Taxonomy Update

Around six months ago, I published a series called Taxonomy in which I tried to map out the competitive landscape for FPs and identify which brands were offering users the most value for money. Some things have changed in the meantime and today, we’ll update the list and have a look at who is doing what in the market.

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Status Symbols

In the last couple of weeks, there has been an interesting post on reddit and a couple of comments on this blog discussing why people are willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single fountain pen. This is a topic people often ask about, particularly those who have recently moved into the hobby and are (understandably) a bit staggered at the prices that are sometimes paid. A lot of people respond to these discussions by saying that expensive pens aren’t any better quality than mid-range pens, and concluding that they are being bought primarily as status symbols. The premiss of this claim seems completely wrong to me, and so the conclusion doesn’t follow. In today’s post, we’ll have a look at why I feel this way. 

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An Opportunity in the Pen Market

I’ve been thinking about the economics of the FP retail market for a good year or so, and one of the things that stood out in the beginning was the gaping hole between US$200-400. There just didn’t seem to be many good FP options for users who were ready to step up from their Lamy 2000s and Pilot VPs but weren’t yet ready for a premium pen. As a believer in (relatively) efficient markets, I assumed that the brands were aware of the gap and that some were probably developing products to fill it. But twelve months on, there hasn’t been a lot of change and the market continues to be underserved.

For today’s post, I thought it would be interesting to go through the first two steps of product development: identifying a gap in the market and working out what sort of product users would want to buy. I’ll also discuss which companies I think are positioned to be successful in this space.

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