Best Disposable Fountain Pen Review Pilot Varsity Platinum Preppy

Choosing The Best Disposable Fountain Pen

John BosleyFountain Pen Reviews 40 Comments

In a world of fountain pens that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the term “disposable fountain pen” might seem like an oxymoron. Indeed, they may go against everything that fountain pens seem to stand for… quality, permanence and luxury. Don’t let the term fool you, though. Disposable fountain pens are actually quite capable little pens! Surprisingly, there are actually quite a few different models to choose from, so let’s try to figure out which one is the best disposable fountain pen.

Why Would You Want A Disposable Fountain Pen?

First things first, why would you even want a disposable fountain pen? If you’re a regular fountain pen user, you surely have plenty of other options available to you. When would you ever grab one of these $5 pens instead of your $500 pen? One time might be when there’s a risk of damaging or losing your pen. In that situation, it would make sense to use a pen that is disposable. Another time might be if you’re teaching someone how to use a fountain pen. People who have never used a fountain pen, especially children, don’t understand how delicate they can be. A bent nib on a $5 pen isn’t a big deal, while a bent nib on a $100 pen surely is. Finally, people who enjoy using fountain pens typically enjoy using any type of fountain pen. A disposable pen can feel like a fun and easy treat to any pen lover.

Disposable fountain pens are actually quite capable little pens!

So, now that we’ve figured out why you might want a disposable fountain pen in the first place, let’s take a look at the contenders for the title of Best Disposable Fountain Pen.

The Pens

The current lineup of contenders consists of 4 different pens. Each will be rated on the same criteria on a scale of 1-3 (1 being the lowest, 3 the highest):

Quality: How well is the pen made?
Availability: How easily can you purchase the pen and refills?
Color Selection: How many colors does this pen come in?
Nib Selection: How many different nib sizes are there?
Other: Any other qualities the pen may have that make it stand out.

Each pen was tested over the course of a week. The pens were first uncapped and, in the case of the cartridge pens, inked on Day 1. They were used and tested throughout the week to see if they had dried out or changed at all.

Pilot Varsity/Vpen
Pilot Varsity best disposable fountain pen

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen

Pilot Vpen best disposable fountain pen

Pilot Vpen Disposable Fountain Pen

The Pilot Varsity (or Vpen as it is known outside of the United States) is a full-sized disposable fountain pen. The barrel and cap have a black and grey design. The ends of the cap and barrel are color-coded to match the ink color. The plastic that it is made out of is more flexible than the clear plastic of the Preppy or Petit1, which means it stands a better chance of not cracking or getting damaged. This is a good thing since the ink is stored directly inside of the barrel and not in a cartridge.

I have a long history with these pens. In 2010 I filled a bunch of these “disposable” pens up with ink for an ink testing station at an event at the Smithsonian Air and Postal Museum. Much to my surprise, 7 years and 2 moves later and I still have a few that have not evaporated and write just fine! With that being said, I don’t think you’ll experience any drying out or leaks with a Varsity.

These pens tend to write with a very wet line. On some paper the Varsity will feather just a little bit, but on most paper you’ll just get a nice line of ink. Of all the pens in this roundup, I think the Varsity has the most saturated ink (at least the two blues that I tested).

One other benefit is that you can refill a Pilot Varsity. By gripping the nib and pulling it out of the barrel (you’ll want to use something to grip it without damaging it), you’ll be able to fill the pen with ink like you would an eyedropper. Now you can use any color of ink you want!

Quality: 3
Availability: 3
Color Selection: 2 (7 colors)
Nib Selection: 1 (Medium only)
Other: 3 (easily refilled, never dry out)

pilot vpen nib detail best disposable fountain pen

Pilot Vpen Nib Detail

Pilot Varsity Nib Detail

Platinum Preppy
Platinum Preppy Best Disposable Fountain Pen

Platinum Preppy Disposable Fountain Pen

The Platinum Preppy is a full-sized disposable fountain pen. The barrel and cap are clear plastic, allowing you to see the ink cartridge and nib even when the pen is capped. The end of the cap and clip are color-coded to match the ink color. There is a bunch of text that’s on the barrel (warnings, a bar code, etc…) that detract from the appearance of the pen.

