Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide Penstravaganza!

It's always around this time of year when I start to get a few emails and comments from people asking about gifts and they usually go something like this:

Hey Good Pens Guy Dude:  I LOVE your blog...but I need some potential gift ideas for my (fill in the blank) girlfriend, sister, room mate, father, Siamese twin etc. and oh..they really like pens.
Usually I try my best to gather some info and put a response together but this year,  I thought that I would put a little buying guide together for you and pass along some knowledge hopefully saving you some time and energy.  Don't get me wrong,  I am still happy to answer your emails.

First of all, some words of warning and getting rid of all the legal mumbo-jumbo.  In terms of warnings....there are two types of people that you could be potentially be buying for. 1. Pen people. 2. Non-Pen People. Know the difference.  They are similar in looks and stature but should be treated slightly differently (more to follow on this.) The Legal stuff:  I have zero affiliation with any links or sites or anything else I am about to post.  I just had a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau and The Walking Dead is on so who knows what that this could bring.

Here's the deal, it's still November and there is no need to panic. Go down through your list, who do you want to buy pen stuff for? Cool, Crazy Uncle Benny would be perfect.  Let's make a list.

First piece of advice...don't just go out and buy a fountain pen unless you are pretty sure the person might use it. Don't get me wrong, an unused pen that can get passed down is a cool thing,  but a pen that will get used and appreciated is a better gift. Also,  like I said, you have time:  Sneak into the persons house late at night that you are buying for and take a look at what kind of pens they use (don't do this.)  That way you know what sort of pen to buy. (Don't do this.)

1. Pens,  Non-Fountain, low cost version.  Everyone knows I am crazy for the Zebra Sarasa's.  They have a sweet spot in my heart.  Perfect colors, perfect points and at around $2 each they are dreamy. (Did I really just call a pen dreamy?  Yes,  yes I did.)  I buy them from the Japanese Pen stores when I am in NYC or San Fransisco or Jetpens carries them.  Buy a set, rave about how hard they are to find and thank me later. Stay away from CVS and Staples,  nothing good can come from this. Uncle Benny will haunt you for the rest of your life if you do this.  Uniball's  are nice.  The secret is to buy a few colors and sizes and let them pick a favorite.

1.a  Pens, Non-Fountain Medium and High Cost Versions- You know... I kinda like my Lamy's.  Rarely have they disappointed me. I never really had to do much to they to keep them flowing and it's a name that most will recognize.  Here's one I like that can get picked up for about $60 or so the Lamy Studio Roller ball. The Cross Affinity is popular also or any Parker Sonnet at this level would be nice. Oh and buy a couple refills for roller balls.  It really makes it easier on the person getting the gift.  It's much less likely to get thrown in a drawer once it runs dry. Think about his for the business guy/ graduate/ sister in law for the match here.

What?  you have more to spend?  Hold off there sparky, It is not worth it to spend more than that on one pen at this level. Let's move on and since you asked: stay away from brush pens or pen and pencil sets.  Too quirky and too predictable. (In that order.) If you want to spend more,  go with a combo gift (details below.)

2. Fountain Pens. Low Cost Version.  Yee-Haw.  My possible favorite category. For the Non-Pen Person, you could be introducing them to a whole new world without killing your pocketbook.  For the Pen lovers...any fountain pen will be appreciated. Honestly it's rare that a pen guy will frown upon a new pen. Low cost is probably around $25. Anything less than $8 is likely disposable,  anything more than $50 will creep into the next category. The Lamy Nexx is nice. Pelikens are fun and durable.  I love the Lamy Vista Demonstrators (more on these later.) in fact, tons of Lamy's in this category will work. The Sheaffer Prelude is a Classic. Even Rotring has something in this category.

Ok,  shhhhh,  here's a secret:  It will be another one in the list as well but buy some ink along with the fountain pen.  If it's a cartridge pen, try to find a converter for it instead of cartridges. (Just ask, they will know) Wrap it up,  put a bow on it and wait for the return gifts. Wait,  I am being told that is not what the Holidays are about.  Moving on.

2.a  Fountain Pens. Medium Cost Version.  This one is fun also. Here's the trick,  finding your comfort zone (in terms of dollars) and matching that with a potential pen.  Having a secret that only you and AMEX know is fun,  but don't let it drive you crazy.  Here's another secret,  a lot of fountain people like demonstrators. Back in the day, they were used to show people the inner working of pens.  Now... they are just plain cool. This Pilot Prera from JetPens rocks.  Google them,  tons of choices.   The Sheaffer 300 is nice at around $100 and I also like Waterman Phileas line.   Here's the only kicker: fountain pens come in different size nibs so be aware of this.  I like EF (Extra Fine)  Fine (F)  is usually a safe, but some people like Mediums.  I know I am not helping here.  Just giving you a heads up. Your stalking skills will come in handy here.

2. Fountain Pens. High Cost Version.  Skip this section. Again,  unless it's on their list as a HAVE to HAVE Christmas item and you know exactly what the person wants...don't don't do it.  Just being expensive does not mean that the person will love/use it. And...unless you know what you are doing,  avoid used fountain pens on eBay,  yes there are some great deals out there but its not that unusual to buy a fountain pen on eBay needs some work. Not a cool gift.  It's easy to spend $1000 on a fountain pen,  it's not easy to sneak in how much you paid for it to the person that has no idea what you just bought them. I will admit the Vanishing Point by Pilot is still pretty sweet. It's not for the novice,  but a really fine gift for those who know their way around a pen.

3. Mechanical Pencils  Are you kidding me?  Mechanicals make a nice gift. A lot of people have really cheap Mechanical Pencils.  Not a lot of people have really nice Mechanical Pencils.  I have given one or two of these away as gifts and I hope they are well used.   Coolness tip:  Drafting or Architect pencils are a sweet gift for dudes.  Again,  be aware that there are different size leads available from the super fat the the ultra thin.  .5 is usually a safe bet.  Here are some of my favorites...The Kuru Toga will automatically rotate your lead for you and at $16.50 it is bad ass.  LAMY makes another one for around $25 that is nice.
Side tip: buy some different hardness lead along with the pencil so the person has a choice.  A nice eraser also makes a good side gift.

4. Ink.  Ahh,  assuming your Siamese twin likes to use fountain pens...they will need ink and ink is sexy.(yep, I said it)  There are so many choices and the good news is, you can afford this.  Noodlers has some awesome colors.  Levengers is good.  They are less expensive, but I like the Pelikan inks also.  Buying tip:  buy 3 or 4 in similar shades and give it that way. Blue-Blacks, Greens or even reds.  Awesome gift. I have never heard a pen junky say "I have too many inks."  That's just silly. Tons of choices here folks.

5.  Others:  Journals can be special gifts, but tricky unless you know what the receiver likes..A nice Bundle of Moleskines or Rhodia's or Field Notes would be sweet with a Sarasa or two on top.   I could go on and on  forever about pen cases, antique ink bottles, pen holders etc. they all are awesome in their own way and can make a great gift.

Bottom line,  get creative,  be comfortable and doing your research (i.e.stalking)  can go a long way to making sure you get that pen lover (or not) a good gift.

 Oh,  and I ran a marathon last weekend. It was fun and that's why I didn't get a post out.

Happy Holidays,

The Pen Blog Guy Dude

and I did just get a fresh shipment of pens some fun reviews are on the way.

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