If you’re anything like most fountain pen users, you probably do a good amount of your shopping online. While some of us may be lucky enough to live near a shop that sells fountain pens, the majority of people do not. Even if you have a pen shop nearby, there are some things that you just won’t be able to find there and will eventually have to do some shopping online.
I make regular purchases online for the various papers I need for the paper sample packs I sell. While I do my best to purchase items locally whenever possible, there are many types of paper that I can only find online. This means that I have quite a bit of experience with many of the shops that are out there. In this article, I want to take a quick look at how each shop’s shipping compares and what their thresholds are for free shipping.
Comparing Fountain Pen Shop Shipping
To “research” this article, I compared purchases that I’ve made over the past 6 months or so from the shops listed below. While I only photographed one shipment from each, many different purchases were factored in to my results. I paid attention to such things as shipping materials used, packing quality and shipping speed. Let’s take a look and see what I found.
One thing I want to point out is that all shops below offer fountain pens, inks and paper/notebooks and carry most of the major brands you would expect. They also all offer ink samples, but in varying brands, prices and sample sizes.
Note: Shops are listed alphabetically.
Anderson Pens, in addition to being a major online shop, also has a physical shop in Wisconsin. They also have a major presence at pen shows across the country. I consider them to be one of the more well-rounded shops, offering a good variety of pen, paper and ink brands as well as carrying vintage fountain pens and repair supplies.
Their packages are packed very well. As you can see below, they used a USPS box inside of an USPS envelope, so don’t be scared if you get a bent envelope in your mailbox… the good stuff is safe inside the inner box. Your order will be wrapped in bubble wrap. If you have ordered any ink samples, they’ll be inside a small sealed pouch.
I have never received any damaged items from Anderson. All purchases have shipped within one day of my order being placed. Orders ship from Wisconsin.
Free shipping minimum purchase: $50, AndersonPens.com
Goulet Pens is an online-only pen shop and they don’t have much of a presence at pen shows. While they are arguably the biggest pen shop in the country, their selection isn’t as diverse as other shops. They have a limited supply of pen cleaning and tuning supplies, but nothing for vintage pens. Their educational series of videos are helpful and well-known within the pen community.
Orders from Goulet ship with a box inside of an outer envelope, similar to Anderson. Goulet even has branded USPS envelopes! Inside of the box you’ll find your order packed with some inflatable air cushions, a sticker and their trademark sucker. Ink samples are sealed in a pouch.
I have never received any damaged items from Goulet. All purchases have shipped within two days of my order being placed. Orders ship from Virginia.
Free shipping minimum purchase: $88 for November 2020, usually not available, GouletPens.com
Jet Pens has a huge selection of Japanese stationery items. While they do have some of the more popular non-Japanese brands, their focus is decidedly Japanese. This also means that they carry many products that are harder to find at other shops. They also have many non-fountain pen products such as planner supplies, stickers and washi tape. As far as I know, they have no participation at pen shows.
They ship their orders wrapped in bubble wrap inside of an envelope. Every time I get something from them I fear that my notebooks will be bent or damaged, but this has never happened (other than one notebook with a bent corner that I’m not sure happened in shipping). Still, I find it worrying that even ink samples, while sealed in a bag, are shipped without a rigid box.
Most shipments from Jet Pens have arrived safely, but I have received one notebook with a slightly bent corner. All purchases have shipped within one day of my order being placed. Orders ship from California.
Free shipping minimum purchase: $35, JetPens.com
Vanness Pens has a shop in Arkansas and offers a nice variety of items. In addition to the more popular brands that people might look for, Vanness also carries many harder to find ink and paper brands. They are fairly active at pen shows.
Orders from Vanness ship in cardboard boxes packed with paper. Items inside of the box are wrapped in plastic to keep them secured together and prevent them from shifting around. Ink samples are shipped in a sealed plastic bag, but the bottle of ink I ordered was not sealed (although since everything else was wrapped in plastic, they were protected from ink damage if the bottle broke during shipping).
I have never received any damaged items from Vanness. Almost every purchase I have made has shipped the same day my order was placed. Orders ship from Arkansas.
Free shipping minimum purchase: $40, changing to $49 on Dec 1, 2020, Vanness1938.com.
Yoseka Stationery has a shop in Brooklyn, NY, as well as a website where they sell items online. Daisy and Neil have a big focus on items from Japan and offer many unique items that you won’t find anywhere else. I don’t think they have ever participated in a pen show. In addition to fountain pens, inks and papers, they also have a lot of planner supplies such as washi tape, stamps and stickers.
