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When I took up writing by hand again a year or so ago, I began with a ball point pen.


It was fine.

But I remembered how I used to write with a fountain pen when I was a boy and felt an urge to go back to that instrument.

So I did.

With a Pilot Metropolitan. A cheap metal pen selling for around $15. Well regarded by the sages on the internet. As a starter pen.

A starter pen.

Isn’t that something? You buy a pen for what you think is a perfectly reasonable price (and a lot more than you’d pay for a ball point), it works fabulously as a writing instrument and yet it is a starter?

This is absurd. It’s absurd as starter houses. Even starter marriages. (Yes, I went through one of those.) Still living in my starter house though.

The reason it’s classified as a starter pen is that it is supposed to lead you into buying ever more expensive pens. And the prices start ballooning pretty quickly. $100. $800. $2,400. Why if you want to buy the Pilot 100th Anniversary set of seven Namiki pens, you’ll fork out $48,000. Pilot does throw in seven bottles of ink and a Japanese folk art display set up for the price, but, still, that’s almost $7000 per pen.

I guess I would call those finisher pens. They would definitely finish off my savings account.

My point? Why do we succumb so easily (and it must be pretty easy or else pens at these prices would not be manufactured and sold) to an object whose stated value so vastly exceeds its utility?

I can think of only one real reason. Perceived status and some need to show off that you are rich. Of course, this applies to cars. Lots of other stuff too. Even cameras, my particular poison. So far I have resisted going down the Leica path.

I think it’s totally absurd. Rather than sink $100 plus into a pricier pen than the Pilot Metropolitan, I bought a few more of the same type and filled them with different inks so I can write in a series of lovely colours. That’s made me very happy.

Utility. That’s what I like.

Status, you can keep it.