My Three Type-100 Fountain Pens from HERO

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Shanghai HERO Pen Factory’s Type-100 fountain pen, aka the Hero 100, is, of course, the most famous and influential product ever made by Chinese pen industry. Deriving from the Parker 61, 51, this model has withstood the shifting of fountain pen market through the years without significant changes in structure and style and is still in huge demand in the domestic market of China, with a huge fan base within the pen community there. Designed for the Chinese market, the Hero 100 seldom get its name across the West, but it is still good enough to be caught by the radar of pen connoisseurs such as Richard Binder. Binder picked up this pen when he was dipping back into the contemporary pens years ago, and he highly appraised its durability, design, and improved details.

“God bless those Chinese innovators. “
—-Comment regarding Hero 100 from Don Fluckinger

Much has been written about this pen, but most of the details and intriguing ones are written in Chinese. Therefore, I want to open a whole new series of blog posts here, trying to give the western stationery lovers a holistic picture of this astonishing writing instrument. Today I shall start with three brief reviews of my three Hero 100s.

IMG_2388Shanghai Hero Pen Factory started the project of ‘Hero 100’ in the 1960s in the hope to surpass Parker’s hooded pens, after years of producing ‘100 Hero’ fountain pens, a flagship (and flawed) pen modeled mostly on the Parker 51. The engineers at this state-owned factory came up with a design that was a hybrid of Parker 51, 61, 21 and some innovative in-house ideas of sealing the whole package using a proprietary screwing mechanism. It got a satiating, streamlined profile, a legit 14k nib that gives out the proper amount of reaction for writing Chinese, along with a complicated and air-tight Aerometric filling system that is anti-disassembly.


My first Hero 100 was a whole steel one, a Flighter if I use the western jargon of pens, and it takes me 4 years to understand its legacy and beauty. The first time I saw this pen, I was still in high school and was only trying to find a pen with an exotic profile and well-received brand. The owner of that pen show presented me with a whole steel Hero 100 to me, bragging about its 14-kt gold nib and its reasonable pricing. But by that time, I knew no deep understanding about fountain pen, and I was declined by this pen in the first glimpse:

“I don’t like it, it reminds me of the pens when I was in elementary school.”

The shape of that pen was so iconic that it reminded me awfully a lot of the Hero 616, a notorious instrument that many Chinese students during their tedious years of writing and recitation during elementary education. In the end, I opted for an entry level Parker Sonnet, with a bluffing gold trim and gold-plated steel nib. I missed a good pen only because I was fed up with the shape of that hooded nib and streamlined shape, cause I knew nothing about the entire legacy derived from Parker 51.

Then I went to the college, having the first time in my life began to dig into the internet to spend my spare money on a fountain pen before the first final exams. I spent a lot of time playing with LAMY Safari, Al-star, but then the next summer I was literally shocked by a blog post by a Taobao seller that reviews the most common seen versions of Hero 100. Suddenly it came to me that the stories behind the fountain pens which I once abandoned were much richer and significant than I thought.

Ironically, the first Hero 100 I ordered was a fake one.

I was trying to save some yuan at that time due to the limitedness of my overall budget, and I ended up having a Hero 100 that has no tipping material. Its nib just appeared to be in the same gold color from the body to the tipping point, and this gold color could be easily scratched out with a razor, revealing the cheap metal underneath–apparently, it was a copycat.

More ironically, the first genuine Hero 100 I had a jaw-dropping level of bad quality, making the fraudulent one I bought more like a real one. All the classic defects of a true Hero 100, based on the online posts, have been fulfilled by this pen. The nib, although a well-polished gold one, was not aligned with the central line of the hood; the pen cap has an unfinished edge that can cut through everything; the clip was floppy and loose, and the resin used in the section broke down after several months of usage.

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My First Hero 100: a modern Flighter

But mind you the price tag of this Hero 100 Flighter: 230 in Chinese yuan, or roughly 35 US dollars at that time. From every standpoint, its value position is sound for no one could offer a 14k gold nib at a price so friendly at that point. Despite all the complaints I put regarding its quality control, this pen is actually well designed and writes comfortably as long as the section is not broken, thanks to its over-engineered filling system and its squared grinding of the tipping material. Therefore, this first Hero 100 accompanied me a lot, and I changed its broken hoods twice during my days with it, using the special tools manufactured by the seller.

But that Hero 100 was not the only Hero 100 you can but, nor it was the best Hero 100 in the world. During the long-lasting production of this model, Hero Pen Factory produced lots of variants, with differentiated nib widths, color pattern, caps and most importantly, the level of precision and quality.

