Brian Goulet's Top 10 Most Influential Fountain Pen Products of 2014
10) De Atramentis Document Inks, $18.50
These waterproof inks have taken the art world by storm, and we've barely had them in stock ever since they were released this summer. They've been elusive for most of you, as it takes us 2-3 months to restock them from Dr. Jansen in Germany and we sell out almost as soon as we put them in stock. The hues are unique, they are lightfast and waterproof, and it's going to be our challenge to actually try to keep them in stock in 2015!
9) Pilot Vanishing Point Black Nibs (and Metallic VP's), $61-$144
When GouletPens.com was still in our detached garage 4 years ago, we remember Pilot only offering yellow-gold nibs on their pens, except for the yearly LE pen, which was rhodium-plated. Pilot then came out with regular rhodium-plated nibs that was great, and that's when the most popular VP came out, the Black Matte. It was super-stealthy, though what really would have made it perfect was a black nib. It took until 2014 for this to happen, but they're here now! Black VP nibs released on the 5 Metallic Vanishing Point pens with matte black trim, and then Pilot started putting the black nibs on other pens such as the Black Matte and Gun Metal with Matte Black Trim. Pilot has done a great job listening to what their fans want, and these nibs are proof of that.
8) Pilot Custom 912, $224
This pen came late in the year, right in the middle of the holiday season when a lot of new pens were released. There was a lot of "noise" at the time so it didn't quite get the attention it deserved, and I'll be the first to admit I haven't had the time to show it off like I want. It's not a flashy pen; it's subtle like many of the Pilot pens. What's really significant about this pen is the nib offerings. Pilot asked for our feedback about what nibs should be brought in on this pen, and we were able to have some real influence on which ones came in. The five nibs available on the Custom 912 are unique to Pilot and most of them are unique in the United States even to the rest of Pilot's offering: extra-fine, soft-fine, FA (Falcon), Stub, and Music. There are even more nibs that could be brought into the country on this pen, and it's likely that if these nibs prove popular we could ask for even more options. This pen is still too new to be proven successful in the fountain pen community, but it made the list because it shows that even the larger pen companies are really starting to take notice of our preferences and engage with us about what we want.
7) Delta Unica (in Orange Celluloid), $76
Early in the year Delta released the Unica, the most affordable Delta pen made to-date. We dragged our feet carrying it until we had the opportunity for an exclusive color, the Orange Celluloid. This is really a tease because it's a pen that was only available for about a week, and will likely never be made again. When we first talked with Delta about making the affordable Unica pen out of the same orange celluloid that's used in their flagship Dolce Vita pens, we couldn't believe they agreed to it! We thought it was too good to be true, and it turns out that it was.
We received an initial shipment of 100 pens and thought it would be a regular offering of ours, until Delta told us they couldn't afford the celluloid materials to use on these pens any longer. It takes about two years to prepare this celluloid, and they couldn't afford to use it for the Unica when there are other pens that require it. It was an unbelievable bargain when it was available for only $85. I can pretty much assure you that this will never happen again, and it is probably the most affordable pen that will ever come in a true celluloid. It was an honor to be a little part of pen history here, and if you have one of these pens, don't let it go!
6) Rhodia ICE Notebooks, $1.69-$9
To celebrate Rhodia's 80th anniversary, they released a white-cover notebook with light gray lines that were a huge hit this year. Pen companies release new colors and models all the time, but it's far less common for paper companies to release new products, especially for a line as established as Rhodia's top-staplebound pads. These notebooks were a wonderful commemoration to Rhodia's founding, and brought some excitement to the brand.
