Pen Review – The New Esterbrook J Series Pens

The New Esterbrook J Series Pen

First of all, we need to emphasize that any opinions expressed today in this review are our own, as personal collectors and users of vintage Esterbrook pens. For full transparency and disclosure, we did contact the new Esterbrook company to inquire about a retail opportunity. Based on the images of the new pens, we did request to buy samples of one fountain pen and one rollerball, which we purchased at a wholesale cost, which was thoughtful of the company to do. We have since been told that the company will not be able to work with us, in a phone call that occurred last week, after an online exchange about the usage of an image on Brian’s site. They wished us well.

New Esterbrook Fountain Pen

The New Esterbrook Fountain Pen

As long-time collectors, with a collection of Esterbrooks numbering at approximately 1000 (Esterbrooks alone), plus between the two of us, we have handled thousands more in our 17+ years each of pen collecting, we have seen a couple of pens. We were excited to hear that the Esterbrook pens were being revived. When we saw the pics of the “new J”, we were a little confused, and I have to admit, a little dismayed. We received the pens just before the Philly Pen Show this January.

New Esterbrook Fountain Pen Posted

The New Esterbrook Fountain Pen Posted

There has been much debate about where these pens are being made. We have NO IDEA where these are made. The company is pushing the “America’s original pen company” reputation, and according to the company kickstarter page, “All Esterbrook Pens are made in various factories in which I have relationships with both domestically and internationally.”

New Esterbrook Fountain Pen Open

The New Esterbrook Fountain Pen Open

First glance, the sleeve on the box clearly says made in China – so the box is made there. No big deal. Many decent pens are made in China, and most pen users don’t mind, as long as they know that. It’s basic economics regarding the cost of manufacturing. We carry products made in Taiwan, Thailand, Germany, China, India, Italy, and many other countries. In my personal opinion, the box is very nice!! I like it a lot.

New Esterbrook Box

The New Esterbrook Box & Warranty (Typo and Grammatical Errors – Ooops!)

Then we opened the box, to find the rollerball first. Not a bad looking plastic, but certainly NOT what Richard Esterbrook had designed, but nice acrylics nonetheless.

Rollerball – pen received brand new in the box had scuff in plastic, had to be exchanged. Very squeaky sounding refill (made by Yeetsen) when held at a higher angle, as some users do.

New Esterbrook Rollerball Open

The New Esterbrook Rollerball Open

Fountain Pen – Does not post well and has a very big step between the barrel and the section.  So much so that after only a few minutes there was a visible crease in my fingers from holding the pen.  It would be more comfortable to hold the pen further back, but this makes writing awkward.  Those who hold their pen towards the end of the section may have issues as well.  The cap threads are at the barrel end of the section, not on the barrel. There is one nib option – medium – in the IPG nib.  The nib is friction fit in the plastic section with a plastic feed.  Interestingly enough, the nib does resemble the 3xxx series “sunburst” style nibs.  I suspect this is a coincidence as no mention of this has been made.

New Esterbrook Nib

The New Esterbrook Nib

IPG nib (Iridium Point Germany), which no longer necessarily means it is made in Germany, as a quick google search revealed. It means that the tipping material, which is probably not actual iridium, was purchased from Germany. They can be made anywhere. According to the Edison Pen Company, many IPG nibs are made in China or India.

The nib on the J is not the worst nib we’ve ever used, but not the smoothest either.  Even with perfectly aligned tines, the nib had a lot of feedback.  It could have benefited greatly from some 12000 grit micromesh and some mylar paper.

New Esterbrook and Original J

The New Esterbrook and Original J

The pen bears no resemblance to the original Esterbrook J, rather a larger version of the Esterbrook CA101.

New Esterbrook with A101

The New Esterbrook with A101

The converter is international sized with an agitator.  The converter is a hair shorter than the standard Schmidt K2 converter, and holds slightly less than a standard short international cartridge.  One blue cartridge is included with the pen.

New Esterbrook Fountain Pen and Rollerball

The New Esterbrook Fountain Pen and Rollerball

Retail price on the J is $75, the Rollerball $65.  At this price range there are several other good candidates to consider as well, including the Pilot Prera ($70 Retail, $56 Street Price) with three nib options, the Monteverde Prima ($70 Retail, $56 Street Price) with four nib options, the TWSBI Diamond 580 Rose Gold (Retail $70) with four nib options (six with the lower priced 580), the Sheaffer 300 ($75 Retail) with two nib options, the Noodler’s Neponset at $75, and the Kaweco AL-Sport ($80 Retail) with two nib options.

