17 December 2021

The Pen Show of Hope. Madrid 2021

The Madrid Pen Show of 2021 was not like those of previous years—it just could not be.

This pen show had everything against—a pandemic, a hotel that was closed on the planned dates, a new venue, the changing local policies, the unclear and ever changing travel requirements, a new mutation of the virus discovered days before the event... So, not much was in there for the pen show to be celebrated and, much less, to succeed.

But the people responded. There was a real crave in the Spanish aficionado to reconnect with the community and with the market.

Needless to say, the event figures did not reach the values of 2019 (no pen show in Madrid in 2020) and before. On this occasion, only 49 traders and about 1000 visitors joined the party. But it was a good party.

Several traders reported that they were selling more pens than on previous pen shows, which shows that there were some savings after two years without similar events.

But it was the sense of community what made the event successful. Visitors from all over Spain –from the Canary Islands and from the Balearic Islands, from the Basque Country and from Andalusia, from Murcia and from Catalonia...-- gathered at the Meliá Castilla Hotel and spent their money on pens that came all the way from all over Europe (UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, …) and from the US.

So, the Madrid Pen Show is alive and kicking. This year´s edition proved how well connected the Spanish community is despite the pandemic, and in 2022 the Madrid Pen Show will be even better.

Montblanc 146 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
December 15th, 2021
etiquetas: España, Madrid, evento, mercado

31 October 2021

Anonymous 6-bu

The problem with anonymous pens is that not much you can say about them. You can describe it, guess its age,... and not much more.

An anonymous 6-bu.

So, this is an oversize balance pen made of ebonite and coated with urushi. The nib is made of gold plated steel. It is a generic nib and is not imprinted with any recognizable brand name: “WARRANTED / SPECIAL / IRIDIUM / PEN”. 

The anonymous nib.

The filling system is the Japanese eyedropper.

These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 151 mm
Length open: 135 mm
Length posted: 185 mm
Cap diameter : 21 mm
Barrel diameter: 18 mm
Weight: 40.0 (dry)
Ink deposit: 5.2 ml

The barrel diameter –18 mm-- characterizes this pen as a 6-bu (6-分), where bu is a Japanese traditional unit of length equivalent to 3 mm. (In previous texts I kept saying that this was a 5-bu pen. I have corrected those mistakes. 5-bu pens do exist though, but this is not one of them).

This type of pens –jumbos between 12-bu (36 mm) and 5-bu (15 mm)- are relatively common in Japan, where you can find them in flea markets and antique fairs. Most of the times they are anonymous, as is the case now.

Four balance pens in the same fashion as the anonymous one I am describing today. These, however, are less anonymous --they are Ban-ei-- although you might need to know how to look at them to find out who made them.

A 12-bu pen together with a very normal Pilot Super from late 1950s.

And not much else can I say. Its construction quality and some of its elements –clip, feed-- point at a pen made in the 1950s or early 1960s. Its quality is certainly better than what we can find the myriad of pens made in the early post-war years, which are also common finds in flea markets.

The pen condition, however, was far from perfect—some rust on the nib, some scratches, a faulty back seal... But replacing that seal was enough to discover a very pleasant writer... for a ridiculous price.

The Piiton, unknown model – Unknown blue-black ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 2021
etiquetas: Japón, marca desconocida

14 October 2021


I wrote about the Pilot Short many years ago, at the beginning of these Chronicles, and it might be worth to back to this pen with more information.

Sailor released the Mini model –Sailor's idea of a pocket pen— in 1963, and Platinum followed, or copied, the idea soon afterwards. Pilot, on its side, waited til the end of 1968 to join the ranks, but in the meantime an original approach to a compact and expandable pen was attempted—the Pilot Short.

That was in 1966, and the idea was a telescopic pen—a pen whose body could become longer for the comfort of the user. To accomplish that idea, the lower end of the barrel, made of plastic, slides inside the metallic overlay of the pen. And to complete the trick, the barrel tail has the right diameter for a secure posting of the cap, thus making the pen even longer and easing a comfortable grip.

The telescopic mechanism makes the pen 15 mm longer.

As for the rest, these pens sport semi-hooded nibs made of 14 K gold, although some on variations the gold grade is hidden inside the section. The nib point is not stated on the nib engraving. The filing system is by cartridges (standard “simple spare”) and converters (CON-20, CON-40, CON-50).

Nib and feed. On this example, the gold grade is not shown when the nib is in place in the pen.

The variations of these pens were mostly related to the external appearance: plain or checkered steel, checkered gold plated, and an aluminum alloy named Alumite by Pilot. Most of them are flat-tops –”vest” style in Pilot vocabulary--, but there is a couple of rounded-end models—balance. Prices ranged between JPY 1500 and JPY 4000.

