A new pen caught my eye browsing Amazon last week. I’ve long wondered when Amazon might bring a fountain pen into its white-label portfolio under the “AmazonBasics” brand name and it has finally happened. For only $9.99 and available with either a Fine or Medium nib this pen seems like it could be a new go-to starter pen, if it’s any good that is. I went ahead and ordered one so I could be the judge of that and I’m happy to share that judgement with you below.
As to be expected with AmazonBasics, the pen packaging while surprisingly substantial for ten dollars is also very plain. There’s an outer cardboard box with a standard AmazonBasics label and an inner black clamshell box which has a good feel to it but is unfortunately completely unmarked on its exterior, which means that it’s a 50-50 shot whether you will open it with the pen upside down or not. Inside of the box, assuming the contents don’t fall out upside down, you will find a pen, an instructions pamphlet, and two AmazonBasics black ink cartridges (there is a third cartridge waiting for you upside down in the pen barrel as well.) The pen takes a standard international connection, so while it only comes with these three black short cartridges, you can freely swap in other ink colors from other brands, or even a standard international converter.
I’ll mention now that I’ve been unable to place the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of this fountain pen. I did a little digging, and attempted to compare against a variety of makers from various regions, but at the time of publishing this article I haven’t been able to pinpoint anyone. That isn’t a knock against this pen; many pens on the market are branded as one company but made by another. Brands like Opus 88 and TWSBI got their start as OEMs producing pens for other brands, so the usage of OEMs is a good thing for the market as it allows lesser known and unknown brands to get their productions up and running at scale before going out on their own, rather than having to start small under their own name.
I mention this now because the AmazonBasics cartridges that came with the pen struck me, specifically the design of the closed bottom of the cartridge. I’ve seen that similar sort of “two ring stopper” design at the bottom of other cartridges being sold under generic names on Amazon in the past. I have no idea if the same firm is making both the pens and the cartridges, or if they are sourced separately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw AmazonBasics cartridge packs showing up for individual sale at some point as well.
Taking a closer look at the pen we find an elegant, solid, design with minimal branding, only on the clip. The #5 nib doesn’t have ornate scrollwork or references to its materials, only a single letter size indicator. The feed looks like a standard plastic feed. The clip has some good give but there’s no separate spring here; you’re bending the metal and if you bend it too far it may give out (not uncommon among pens though, especially at this price point.)
The nib unit didn’t immediately screw or pull out when I tried it and I’m not interested in forcing it, but honestly one of the biggest surprises of this pen was that the nib is incredibly smooth. Normally on a ten dollar pen I might be interested to see if I can swap out the presumably cheap nib for something better, but this nib has been one of my best “out of the box” experiences, rivaling much more expensive pens. The M nib writes as a western medium, with a surprisingly capable extra-fine reverse tip as well. I don’t know whether the reserve writing is intentional or if I just got very lucky, but this is the best reverse writing experience I’ve had outside of a nib that I had ground specifically with that purpose in mind. I didn’t buy a second one of these pens to test their quality control, but based on my experience with this nib alone the pen is already well worth it’s ten dollars.
The pen also has a great weight to it. The barrel is black-lacquered brass, and you can feel the heft when you hold the pen and write with it. If you prefer the lightweight feel of titanium or molded plastic or kitless acrylic pens then this may not be for you. But if you prefer having some weight to help your pen glide along a page, or just feeing like you are holding something substantial in your hand, then this may be a feature you will really appreciate.
I wanted to give you an idea of the size of this pen and I thought what better way to do it than to place it side-by-side with another recent addition to the $10 pen market, the Platinum Prefounte. As you can see, the two pens are incredibly close in size with the Prefounte being ever so slightly longer uncapped and the Amazon pen being the tiniest bit longer when posted. If you were choosing between these two pens size would not be a factor in your decision at all, but rather weight (the Prefounte, as a plastic pen, is much much lighter) and which pen has the nib size that you need (Amazon’s offering comes in a western F or M, Platinum’s in an eastern EF, F, or M.)
To sum it up, I’ve judged this AmazonBasics fountain pen to be surprisingly good for the money. I’ve only been using it for a few days now, so time will tell how it holds up, but that was the real reason I was so interested in it to begin with. If you know where to look, it’s not hard to find impressive looking fountain pens for only a few dollars, often made by off-brand or no-name factories and then shipped in bulk to online resellers. Experiences with these cheap pens can be very hit or miss though, and if you have an issue then, unless you’ve bought through a reputable retailer who will take care if you (but probably also charges a higher premium on the price of the pen), you’re out of luck. Amazon selling a “cheap” pen under their own name, and with an AmazonBasics one year warranty is significant, because it means that this is a cheap pen with a reputable name behind it (even if they just white labeled it rather than making it themselves) and the possibility to call Amazon if your pen is having troubles and have them dispatch a replacement rather than just a refund makes this potentially a great pen to point tentative beginners to, or to give as a gift. Time will tell how reliable it is, and no one wants to have to deal with regularly occurring pen issues, but if the experience stays generally as smooth as it was right out of the box, then this may be the new “cheap starter pen” recommendation. Especially if they come out with a few more colors…
This pen was purchased at full retail price from Amazon.com for the purposes of this review. No promotional consideration was involved in the writing of this review. If you’re interested in purchasing this pen for yourself, please feel free to use our Amazon Associate link here. https://amzn.to/2RYlEqB