In one of my previous posts, I said that I wasn’t going to get into any kind of debate… “regarding the price of some supposedly prestigious, brand-name inks. I actually think that semi-luxury products such as these are simply worth the price that the market will bear. If buyers are willing to pay $30.00 or $40.00 for a 50/60ml bottle ink, then that’s what it’s worth. After all, some people will buy a designer fountain pen for $1000 or more, then spend another $100 just to make it actually write.”
And I won’t get into that kind of debate, but in researching that post, I came across the ink prices listed in the table below. Take a moment to look over those per ml prices for some common bottled inks. Some attractive, boutique inks as they have sometimes been referred to, fair pretty well, and offer some fun features for keenly competitive prices—Diamine’s Shimmertastic range springs to mind. Others, not so much.
I haven’t compared per ml prices for cartridge ink, since even the small dollar price tag that a pack of six to ten cartridges, and the equally small capacity of each unit, averages out to be about the most expensive way of buying fountain pen ink. My thinking was that, when fountain pen enthusiasts buy cartridge ink, they are most likely buying for convenience rather than economy or to have a plentiful supply of a given ink, and thus, a premium price of a few dollars for cartridges is not really a valid comparison to purchasing bottled ink.
|Bottled Ink Brand and Name||Capacity (ml)||Unit
|$ Per ml (CAD)|
|Sailor Bungubox Bottled Ink (50ml)||50||$ 59.25||$ 1.19|
|Kyo No Oto Special Edition Bottled Fountain Pen Ink (40ml)||40||$ 40.00||$ 1.00|
|Sailor Shikiori Range Bottled Ink (20ml)||20||$ 20.00||$ 1.00|
|Caran d’Ache Chromatics Fountain Pen Ink (50 ml)||50||$ 45.00||$ 0.90|
|Pelikan Edelstein Fountain Pen Ink (50ml)||50||$ 45.00||$ 0.90|
|Sailor Kobe Bottled Ink (50ml)||50||$ 42.50||$ 0.85|
|Kyo Iro Bottled Fountain Pen Ink (40ml)||40||$ 32.00||$ 0.80|
|Kyo No Oto Bottled Fountain Pen Ink (40ml)||40||$ 32.00||$ 0.80|
|Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano (Ultra) Black||50||$ 33.00||$ 0.66|
|J. Herbin 1798 Fountain Pen Ink (50ml)||50||$ 31.50||$ 0.63|
|Sailor Jentle Bottled Ink (50ml)||50||$ 29.50||$ 0.59|
|Platinum Classic Iron Gall Fountain Pen Ink (60ml)||60||$ 34.25||$ 0.57|
|Pilot Iroshizuku Fountain Pen Ink (50ml)||50||$ 28.00||$ 0.56|
|J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Fountain Pen Ink (50ml)||50||$ 27.50||$ 0.55|
|Aurora Fountain Pen Ink (45ml)||45||$ 23.50||$ 0.52|
|Pelikan 4001 Fountain Pen Ink (30ml)||30||$ 15.50||$ 0.52|
|Diamine Registrars Fountain Pen Ink (30ml)||30||$ 15.00||$ 0.50|
|Sailor Jentle Bottled Fountain Pen Ink (50ml) – Four Seasons Range||50||$ 24.75||$ 0.50|
|Kaweco Fountain Pen Ink (30ml)||30||$ 14.50||$ 0.48|
|J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink (30ml)||30||$ 14.00||$ 0.47|
|Platinum Carbon Ink (60ml)||60||$ 27.00||$ 0.45|
|Platinum Pigment Ink||60||$ 27.00||$ 0.45|
|Diamine 150th Anniversary Ink (40 mL)||40||$ 15.00||$ 0.38|
|Diamine Shimmertastic (50 ml)||50||$ 18.00||$ 0.36|
|Lamy Fountain Pen Ink (50ml)||50||$ 18.00||$ 0.36|
|Sailor Jentle Bottled Fountain Pen Ink (50ml) – Blue||50||$ 17.50||$ 0.35|
|Rohrer & Klingner Writing Ink (50ml)||50||$ 14.00||$ 0.28|
|J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink (100ml)||100||$ 25.00||$ 0.25|
|Waterman Fountain Pen Ink||50||$ 11.50||$ 0.23|
|Noodler’s Fountain Pen Ink (Blue Ghost/Fox Red)||90||$ 17.50||$ 0.19|
|Noodler’s Fountain Pen Ink (133ml)||133||$ 25.00||$ 0.19|
|Noodler’s Fountain Pen Ink (90ml)||90||$ 16.50||$ 0.18|
|Diamine Fountain Pen Ink (80ml)||80||$ 14.00||$ 0.18|
I’ve arranged them from the most expensive, descending to the least. I think it’s interesting to note, that of the top ten that I’ve listed, Sailor inks occupy four of the top slots. Also, of the three inks that work out to $1.00 CAD or more per ml, two of them are Sailor products. Whilst in the ten least expensive, Sailor appears only once. I’m also deliberately avoiding the subject of Sailor’s recent re-organization of their range.
I seem to be giving Sailor a particularly hard time here, but I happen to love Sailor inks. They are excellent performers, with beautiful colors. And of course, when you pay $400 CAD or more for a pen, is it fair to criticize how much you might pay for the ink? Like I said earlier, as a luxury product, it’s worth what the market will bear. But after putting this list together, and comparing some beautiful inks at the top and bottom of the scale, I am feeling a little more conscious of the relative value of some of my favorite brands.
I won’t say that this will stop me from buying an attractive, premium branded ink; expanding my ink horizons is a pleasure I have only really started exploring in the last six months or so, and I have no intention of stopping now. But comparing prices on a per ml basis, does make me consider more carefully where my money has gone in the past, and where it might go in the future.
What do other people think of the premium ink pricing that we all deal with? Have I made fair comparisons? If you don’t think so, what am I missing? Am I right to be a little bothered? Or is this all a perfectly natural part of the free-market economy, that simply regulates itself through the forces of supply and consumer demand?
Also, feel free to check my sums, I have been guilty of being a bit blasé around a spreadsheet before now.
Maybe I should have sub-titled this post the guilt of a failed socialist…