Depending on what I’ve ordered, I have received orders in both shipping envelopes and boxes. Packing is where Yoseka really shines. Every single package that I’ve ever received from them has the products neatly wrapped in kraft paper, sealed in washi tape, and stamped with their logo. Each package also includes a sticker and hand-written note! It truly is a treat to receive a package from Yoseka and their attention to detail makes receiving even the most mundane of notebooks something special.
I have never received any damaged items from Yoseka. Most purchases have shipped within one day of my order being placed. Orders ship from New York.
Free shipping minimum purchase: $40, YosekaStationery.com.
What About Amazon?
If you’ve ever ordered anything from Amazon, you know that while the shipping may be free and fast, the packing leaves much to be desired. Personally, I have received bent notebooks, smashed pen boxes, leaky ink bottles and have seen even worse experiences that people have shared online. While you may save a few dollars ordering from Amazon, the shipping risks are, in my opinion, way too high. I would implore you to order from one of the shops listed above the next time you order something online. Not only will you be sure that it will arrive safely, you’ll also be supporting a small business.
So now you have five very solid options for ordering fountain pen supplies online. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re likely to be able to find it at one of these shops. Not only will you receive your orders quickly, but they’ll also arrive safely.
Still, keep in mind that there are many other shops that I didn’t mention because I don’t have any experience with them. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try other shops if they have something that you’re looking for. I know that many have fairly low free-shipping thresholds, which is always nice.
Finally, I want to leave you with this… if there is something that you’re looking for but can’t find at one of the major shops, dig deeper! Many of the well known shops that I buy paper supplies from have run out and not received replacement items due to COVID-related shipping and supply issues. With a little patience, I have found small shops online who still have items in stock after digging through 3-5 pages of Google search results. Not only has this allowed me to replenish my supply, but I’ve also discovered some new shops that I’ll hopefully get to buy from again!
This is a great service for the pen community. You have probably helped reduce frustration for pen lovers trying to find items online. While only one of the sources is new for me, I suspect most people don’t have the time to explore the internet as much as I do, as I am retired and can spend time online.
Thanks for the comment, Michael. I am constantly surprised at how few online pen shops people know about. It seems most have heard of Goulet, but that’s it for many. I hope this helps others find what they’re looking for and hopefully you can give that new source a try in the near future!
John. This is terrific info for us enthusiasts, so thanks for posting. I started this passion only 5 years ago. I had to see a specialist in NYC, and scheduled it such that I’d have time to zip over to The Fountain Pen Hospital to be able to see and try out pens in person. Since then I’ve been dealing with vendors (mostly) on line. I do buy from local businesses (like my Rhodia paper at a nearby calligraphy shop) where possible, and quite agree with you that we should do our best to support small businesses whenever possible. Thanks again for your very helpful post. Funny to say that even something as simple as a handwritten note like “Thanks for your purchase” in a package is a nice gesture.
Glad you found it helpful, Rich! It’s great that you have a local shop you can get supplies at. Hope you found a few new online options as well!
Thanks — this was very helpful! I learned about a couple of online shops that I didn’t know about, and I’m looking forward to checking out their stock.
You’re welcome, Julia. I hope you enjoy finding some new treats!
Thanks John, a really useful starting point – and as a non-US resident I can confirm that shopping with these online stores internationally is hassle free (although I haven’t tried Anderson Pens yet) and nothing I’ve received has been damaged. I too think Yoseka, a recent find, are particularly great at packaging, especially as they avoid as much plastic as possible and their whole box is a delight to receive – as you pointed out. I’d also mention Pen Chalet is the US as very good on customer service – when our local postal service repeatedly messed up a delivery, they sorted the problem and were really helpful. I would add CultPens (UK) to your list too. They have a decent selection of pens and stationery, they ship worldwide and their packages arrive (in the UK) very quickly with a nice note and small sweet treat included. That said, I do try my local shops first when considering a purchase but sometimes you need to go further afield to get something special.
Thanks for the recommendations! I rarely order from Pen Chalet, as they don’t carry many of the papers I need, but will have to try them out more often. I’ve heard CultPens is great, so maybe I’ll need to find a reason to order something from them. Happy shopping!
I just got a box from Taroko design. Everything is individually wrapped and the notebooks are bubble wrapped individually. No ink in this, but every item was protected from water damage. Arrived quickly from Taiwan. Birmingham Pens has also sent ink that was protected like a Faberge egg! The only issue I’ve every experienced with the major vendors is carrier related such as the box completely soaked or looking like it was drop kicked the last few miles. Thanks for sharing this, hopefully a lot of other data points come in too!
Thanks for the info, Eric! It’s always good to hear about other companies that protect their items, as the carriers often don’t seem to take a lot of care.