New Esterbrook Acrylic

The New Esterbrook Acrylic

So there you have it, a first look into the New Esterbrook J pens.

Ink It Up!
Brian & Lisa

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  • Sara Rice

    I was really excited when I saw the ad that Esterbrook’s were coming back? I was first envisioning replicas of the original purse pens etc. Anyway, I purchased one of each color as I am such a huge Esterbrook fan. The boxes have arrived and the pens look great out of the box. I really need to try them soon to get the full effect. I have to say that I wasn’t impressed with the boxes as the the silver sticker seems to be torn off a roll.

    Anyway, great review and I will try them out ASAP and give you my opinion as a consumer.

  • David

    Sigh. Another brand retread with another Chinese made ho-hum pen. “Americas Original Pen Company.” Yeah right… What does this uninspiring pen have to do with the original Esterbrook brand? Not much. Just to make things complete, they should have taken a page from the Shinola retread playbook and charged $500 for the pen. Brian & Lisa, if the people that bought the Esterbrook Trademark had hired you as consultants, I think they would be looking at a bright future. But as it stands today, I think the outlook for the “New” Esterbrook brand is grim indeed.

  • Marc

    Thanks for a very useful review. There was not much chance that I would have bought one of these modern “reproductions”, as I like my collection of vintage Esterbrooks, 17 of them so far. Still, this confirms my impression that the modern pens aren’t reproductions at all, but completely different pens with the Esterbrook name on them. And while I’m not necessarily done buying modern pens, that step on this model looks like a deal breaker for me.

    To be fair, if the original Esterbrook had made different decisions, adapted to the market, and stayed in business continuously, any modern fountain pens they were making probably wouldn’t have been much like the classic J series. And who knows, they might even have moved production to China. But that’s not what happened, and the decision of a modern entrepreneur to acquire rights to the Esterbrook name is nothing for Esterbrook fans to get excited about.

  • Bart Grossman

    I think the manufacturers didn’t do themselves any good by using the Esterbrook name. It has set up a lot of pen collectors to feel disappointed and hostile at the start. I guess it would have been too expensive to have reproduced the original J pen design, maybe slightly bigger for today’s tastes. Chinese factories can spit out these cartridge/converter pens easily with any name on the clip. However, in my opinion the most important thing about Esterbrook was the interchangeable nib units that came in a host of styles, sizes and qualities. It’s not like there are no pens on the market that use interchangeable nib units. TWSBI, Pelican, Kaweco, and Edison do, among others. I can see that the huge step from the barrel to the section would be a problem for me as well. I’m a big fan of vintage Esterbrooks and I guess I’ll pass on this new J pen. Lincoln once asked, “How many legs does a dog have if you count the tail as a leg?” “The answer is four,” he said, “because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

  • Bart Grossman

    One last point, the truest successor to the J pen is the Levenger True Writier, down to the interchangeable nib units and the plastic jewels on the cap and barrel.

  • curtis miller

    I’m new to fountain pen collecting, but have always had a few less expensive ones that I use regularly, not for collecting. I’ve seen some of the beautiful pens created by some of the old brands, and some beautiful pens from newer names (I mean “newer” as in not a company that has been around since 1900–or roots reaching back that far). I’m not wealthy and I certainly do not pretend to be, so the less expensive pens are what I look at. Of course I know the names of the older companies that were revived, all with good intention, and until today didn’t realize Esterbrook was revived. I was actually looking for more information on the new Chilton pens I saw on Ebay (beautiful to look at– By the way, if anybody has information on Chilton– who makes the new version?)
    I guess what i’m wondering is why, if these pens are really made with interest of quality and value, why wouldn’t somebody market them under their own original brand name? I’ve seen several new brands of fountain pens that are new and are made with pride that would make anybody proud (such as Edison or Nussbaum for instance), and do not use the name of a defunct company. Is the reviving of the old brand simply for sales? If that is the case, that is a shame. But, on the other hand, if an old brand is revived and used to market good quality and carefully made pens, more power to them. Like I said, i’m fairly new to the actual collecting of nicer pens so that is why i’m curious about the Esterbrook revival.

    • Brian & Lisa

      Chilton was revived, as it were, by the same person that revived Esterbrook. I think the reason they are marketed under Esterbrook is for visibility and sales.