Welcome to The Gentleman Stationer 2018 Holiday Gift Guide!
The 2018 Gentleman Stationer Holiday Gift Guide is going in a bit of a different direction than in 2016 and 2017. Most significantly, I’m not including any fountain pen recommendations this year, other than a few inexpensive “fun” pens that might make interesting stocking stuffers or “Secret Santa” presents for those people who you suspect would be interested in testing the waters. Otherwise, I generally advise against gifting someone a fountain pen, since most people are very particular about their likes and dislikes. If you know someone who exclusively uses fountain pens, and the non-pen gift options below don’t interest you, consider purchasing a gift card that will let the recipient choose a pen on their own. Site sponsors Vanness Pens, Goldspot, Anderson Pens, and Appelboom all offer gift certificate options!
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Pen Gifts for Anyone
Rollerballs and ballpoints are excellent writing instruments and - believe it or not - what I end up using most often on a daily basis. If you absolutely must get someone a pen as a gift, go this route. There are plenty of nice options out there. Here are a few of my favorites.
Baron Fig Squire. The Squire is currently my favorite retractable, capless rollerball pen on the market, especially since it now comes in multiple colors, but note that this pen has no clip, which makes it a slightly riskier gift for the traditionalist or someone who tends to lose things. A few limited edition Squire Pens remain on the market, including the yellow “Bolt” edition and the orange “Mysterium” edition. The Squire ships with the venerable Schmidt P8126 refill, which you can also replace with the Schmidt Easyflow 9000 ballpoint refill. One idea you may want to consider is the Baron Fig Deluxe Confidant Starter Set, which includes not only a Squire but a Confidant Notebook (discussed further below) and a Guardian leather notebook cover. You call also add on a leather pen “Sheath”, which will make the liquid ink rollerball safer to carry in your pocket.
Lamy 2000 Ballpoint. My number one recommendation for when you want to get someone a very nice pen without breaking the bank. The Lamy 2000 ballpoint sports the same classic, Bauhaus-inspired design as the fountain pen, with a classic "click" mechanism. Rollerball and Mechanical Pencil versions are available as well.
Lamy 2000 4-Color Ballpoint. I'm a big fan of multi pens for the busy professional, and Lamy's multi-pen version of the 2000 goes to work with me every day. While this would be the ultimate work tool if Lamy would include a mechanical pencil option, you can swap in one of these refills and add a highlighter. More information on multi pens and their various refills can be found here.
Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique Rollerball. Yes, I just went there. Why? Because many will insist on giving an expensive pen to someone who just landed their first job or received a promotion, or maybe they received a Montblanc pen as a gift twenty years ago, still use it today, and want to pay it forward. I’d rather have them purchasing a modern Montblanc than those other super-skinny pen and pencil sets that most of us of a certain generation received from our grandparents at least once. My Montblanc Classique ballpoint that I received 15 years ago is a regular fixture in my rotation. Some may balk at the cost for a ballpoint or rollerball pen, but Montblanc makes excellent-quality pens, and one of the best fine-tip rollerball refills on the market.
Retro 51 Tornado. The Retro 51 Tornado is a reasonably priced liquid-ink rollerball with the same P8126/Easyflow 2000 refill options as the Baron Fig Squire. Best of all, the pen comes in a range of special edition designs, so you can match your gift to the recipient’s interests.
Fountain Pen Gift Ideas
That friend or family member who's always expressed interest in learning what fountain pens are all about? Help them scratch that itch with one of these entry-level fountain pens. I'd recommend a fine or medium nib to get most people started. If someone has never used a fountain pen before, don't spend a lot of money on what will basically be an experiment. You can get a great writing experience for well under $30.
Pilot Metropolitan. The Pilot Metropolitan is one of the best fountain pen options available for beginners, who can get started with simple, easy-to-use cartridges or fill from a bottle with the included converter. The Metropolitan has become an even better option now that Pilot releases the pens in a range of colors and patterns.
Pilot Kakuno. A great option, especially for kids. The "smiley face" on the nib helps remind them to keep the nib pointed down on the paper. Site sponsor Goldspot also has some fun hand lettering gift sets.
Lamy Safari. I hesitated to put the Lamy Safari on here because of the triangular grip section, but I'll go ahead and include it anyway because so many people have a positive experience with this as their first pen, and because it's not so expensive that it poses a financial risk if your recipient doesn't like the gift. The Safari doesn't come with a converter, so if you think they'd like to use bottled ink with the pen, be sure to pick one up.
TWSBI Eco or TWSBI Go. If you think the recipient won’t mind not having the option of using ink cartridges, both of TWSBI’s entry-level offerings are inexpensive enough to be worth taking a bit of a risk on.