Chronologically, the last model of the Short model was, paradoxically, non extendable. It shared the external dimensions of the balance model (SB-200SS) when closed, but when open nothing would slide in or out of the barrel. This model –SB-100MS— was cheaper: JPY 1000.

SB-200SS (top), and SB-100MS (bottom). The later does not become longer.

The Pilot Short was discontinued in 1968, and soon afterwards the first Pilot pocket hit the market.

It is hard to asses whether the Pilot Short was a success or not. The short time in the market says it was not. However, this pen is easy to find in flea markets and in pen events, which points at it being a popular pen with many units produced and sold.

Anonymous 6-bu jumbo pen – Kobe Ginza Sepia Gold

Bruno Taut
October 13th, 2021
etiquetas: Pilot

06 October 2021

Haikara Ink

Yet a new ink in the market...

The company Teranishi Chemical Industry has released a line of four inks under the name ハイカラ, Haikara in Romaji, which could in turn be either “high color” or “high collar”, a term with some history in Japan.

The advertisement brochure. Four inks: Gentle Green, Melancholic Blue, Modern Red, and Salon de Violet. Note also the ideograms 大正浪漫, Taishô Roman, on top of the katakana ハイカラ.

ハイカラ / Haikara, as derived from “high collar”, is a word coined in Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) to describe with scorn the mostly male fashion of dressing with Western clothes. The term, however, became more neutral once Western clothes became less of a novelty, and is used even nowadays to describe something nostalgically trendy. In the packaging of these inks we can also see the inscription 大正浪漫, Taishô Roman (Taishô Romance): a term use nowadays for a romantisized view of the Taishô period (1912-1926).

Anyway, these inks come in 40 ml inkwells at a price of JPY 1500, plus taxes. This means JPY 37.5 / ml, which is more expensive than Pilot's Iroshizuku inks (JPY 30 / ml for the 50 ml inkwells) but a lot less than Sailor's Ink Studio (JPY 60 / ml) and Shikiori (JPY 50 / ml) inks.

Two of the inks: Modern Red and Melancholic Blue.

So, is this just another company trying to cash in on the ink bubble with some more attractive prices?

The low tech and the low cost involved in making inks is indeed an incentive to enter this activity as we have seen in recent years. And the company Teranishi Chemical Industry comes with good credentials.

Teranishi Chemical Industry was founded in 1919 in Osaka. In 1931 it started making fountain pen ink that eventually carried the brand name “Guitar” or “Guitar Mark”. However, the main product of the company is the oil-based marker “Magic Ink”, very popular in Japan, and the fountain pen ink disappeared from the Teranishi catalog at some point after the War.

The Magic Ink marker.

Then, in 2021 Teranishi Chemical Industry has made this new ink named generically ハイカラ or Haikara, which could be “High Color” or “High Collar”, while mentioning the old in-house brand “Guitar” and speaking of "Taishô Roman"...

Can this ink be a success with so many names?

Anonymous 6-bu jumbo pen – Kobe Ginza Gold Sepia

Bruno Taut
September-October 2021
labels: tinta, Japón, mercado, Haikara

03 September 2021

Newton, Socrates, et al.

Years ago, when I started my learning on fountain pens, I ran across some Pilot pocket pens particularly attractive:

Two Pocket Elite by Pilot.

Searching for information not much could I find. After all, not that many Japanese pens had a clear model name, and the actual description was the catalog reference. Consequently, those pens where Elite models with inset nibs. However, I also found the names Socrates and Newton (::1::, ::2::) associated to them.

Where did these names come from?

It might all come down to this Pilot advertisement from 1978:

"Chosen by character." (https://pilot.co.jp/)

We should note that the Socrates pen on the ad corresponds to the black Elite pocket pen with triangular nib instead of that with the inset nib.

Which one is the Socrates? According to the 1978's ad, that on the front.

Then, based on that ad, we have three more names for pens: Cleopatra, Beethoven, and Nightingale.

The Beethoven is, obviously, the well-known Murex (ミュ-レクス).

The Cleopatra and the Nightingale belonged to the “Lady” series. But the Cleopatra had an additional name—Lady Pearl. (The reddish pocket pen I am showing here is NOT the Nightingale on the ad. My pen is a Elite model with many commonalities with Nightingale).

Pilot Lady Pearl, or the Pilot Cleopatra would have chosen...

A Pilot Elite very similar to the Nightingale Lady model shown on the ad. The only difference is in cap--different decoration, and the different name.

And in view of all this, should we call the Murex as the Pilot Beethoven?

The Pilot Beethoven?

