I Can Only Keep One?

Rachel at Rachel’s Reflections put a stationery spin on the idea of only keeping one example of all the different brands one might own for something. I was interested to read her fountain pen choices, as well as those from Brad at The Pen Addict and Ana at The Well-Appointed Desk.

I wondered about what choices I’d make from my collection. At first, I thought it might be hard to do. Once I dove in, the choices were clearer. That gives rise to some interesting questions for discussion another time. But let’s see how the choices break down first.

I don’t have multiple pens from every brand I own. In cases where I do, the totals vary widely. I’ve listed each pen owned for the brands in this exercise to show what I’m choosing from.


Ipsilon — Optima

The Choice: The Ipsilon is a simpler pen but suits my general needs better. It has a certain style that sets it apart from other mid-range everyday pens. The medium nib was good but unremarkable until a grind from Gena Salorino made it a more interesting writer. The Optima is a beautiful pen. It was the first pen I bought in that price category and felt like a big deal at the time, but I would choose to keep the Ipsilon.


JR — J

The Choice: No thinking required here. The J is a time-tested classic that always performs. The JR is fine but nothing more. 


20p — 45 — 65

The Choice: I like the smaller size of the 20p and 45 to carry in the pocket, but the 65 is a better fit when you want to spend time writing. I also find the clear material of the 65 more compelling to look at.


AL Sport — Art Sport — Perkeo — Student — Classic Sport (x2)

The Choice: The Sport is clearly a model I prefer and the Art Sport is the best version of it I’ve used. The beautiful acrylic and built in clip make it a more pleasing pen to look at and to carry. Whether those features are worth a $100 premium over a standard Sport is up to the individual. If you like the Sport overall and one of the Art Sport colors speaks to you, I’d say it’s worth a shot. 


King of Pen — Fude de Mannen — 1911S — Pro Gear Slim

The Choice: The Fude offers tons of fun and versatility for low cost. The King of Pen is overpriced at its normal rate. However, the King of Pen is one of the best writers I’ve ever used. I wouldn’t change anything on it. 


Desk Pen — 3776 — Prefounte — Preppy

The Choice: It’s between the Desk Pen and the Prefounte. The Desk Pen is a more specialized tool than most pens. The Prefounte, which I would choose every time over the Preppy as a daily carry, has the versatility I generally prefer. But the Desk Pen and its extra fine nib do their thing very well. It fills a certain spot that other pens don’t.


2000 — Safari — Vista — Studio

The Choice: The Vista was the first fountain pen I chose to buy when I dipped my toes in the hobby over 8 years ago, which gives it significance. I’ve never gotten tired of it or thought any less of it despite all the other pens that have shared the drawer. The 2000 is a great pen and longtime icon of the Lamy brand, but it’s not the Lamy that lives in my heart. That pen is the Vista.


Craftsman — No Nonsense — Old Timer

School Pen — Tuckaway — Targa

The Choice: The Targa has a lot of what I like in a pen. I admire the School Pen for being cheap and rugged while delivering nice performance. The No Nonsense line are great writers with the look of a classic pen reborn for later generations. More to that point, the Old Timer is a No Nonsense made to look even more like the early 20th century flat tops. Many makers, whether of pens or other things, try to recapture or reinterpret the past and miss. Not Sheaffer in this case. The Old Timer nails it.

(In fairness, if I ever get a nice old Lifetime Balance it might require reevaluation of this choice. Until then…)

The last two brands are Parker and Pilot. They are my favorites and I have more of their pens by a large margin over other brands. In addition to listing the full group I own, I’ve also included a short list of finalists from which the ultimate choice was made.


17 — 25 (x2) — 45 (x5) — 50 — 61 — 75 — VP

Duofold International — Duofold Maxima

Vacumatic — Sonnet (x3) — Rialto

Diamond Medal (Parker-made brand for someone else)

The Short List: 45, Duofold Maxima, Sonnet Ciselé, Vacumatic

The Choice: The final four all have strong cases. The Sonnet Ciselé is a modern-day classic, with its silver body and black grid. The Duofold Maxima is a different pen from the older big red Duofolds or the modern Centennial/International versions. Naming aside, the Maxima has great looks, feel, and writing performance. The Vacumatic stands apart from all other pens in my mind. It’s the best-looking pen I’ve ever seen and a titan in the history of pens. However, I would keep the 45. The red one with the stub nib passed on to me from my mom. It means so much to me that I couldn’t possibly choose another Parker above it.


Custom — Custom 74 — Custom 845 — Custom 912 — CH92

Custom K500SS — E95S — Tank — Quatro — Prera — Metropolitan (x2)

Desk Pen — Decimo (x2) — Kakuno (x2) — Plumix (x2)

The Short List: Custom 845, Decimo, Metropolitan

The Choice: I thought this would be the hardest choice of all. The Metropolitan is another highly significant pen from early days in the hobby. The 845 is a pen I had never even dreamed of buying until maybe a year ago. The Decimo is an engineering marvel offering the ultimate in quick writing convenience. Based on what compelled my choices of the Lamy Vista and Parker 45, the Metropolitan should take the cake, but I won’t choose it. Nor am I choosing the Custom 845 even though the dream can now be held in my hand. I choose the Decimo. Many pens write beautifully each time you use them, but I would not take all those pens out into the world with me daily. Many of them would do the bulk of their writing at home. Not the Decimo. It goes everywhere and it does everything. It is the all day every day champion.

To recap, my keep only one” choices are Aurora Ipsilon, Esterbrook J, Franklin-Christoph 65, Kaweco Art Sport, Sailor King of Pen, Platinum Desk Pen, Lamy Vista, Sheaffer Old Timer, Parker 45, and Pilot Decimo.

Surprised by anything I picked?


24 April 2024