One of the most popular questions sent to the Unsharpen Youtube channel is, “Where do I buy that pen?” And it makes sense, because while pens are sold almost everywhere, finding a specific pen can be a real challenge.
Here is our guide to buying pens in 2021.
This is a guide focused helping people buy pens online. Unsharpen.com is based in the US, so the guide will assumed a US-focused buyer to cut down on confusion. This article only contains retailer that we’ve purchased from before and will be purchasing from again in the future.
It’s worth noting that when we buy pens for Unsharpen.com, they are being bought as a normal consumer would make the purchase, with no special treatment asked for or expected. Most of the sales over the years have been done as an individual, with no mention of “Unsharpen.”
Where To Buy Pens Online
The internet is, as expected, the best and easiest place to find pens in 2021. But the internet is a big place! Where should you go to get your pens?
Love it or hate it, Amazon.com is probably the best place to buy pens online. They have a huge variety of pens, and not just mainstream models either. Amazon.com has a incredible selection of European pens, Japanese pens, smaller brands, and so much more.
Amazon also has helpful tools for finding pens, like sorting by newly release pens or top-selling pens.
Amazon also normally has, by far, the lowest price on Rotring and great deals on Japanese pens, like a Platinum 3776 Century for about $100. They even have boutique options, like Blackwing pencils.
There have been numerous complaints about counterfeit products being sold on Amazon, but I’ve yet to run into a counterfeit pen being sold through Amazon’s marketplace.
Amazon.co.jp is also quite good, but ordering from it and shipping outside of Japan can be a challenge. It’s well worth it, thanks to a good selection, great prices, and cheap international shipping, but not all sellers will ship outside of Japan so it can be a frustrating experience.
Japanese Pen Shops
The internet, it all its greatness, has a number of Japanese pen shops. These stores curate a selection of Japanese pens, import them from Japan, and then charge a relatively slight premium on the retail price to accomodate for shipping, duties, and so forth.
There are others that exist, but these two really stand out. TokyoPenShop for finding newly release pens and Jetpens for their overall selection.
Online Pen Stores
There are many dedicated online pen stores (some of which have physical locations). These tend to have higher prices than places like Amazon but they will offer actual customer service if you need it as well as better quality control and warranty support if something happens to your pen. These pen stores will offer a better selection of smaller brand pens as well.
There are many, many other options, some of which we buy from regularly, but these are solid resellers that have been particularly helpful to us at some point.
Ebay is very hit-and-miss but it’s still one of the best places to find pens online. In fact Ebay is a critical resource for finding vintage pens as it’s the online place where many older and rare pens will pop up.
When looking through Ebay, start your search with the vintage and collectible section of the writing instrument market for the best results.
Where To Buy Pens In Person
Unfortunately buying pens in person can be a real challenge depending on where you are located. Most of the serious pen stores are in large cities, which means some travel might be required. Some more common big box type stores will have good pen selections as well, but you’ll be limited to buying from larger pen brands (which is fine!).
NYC has a number of great pen shops, as do other good-sized cities (like Portland, Oregon) but most of these shops are one-offs that will only help you if you are in a specific neighborhood of a specific city. You can call some of these places and make an order, like NYC’s famous Fountain Pen Hospital, but they are really designed for in-person buying.
Not every shop is a one-off boutique though. Here are some more common places to buy pens in person.
- Target – Target stores are easy to find and they tend to have a wide selection of pens from Pilot, Pentel, and others. You won’t find fountain pens, but gel pens and good ballpoints will not be a problem
- Muji – Muji stores almost all have a dedicated pen and paper section with great gel pens and some other useful stationery items. They have a good selection and great prices.
- Kinokuniya – This set of 20 or so Japanese culture and speciality stores appear in most large cities in the US and they have a great selection of standard Japanese pens, just like you’d find in a store in Japan.