Anonymous 6-bu jumbo pen – Kobe Ginza Sepia Gold

Bruno Taut
September 2nd, 2021
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado

22 August 2021

Platinum Pocket Nibs

After Sailor had released the first Japanese pocket pen in 1963 –the Sailor Mini— Platinum soon followed suit with its own line of compact pen.

Pocket pens were very successful and became a workhorse in the lineup of the companies. Platinum, on its side, showed this by implementing a wide variety of nib points in them.

Eight different nibs for a single model. And there might have been some more nib points. Clockwise from top, music, soft fine, fine, sign, manifold, script, medium, and extra fine.

Such is the case on display today—eight different nib points in one single model. And there might have been some more.

The Platinum pocket model. Albeit with minor variations, this model was in the Platinum catalog for about 10 years around 1970.

Out of those, four are labeled in English—music, sign, manifold, script. But how do they write? Are they significantly different to those we usually encounter?

All these five nibs were made between 1967 and 1969. Their points are music, sign, medium, manifuld, and script.

The following writing sample might answer those questions. The medium nib (中字) is shown as reference. All of them, might be worth notice, are quite rigid, and there are no major differences among them in this detail.

Sailor Fude pen – Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
August 19th, 2021
etiquetas: Platinum, plumín, plumín musical

30 July 2021

From Platinum to Lanbitou

Some time ago I made some comments about the current policy of Platinum focusing on the lower and middle ranges of the market. The recent models Procyon and Curidas, together with the well-known Preppy, do show that policy.

Platinum Curidas.

The problem is that Chinese pen companies are fighting hard for that market, and they do that with much better prices and the occasional shameless copy.

Lanbitou 3088.

The Lanbitou 3088 shows that last case very clearly. It is a blatant copy of the Platinum Curidas for a fraction of its price: about EUR 70 for the Platinum, and about EUR 5 for the Lanbitou. This, on top of the teething problems of the Curidas, are not good news for the Japanese brand.


The weak slab in the PR China's production is the distribution of its products. This is based on online channels, but some brand are slowly opening other mechanisms. But in any event, online channels are here to stay, for both Chinese and non-Chinese products, and the business of these channels is only increasing.

Platinum of Lanbitou?

So, what is the future for Platinum and other traditional brands? I have predicted that low and middle priced pens –say up to about EUR 100-- will soon become Chinese. And should Western and Japanese brands survive, they are bound to offer products with a higher added value –exotic materials, lavish decoration, innovative nibs, ...--, and an impeccable quality control.

And all that is not what Platinum is doing now.

My thanks to my friend Antolín, whose pictures are greatly appreciated.

Parker Junior – Diamond Teal

Bruno Taut
July 29th, 2021
etiquetas: Platinum, Lanbitou, mercado, capless

07 July 2021

Madrid vs. Tokyo (2021)

On the weekend of June 26-27, two different pen events took place in two very different cities: Madrid and Tokyo. This alone are very good news in times of pandemic, but a lot more can be said.

Let's start with the contexts. Madrid is a city of about 3.5 million people with a metropolitan area of 6.7 million. Tokyo, on it side, is home to 14 million with a metropolitan area of 37 million.

Regarding the infection conditions, Spain is currently doing a lot better than Japan in terms of immunization. At the time of the event, over 30% of the Spanish population had been vaccinated. And Japan, at the time, was struggling to get 3% of the population in the same conditions, and that despite the incoming  Olympic Games...

Then, 10 traders gathered in Madrid on Saturday morning (June 26th), and attracted about 100 potential buyers.

Madrid, June 26th.

In Tokyo, the yearly Pen Trade event was composed by 10 traders and 100 visitors over two days –Saturday and Sunday.

Tokyo, June 26th.

The plain figures are not very different, and any variation could be associated to the different levels in the immunization rates in these two countries... Maybe. However, the differences run much deeper.

The most obvious contrast, and not limited to these events of this month of June, is the mere number of pen for sale on the tables. On just one table in Madrid there were as many pens –or even more-- that in the whole Pen Trade event in Tokyo. We have seen this effect in other, bigger, events celebrated in these two cities—namely, the Madrid Pen Show, and the Tokyo International Pen Show.

Tokyo, June 26th.

Madrid, June 26th.

The real paradox is that a population shy of 7 million –Madrid-- concentrates more pens and more traders than Greater Tokyo with a population five times bigger. That or the organizers of pen events in Tokyo fail to attract those traders. Something is done very well in Madrid, and not so well in Tokyo.

And that, among other things, is why I say that the Tokyo International Pen Show is not a pen show. But there is always something interesting to take home with you.

The spoils fo the Pen Trade 2021. Not too bad...

My thanks to Inktraveler, whose pictures are greatly appreciated.

Montblanc 146 celluloid – Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
July 7th, 2021
etiquetas: evento, Madrid, Tokyo