What was your first fountain pen?
It’s a question that I love to ask, because there is an astonishing amount of people who have the exact same answer: “JINHAO”, “LAMY Safari”, and “Pilot Metropolitan” are the answers we hear almost every time!
We have been carrying LAMY and Pilot for about 6 months now, and there is no denying that the pens are incredible for the price. But if you’re on a budget, looking for a functional fountain pen for very little money, one brand soars above all the others – JINHAO.
Price vs. Functionality
I’m not going to lie – you’re not going to get the writing experience of a Montblanc or a Pelikan from a JINHAO.
They do write well, but tend to dry out a little bit if you only use them a few times a week. The trims are very lightly plated, so it’s best not to use an abrasive polish on the trim, or it will easily clean right off.
So why would someone buy one of these?
The answer is pretty simple: they’re less than $10! That’s right, for the price of a movie ticket, you can enjoy hundreds of hours of writing.
Not only that, but you get a converter with the pen! Just the converter for a LAMY Safari will run you $7.50, and it’s nearly the same for a Pilot converter – and you don’t even have a pen to attach it to yet. If you consider the cost of the converters, two of the three most popular starter pens will still run you between $25-35.
You will get 95% of the reliability with JINHAO at less than $10, so it’s certainly a great place to start!
How are they so cheap?
So how can these pens be produced at such a great bargain? When I first spoke to the Chinese distributor for JINHAO, I was shocked at the quantities they were asking to send.
If you ever thought an order for 100 fountain pens was large, JINHAO doesn’t even blink at a request for 10,000 pens.
I actually started to think that they would be unimpressed with an order of less than 100,000 pens. I guess the simple answer is that economies of scale through bulk manufacturing allows for these pens to be produced at unbelievably low prices.
From what I can tell, there are other economic factors at play, though.
The government in China owns many manufacturing facilities that have the ability to supply raw materials to manufacturers further down the pipeline – pen manufacturers included.
When the Chinese government owns these manufacturers, they intentionally operate at a loss in order to create better profit margins for the manufacturers so that they can hire more workers. This is called a government subsidy.
They also subsidize exports; so Chinese companies can ship fountain pens overseas and be reimbursed by their local government.
All this allows us to nerd out over a $10 fountain pen like it was a missing chapter from Star Wars!
The Model Range
I chose to focus on my personal favorite pieces from the Jinhao range, and have brought in less than 10 different models. There are quirks and features of each that could help you decide which one to choose.
Available in a fun array of colors, the Shark pens are great for young people trying to get involved in writing. At just $3.95, they are an inexpensive way to get your friends and family into the hobby!
JINHAO Shark - $3.95
Fairly hefty in size, the X250 is a slender fountain pen with a two-tone nib and a silver grip section. It comes in a black “cracked ice” design, a fiery orange, and a marbled blue.
JINHAO X250 - $9.90
The largest of the X-models, the X450 offers 6 different models, from a gorgeous matte black to a marbled red. My favorite feature of the pen is the triangular grip section, which is great for a beginning fountain pen user because it shows where your fingers should be in order for the nib to line up perfectly on paper.
JINHAO X450 - $9.90
The X750 appears a little slimmer than the other X-models, and has a smooth finished grip section, versus the ribbed and triangular sections of the X250 and X450. All three X-models feature snap caps.
JINHAO X750 - $9.90
The largest of all the JINHAO models, the 159 is shaped like a Montblanc 149. It also features a large #6 nib, so you can really feel its presence when writing. It comes in eye-catching colors from bright red and orange, to a subtle black and a full steel finish.
JINHAO 159 - $12.50
If you’re looking for a themed pen to start your collection, you can get the JINHAO 555 Dragon for a price that is still less than the LAMY and Pilot options, at just $25. The dragons in the motif even have red eyes, so the pen looks spectacular!
JINHAO 555 Dragon - $25
The double dragon version of the 555, the JINHAO 9991 features the dragon motif on both the cap and the barrel. This one features a snap cap versus the screw on cap of the 555. At just $30, this one is a showstopper!
JINHAO 9991 Double Dragon - $29.50
The Final Word
It really comes down to your intentions…if you’re looking for the perfect gift, any pen in the JINHAO range will be a fantastic idea.
Heck, they’ll probably think you spent a lot more on their gift than you really did! If you’re new to the hobby and just want to try a fountain pen, you can’t go wrong with any pen from X-series, at less than $10.
If you have large hands, or if you just like the presence of a large pen, the 159 models are my personal favorites.
If you’re looking for a great desk piece that draws attention, but still allows you to add some character to you’re writing, the Dragon series is absolutely a must-have. The best part? If someone steals one of these from your desk, you’ll be grateful that it wasn’t your Visconti!
With JINHAO, there really is a little something for everyone.