One of the great, inexpensive pleasures of city life is trolling the 99 Cent shops/Dollar Stores for supplies of every type. Cheaper soaps and shampoos, ceramics, kitchen utensils, candles, off-brand canned goods are all staples of a well-stocked 99 Cent shop. With real estate in Manhattan always at a premium, but more so during the boom from 2003 to 2007, at least three 99 Cent shops in my immediate neighborhood closed in the past two years. The final two are more like $1.29 Stores now, but they are still an incredible deal for certain goods.
For some reason, I've never checked out the pens and notebooks at my favorite 99 Cent shop on E. 14th Street near Avenue A. The place is crammed to the rafters-literally-with all sorts of stuff, but as there is a great little stationery store right next door I've never looked at the pens until now.
A three-pack of black gel ink pens in an orange and blue-gray card caught my eye, simply named Gel Pens Best Quality. Given the generic brand and the $2.99 plus tax price they were definitely 99 Cent shop merchandise. And I really didn't think they were "best quality" as claimed on the package, but at that price even if they were bad it wouldn't be too much of a loss. To my great surprise these really are very good gel ink pens. The ink is a rich, dark black, not watery-looking at all. The ballpoint glides across the Doane Paper with no bleed through but a definite shadow, qualities in much more expensive gel ink pens I use. In addition, there is a cute scratchy noise the pen makes across the paper, more of a scritch than a squeak, that I kind of like. I can hear the ink being laid down on the paper and it's more endearing than annoying.
The pen itself is thick-barrelled with a beautiful matte black finish over 2/3 of the body. The grip is clear plastic and not too slippery; I would have preferred the matte black over the entire body, but that may have not worked out in terms of being able to hold the pen firmly when writing. The silver clip and pointed top are aesthetically appealing, though for some reason it reminds me of Ultra Man, as if he's hiding in the pen waiting for the world to be threatened by some monster in order to jump out and save humanity. Or am I projecting a tad too much?
Anyway, the ink flow is smooth and dries very fast, a plus for lefties. There is some skipping when I write, but that seems more a function of my not holding the pen more firmly rather than the ink being at fault. All in all, this is a great gel ink pen. If you're near a 99 Cent shop check and see if they have any of these; this no-name will surprise you.