For the Serious Fountain Pen User
If you’re particular about your fountain pens, you already know better than to try to buy a fountain pen for a fountain pen nut (unless you know them really, really well, or they’ve told you exactly what they want). Otherwise, if you’re flying blind, you’re better off going with a nice “universal” accessory like a pen case or notebooks cover. Here are some of my picks:
A Nice Pen Case. My personal carry includes this two-pen leather sleeve from Tom Barrington Leather Goods, as well as this single pen sleeve from One Star Leather Goods. For non-leather options, consider the fabric cases by Atelier Musubi, as well as Nock Co.’s excellent Sinclair carry-all. For someone with a larger collection, consider a Franklin-Christoph covered pen tray or a glass-topped "display" case. Pen Chalet currently has a wide selection available at attractive prices, and Goldspot stocks some very high-end pen and watch boxes from Venlo and Vox.
The Penwell. Tied for first choice for a fountain pen-related gift is a Penwell product from Good Made Better. The Penwell is a small pen stand that comes in either walnut, brass, or aluminum, and turns any fountain pen or capped rollerball into a desk pen. Dan recently launched a Kickstarter for the portable version, dubbed the “Penwell Traveler,” which will have closed by the time this gift guide gets published. If it’s available before the holidays, the Traveler offers a more modern-looking take on the same concept.
Pen Stands from Dudek Modern Goods. It looks like Mike is back in business for the holiday season! Dudek Modern Goods pen stands are gorgeous pieces of functional art that will make your desk that much more interesting. Get your orders in quickly, though, to ensure delivery by Christmas.
A Leather Notebook Cover. There are several custom leather goods companies out there that make excellent quality products. My current favorite is One Star Leather Goods out of Los Angeles, California, which makes a wide range of notebook covers that can be customized to fit any brand of notebook, including Baron Fig and Leuchtturm. Other high-quality options include Baron Fig’s leather “Guardian” covers, natural Gfeller leather covers, and Nock Co’s A5 and A6 cordura “Seed” covers. For a more traditional look, British Belt Company is also a good option for nice Italian leather A5 notebook covers that come in a variety of color options.
Personalized Stationery. Some of the best gifts I've received over the years are personalized correspondence cards, jotter cards, or letter sheets. Crane & Co. is the gold standard, but it can be pricey. Other options include letterpress from Meticulous Ink or Skylab Letterpress, both of which carry some whimsical and quirky designs at very reasonable prices. If you don't want to go the personalized route, Clairefontaine Triomphe, G. Lalo, and Original Crown Mill all make great standard writing stock.
Gifts for Pencil-Heads.
There are a lot of unique pencil gifts floating around out there, and regardless of how "digital" things have become, pencils make popular - and practical - gifts. They also don't break the bank and fit well in a stocking.
Palomino Blackwing 602. If you want to give a nice pencil-related gift, with a cool history behind it, I’d start here. If you want to kick the gift up a notch, add in a pack of extra erasers for the Blackwing's iconic ferrule.
Blackwing Slate Notebook. What makes this such a great gift is the fact that it comes with a Blackwing Pencil to match the notebook!
Blackwing Volumes Subscription. You can guarantee your recipient a dozen limited edition Blackwings per quarter, plus subscriber extras!
Twist Bullet Pencil. I get asked a lot for recommendations on the best pencil for pocket carry. It's hard to beat the Twist Bullet Pencil, a collaboration between Huckleberry Woodchuck and Metal Shop CT.
Rotring 600 Mechanical Pencil. The best mechanical pencil ever, and one of the best bargains in high-end stationery. Mine is a fixture in my everyday carry. If you know someone who carries a mechanical pencil in their pocket all the time, you may want to consider the more expensive Rotring 800, which features a retractable pipe that won't stab you in the leg when you sit down.
The Spoke Pencil. Another mechanical pencil option that’s a bit more lightweight than the Rotring 600. It’s also customizable in terms of color and materials.
Machined Pencil Accessories from Elegant Utility. Be sure to check out their “Pencil Companion” brass pencil holder, as well as their bullet-pencil-esque Pencil Pal. Elegant Utility also makes a range of interesting desk accessories and other cool stuff.
A Nice Pencil Sharpener. I've probably kept Carl in business over the past couple of years, recommending Carl Angel 5 sharpeners to co-workers. This one is probably my favorite, though the Carl CC-2000 gives you multiple options for point sharpness, and is the version that I keep on my desk at work. If you’re looking for a handheld sharpener, the KUM Masterpiece and KUM Long Point sharpeners will also get the job done, and if you like the vintage look of Brass, check out the Castor and the Pollux long point sharpeners (though I'd call the Pollux "experts only," since it's a bit tricky to use).
Ideas for Stocking Stuffers and Smaller Gifts (Secret Santa, etc.)
I’m placed in charge of stocking stuffers every year for the family, and guess what! I rely very heavily on the massive stash of pencils, pocket notebooks, and pens I accumulate, many of which go unused. The holidays are a great time to re-home things that you picked up and never tried or wrote with once or twice.
Pocket Notebooks. I give out Field Notes and Write Notepads pocket notebooks every year as stocking stuffers and they are always well-received. There are many other great options including Story Supply Co., Calepino, Nock Co. Dot-Dash, and others. If someone’s a real pocket notebook fan, consider gifting them a Field Notes subscription.
