Goulet Q&A Episode 184: Pen Pricing, TWSBI Lineup, & How Brian Catalogs His Pen Collection

In this episode, I talk about pen pricing, the differences between all the TWSBI pens, and how I catalog my pen collection!

This week:


1) @ExiledTexan66- Twitter (6:40)
What is your criteria or metric for determining if a pen is over or under priced? It seems personal preferences play a large role for people
  • it is all completely relative
  • not only is it relative based on personal preference, but it’s relative based on geographic location, economic demographic, and a bunch of other factors
  • a lot of non-fountain-pen-people think basically all fountain pens are overpriced! But they might buy a $1000 phone, so go figure
  • for me, it’s very fundamental and based on one thing: comparables
  • I had my real estate license when I first graduated college and that was what I used a lot to determine “value”, it was very fluid
  • you compare what other similar pens there are, what the market is, how rare the materials are, etc
  • it’s harder and harder to determine value as you have fewer comps (like high-end LE’s), easier with lower-priced commodity pens
  • like anything else, emotion can play into it and skew the comps too, like if there’s a particular color or material or theme that’s meaningful, or hits at the right time, or if there’s a trademarked theme on one pen that can’t be used on others (like Game of Thrones for example)
2) Tammy S.- Facebook (10:42)
Can glass dip pens be ground or filed to a broad point or even a stub to use with shimmering inks? I’m thinking J. Herbin 1670 Emerald of Chivor for signing Christmas cards.
  • Glass dip pens can be ground, yes
  • you can always grind broader, finer gets to be pretty impossible because of the way the fluting is designed
  • stub, not really feasible
  • the nibs are fluted, and will only “flow” when the pen is able to be rotated so the fluting contacts the page
  • stubs would flow considerably less
  • most glass pens write pretty wet though, so would actually look pretty good with shimmer! As long as your cards can handle it…
3) jaaamjarrr- Instagram (17:15)
Can you talk through all the major differences between each of the TWSBI pens? I’m a bit stuck deciding between them.
Ink4) kruthikarshankar- Instagram (33:31)
Can I mix the Pilot IroshiZuku inks ?!
  • great question!
  • I know plenty who have, never heard of an issue with it
  • not sure of the official Pilot response on it, there’s nothing on their bottles or in their marketing materials that says one way or another
  • feel free to try, experiment a couple of ml at a time
  • let it sit for a couple of hours before inking in a (not super valuable) pen
  • do it at your own risk, as with all ink mixing


5) belkomtu- Instagram (39:23)

What is the inspiration for each of the Goulet cards? Which are your favorites? I really like them and would love know more about them.
  • the artwork itself came from Monday Matchup, which was an inspiration to show pen/ink combinations on our social media
  • we’ve done handwritten notes on every order we’ve mailed out since day one, and the cards were created as a more practical means of achieving this as we grew
  • we switched to  the cards from writing on the packing slips about a year ago
  • the back catalog of artwork we’d done for Monday Matchup seemed like a great asset to include on these cards, so we put them on the thank you cards as we started using them
  • due to popular requests, we decided to make them available for sale relatively recently, this past summer
  • we will come out with some new ones as we go along, but we’re still kind of experimenting and learning from the process of actually selling them

6) gordonand3- Instagram (45:45)

How do you determine appropriate staffing levels/positions for a small business? Less staff equals more profit but obviously poor service will diminish profit. Having said that it seems you guys are awesome employers!
  • this is cool to talk about, because we’re really intentional about our team here at Goulet Pens
  • firstly, less staff MIGHT mean more profit, or might not
  • it all depends on what they’re doing
  • if you have salespeople that are bringing in more revenue than you are paying out, you can essentially hire infinitely because there’s positive cashflow there
  • you can’t just generalize and whether hiring is good or not, it’s very, very contextual
  • when you’re small and first starting out, staffing is absolutely essential, and every hire and the timing of it matters so much
  • if money’s tight, wait as long as you can possibly stand before hiring! try to do as much as you can yourself, as long as it’s practical and you’re not doing an atrocious job
  • if you have proper funding, you can consider hiring proper talent, outsourcing, or hiring ahead of the need, though there’s risk involved with all these
  • what we’ve struggled with here at Goulet Pens is the pace at which we’ve grown, the diversity of skills needed, and proper documentation, training, and leadership all along the way
  • we’ve been continually stretched, sometimes hiring way, way too late where it’s held us back, we’ve been overworked, stressed, and sick
  • we’ve hiring ahead, then people are walking around bored and worried because the growth hasn’t caught up yet
  • it’s kind of always a tug and pull trying to be perfectly staffed at all times, and there will always need to be wiggle room
  • that’s why working as a team and being flexible is so important
  • now that we’re a little bigger, we will have folks from some teams help out others when it makes sense, and keeping good communication and trust is key here
  • you’ll hit certain milestones where you have compliance around Worker’s Comp, ADA, ACA, that will impact your expenses in a stepped fixed cost
  • figuring all this out varies based on your industry, your local government, and yourself
  • consider consulting with a tax advisor or CPA, HR consulting company to get your head around it at different sizes


7) jeremygunkel- Instagram (55:41)

Tacos…hard shell or soft shell?
  • Wed. October 4 is Taco Day, apparently!
  • I love them all! I don’t discriminate taco shells, I enjoy both equally
  • health wise, the hard corn taco shell would be my deciding factor tho
  • I dig the double-decker 😉
  • Rachel’s all for the hard shells
  • right now we aren’t eating either, no gluten, flour or corn, bummer
  • what I really wonder about is everyone’s taco stuffing order! for me it’s always cheese, meat, cheese, tomato, avocado (optional), lettuce