Based on my knowledge, there is three era when Hero produces the top-notch classic Type-100 fountain pens:

1. The initial years after the invention of the Type-100, in the late 60s and 70s. At that time the Factory used the gold-filled body, rainbow-pattern cap in the high-end models of this pen, mimicking the classic way Parker curated the 51/61, and there was also a wide range of nib width to choose, ranging from XF to B.

2. The early 90s. At this time, due to the economic reform of China and the public-enlisting of the Hero Corporation, the workers at the Factory was quite inspired and charged with passion, resulting in another climax of product quality and innovation. The color range of the pen at this time was still full, as you can see in the picture. The gold plated body work replaces the gold-filled one in the high-end models, but it still looks great thanks to its thickness and wave-like engravement. Models with XF-size nib were still in production during this era, though in limited numbers.

3. The early 2000s, the last time when the pen Hero produced can meet a consistently high standard of quality. Besides the Flighter, the color range of this model was cut dramatically into 3 colors: red, black, green. The high-end models with wave pattern gold-plated body work discontinued, along with the XF or B size nib ones. The only models with gold trim were the plastic ones with gold plated clip and back jewel.

Shortly after having my first oversize western pen, a Pelikan M1000, I realized that deep in mind I still want to get my hands wet of more Hero 100 made in different eras. My first Hero 100 was made in the year 2012; therefore it belongs to none of the three groups above. Since then, the Hero 100 has become a regular item I keep an eye on across the Taobao and forums.


My second Hero 100 was a high-end model in teal color, with a gold-plated cap in the wave pattern.

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My Second Hero 100: a 90s Semi-plastic version with gold-plated cap.

It belongs to the second group of the high-quality Hero 100. It costs a lot, but it pays the moment I inked it up and give it a drive in my tiny dormitory room: I literally gasped in amazement after drawing some random lines on the paper. The smoothness and magnitude of feedback I got from this nib were unlike any Chinese pen or LAMYs I was using at that time. Everything in this pen is seriously constructed, assembled and tuned together harmoniously. No more misalignment, no more floppy clip and the edge of the cap was rounded cautiously. Most importantly, no more cracking hood even after nearly 3 years of use. Those teal color plastic made in the 90s did prove to be more durable than its modern black counterpart, not to mention how much better it looks and touches than the latter.

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A Friend of Mine Test Driving it.

For a long time, I carry this pen along with my M1000 everywhere I go. When I need to take rapid notes or leave beautiful Chinese signature, I will use this Hero 100. I do worried about what if one day I got up and find a cracking in the hood, but thanks to my experience with my first Hero 100, I have already some spare parts in preparation for that.


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My Third Hero 100: a green semi-plastic one from early 2000s

Having tasted the magic of the well-made version, I decided to buy more, and that decision resulted in a green Hero 100 made in the year 2002.

It costs slightly less than 1993 one, but the result was somehow disappointing: the clip was wobbling right and left like crazy, the nib was not well positioned, and the grinding style fall short to provide a richness of touching paper. It took me a lot of time and extra money to fix those problems by reassembling the pen myself and changed some malfunctioning parts with new-bought components from other sellers.

The feeling of writing with this pen was not bad in the end, but still far from reaching the same level of the teal color Hero 100. Therefore, when a friend of mine expressed some interest in this pen to use it as a daily writer, I passed it to her as a gift.

Before I get in possession of my fourth Hero 100, I happened to play with a whole bunch of newly made Hero 100s when I was at MORE Studio in Shanghai, working on its fountain pen project. But none of them can surpass the teal color one. I even paid three visits to the Shanghai Hero Pen Factory to talk with its leadership over the issue of co-branding a new variant of Hero 100 pen, since my boss and I were superfans of the stories behind the Type-100 fountain pen. The general manager of the Factory at that time was quite happy to see me carrying a 1993 Hero 100 during the conversation. The bad news was the fact that he revealed the fact that the current strategy of the Type-100 fountain pen was ‘to compete with steel nib pens from Pilot and Safari with gold nib while charging the same.’

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2 Hero 100 + 1 Hero 616

The cooperation with the Factory suspended, and we opted for other options. As for me, I was in a long time mental lost, for to me the leadership of the Factory was not genuinely interested in sustaining the flagship and premium status of the Type-100 fountain pen; instead, they treat it as an entry-level gold pen for an amateur. The future of this model is not promising, in a word.

Therefore, when I have encountered a post from a Chinese pen seller selling a 1970s dark gray Hero 100 fountain pen with XF nib, I paid the 200 plus in US dollars instantly to the seller. I know this sounds crazy when compared to the basic price of this pen, but after working on this pen for some while at my last job, I simply don’t want to miss this opportunity.