The Preppy seems to be the Varsity’s biggest competition. You’ll regularly hear them referred to in the same breath. When it comes down to it, they are fairly similar pens. They are roughly the same size, have similar nibs and come in nearly the same ink colors. The biggest difference between the two is that the Preppy takes cartridges, which means it can be easily refilled. Platinum also makes a converter, which allows you to use any ink you’d like. To get the ink flowing, push the included cartridge onto the back of the section.

During the time that I used the Preppy, it tended to dry out a little. I don’t know if it was just this particular pen or if others would do the same thing, but it happened on more than one occasion. Sometimes it would write perfectly fine, while others it would seem dry.

As for the feel of the pen, I think the Preppy feels like the highest quality pen of the bunch. It’s the largest pen, both in length and in grip size, so if you have larger hands you’ll probably find it the most comfortable.

Finally, if you do want to reuse the Preppy, it is possible to refill the ink cartridges.

Quality: 2
Availability: 2
Color Selection: 2 (7 colors)
Nib Selection: 3 (Extra Fine, Fine and Medium)
Other: 3 (takes cartridges and has an available converter)

Platinum Preppy Nib Detail best disposable fountain pen

Platinum Preppy Nib Detail

Pilot Petit1
Pilot Petit1 best Disposable Fountain Pen

Pilot Petit1 Disposable Fountain Pen

The Petit1 is another Pilot pen, but is significantly different from the Varsity. To start with, it’s much smaller, what some people might refer to as a pocket or purse pen. It’s also a cartridge filler, which means it can be refilled with the appropriate cartridges. While the Varsity only comes with Medium nibs, the Petit1 only comes with Fine nibs.

To install the cartridge, you’ll first need to remove the protective piece on the tip of the cartridge. Once the cartridge is installed, you can enjoy watching the ink flow into the clear feed for the first time. Even though it looked like it was inked and ready to write, it took a few scribbles to get the ink flowing. Although I was initially a little worried, the pen’s small size not an issue for writing comfort.

Finally, if you do want to reuse the Petit1, it is possible to refill the ink cartridges.

Quality: 3
Availability: 2
Color Selection: 2 (8 colors)
Nib Selection: 1 (Fine only)
Other: 3 (takes cartridges which can be refilled)

Pilot Petit1 Nib Detail best disposable fountain pen

Pilot Petit1 Nib Detail

Thornton’s Office Supplies Novice
Thornton's Novice Best Disposable Fountain Pen

Thornton’s Novice Disposable Fountain Pen

The Thornton’s Novice is a full-sized disposable fountain pen. The barrel and cap are glossy black with silver accents. The ends of the cap and barrel are color-coded to match the ink color. This is not a cartridge-filler.

While many would consider this to be the best looking pen of the bunch, I’m not particularly attracted to it. One reason is that the glossy black surface shows fingerprints much more easily than any of the other pens. They are also not the highest quality pens. I couldn’t get one of the pens in the 12 pack to write. The nibs are also weaker and bend more easily than the other pens. Unlike the Pilot Varsity, the Novice can’t be refilled due to a taper of the barrel that makes the nib impossible to remove.

Quality: 2
Availability: 1
Color Selection: 3 (12 colors)
Nib Selection: 1
Other: 1 (can’t be refilled)

Thornton's Novice Disposable Fountain Pen Nib Detail

Thornton’s Novice Nib Detail

So Which Is The Best Disposable Fountain Pen?

disposable fountain pen writing comparison

Writing comparison of the different disposable fountain pens

The win has to go to the Pilot Varsity/Vpen. In my mind, this is the ultimate disposable fountain pen. Maybe it’s because it was the first one I ever purchased, but I feel like it is the best all-around pen. Not only does it do a solid job at writing, but it’s also the toughest of the bunch. Add to that the fact that it can be refilled with any ink you want without having to purchase new cartridges and it’s clear that this is a great pen for beginners and experienced pen-users alike.