5) Omas Ogiva Alba, $495
Not only is this one of the most affordable fountain pens Omas has right now, but it's a special commemoration of their 90th anniversary. This pen is layered with historical significance for the company, and part of that history has been their collaboration with us as exclusive dealers of the pen (until now). We had an exclusive on it through 2014, and now it will open up to other retailers. During the release though, Omas opened up their factory doors to us to give us insight into their history and manufacturing like we've never seen before. Not only has this pen been significant this year, the way that Omas opened themselves up as a company showed us what makes a pen worth $495. It was an honor for us to have this exclusive, and to align our company with Omas, which shares such similar values to our own.
4) Pilot Metropolitan, Fine Nibs, $15
Looking back to the first blog post I did on the Pilot Metropolitan over two years ago (back when it was just three colors and medium nibs only), I made the prediction that it would become one of the most popular starter pens -- "as popular as the Preppy or Safari," I wrote. That's definitely proven to be true, though it was missing a fine nib. Almost as soon as it was released, we started asking Pilot for a fine nib. Please, please, please, please, please we kept asking them, and it took a year and a half but they made it happen! In the United States we have notoriously terrible and absorbent paper, so for most knockabout use it's good to have fine and extra-fine nibs to keep feathering and bleeding to a minimum. Pilot's fine nib on the Metropolitan did not disappoint, and it has surpassed the medium nib as the more popular choice. I've touted this pen so much already, so I'll just leave it where it is. For $15, you really can't do much better than the fine Metro.
3) Edison Nouveau Premiere Seasonal Editions (in Autumn Harvest), $149
Four years ago when we first came out with the Edison Nouveau Premiere as a collaborative pen design with Brian and Andrea Gray over at Edison Pens, we had no idea it would become as popular as it has. It was the first production Edison pen, and has really been a stepping stone for Edison to expand to other retailers and other pen models including the Collier, Herald, Pearlette, and Beaumont.
Late last year, Rachel had the idea to come out with a seasonal Premiere, as part of the most fun we have is picking new colors for pens! This concept would allow us to be more adventurous in our color selection and keep things fresh and exciting for you. It's been a huge hit with each season's color gaining in popularity, but the Autumn Harvest from the Fall 2014 really stands out above the rest. It was incredibly popular, so much so that we used up all of the available material just as the season was coming to a close. We literally made as many pens as we could out of this material. We'll keep this going in future seasons, though Autumn Harvest sets a pretty high bar to reach.
2) Noodler's Neponset, $75
Like most Noodler's products, this pen is sure to bring out a lot of extreme feelings, most good, some not-so-good. Love them or hate them, you have to admit that Noodler's has a way of pushing the envelope in the fountain pen world. I would argue that Nathan Tardif, the man behind the Noodler's brand, has influenced the modern fountain pen world more than any other single individual. His inks pushed the boundaries of what people thought ink could do, and his politically charged themes generate more conversation online about his inks than any other brand, hands down.
When he released his first flex pens years ago, they were completely revolutionary. We had massive outages and it would take four to six months for us to get restocked. As time went on, supply got much better, and newer models including the Ahab and Konrad came out. Now there are certain colors and materials that tend to be out for a while, but if you want a Noodler's Flex pen you can get one (that definitely was not always the case a couple of years ago).
The latest model to come out is the Neponset, the largest and most expensive Noodler's pen to date. I'd actually first heard about this pen in a phone conversation I had with Nathan nearly four years ago, yeah, four years ago! I kept my mouth shut all this time, and Nathan himself first talked about it in a 2013 Noodler's Art Contest video. Since then, everyone's been curious about it. The winner of that art contest (who received a prototype Neponset as a prize) then sent it to famous video pen blogger Stephen Brown, who got everyone all jazzed up about it :) At this point, I'd still never seen the pen in person!
It wasn't long after that before we got our first shipment of them, and we decided to do a timed release due to the incredibly high demand. We'd been through this exercise before with previous Noodler's pen releases, though it was about a year and a half since we'd done one (the first release of the Ebonite Noodler's Konrads in spring 2013 was the last one). We planned for it, did our release, and all of the pens were gone in 26 minutes. Two of the three colors sold out in the first 3-6 minutes. We packed them all up that day, and they were gone. Came and went, in one day! Since then we've received one other shipment of them in acrylic, though we haven't talked about them too much because supply hasn't yet kept up with demand. We're told that more are coming though, a lot more. And hopefully soon.
