It has been a while since I’ve written anything about the modern Esterbrook. While I wish I could report some better news, unfortunately, Robert Rosenberg’s ownership of the Esterbrook name is still a thing.
I’ve been watching new releases from Rosenberg via the Esterbrook name, and they are atrocious. No need to bother looking; all the new Esterbrook releases are pretty tacky.
Robert Rosenberg has made a pretty poor impression on the fountain pen community due to several factors. The first pen he created under the Esterbrook name was called the “J.” This is important because the most common and well loved original Esterbrook pen is the “J” series pen. These pens were affordable, simple, yet robust, and had a huge variety of nib options. All those nib options are one of the biggest reasons why people love picking up vintage Esterbrook pens.
Rosenberg’s new “J” was a cheap Chinese-made pen. There is nothing wrong with some Chinese pens, especially at the appropriate price point. Poorly designed, with a huge step between the section and barrel, the new “J” is not a comfortable pen to use. While the original “J” had so many nib options, the new “J” pen only had one nib choice: medium. A $15 Pilot Metropolitian has more nib options than the new “J” which retails for five times the Metropolitan’s price point.
Rosenberg also introduced the Abraham Lincoln pen. Celebrating the death of Lincoln, this pen was done in poor taste. In spite of these poorly-regarded pens, Rosenberg continues now with something “new” again.
This time, Rosenberg is teasing a new Esterbrook “J” pen on his Esterbrook Facebook page (side note: on the Esterbrook Facebook page, he will delete any negative comments about him or his products) using three original Esterbrook pens — the real Esterbrooks made by a quality American company, not whatever Chinese factory he can find with the best price.
The teaser image on Facebook states that the new, “new” (or is it “old”) “J” pen will arrive in early 2018. It claims to be “an exact replica of the original Esterbrook Classic.” Somehow, our genius of a human has gone from throwing darts at a catalog of shitty pens available from Chinese factories for pennies to creating an exact replica of a classic.
The only other information currently available from Esterbrook comes from a comment the company made on the image posted on Facebook:
“We are confident that the New J series will satisfy all Vintage Esterbrook Fans as we are putting a great deal of effort to ensure that it is true to the Original model.”
I am very skeptical about this given my past experience with Rosenberg. If it is an exact replica, then why should we spend the money on it? Original restored J pens are available for pretty awesome prices, usually around $40, depending on color and the nib included. How does he expect to compete with the original?
Of course, not only does Rosenberg have to somehow make this new “J” appealing in comparison to the original “J” pen, he also has to appeal to the fountain pen community. Not many of us would be willing to give him the time of day.
Affordable resin pens are easy to do. Plenty of manufacturers, like Lamy and Pilot, make such a thing. In order to make an exact replica, though, Rosenberg has to have the following:
1.interchangeable nib units
2.lever filler (although I’d be OK with a cart/converter for ease of maintenance/cleaning, but he doesn’t get that option)
3.affordable and available in multiple colors
Requirement 2 isn’t bad and 3 is just simple. We don’t see many modern lever filler pens, but they are out there. The modern Conklin Crescent filler is technically a lever filler, for example.
The issue will mostly be the interchangeable nib units. This will not be cheap to accomplish, unless he’s planning on skimping out on quality, which I wouldn’t put past Rosenberg. In order to be a true replica, the newest “J” also has to support the original 1940s Esterbrook nib units. Rosenberg has a history of very limited nib options. While most of his pens are available only in medium, some pens do have fine and broad options as well. Matching the breadth of nibs available on the original Esterbrook will be a huge stretch for him.
Yes, this is a bit of speculation based on prior experience with Rosenberg’s idea of Esterbrook. Could he change? Yeah, maybe, but I will always see him as someone that bought the Esterbrook name just to make a quick buck, and his current lineup of pens just proves that. I hope to be proven wrong, and the newest “J” makes a triumphant return to pen shows to prove it to the community.
But honestly Robbie, if you think you can just call me like last time I wrote about your spectacular shittyness, I won’t be answering your calls. You can contact me like a normal person, either on Twitter, Instagram, or via the contact page for BYOB Pen Club Podcast. We’ll be discussing this pen on Episode 3 of BYOB Pen Club, and in the future when it is actually released, and if needed if your behavior requires further discussion.