The runner up would have to be the Platinum Preppy. It has just about everything seasoned pen users might want… a variety of colors and nib sizes, it’s easily refillable via ink cartridges and you can buy a converter to use any ink you desire. Because I experienced some drying out and it’s not as tough or attractive as the Pilot Varsity, I hesitate to give it my top recommendation, but it’s still a wonderful pen at a great price.

The Pilot Petit1 is a great little pen. It’s fun and easy to use and many people will be attracted to it simply because of it’s size. Don’t let it’s cute looks fool you… it’s still comfortable to use, even if you don’t have small hands.

Finally, I wouldn’t recommend the Thornton’s Novice. While they aren’t bad pens, there is the illusion of value with the number of pens you get for the price. Unfortunately, they just don’t hold up when compared to a set of Varsity, Preppy or even Petit1 pens. They’re not bad pens, by any means, but the Novice are truly the only disposable pens of the bunch, as they are impossible to easily refill.

I hope you found this review useful! Please let me know in the comments section if you’ve used any other disposable fountain pens that I’ve missed.

Comments 40

  1. I’ve always been a fan of the Platinum Preppy. Did you try any of the other nib sizes? I wonder how they would compare to the other pens?

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      1. I use the Preppy in an EF nib. It compares favorably and has about the same line width as the Pilot Metropolitan with a Fine nib. The Preppy can also be filled with an eyedropper but when threading the nib back on, be sure to seal the threads with silicon grease and a #5 o-ring.

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  2. The Preppy was one of my first pens, too. It has now been “smoked” (given the sandpaper treatment) and eyedroppered to provide maximum ink capacity.

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      The nibs are definitely a little out of the ordinary, but they can be fun to use, especially for someone who’s not comfortable using an expensive pen. You might give one a try someday… I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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  3. John, I’m in broad agreement with you except for one detail.
    The Pilot V can be easily filled, you say, by pulling out nib and feed and therefore re-filling with any colour you wish. Yes, I can follow that, but the same is obviously true of the Preppy. Simply use a syringe and re-fill the cartridge with any colour – especially since the cartridges are very large and very expensive. To my mind Preppy is a stupid name.
    You didn’t mention Zebra disposables which are similar to the Pilot V but half the price. I haven’t needed to try and re-fill yet, but I live in hope.

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      Great point, Noel. I’ll update the article to include info about refilling the cartridge in a Preppy. I’ve never used a Zebra disposable. I’ll see if I can pick one up and give it try. Thank you!

      1. Don’t bother with the Zebra disposables. Their nibs are inconsistent, and often require the user to hold them at an odd rotation to write. The Varsity is a much better pen.

        1. Yes, the Varsity is a nice pen, but since it costs nearly the same as a Preppy there is no contest. The Preppy, being easily refillable, is the obvious winner for me. The Plaisir is identical to the Preppy except for the cap and body being made of aluminium, and is worth the extra cost.

        2. Alan, I’ve just now counted the Zebra disposables in this house – 32. Sounds a lot, I know, but the wife likes the full range of colours and buying a bundle makes them much cheaper. I’ve not had a single scratchy nib or any other problem with the nib. Perhaps you were unlucky.
          I did have a problem with one pink one – it would not write consistently. I solved the problem by storing it nib-down for two days.
          I buy them from Amazon £10 for 12. That’s probably $1 each. Much cheaper than from specialist pen shops. I like to give them away when people call. No-one has found that they need to be held differently to other pens. It seems you had a pen from a bad batch.

