The controversy is always there: Is that pen original or a copy of another? Which company did father that idea? Sometimes, the answers are clear…
The user in me has some fascination for cheap, or rather inexpensive, fountain pens. After all, if the main purpose of a pen is to use it and most of what we do with them is taking notes, there is no need to spend big bucks on them. And we also know that price and performance are barely correlated—we all know of terrible examples of expensive pens with very poor performance.
Therefore, I always have an eye on low cost pens. In the past I spoke about those found in Tokyo, either by the big three Japanese companies or marketed by some chain store.
Today’s pen, found in Madrid, is branded as Zande-Phondex. I bought it in one of those bazaars, usually run by Chinese people, where you can find almost anything. This pen is an obvious copy of the Sheaffer’s No Nonsense student pen, modeled after the 1920’s flat-top design.
The main differences between the Sheaffer’s original and the Zande-Phondex copy are the rugged gripping section and the slip cap of the later. Both are cartridge-converter pens—standard for the copy and Sheaffer’s proprietary for the original.
Neither of them is a expensive pen, but the Sheaffer’s price is about ten times that of the Zande-Phondex, whose price is only €0.90. Its construction quality, however, is also cheaper—the cap band easily slides off, and the plastic material shows some non-smooth points.
But performance-wise both pens are even. They are indeed functional no-nonsense tools. Rigid and reliable steel nibs. Nothing fancy, but always ready for the action.
So, the question is obvious and pertinent—why should we spend more than a couple of euros in any fountain pen?