[Update 6/3/2020:] It appears that some of the crabs out there which were presumed to be copies may actually have just gone through distribution channels that Ahnitol was not aware of. This is great news because it means that more of the crabs out there are genuine and support the original artist. I would continue to recommend patronizing merchants who give credit to Ahnitol in their listings.
Crab pen-holders came seemingly out of nowhere and took the stationery community by storm last year. Featuring a cute appearance and a handful of different colors, members of the community started importing the little crabs through Etsy, and later some pen stores even began carrying them online. Sadly, many of the cute little crabs making the rounds on Instagram and online forums in our community have turned out in fact to be copies, lifting their design from a Japanese artist who goes by Ahnitol. Today I’d like to spread the word about the fakes, and show you how you can obtain the legitimate work of the original artist. I won’t bury the lede, the answer is to go to the artist’s website at http://ahnitol.com, but I’ll walk you through the ordering process a little later.
I will say up front that I have zero affiliation with Ahnitol, but I did receive their blessing to share this message. I also am not interested in calling out by name any vendors who have been selling non-official merchandise or shaming anyone who bought any knock-off products; my goal is just to inform consumers so they know where to go for the authentic product, as so many of us had no idea there was an inauthentic product to begin with.
In addition to supporting the artist who created this design, another reason to buy legitimate crabs is that Ahnitol has more than two dozen different colors of the little guys. Whereas the listings most people have seen offer only orange, blue, green, and purple, Ahnitol has offerings in black, brown, white, mottled, and much much more. There is also the “Horror Crab” with cartoon human eyes painted on its eyestalks. The black crab that I purchased recently is the one model with gold eyes, and I love that little bit of contrast.
The legitimate crabs arrive in the above clear box with Ahnitol’s information on the side. @ahnitol on Twitter is also a great way to contact the artist. On the reverse side is Ahnitol’s fish logo.
As far as ordering goes, the instructions are on http://ahnitol.com, but the basic idea is that Ahnitol will ship their products directly to you with a minimum order of 4,000 yen worth of items (most crabs are 800 yen each, so five crabs hits the minimum.) There are additional shipping charges that vary around the globe, but if you don’t mind waiting a few months the cost is very cheap (and even the faster shipping is fairly reasonable considering they are shipped from Japan.) At the time of writing, 1 yen is worth 0.93 US cents, so you can divide prices by 100 to give you a rough idea of the price in dollars. It is also worth noting that the faster airmail option is not currently shipping to a variety of countries, such as the United States and Australia, amidst the global pandemic.
The “catch” to it is that there is no online order form or web store. Instead you will have to contact Ahnitol directly via email or Twitter DM to make arrangements. From my experience they generally respond to messages reasonably quickly, so you shouldn’t be waiting days to hear back. Payment is accepted via PayPal, bank transfer, or WeChat.
I really like these little guys. I probably should have ordered more of them before posting this piece, in case the colors that I want to add to my collection sell out before I can place my order. My understanding is that these crabs were originally designed to hold artist’s implements, like Wacom styluses and coloring pencils, but of course that translates perfectly to the world of fountain pens. Ahnitol has had this design for sale at shows for many years, and has a few other pen holder designs available for sale on their website as well. I look forward to seeing more designs and colors in the future.
The pen holders featured in this article were purchased at full price through a website that imports Japanese pop culture books, toys, and games, prior to Ahnitol opening their website for direct sales.