I like writing with a fountain pen but have had hard time finding a decent pen that doesn’t have a jewelery price. The most functional one I have is a cheapie Parker that cost around $10. The only drawback is that Parker’s black ink cartridge makes translucent blue lines on paper.
I got a Waterman Phileas, the cheapest of the line I think, and it’s not bad but the medium nib is too wide. On the plus side it does have a plunger converter so I can fill it with bottled ink. The Waterman also looks nice and has a good feel. People who didn’t look too closely thought I spend beacoup bucks on a Mont Blanc I found an online deal for a Phileas with a fine nib for under $30. Anyone else have suggestions for someone who doesn’t want to spend $100+ on a pen?
I’m not a pen maven but I was under the impression (perhaps mistaken) that the nib alloys and plating (gold or otherwise) and requisite level of craftsmanship for a really nicely performing fountain pen would typically put prices at $100+ for this sort of beast (especially considering the relatively low sales volume for fountain pens vs other pens). There are pen collector message boards that would probably be able to give you more cogent advice re this.
I also have a Waterman Phileas. Blue, with marbling. When I ordered it, Levenger sent a medium point instead of the fine point I’d asked for. That was quickly resolved. The fine point isn’t as fine as I’d like (I like “micro” lines), but it’s the only pen I carry. I don’t use cartidges, and have been using Waterman’s blue-black ink. I tried Scrip blue ink, but it seems to fade. I may have to mix up a batch with some black in it.
I don’t know if people think I spent a lot for it. Don’t really care, because it’s a nice-writing pen. Office Depot has them for around $30, in a variety of colours. They also carry other brands (Mont Blanc, Schaeffer, Parker).
I have a pen made in the late 40s and another from the early 50s. Finer lines, cheap (I think they were $18 each – Esterbrooks, BTW), but I still find the Waterman more attractive.
My wife and I, both fountain-pen people, have had pretty good success on EBay, as somebody else suggested. In particular, you may want to do a search for Esterbrook pens. This was a very popular pen in the late '40’s and the '50’s because it was durable and inexpensive, but most of all because it had interchangable nibs. The nibs are available in a large variety of widths, shapes, and degres of flexibility, so with little experimentation, you can have a pen that suits you. IIRC, Esterbrook pens go for about $40 or so. They’re leverfill, so you fill from bottled ink. There is no provision for cartridges.