
Often times, we just want something a little more comfortable and luxurious than what we already have is. Maybe I have a Toyota and I just want some supple leather seats and a better stereo so I upgrade to a Lexus.
The important thing is to find the right "luxury" for your budget.
The Root of Anti-Luxury Thinking
It's evident from the above myths that at the root of the problem lies a cynical and utilitarian mentality that rejects anything extravagant and opulent.
In doing so, many people also overlook the real aspects that make luxury pens worthwhile purchases.
What really makes expensive pens worth more?
Here's a deeper look at my list of 6 myth-busting reasons for getting a luxury pen over a cheap, plastic one:
1.) Luxury pens tend to last longer.
Pen companies like Waterman and Mont Blanc that manufacture a more expensive pen are likely going to spend a lot more time crafting a reliable, long-lasting pen.
This obviously means they'll last longer under the pressure of more use.
Plus, if you run out of ink, all you need to do is refill it (be sure to check out our article on refilling fountain pens).
2.) More expensive pens tend to write smoother.
You're going to get a better writing experience. It's that simple.
Even if you find a ballpoint pen with the same ink cartridge as one that costs way more, the weight, balance, and girth of a more expensive pen play key factors in how smoothly the pen writes. How comfortable it fits in your hand and how much you need to grip the pen are all things that we don't think about, but drastically change the writing experience over time.
More expensive fountain pens, which we'll discuss more in a moment, are especially hard to compare.
3.) High quality pens give a greater sense of purpose since they have more objective solidity.
Because luxury pens with sterling silver barrels or gold nibs aren't meant to be thrown away, they have a permanence that makes them desirable.
This desirability gives them that special something that helps us feel that whatever we write with them is that much more special.
It gives it purpose and style, and those things are worthwhile.
4.) As gifts, luxury pens are much better suited for commemorating a special occasion.
We saw before that luxury pens make better gifts and that they can make especially fitting gifts for celebratory occasions like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries.
It's the extra gratuity, extravagance, and elegance that makes them so.
5.) Nice pens can become family heirlooms.
Because pens last longer and they make fitting gifts for special occasions, they'll also be more likely to become heirlooms which you can pass down to other family members to enjoy for many years to come.
6.) Luxury pens are more eco-friendly!
A great reason to get a luxury pen is to do something small to help protect the environment.
Manufacturing plastic pens creates extra waste that inevitably finds its way into ecosystems, and it does a lot of harm. And throwing away "disposable", non-biodegradable pens only makes things worse.
Investing in a luxury pen with way less plastic waste is just one small, caring, eco-aware decision that also immediately benefits you.
Some Questions to Ask Before Looking to Buy...
What is the best luxury pen brand?
That's up for debate! I really love my Watermen Hemisphere rollerball, but there's a hundred great pen brands out there to choose from.
Do some digging on the web, and check out brands like Lamy, Mont Blanc, Cross, and others.
Why are some pens so expensive?
For a lot of reasons!
Obviously, a lot of pens are made with precious metals, and these can be expensive.
Some pen companies really take their craft seriously. It's great to buy from these companies because it shows you appreciate what they put their time and effort towards.
Precision, hand-made manufacturing and quality materials are just two reasons why it can be a bit pricey.
Why do I want to buy expensive pens?
Make sure you're buying for the right reasons, and make sure you take some time to think about which pen fits those reasons.
If you're buying for yourself, get a pen that fits all of your writing quality conditions (weight, balance, size, ink, and design), but one that doesn't cost you everything.
If you're buying for someone else, just think about what the pen communicates about the value you have in that person, and buy a pen for a reasonable price the embodies that.
What is a reasonable price to pay for a higher quality pen?
Finding a better pen for the right cost can be difficult. And spending more money on an expensive pen can feel a bit painful at first.
Don't worry though!
The price of high end pens can run from anywhere between $20 and some thousands of dollars: you get to be decide how much you want to spend.
Set some parameters for yourself, but I tend to think that a pen from either Parker or Waterman starting in the $60 is a great first choice.
When is a good time to buy an expensive pen?
I think expensive pens are best suited for special occasions.
If you're buying one for yourself, get it to commemorate something like a promotion to a new position or a new job entirely. Get one to write that novel you've been thinking about for years. Get one to write your signature on a new house!
If you're buying for someone else, there's a thousand great occasions to buy: birthdays, holidays, Valentine's Day, Christmas, Father's or Mother's Day, graduations, promotions, etc.
Dayspring Pens offers a number of pens that are specifically designed for particular occasions. Be sure to take a look at our options.
What's the best writing style for me?
We've written another article on different pen styles to answer this question! Check it out and let us know if it's helpful to you!
What's the best buying option for truly myth-busting luxury pens?: Fountain pens!
I think the best option for jumping into luxury pens is going to be a fountain pen.
This is because a fountain pen is often the most difficult pen to compare with cheaper counterparts in other writing styles (like ballpoint pens or a rollerball pen).
A luxury fountain pen is often the least comparable with a regular plastic pen.
The writing experience is just qualitatively different than, say, a ballpoint pen—especially if it has a gold nib.
While you won't spend that much money on disposable versions of fountain pens, the nib quality is often really disappointing.
A gold nib is often far softer on the page than steel nibs or a nib of some other, stiffer material. Steel nibs just don't flex like gold ones.
A gold nib makes it float on the page.
Fountain pens have that extra classiness that so many people love.
Fountain pens are high up on the "cool factor."
They can make anyone feel more dignified in their writing, even they're just writing a little note to themselves.
The shape of the nib, the feel of the page, the look of the pen in your hand—these things are really worth it!
Fountain pens are just fun!
Check out this quirky video from Goulet Pens about a further 7 myths just about fountain pens.
Plus, more expensive fountain pens are the best option for the environment.
Thepencompany.com writes that fountain pens beat ballpoint pens as far as eco-friendly waste, "especially if you refill them with bottled ink instead of using disposable plastic cartridges. With good care and maintenance, a quality fountain pen can last a lifetime, and inks usually come in glass bottles which can either be refilled or recycled after use."
So consider a shiny new fountain pen to get started on your classy, eco-friendly journey into
So, with the myths certifiably busted, a fountain pen is your best bet for a great high end pen that's going to last.
Are expensive pens worth it? I certainly think so!
Reddit and Quora threads often have a lot of great information and really thought-out arguments both for and against buying them.
Now it's time to hear what you think.
Have you bought a luxury pen in the past? Tell us which one is your favorite and why in the comments!