Limited Edition and Special Edition Pens

Limited Edition and Special Edition PensSpecial and Limited Edition pens can cause a lot of excitement. But why? Are they worth getting excited about? What's the difference between them? And if some of them really are all that exciting, how do you make sure you get the ones you want? Read on, and we shall attempt to enlighten you.

Special Edition or Limited Edition

The most accepted definition is generally that a Limited Edition should have a specified number being made. That's the limit. A Special Edition may be produced for a limited time, or may be just an unusual version of a standard pen model, but there isn't a specific limit to how many of them exist.

That may or may not matter to you. A pen produced in small quantities has more chance of going up in value, and has more rarity value, but it doesn't change what the pen itself actually is. For pens with an actual Limited Edition number marked on them, that number is unique to you. Knowing something is rare can be nice, but if the pen is nice anyway, a Special Edition can still be a little more, well, special than a standard model.

Turquoise TWSBI Eco PenIt's also fair to say that not all manufacturers stick to the terminology the same way, and sometimes it's not entirely clear, or there's some room for argument. To take an example, we would usually refer to Lamy's special Safari pens as Special Editions. There's no specified limit to how many will be made, and there are no numbers on the pens. They are only made for a limited time, though, and stock often runs out reasonably quickly, so they are quite limited.

Other manufacturers use the term 'Limited Edition' for pens that don't have a set limit - a TWSBI limited edition doesn't have a set number, so while we'll call them what TWSBI call them, many people would consider them to be Special Editions, not Limited Editions. While Platinum make some of the most popular Limited Editions, which have sold out quickly, some of their standard pens add a little 'Limited Edition' twist, where the first production run of the pen includes a small certificate in the box with an individual number, just to show that you bought one of the first batch.

Sometimes a manufacturer sees how well a limited or special edition goes, and brings it back as a standard model, with just a small change to the design so it's technically different. Our advice would be to only buy an edition if you either collect them, or like it for what it is, not just because it's rare.

Very Different or Just a Different Colour?

Some special or limited editions are completely new pens, designed especially for this one short production run. It's the only way that pen will exist, and if you want it, you've got to get in before that quantity sells out.

Lamy Studio Olive and Terracotta Special Edition Pens

Others may be based on a standard pen, but bring completely new styles to it. Pelikan and Platinum are well known for this. The current (at the time of writing!) M600 Vibrant Orange is an M600, but it doesn't look much like any other M600, with the vivid orange patterning. The Platinum Kumpoo, or their Five Lakes editions, each use different techniques, and different patterns cut into the barrels. It's still essentially a Platinum #3776 pen, but it's quite different to the standard models.

In many cases, the only thing that's really different is the colour. Lamy are very well known for their special editions of the Safari and AL-Star, with new colours every year, available for a limited time. You could argue that making the same pen in a different colour isn't a very exciting edition, but they are very popular. If you like the colour, the little bit of added rarity value only increases the appeal, and they don't cost any more than the standard colour range, so they're a great value way to get into Special Edition pens. You've got a pen that was already great value as a standard model, but with something extra about it; but at the same time, it's not something of such high value that you won't dare use it (with the exception of some of the early editions that have become rather collectable!)

Collecting, or Just the One?

Pelikan Stone Garden Fountain PenSome people collect limited and special edition pens. And a whole line-up of different coloured Safari pens can look quite beautiful. If there's a pen you love that has Special Editions, collecting them all can be fun. And if you want to buy them all, we won't argue!

Most people don't try to be completist with it, though, buying only the editions that appeal to them so they'll get some use from them.

Investing in Pens?

People do sometimes want to know if a Special Edition, or especially a Limited Edition, will increase in value. If we knew that, though, we'd be hoarding the ones that were going to increase, and we'd be rich!

Seriously, we wouldn't generally recommend pens as an investment opportunity. Limited Editions do sometimes go up in value, but it's quite unpredictable, and the value of pens can go down as well as up. They're better bought to enjoy and use. The things that go up in value the most tend to be the things that aren't expected. If you'd known how popular they were going to get when the first special colour of the Safari appeared, you could have made an impressive profit. But they've become more valuable precisely because they weren't expected to, so people just bought them if they wanted to use them.

Caran d'Ache NespressoWhat's available now?

We have a page for Limited Edition and Special Edition pens, so we won't try to list them all. There are options there from under £10 to, well, thousands, so while some are really very special, there are plenty of nice pens (and other things!) with a little dash of exclusivity, without spending a lot. But if you do want to spend a lot, that's definitely an option too!

While some editions sell out quickly, many of them are around for quite a while. It's best not to wait too long if it's one you really want, but there's no shortage of editions that are still available now…

  • The Sailor Purple Cosmos is one of our favourites of recent times - the very respected Pro Gear Slim pen, in a dark purple, with a sparkly depth to it. Add in a wide choice of top-quality Sailor nibs, and it's a beautiful edition as well as being a great pen to actually use.
  • Pelikan M600 Vibrant OrangeThe Lamy Safari may be the edition everyone talks about, but the Studio range got a pair of really lovely special editions this year, arriving together. Terracotta and Olive - a nice dark orange and green that go together well, but look great on their own too.
  • Pelikan have a long history of special and limited editions of their Souveran range, so there are a lot to choose from. The M800 Stone Garden has been very well-received, while the M600 Vibrant Orange is definitely vibrant! There are even two special variations on the M205 available now - the lovely shaded green Olivine, and the crystal clear Demonstrator. Or for a more delicate and subtle look there's the M600 Turquoise-White.
  • TWSBI only started doing special editions a few years ago, but they've proven to be very popular, with many of them selling out quite quickly. They seem to be producing a few more now, which means the Diamond Mini Gold is still available, but we don't know how long the pretty new Eco Transparent Green and Blossom Red will be around for, and the next editions, the pastels, are on the starting blocks due to be released very soon!
  • While fountain pens are the main focus for most special editions, Caran d'Ache make special editions of their classic 849 ballpoint. There are a few available at the moment, including the London edition, and their collaboration with Nespresso.
  • Just arrived at the time of writing, the Conklin Duraflex 1898 celebrates their 120th year with a special edition that has a special patterned body and a lovely rose gold version of their Omniflex nib, with just 1898 of them being made.

What Have You Missed?

At the time of writing, you've only just missed this year's Lamy Safari - the All Black. If Pelikan's higher-end editions are your thing, you also missed out on the M800 Royal Gold Raden, which was a truly beautiful pen for the few who managed to get one. Only 388 were made, using thin strips of mother of pearl, each backed with 24-carat gold foil, so the gold shone through the pearl.

Special versions of the Caran d'Ache 849 designed by Paul Smith, and their two-colour Tropical editions, have all now sold out.

One of the fastest to sell out in recent years was the Platinum Kumpoo. This one didn't surprise us at all, as quantities were very limited, while the price was quite reasonable, and the pen was very beautiful. Swirling patterns cut perfectly into a brilliant transparent green barrel, representing the wind blowing through the trees in the forests of Japan. But anyone who wasn't quick off the mark would have been too late, and there was plenty of regret to go around from those who had hesitated.

How Not to Miss Them in Future

Subscribing to our newsletter, Penorama, is a good start, and we'll do our best to keep you informed there. If you really want to know about things quickly, Twitter is the best option - we usually announce any new editions as soon as we have them on there.

Sailor Purple Cosmos Pen

11 December 2018

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