If you're a Star Wars fan, how better to show your undying love and commitment to the amazing saga than by purchasing your very own themed writing instruments!
Well, thanks to a few companies, you can. It all just depends on how much you want to spend, and are the pens worth the buy?
Goldspot Pens was kind enough to offer up a couple of pen ideas for review, so I opted to do a side by side comparison of two Star Wars pens that have seemed to be a bit at odds with each other...
The two pens in question are made by Cross and Shaeffer, two companies deeply rooted in American pen manufacturing heritage (although, actually one company now due to a merger).
To start out, I opted to review the rollerball versions of the pens to try and touch on a more "normal" pen experience rather than the fountain pen versions. Not all Star Wars fans are fountain pen users but, darnit, they can buy a nice pen to accompany their fandom.
These two pens, although sharing a common R2-D2 themed design and writing experience, couldn't be further from each other in overall execution and price. It really just depends on what you're looking for and what your budget is for novelty.
Shaeffer Pop Series
Let's start out with the R2-D2 Shaeffer Pop, the less expensive of the two. Starting at around $20, you get a fun, printed plastic barrel of your favorite friendly droid wrapped up in pen form.
The Shaeffer is definitely a "retail" and novelty designed product coming in a plastic, pegboard ready blister pack. Nicely done with some good dual branding, but nothing special.
The pen is lightweight being nearly all plastic parts that has a wonderful resemblance of the R2-D2 lines imprinted on the barrel. I believe it to be a sort of silk screen as it does have subtle texture so it is likely to wear off over the years as it is used. But, for $20 we can't complain too much!
The cap of the pen pops on and off through a stepped friction fit and also posts in the same way. Posted the pen is a bit on the long side, but being so light isn't a bother in the least.
Spoiler alert, both pens share the same refill being under the same umbrella, but with each being branded with their specific company names. The refill used is actually one of my favorite "roller" refills all things considered. It is the Cross/Shaeffer Gel Rolling Ball in 0.7mm which lays down one of the darkest, smoothest lines for any rollerball which is a plus. It probably doesn't trump the P8126 for versatility or overall convenience, but is still quite good.
The grip section on the Pop Series is a grippy rubber texture which makes it easy to hold.
So, the fact that this pen is $20, Star Wars themed, and has a great refill out the gates are all good signs that you might be pleased.
Is it a fancy pen? Not by any means. It feels like a novelty, nicely made (although cheap at the same time) pen that fans will enjoy using. A great stocking stuffer for either yourself or a Star Wars lover in your life.
The next pen takes us on a completely different journey from being a mere inexpensive novelty to that of high-end ultra fandom. The bulk of the review will be spent on the Cross as I feel there is a bit more to tell...
Coming in at $450, the Cross Townsend R2-D2 pen is not for the faint of wallet, but we'll discuss my thoughts on whether it is "worth it" as I really dislike tying price to value when you get into this territory.
Rather than a retail blister pack, the Cross comes in a branded cardboard sleeve that includes a nice-ish (not really blown away by it) yellow and black clam-shell cardboard pleather (lots of description here) where the pen lives. Also included is a separate similar box holding a piano black acrylic stand that has Star Wars on one side in silver letters, and Cross on the other in yellow.
What immediately distinguishes the Cross from the Shaeffer is the overall attention to detail and execution. While the Shaeffer is a nicely printed piece of plastic, the Cross in contrast is done in brushed stainless steel with the R2-D2 lines actually etched/engraved into the surface. The blue accents are a cleanly executed paint inlay that provides some "pop" against an otherwise monochrome barrel.
The Cross is weighty, feels solid, and has a certain amount of stage presence that the Shaeffer just doesn't have. Granted, it is 20 times the price, but these are not comparing apples to apples.
Adorning the ends of the pen as well as the center band are polished chrome accents which provide a bit of bling when butted up against the stainless as well.
Wrapping around part of the finial is a laser etching of the limited edition number of 1977 (the year Star Wars came out) and at the very tip is a black jewel to crown it all off.
Overall, the execution is pretty impressive and the pen looks and feels great. Certain to turn heads by anyone that sees you using it.
The cap pops off through a plastic insert in the cap, kind of like a vacuum seal almost with a pretty good tug, and also posts. Writing unposted seems most comfortable given the weight of the pen.
The grip section is a polished black acrylic that goes into an all chrome tip that ties together with the other furniture on the pen. I'm not completely in love with the black section (blue may have been better, or even stainless to match), but it still looks nice.
From a quality standpoint where the wheels come off a little is when you start to unscrew the grip to replace the refill. The pieces start to squeak and wobble and underneath you find some "unfinished" parts with molding seams and rather cheap looking material. In my opinion, not $450 material. It doesn't really matter if the parts are only seen when you take the refill out, on a pen of this price (or even half its price), you expect a level of attention to detail. Do I think this will dissuade someone who's buttons this pen pushes to not enjoy it? Likely not, but to me it takes it down a few notches.
For the sake of validation, I took apart a few pens that normally run comparable or even cheaper to the Townsend rollerball and fountain pens in price, and found that NONE of them had similar issues in quality control. Or, at least they pay better attention to detail than Cross.
(Pens I referenced were a Sailor Pro Gear, Montblanc 146 Platinum, Platinum 3776, and even a Kaweco Elite for good measure.)
For being one of Cross' flagship products, upon further inspection it did leave some things wanting.
Referencing back to the acrylic stand, quality control on these didn't seem to go so well. The silver Star Wars lettering is a bit wavy where the lines should be straight and even looks a bit on the crooked side. May seem like a small detail to some, but getting the actual logo wrong (wavy lines means "wrong" to any company) cheapens the pen experience.
In conclusion on the Cross, I don't like to make prescriptions when it comes to luxury goods, but while I feel there are some really great aspects to the pen (it really is a stunner), not sure I could see it holding up to the high price tag for me personally. That definitely doesn't mean that there aren't others that would absolutely love using this pen every day.
Special thanks again to Goldspot for sending these over for review!
What do you think about the two pens?