Reporters Notebooks. Write Notepads (the Reporter's Notepad) and Field Notes (the Frontpage) are both excellent options. If you know someone who makes a lot of lists, a reporter's notebook is a great addition to a daily carry.
Pocket Pens. Even people who normally don’t care all that much about what they’re writing with think a quick-deployment pocket pen like the Fisher Space Pen or the Lamy Pico is cool. I'd also add a plug for the Pokka Pen, specifically designed for Fisher Space Pen fans whose pens tend to "go missing." Pokka has recently released an “All-Weather” version in partnership with Fisher and Rite-in-the-Rain.
Ensso Pen Uno. A great little desktop pen for jotting stuff down. There’s really nothing else like this pen, which is built around the Hi-Tec-C Coleto gel refill.
High-Quality Disposable Pens. Everybody needs them, whether to keep in your briefcase and/or the car glovebox for emergencies, or simply to keep next to the phone or computer for use in a pinch. My go-to recommendation is the Pilot G2 (in the Limited Version), and if you want an ultra-fine tip, the Morning Glory Mach 3, but there are many excellent options out there.
Pencils. See above for recommendations. Every couple of years we have pencil-themed stockings in our house.
Bottled Ink. No pen addict will get made at you for a bottle of ink in their stocking. I'd stick with something pretty much universally regarded as "safe" and well-behaved, like Pilot Iroshizuku or Robert Oster Signature, both of which come in a wide array of colors. Vanness Pens is my go-to for ink shopping!
Gifts for Planner and/or Journaling Addicts
Notebooks and Planners also make excellent gifts, especially if you know someone who carries a paper planner and/or who journals. You can never have too many in your stash.
Handmade Journals from Atelier Musubi. Quite possibly one of the nicest stationery or journaling-related gift you could give someone. Featuring high-quality, super thin Tomoe River paper and unique Japanese fabrics, the Musubi Journals are hand-sewn by artisans with disabilities. It’s a great company that I’m proud to support.
Seven Seas Notebooks, by Nanami Paper. For the fountain pen enthusiast in your life, consider this nearly 500-page A5 journal made with super thin Tomoe River paper. The Seven Seas notebooks are available in either the lined version (the Writer), or the Crossfield, which has a reticle grid. I personally prefer the smaller B6 version, the Cafe Note (which also has a custom Gfeller leather cover option).
Hobonichi Techo. A day-to-a-page planner that can be used a traditional planner OR as a daily journal. The classic Hobonichi is an A6 size, but there is also a larger A5 Cousin and an “Avec” version which breaks the planner into two books of six months each. Now there’s even a Five-Year Journal. Include one of the standard Hobonichi covers or a custom One-Star Leather cover for a really nice present. (The slimmer Hobonichi Weeks might be great in a stocking stuffer.)
Traveler’s Notebook. Capable of being both a planner AND a journal. Infinitely customizable. A great gift for the true notebook geek. If you are interested in a TN-style cover that comes in a wider variety of colors, check out Galen Leather’s offerings.
Leuchtturm 1917. Again, the Leuchtturm is my go-to recommendation for a “standard” notebook. It’s best described as the “black notebook” with (much) better paper than a Moleskine for fountain pens and other types of liquid ink. Leuchtturm makes standard journals/notebooks as well as planners.
Books for Those Interested in the "Analog Life"
Every year, I always say that the one thing that I'd like to do more of is read. I’ve done better this year, and I’ve collected book recommendations (and much more) on my Amazon page which I try to keep updated. Books make excellent gifts, and you’ll notice that most of my recommendations have an “analog(ue)” bent.
I've added a catch-all category containing things that I think people who read this blog might be interested in. Some I've reviewed on the blog, others are gifts I've received myself and really loved or otherwise come across in my travels.
Wax Seal Stamp from Kustom Haus. If you have a letter writer on your gift list, consider an old-school wax-seal stamp with an accessory kit to go along with it. Choose from Kustom Haus's own stamp designs or submit your own.
Any Stationery Item from Duncan Shotten. I gave Rainbow Pencils as secret Santa gifts last year, but I'm also enamored by this space-themed office set, especially the hand-painted, solar system push pins.
Bellroy Pouches and Portfolios. I’m a huge fan of Australian leather goods company Bellroy, which recently released a carry-all pouch that I use extensively as part of my everyday travel carry. If you’re into leather portfolios, and would like to give someone a VERY nice gift, then you should also check out their Work Folio A4 and Work Folio A5.
Bellroy Wallets or Pocket Notebook Covers from Bellroy. I've carried a black Bellroy Hide & Seek wallet for years, and it still looks amazing. Their pocket notebook covers also are well made, and can double as a passport wallet.
Thanks for reading, and if you need further advice on a specific gift idea, feel free to reach out through the Contact link above. Additional product recommendations are always available in the series of guides that I publish here on the site (links to all of them are on the header), as well as my Amazon recommendations page. Happy Holidays everyone!