Fahrney's recently published my essay in one of their holiday newsletters...I thought you might enjoy it, too.
One-Stop Holiday Shopping
What’s compact in size, but big in impact…. reasonable in price, with a luxury look? A pen, of course. Even with the proliferation of today’s virtually instantaneous methods of communication, fine pens have lost none of their luster as writing implements and fashion accessories. And where else can you find a gift that is perfect for both genders and comes practically already gift-wrapped? If that isn’t enough to encourage you to head to your nearest pen shop, consider that a pen is an appropriate gift for a male or a female, comes in a broad range of prices and requires little-to-no sizing. Also, it can be a very personal gift or not, depending on your choice of pen, making it a welcome surprise for either a loved one or a colleague. Sounds like one-stop holiday shopping to me.
So where do you begin? First, decide on an appropriate pen retailer and a general price range. There are wonderful pens in the $100-and-under category and truly fabulous pens if you wish to spend more. But quality should be your first priority. A pen should feel solid in your hand with no wiggly parts, ill-fitting caps or uneven plating. More expensive fountain pens will usually have18-karat gold fountain pen nibs, more luxurious production materials, and perhaps even enhanced collectibility. But a well-crafted steel-nibbed resin pen can be just as enjoyable as its higher-priced counterpart.
Next consider the style, mode, and how the pen will probably be used. There are so many shapes, sizes and hues from which to choose these days that there truly is “something for everyone.” Bigger and heavier pens are more appropriate for a larger hand. A smaller pen might be best for pocket or purse, as opposed to a signature pen that stays on one’s desk. Thematic limited editions or a particular brand might be just the ticket for a giftee with special interests. I am particularly drawn to fountain pens, but rollerball pens, ballpoints and even pencils make great gifts, too. And for as many conservative black and silver pens as there are out there, there are at least as many bright and wildly patterned ones for the more colorful personalities in your life. Finally, hold the pen and try it out if you can. If it feels comfortable and writes smoothly, it will perform well for the lucky recipient.
No doubt you’ll have questions about your new soon-to-be acquisition, and most pen retailers employ knowledgeable salespersons. So ask as many questions as you’d like, including: What type of warranty does the manufacturer/store provide? What is the store’s return policy? What type of refills and inks are appropriate? Can the fountain pen nib be exchanged for a different size?