So why all the fuss? It's a solid ebonite (or acrylic) pen with a flexible music nib, ebonite feed, and piston or eyedropper-fill with an unbelievable ink capacity. It's a very wet, very broad pen so it's not for everyone, but for those who like to draw and do artsy stuff, it's a tool like no other.
1) J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey, $26
And here is #1, undisputed. When I was first told about this ink in development I got really excited, thought to myself "yeah yeah, okay, they say it'll have a gold sheen but I need to see this for myself". I had the honor of seeing it pre-release when I met up with a rep from Exaclair at the DC pen show in August, and WHOA, they were not joking about a gold sheen! This ink literally sparkles, like you'd written with a glitter pen! It's like no other ink I've seen.
The 1670 line was originally just one ink, Rouge Hematite, that was released in 2010 for the 340th anniversary of J. Herbin. It was so unique and so popular, they continued to make it beyond 2010 (thank goodness) and it's been their most popular ink by far. In 2012 they released the next 1670 ink, Bleu Ocean, which is a nice ink...but has no sheen. It was kind of a letdown, as the sheen is what we all came to expect from the 1670 line. They definitely made up for that with Stormy Grey; this ink sheens like nothing you've ever seen, and people are going crazy over it.
Certainly an ink like this raises a lot of questions, especially with how it performs in certain pens and if it will clog up feeds (the warning label on the box certainly catches your attention). It has visible gold flakes that settle in the bottle, and even in your pen, relatively quickly. You have to shake the dickens out of it, but it actually isn't as scary as their warning makes it sound. Be conscious of the pen you're putting it in, but the reports we're hearing about it's clogging isn't bad at all. It's actually a pretty friendly ink in most pens. I think this is part of the reason people are going so crazy over it. It's unique, performs well, comes in a beautiful bottle, and is truly captivating to see that gold sheen on paper. The less absorbent the paper and the wetter the pen, the more this beautiful sheen will come out.
As with any immensely popular new release product, this one is running out of stock quickly, so snatch it up when you can. I imagine they'll eventually have a regular supply, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took 6-8 months for it to truly be regularly available. J. Herbin is on a pattern now of releasing a 1670 ink every two years, so will we see another one come in 2016? If I did know, I wouldn't be able to say :) But I'd be curious to know what you think we'll see...
There are many products that I could easily have put in this top-10 list, so I wanted to recognize them with a quick thought on why they're significant:
- Platinum Preppy Extra-fine: It's a smooth, extra-fine Japanese nib on a sub-$5 pen, what more can I say?
- Goulet Grip: I'm a little biased here because I developed this product, but still, it's a handy tool that allows you to pull nibs and feeds out of your pen and it didn't really exist anywhere, which is why I wanted to offer it
- Conklin Duragraph: A new brand to Goulet, this is the most affordable Conklin pen and preforms really well, though stock has been spotty so far so it will likely not really pick up steam until early 2015
- Monteverde 36-pen case: Pen storage for just over $1 per pen, what's not to love about that!
- Super5 inks: Similar to the De Atramentis Document inks, these lightfast and waterproof inks are likely to be popular among artists, though they're a brand-new company so they're unproven so far.
2014 was a phenomenal year for fountain pen enthusiasts, no doubt. The number of new products that we're seeing come out is really exciting. The products that made this list weren't just new colors of existing pen models; I really wanted to feature ones that pushed the envelope. I already know of some things set to come out in 2015 that will also be influential, and this is a wonderful trend to see.
Of course these products are all ones from my store because these are the ones I know best, so you will very likely have different views than me. What are the new fountain pen-related products that have been most influential for you in 2014?