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What Fountain Pens Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Use?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a well-known fountain pen collector and user. What pens does he use? Are the pens astronomy inspired, like the Visconti Starry Night, as you might guess of the director of the Hayden Planetarium? Or does this world-famous astrophysicist and author use the same pens as you or I?

Let’s get right into the fountain pens that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has talked about owning and using. Generally speaking we know he prefers using larger pens, something which is made clear by his collection.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Pen Collecting Rules

  1. Pens need an interesting nib
  2. The cap has to post
  3. “Cosmic thinking” and other astronomy-inspired themes

NdGT explained this pen philosophy to David Parker [0] during an interview session in 2017. These rules certainly play out in what we know of his collection.

Dr. Tyson says that despite his extensive collection, his favorite pen brand is Pelikan. [0, 23:50]

Most of his pens are “space pens,” which is to say pens that fit the general theme of being on the top of space. You’ll see this theme running through the Dr.’s collection.

Namiki Yukari Maki-e Nightline Emperor

This is a stunning, limited edition pen that is said to have taken about 3 months to manufacturer. It uses a maki-e finish that combines handcrafted lacquer with gold dust and polychromatic vertical lines that are a result of mother-of-pearl inlays.

The Namiki Yukari Maki-e Nightline is a rare pen, and it’s excessively rare — and expensive — in the Emperor size. The standard size can sell for about $3000, when it can be found. The Emperor is almost impossible to find, but it can sell for over 5x that amount providing it’s in like-new condition.

The pen is a cartridge converter (usually using Pilot’s CON-70 converter) with an 18K solid gold nib.

This is a larger size pen with a 12 mm barrel diameter and 14.3 cm capped / 16.2 cm posts length.

Pelikan Polar Lights

This is a special edition Pelikan M640, a larger (but not huge) fountain pen, released in 2008. The pen has a pattern that is designed to resemble the polar lights — that is  Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis).

The pen has a metal body with varnish coating and platinum highlights to show off the lights. An 18K gold nib and rhodium trim match the platinum of the barrel.

Visconti Knight Templar

This limited edition fountain pen by Italian manufacturer Visconti is hard to find and was never sold in large numbers. With a retail price of about $3000 it’s a rare collectors item. In fact only 312 of these pens were made.

The pen has a double reservoir Power Filler and came in both an 18K solid gold nib and a 23K palladium nib in EF, F, M, B, BB, and a 1.3 mm stub.

Visconti Copernicus

This is another astronomy-themed fountain pen for NdGT. With an original price of about $500, this pen was sold in the late 1990s. It used Visconti’s crescent filling system and was generally sold with an 18k rhodium-plated gold nib. Only 999 of these pens were produced. Like the NdGT’s Maki-e Nightline Emperor this pen has a banding in it that is iridescent and quite striking.

Namiki Jubilaeum AD 2000 Zodiac

This is another high-end Namiki with a big price tag — around $2000 this time. This pen has a sterling silver body with a pattern on it that resembles the Zodiac constellation, something that clearly appealed to Neil deGrasse Tyson given his profession. It had an 18K gold nib. Just 400 of the pens were made. The section of the pen was sold in both black and red, something you would expect given how small the run was.

The pen was produced in cooperation with the Vatican to celebrate the new millennium.

Pelikan Blue Planet

Some online detective work identified Dr. Tyson doing a book signing using a Pelikan limited edition Blue Planet. This pen went on sale in 2006 and celebrated 540 million years of life on Earth with a 540 pen limited run. This pen had an 18K gold nib and the body size of a Pelikan M1000.

The body of the pen had an air-brushed cloud pattern on it and the pen was, as the name implies, blue.

Waterman Edson

This is a classic contemporary Waterman pen (first sold in 1993) with one of the company’s most striking designed with an original price of $1100. The 18K gold nib perfectly follows the curve the body and tapers down to a point with no flair at the end. The body was a pearlescent blue, which matched wonderfully with the gold cap.

Dyson notes [0, 21:23] owning this pen in oblique broad.

Montblanc Meisterstuck 149

Dr. Tyson noted that this was his first expensive pen, it having been gifted to him in the early 1990s. He had it with a 14K nib in medium or fine, but he had the nib exchanged for an 18K broad stub which he uses for book signing. [0, 23:47]

Omas Arte Italiana Noir Paragon

This one is a bit of a question mark. In this video interview Dr. Tyson notes that he has an all-black Omas with a flexible black nib. Omas was not known for its stealth (black on black) pens, but the Omas Arte Italiana Noir (particularly the Milord) was a popular pen and the Paragon was a limited edition run of 331 units.

Given the larger size and limited edition nature, this pen seems right up his alley.

Krone Apollo 11

This is another one of Tyson’s rare and very expensive pens. Hard to find and selling for over $10,000 on the secondary market, this pen is as rare as it is ornate. It has a life-life astronaut footprint on the top of the cap and a beautifully rendered lunar command module on the side.

If all that was not enough, parts of the pen are made from the foil used in the command module so, yes, parts of the pen were on the Apollo 11 mission.

Miscellaneous Mentions

  • David-Oscarson Celestial in Azure Blue – Retail price of $5700, only 88 made
  • Omas Galileo
  • Pelikan M1000
  • Pelikan M800
  • Waterman Lemond 100 with custom gold filigree
  • Montegrappa Human Civilization
  • Delta Sir Isaac Newton Special Limited Edition
  • Visconti Cosmos Voyager Blue American Dream
  • Pelikan Planets Limited Edition
  • Rotring 600 with 14k gold nib

How Many Pens Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Have?

The size of a pens collection is always difficult to gauge, but Neil deGrasse Tyson (NdGT) has said that he have about 36 pens. This was a number of years ago (2005 to be exact) and he might have been being modest, but that’s the best we have to go on. In past years he has said he has about 40 pens, but we’re guessing it’s more than that.

Sources

Unfortunately many of the sources of this article have been lost to time or are second hand via forum threads and other places.

One good source where the pens are quite hard to identify is this AARP article. This pen is the source for the Templar, Copernicus, AD 2000, and Stars and Moon pens.

[0] Figboot on pens did an extended interview with Tyson about his work and a bit about his pens as well. You can see writing samples at about 16:25.