  4. John, regarding your comment about the Preppy being able to use a converter, Cult Pens issues this statement:

    “Converter for most standard Platinum fountain pens. Screw-type piston fill.

    NOTE: does NOT work with Platinum Preppy or Plaisir fountain pens. While the converter will fit perfectly well inside the pens, ink is only drawn into the feed, not into the converter. Can be used with these pens if you fill the converter outside the pen, then fit it pre-filled. Works normally with other Platinum pens.”
    There is little point in buying a converter and filling it a with syringe – better to fill an empty cartridge with a syringe an save the cost of a pointless purchase.
    Amazon doesn’t know this, and happily recommends the Platinum converter for Preppy and Plaisir.
    On eBay you can find a converter not made by Platinum. It’s like the ones you find in a Hero pen except that instead of 5 for $1 it’s 5 for £5.
    It’s not hard to understand Platinum’s view. Their dearer pens give them a decent profit. The cheaper pens make profit from cartidges.

    1. I’ve been using a converter in a Platinum Preppy for over three years and never encountered a problem filling it directly from an ink bottle. The only time I’ve ever used a syringe is when I have played with just filling the barrel itself with ink and sealing it with silicon gel and an o-ring.

  5. While I used the Pilot Varsity a lot back in the 1990s and early 2000s. That was back when you could purchase them with a fine nib [the fine nibs had a white barrel and cap instead of the black and grey]. I’ve used them occasionally since but found the medium nib to be like writing with a felt tip marker. I much prefer an extra fine nib and believe the Platinum Preppy is superior to the Varsity for that reason alone–that it can be refilled using either a cartridge, a converter, or by eyedropper [or syringe] is frosting on the cake. That said, I also use a Monteverde Monza, a Monami Olika, a Jinhao 51A, an Online Switch, and a Pilot Metropolitan–all with extra fine nibs.

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  6. If one want’s to step up to a non-disposable fountain pen for not much more in cost than a Pilot Varsity/VPen or Platinum preppy, I would recommend the Wing Sung 3008. They have a piston-fill mechanism [not a converter] and cost about $15 for a set of four in choice of medium, fine, or extra fine nibs through

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  7. They are a very pleasant surprise. They make another model which uses international style cartridges or a piston converter that are available in five packs for the same price. A piston converter is included with each pen.
    Another great pen which costs very little [under $10] is the Wing Sung 3013, which uses a vacuum fill system.

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  8. John, I have Wing Sung 3008s and 3013s. They are nice pens, but the filling mechanisms are gimmicks to entice you to buy yet more pens. The more moving parts, the more to go wrong. If you have a fair few pens then I imagine you’ll want to decommission occasionally. With the aforementioned pens it is difficult to completely remove all traces of ink, and then to completely dry before storing. If you store without fully drying then mould will appear. You can’t get inside the pens, or take them apart. Compare with having a Jinhao 992 and filling the whole barrel. If you want change ink colour or decommission it’s easy Simply take it apart. The same with a Moonman and all those others that like to be known as Inkdroppers.
    When you’ve put the ink in then it should be all about how the pen writes and feels regarding weight and balance and nib.

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      Thanks for the info, Noel. I have a few 3008s and have experienced the difficulty of getting the water to completely evaporate. Even here in Colorado where the air is very dry, they never dry out. I can only image in a more humid environment. So true that at the end of the day it’s not about the filling mechanism, but how the pen actually writes.

      1. I’ve been using the Wing Sung pens for over two years with no problems. I live in the Midwest which is not exactly known for low humidity–especially after the flooding we had over the better part of 2019.

        1. Oh yes, the pens are fine when in use. We are discussing how to clean them out when not in use or when changing to another colour ink. It’s difficult when the pen is sealed.

  9. I’ve always loved Vpens, and thought it a shame to have to throw them away just because they ran out of ink. Now I don’t! I prefer fine nibs, but just turning the Vpen nib upside down works pretty well to reduce the line.

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