It's a good time to be both a Star Wars fan and a stationery enthusiast! With the impending release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming up on December 15, you've probably seen "Star Wars" swag of all sorts on sale anywhere from Target to Office Depot. Here, I'll take a quick look at two products that have received a lot of press: the Cross Townsend "Star Wars" Limited Edition in Stormtrooper white, and the Sheaffer Star Wars fountain and rollerball pens that you may have even seen at your local Office Depot.
The Cross Townsend Star Wars special edition pens received a lot of press at their initial release, in connection with Star Wars: The Force Awakens back in 2015. While most commentary directed at these pens focused on the (too high, IMHO) price point, I found the designs well-executed, especially the "Stormtrooper" and "R2D2" pens. Goldspot was kind enough to loan me a Stormtrooper to review, and while I didn't feel comfortable carrying a loaner pen of this value "out in the wild," I did write with it for a bit and have some initial impressions.
What I liked:
- Design: The Star Wars theme is understated and not at all gaudy. As you can see from the pictures, a small Imperial logo appears on the back side of the cap, and I love how the limited edition run ends at "1977." The pen is a pleasant shape, and comfortable to use either posted or unposted, though when posted the cap wiggles and rattles a bit.
- Nib: The medium two-tone 18kt gold nib on this pen is an outstanding writer - wet and smooth, though the pen writes more like a broad than a true medium. While Cross makes most of its nibs in-house (with nibs on certain models made by Sailor Japan), this nib both looks and feels like a Pelikan nib. Why? Because apparently Pelikan is also making nibs for Cross. Pelikan is not an inexpensive brand - in part because of the craftsmanship that goes into their excellent nibs, and I suspect that drives up the price on these pens. (More on that below in "What I did not like").
What I Did Not Like:
- Price. While it's a nice pen, the $575 price bumps you into Pelikan M800 territory. I'm aware that die-hard Star Wars fans who also love fountain pens have snapped these up, but I likely will take a pass because $575 is a LOT of money. Even once you factor in the Pelikan nib, the comparably-sized Pelikan M400 starts around $350.
- Cap and Clip. Not the design, but the construction. The cap is friction-fit, and there's a bit too much wiggle, both when the pen is capped and posted. The clip isn't spring-loaded, and the folded metal construction looks like a minor upgrade from those used on much less expensive Cross pens. The fit and finish here doesn't rise to the level of a nearly $600 pen.
Overall, the pens that I would consider comparable to the Cross Townsend would be the Aurora Ipsilon, the Parker Sonnet, and - with respect to the nib - the Pelikan M400. All of those pens are excellent, and the Parker and Pelikan are personal favorites, but they sit at a price point well below what Cross is asking for here.
The Sheaffer Star Wars Pens
Though I'm a semi-die hard Star Wars nut, I probably couldn't justify the purchase of the Townsend. Sheaffer, on the other hand, knocks it out of the park with their latest release, coming in at just over or just under $20, depending on whether you go with the rollerball or fountain pen version.
Why did both Cross and Sheaffer decide to jump in on the "Star Wars" pen game? For starters, they're the same company. Cross acquired Sheaffer from Bic in late 2014, so it's a fair assumption that these two pens are part of the same overall branding strategy/collaboration between Disney (which now owns the rights to Star Wars) and Cross.
Personally, I think the Sheaffer is the better pen of the two, all things considered. It's an inexpensive pen, yet at the same time feels well made. When I first saw pictures of these pens posted online, I expected cheap, thin plastic fountain pens with a cellophane/plastic wrap decoration applied to them that would flake and peel off over time. Not the case. The Star Wars detailing is either painted or a well-applied decal. Sure, it might wear away over time, but it's a $20 pen. Construction-wise, the plastic on these pens feels pleasantly thick and sturdy, and probably would withstand minor drops onto a hard surface.
The Sheaffers also offer a great writing experience, especially at the $20 price point. The round section is soft rubber, so it's grippy and very comfortable to use. These nibs won't win any awards for character, but for a workhorse stainless steel nib on a cheap fountain pen, the quality was consistent across both pens that I tried, with the Sheaffer writing a wet line without any skipping. The pens are a bit long posted but they're also very light so I could go either way. Well done, Sheaffer!
If you're interested in ordering online, Goldspot has the full range of Sheaffer Star Wars pens in stock, in both fountain and rollerball. Many thanks to Goldspot for making this review possible!
Further Shopping Options
Finally, if you're a fan of Bic products, or simply want to spend even less money to scratch your "Star Wars" itch, you'll want to check out the Star Wars-themed Bic ballpoint pen, Bic Multipen, and Bic Mechanical Pencils. Oddly, I've not seen these carried in any office supply stores - and I've looked pretty hard - so you may be limited to ordering online. (The other day, I could swear I saw a Star Wars-themed Bic cigarette lighter that said "Join the Dark Side," but now I can't find it anywhere. Must've ruffled a few feathers and been pulled.)
Disclaimer: The Cross Stormtrooper pen and the Darth Vader Sheaffer fountain pen were sent to me by Goldspot for review purposes (the Stormtrooper pen on loan). This post contains affiliate links.