Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen

Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen

I noticed that I had never written a review of the Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen so I thought I’d add it. Let me start by saying that I bought this several years ago and was very unhappy with its performance and stuck it in a drawer. It actually took quite some time before I was willing to venture into fountain pens again because of the experience. To be honest, at $3 per pen, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting.


To a newbie though, the Varsity seems like a reasonable way to get into fountain pens. Its not. The most expensive part of a good fountain pen is the nib and feed, and this one, available in a medium width only, is not good at all. Its a plain steel nib. Steel nibs can be good but not at $3, I think.

Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen

If you look at the writing sample above, the pen skips and whole letters will not appear while the ink flow readjusts. It squeaks on the paper, actually squeaks. If you have an aversion to the sound of nails on a chalkboard, you best give this pen a wide berth.

I’m not inclined to write reviews for products that I genuinely dislike and think are terrible. I’d prefer to let me silence speak for itself. However, I get enough people asking about the Varsity and other sub-$10 fountain pens that I felt I should be honest.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll put up reviews of the other entry-level priced fountain pens. Maybe there is a gem among them.

8 thoughts on “Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen

  1. My starter pen was a Platinum Preppy, and in less than six months I purchased a Lamy Safari then two Esterbrook SJs (If only I knew how to adjust the bent nib on the second one).

    I posted a brief review of the Preppy and the Sailor Candy in my blog the week before I got my Safari. I think it will be interesting to compare my starter reviews to yours since you’re a veteran user, and I posted mine before trying anything better.

    I have since converted two people to fountain pens by giving them Platinum Preppys! One of them already has a Lamy Safari and the other is still waffling on which new pen to purchase.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree. I’m a confirmed fountain pen user (35 years and counting!) and have enjoyed using many Varsity pens over the past 20 years. During that time I have only found a very few lemons in the lot. I currently have several Varsities scattered around the house and carry one in my purse for note-taking on the go. All work flawlessly. May I encourage you to go with your initial thought and give the Varsity another try, perhaps with a color other than black? (I’m especially fond of the turquoise and the purple!) You may have gotten the odd ‘bad’ one….

  3. I have the Pilot Varsity and I agree, it does skip a lot and it feels pretty scratchy, especially on nice paper. I am a fountain pen novice, so I’m going to consider it a gateway drug to fountain pens…if this is what the “bottom” is like, I can’t wait to try something stronger!

  4. I am going to disagree as well. I have used several Varsity pens off and on and have not had a skipping or scratching problem. I am also a left hander. It took me a long time to learn to turn my paper sideways when I right, so dragging my hand through the ink is no longer an issue for me. (for other left handers, turn your paper so the top edge is perpendicular to your surface. It looks weird but your hand is at a natural angle and your can read your witting.)

    I have found that the Varsity ink does not dry as fast as other inks. That can be a problem.

    But, as Kimberly put it, it is an easy “gateway drug” to give fountain pens a try.

  5. The Varsity was my first fountain pen and now I’m actually hooked! Haven’t used one since, though, so I’d probably be a bit pickier than I was then, using it on regular notebook paper. I liked it though – I liked the line thickness of it.

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