Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Financial Analysis of Fountain Pen Ink

Before we get into the topic at hand, I would like to make a disclaimer that this article does not contain any methodology or suggestions for acquiring pre-tax write-offs on the purchase of fountain pen ink. For inquiries of this kind, please direct your questions to an accountant, preferably one who loves fountain pens.

Through a conversation with a good friend, I came to realize how infrequently I have heard a case made for the use of bottled ink over ink cartridges. Certainly, the biggest pro on the side of cartridges is their ease of use, convenience (both of changing and of carrying), and lack of mess (or much of one at least!)

Discussions of environmental impact and waste could be argued back and forth from how the usage of plastic for cartridges (that are thrown away, when empty) matches to the large glass or plastic ink bottles and their corresponding boxes or other packaging. Likewise, using the argument for a greater variety of colors and brand options in bottled ink, while a valid point, cannot be applied to all people. Some fountain pen (or refillable rollerball, etc.) users, as shocking as this may sound to some of us, actually prefer to just use one or two colors by one or two brands, whose ink is probably available in both cartridges and bottles. As I have not yet encountered a fountain pen that could not take bottled ink, so long as it could take cartridges, I shall assume that this does not pose a problem.

What I would like to propose is a case for bottled ink, based on cost. This will not take into account any of those other conditions and will make the assumptions that the brand in question offers the same color in cartridges and bottled ink and that the cartridges are the short, standard international version, holding approximately 0.5 mL of ink. (A standard international converter is also assumed to hold approximately 0.5 mL of ink.)

The cost breakdown, using Montblanc's Oyster Grey ink stands as follows:

One box of cartridges
= 8 cartridges @ 0.5 mL / cartridge
= 4 mL / box @ $4 / box
= $0.50 / cartridge or converter fill (0.5 mL)

One bottle of ink
= 60 mL / bottle @ $17 / bottle
= $0.14 / cartridge or converter fill (0.5 mL)

When viewed by the half milliliter fills, these cents may seem slightly trivial; however, to purchase enough cartridges to equate to the same amount of ink as in the $17 bottle, one would need to buy $60 worth of cartridges! The cost effectiveness is worth the extra initial investment in my mind.

Of course, there are exceptions and other reasons for not buying bottled ink. For example, in the specific case of Montblanc, ink samples are not readily available. Thus, one may want to purchase a $4 box of cartridges to test before actually paying for a full bottle, and this is perfectly logical. However, I urge you to take a look the cost effectiveness of your ink purchases! The savings may surprise you.

(Side note for interested parties: all of Montblanc's inks are priced the same, if they are purchased from a Montblanc boutique in the United States. All boxes of eight cartridges are $4 and all sixty milliliter bottles of ink are $17, regardless of the color in both cases.)

This post was unsolicited and uncompensated. Please feel free to post any questions or comments, below.

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