Glenn's Pens

Pen Views

February 2010

The Price of Ink

InksWhen entertaining, there are always good conversations around the dinner table. That usually includes talk about pens. During a recent dinner party, while someone referenced the price of the wine we were drinking, I made the comment the price of the wine was no where near the price of ink. Ink is one expensive commodity!

After the expected "oh come on" type of replies I decided to conduct a scan of ink prices and compare inks on a price-per-ounce basis. It was interesting, but it all supported by comment that we pay a fair amount of money for an ounce of ink.

Ink Prices per ML

Ink prices per ML


Yes I get it that fountain pen inks is a complex product with dyes and other chemicals.

Laban Mento Pen and inksSo I thought this would be a fairly straight forward exercise. Check out the size of the ink bottles, get the standard ongoing price and I would have the price per ounce or the price mer ML Not quite so simple as I found even the various company web sites were inconsistent on how they describe the size of the bottles.

First of all some bottles were in ounces, some in ML In come cases the bottles had the quantities right on the bottle. For example Waterman ink bottles are 50 ml and on the bottom of the bottle is says approximately 2 ounces. Well, it is actually 1.69 ounces and rounded that would be 1.7 ounces for my chart.

Waterman Ink and Waterman PatricianFor example, Pelikan ink bottles say 62.5 ml or 2 ounces. But 62.5 ml is really 2.1 ounces when rounded off. If it was really 2 ounces, then that would be 59.1 ml of ink. So since they are a European company, I decided I would go with the ml measurement as the base.

For the basic price I used the price if listed on the manufacturer's web site, or I average the regular list price found on at least two major on-line web site. I used the regular list price as there were some site that would show list price and "our price" but I was trying to use regular prices as the basis for the comparison. If you can get a lower price great, but the general price per ounce needed a more consistent review.

Not only did I have to watch for the oz and ml differences but I would find that in checking prices and bottle sizes there would be differences between the size of the bottle as reported by different on-line sellers. Where I had a bottle of the ink myself, I went with what was on the bottle as the final size. For example, Dupont Ink, I have never seen two sizes of bottles but some sites reported the bottle as being 50 ml while the bottle clearly says 40 ml.

For the conversion I used ml as the base and then converted ml to reflect the number of ounces. I did this as except for Noodler's and Private Reserve, most of the inks are made in Europe or countries that use the metric system of measurement. For calculations I used the converted ounces rather than the ounces that would state on the bottle. For example, Pelikan is 62.5 ml per bottle, the bottle gets advertised as a 2 ounce bottle, but 62.5 ml is actually 2.1 ounces.

For the price reference I decided to use US dollars as that was the currency most referenced by the on-line retailers as well as the manufacturers on their web site.

I though as long as I used the same approach for all of the brands that would be good enough to get a relative sense of the cost of the ink.

There was a significant variance in price. The table below ranks the relative cost of ink by ounce or ml from most expensive to least.


$ per OZ

$ or ML
Caran d'Ache      1.0 30 $19.00 $19.00 $0.63
Dupont      1.4 40 $21.00 $15.00 $0.53
Visconti      1.4 40 $15.00 $10.71 $0.38
Delta      1.0 30 $11.00 $11.00 $0.37
Cartier      2.0 60 $19.00 $9.50 $0.32
Aurora 1.5 45 $12.00 $8.00 $0.27
J. Herbin      1.0 30 $9.00 $9.00 $0.30
Conway Stewart      1.0 30 $9.00 $9.00 $0.30
Aurora      1.5 45 $12.00 $8.00 $0.27
Sailor      1.7 50 $13.23 $7.78 $0.26
Pelikan Pen Rest Bottle      1.7 50 $13.00 $7.65 $0.26
Private Reserve      1.7 50 $12.00 $7.06 $0.24
Montblanc      1.7 50 $12.00 $7.06 $0.24
Omas      2.1 62 $14.00 $6.67 $0.23
Waterman      1.7 50 $10.00 $5.88 $0.20
Farhney's Ever Write      1.7 50 $9.35 $5.50 $0.19
Pelikan 1 29.6 $5.50 $5.50 $0.19
Parker      1.9 57 $10.00 $5.26 $0.18
Stipula      2.4 70 $12.00 $5.00 $0.17
Private Reserve Fast Dry 2 59.1 $10.00 $5.00 $0.17
Private Reserve      1.7 50 $8.40 $4.94 $0.17
Diamine      2.7 80 $13.25 $4.91 $0.17
Sheaffer      1.7 50 $8.10 $4.76 $0.16
Noodler 3 88.7 $13.70 $4.57 $0.15
Lamy      1.7 50 $7.50 $4.41 $0.15
Pelikan      2.1 62.5 $7.91 $3.77 $0.13
Cross      2.1 62.5 $6.75 $3.21 $0.11

Some variances are based on suggested price. So considering that Pelikan makes Cross ink, the only difference is the suggested retail price for the two lines. It is the big differences that are interesting.