8) Ruth-Ellen S.- Facebook (58:03)

Can you talk about how you store and catalog your pen collection. I enjoy your videos.
  • this has been an evolution as my collection has grown!
  • I bought the Alex from Ikea
  • pen trays I bought from Pendora pens, I’ve seen others online too
  • I alphabetize them by brand and somewhat by model
  • I keep a “to be cleaned” drawer and a “to be cataloged” drawer
  • I keep a spreadsheet of basic information about the pens
  • cases I keep in clear containers labeled loosely by brand, only relevant ones or LE’s
  • I will keep pen cases in my backpack for transport too, of many varieties as I’m always looking to test them
QOTW: If you could have a tree in your backyard, that grows any one type of food, what would it be? (1:04:26)

Write On,
Brian Goulet
2017-10-11T22:55:28+00:00 September 29th, 2017|Goulet Q&A|23 Comments
  • Mary Ellen Litzinger

    DQ Mini-Blizzards (any time of year!)

    • Kathy

      I miss the mint M&M ones! They are the best!

      • Mary Ellen Litzinger

        I agree Kathy! Although Butterfingers and Heath Bars are terrific and they never seem to go out of style 😋😋…

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Perfect answer!

  • Lisa Vierra

    Liver and onions with rice and gravy. Or steak, medium-rare with a nice bit of char. Or Mac and cheese, the baked kind.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Mmmmm Mac and cheese!

  • Your family may enjoy the book Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13337050-dragons-love-tacos

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      That looks like a cute one!

  • Tom Johnson

    A great Q&A Brian, no end to really good questions, is there? So glad you took time to show the TWSBI inkwells. They are wonderful. I don’t think you mentioned that the Diamond 50 inkwell has a cut glass faceted well, very heavy, very stable on your desk. They look fantastic. The several I bought 3 years ago look like the facets are actually cut, not molded. The edges are sharp, no mold seam in the glass nor casting marks. The anodized aluminum cap is super high quality. A lot of inkwell for your $$. I loved seeing your pen collection and how you have it all organized.

    QOTW – I would love to have a tree that grew steamed shrimp. I’d sit under the tree with a bowl of cocktail sauce and pick off the hot shrimp, peel and eat. Yum. How in the world did you come up with that question? Someone at Goulet must have been hungry one day. “Smell those shrimp, they’re beginning to boil”.

    • David L.

      I’m with you on the shrimp, Tom!

    • Kathy

      Oh, a fellow Parrothead!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Wow! That’s an interesting idea, Tom! Do you like your shrimp steamed with Old Bay? That’s how my family enjoys them.

      • Tom Johnson

        Lydia, I do, but Bonnie doesn’t. When we eat out, the places around here don’t offer Old Bay seasoned shrimp like the did where we lived near the Chesapeake Bay.

        • Lydia At Goulet Pens

          Interesting! My mom gets it steamed in Old Bay everytime she gets shrimp from the grocery store. It’s only of my family’s favorite meals over some linguine.

  • David L.

    Great Q&A! I was really surprised by question seven. I love tacos (as long as it’s not fast food tacos).

    QOTW: Tom had a good point with the shrimp. I could have shrimp for every meal and never tire of it. Although, having a tree that grew me a venison tenderloin would be great as well.

    Great questions as always. I’m surprised that they keep coming in! I cannot decide between a TWSBI Diamond 580 and a Mini. The only problem I see with the 580 is that it doesn’t come with the black cap and piston knob. I’m waiting on that to come out.

  • Kathy

    Great Q&A and I love the QOTW! I think a pizza tree, with eggplant, banana peppers, black olive and ricotta cheese toppings, would be wonderful. Maybe not the healthiest, but the yummiest!

    • Danise

      Looks like I’ll be buying eggplant at the Farmer’s Mkt. Wednesday AM !!!!

  • JET

    Quite a while back you showed us your pilot M90. I am obsessed and searching to acquire one. What is your advise on purchasing vintage, discontinued, or limited edition pens?

  • Angel

    Thanks for another great Q&A!! I really enjoyed learning more about the different TWSBI’s.

    QOTW – Im afraid I’m not going to very original on this one…I live in the Midwest but grew up in CA. One of the things I really miss is vine-ripened fruit. My dad loved to garden and we had lots of fruit trees – oranges, peaches, plums, cherries, and a grape arbor. I’d love a tree that grew in MY backyard with all the fruits of my childhood.

  • _s_s_miles

    QOTW – it’s really a riff on the lovely Rachel’s tacos, but I like my Mexican food a bit more messy than that, so I’d have to say a big plate of NACHOS! Beef, beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeños; … the works, basically.

    I really like your pen storage, so the next logical question is how do you store your own personal ink collection? This is something I’ve been struggling a lot with, since I have an incredible plethora of ink samples (from your sorely missed Ink Drop subscription) as well as several dozen bottles of my favorite inks, in bottles with disparate shapes & sizes (i.e. Caran d’Ache’s leaning Chromatics vs. Akkerman’s tall genie-type bottles).

  • Lucinda Nicely

    Mine would be the tree of Love! Everyone needs to eat from this one!

  • Brendle

    Any tree except the avocado tree.

  • Uniotter

    Late to the party on this one, but have to agree with the pizza tree. 😀 Liked seeing those TWSBIs and the inkwells especially….I’d always wondered about those.