Review: Esterbrook J, 9968 Firm Broad Nib


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I have always been curious about Esterbrook pens since I saw an old red estie for sale in the Fountain Pen Network Philippines marketplace. I wasn’t able to get my hands on one until last Saturday, when I attended my first pen meet. Of course, I inked it right away and doodled with it as soon as I got it.

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Esterbrook J’s with double jewels were first produced in 1948 and were made until 1967, when Esterbrook was bought out by Venus and was rebranded as Venus Esterbrook. It was a widely-used pen made for the economy market, and was a household name because of its affordability. It was also popular because of its numbered nibs. You can pick a nib that you need depending on what your writing needs are and just swap nibs easily by screwing new nib units on. It actually reminded me of the modern day Lamy. 

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The Esterbrook J I got is a full-sized Estie with two jewels (one on each end of the pen). I believe the color is called foliage green. It’s really pretty, and the swirls are very beautiful.

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The clip has the name ESTERBROOK on it in bold letters, and the barrel also has the words “Esterbrook, made in USA”.

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The imprint is a bit faded on the barrel, but considering how old this pen is, I’m happy it’s still legible. The pen really has this cool retro vibe, reminiscent of old-style diners and jukeboxes. Even if it is a very affordable pen during its day, it’s surprisingly well-made. The fact that there are still a lot of fully-functioning Esties out there is a testament to that. My Estie, in fact, is in such good condition, it’s hard to believe it’s ever been used.

The cap twists off the pen and posts to the end quite securely. It feels like a great fit, and the pen writes pleasantly for me whether posted or unposted.

The pen uses a lever filler. A lot of people who prefer modern fountain pens can be a bit intimidated by lever fillers but the sac inside is easily serviceable. The screw-off nib also makes this pen a lot easier to clean and flush out.

Look at the size of that nib!

The nib on the pen that I bought is a 9968 firm broad nib. It’s a relatively rare nib, really hard to find even on eBay. If you find it, perhaps the cheapest it would go for (in good condition) would be $30 and could go upwards of $60. During its heyday, the 9xxx nib series is also the more expensive nibs on Esterbrook pens. They have a pretty generous tip on the wear point of the nib and are considered to be the more high-end nibs during those days. They’re called the Master Point series.

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This is my first broad nib, and I was a bit hesitant at first to try it but I tried it anyway, and I’m glad I did. The Estie just worked right after inking. There’s no hard starting, no skipping or railroading. It just glides on the paper and lays down a consistent, wet line. This being a firm broad nib, there’s really not much spring to the nib. It suits my writing style well, although it can be a tiny bit tiring to use after a long writing session (compared with springier nibs, like my Pelikan M200). Still, for a steel-nibbed pen, this is pretty marvelous.

Inked with Diamine Meadow. Dark Olive also suits this pen well.

It’s a very pleasant pen to use and it shows off the inks’ shading pretty nicely. I tried a few different inks on this pen and each time, I’m astounded with how beautifully it lays ink down on paper. It writes really well without pressure; just touch it slightly on paper and off it goes.

Here is a video of a writing sample of this pen:

All in all, this pen is a great addition to any pen collection. It’s cheap, it’s beautiful, it’s easy to fix, it’s easy to change nibs, and it writes really well (if you find the right kind of nib for your needs and writing style). I’m happy that I got this pen for a great price, considering the rarity of the nib on it. This one is indeed a keeper.

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