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My Fourth Hero 100: a 1970s semi-plastic one, NOS, with an XF nib.

This fourth Hero 100 pen came with an original box from the 1970s, with instructions written both in Chinese and English, and a bilingual sticker denoting the width of the nib, XF. Clearly, it was one of the exporting version of Hero 100 at that time.

The thick gray body remains shining and seamless after years of stocking while being rigorously asymmetric, all of which eclipsed the plastic used by Parker for 61, a parent of Hero 100 that has continually been haunted and loomed by the shrinkage of plastic. Since some prominent Chinese pen collectors claimed that the Hero 100s from the early 70s are the only Hero 100 that can surpass the Parker 51, it may be even safe to say here that the resin used here is no more inferior than the 51s’.

The brushed steel cap was also showing off the craftsmanship of that era: with precisely engraved branding and origins, the ending edge of the cap barrel also got a treatment of crush-in to avoid being a sharp blaze to the user. Under the protection of the cap, there is a hooded nib in the size of XF, exquisite. The dry test and visual inspection show the line it writes is probably even narrower than the already notoriously fine nib from a Japanese EF pen. Producing a smooth EF/XF nib always take extra efforts and risk, and Hero opts for canceling this nib width after its last peak in the 90s.

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A bilingual instruction that told you don’t mess up with this pen.

One interesting anecdote here is the way the instruction manual implying its over-engineered structure under the simplistic body: it just forbid any DIY or self-maintenance efforts tried by its customers. The upside is that if you got a perfectly assembled one, you could write with it for years without worrying about the lubrication of piston or the airtight issue cause this Aerometric system is utterly unbreakable. The downside is that you must to keep using it since it would be a nightmare if you got too much ink dry out inside. An alert here: if you have to open the pen, that will be another story which is agitating, time-taking and also, of extreme risk.

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Great NOS condition!

This pen is in NOS condition, which is extremely a rare thing to find now; therefore I just can’t make up my mind to ink up this jade-like art piece. Maybe I will use this pen when I witness Hero reiterate a new variant of Type-100 fountain pen with comparable quality in the coming days.

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Quill 18k Gold Filled Pen

Why I write this post:
Three of my pens have stories with Susan Wirth, but only the Quill pen I am going to write about represents the start of the whole story as well as the last meet-up between us. It has been some time since her passing away, but the impressive works and personality of her remain there, just like the thick gold coating from this rare found vintage Quill 18k fountain pen.

The time was this year’s Philly Pen Show, and I was wandering through the ballroom, contemplating slowly over how to make the most out from my stay there while not break my tight budget. Then suddenly a calligraphy work won my attention. It says:”Angry with your mouse? Upset with your ISP? Relax and enjoy life with a proper writing instrument.”

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After living in the states for some time, I found it is never an easy topic when talking about your ISPs, whether wired ones or wireless, therefore I was rather happy to see a humorous artwork like this picking up the phenomenon. Coincidently, its author, Mr. Bedford, happened to stand around that booth, doing some supportive works.

I presented Mr. Bedford some of my Chinese pen collection, and we talked a little bit, then he introduced me an array of ball-points, more specifically, the Quill’s ball-points. They were built in the same design language: an oblique cut cap top, coupled with a quill/feather like clip shape. They have a low price tag and considering their quality body and differentiating style, it was nature for the seller to market them as thoughtful and affordable gifts for anyone (you can’t assume anyone will like to own a fountain pen).

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Mr. Bedford showed me in detail how the pens from Quill present their clients’ logo on the top of the pen when they are made as corporate gifts or souvenirs. Then he revealed that the Bedford family from Providence Rhode Island owned the business of Quill in the old days. They produced both fountain pens and ballpoints for the American market. Now the business is under the Rubbermaid/Newell Group and those vintage Quills I see actually belong to the collection of Susan Wirth, the owner of the booth we were at.

“You must check out the article about Susan in this issue of Pen World Magazine.” Mr. Bedford showed a Pen World Magazine to me behind the booth. From that there I heard the name Susan Wirth for the first time.

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Returning from the Philly Pen Show, I was staggered to find that there was hardly any useful information Quill’s fountain pen across the web. All I could find about their fountain pen product were that they were willing to make pens for college bookstores even if the order number was limited, and some of their fountain pens were carrying standard iridium nib and feed that are made in German.

By the time I was desperately digging through different forums and social platforms, I spotted a great Quill fountain pen on sale at myuberpens.com. It clearly was a premium version since it got a hefty price tag in addition to its 18k gold-filled bodywork and nib. After sharing this discovery with Mr. Bedford and get his confirmation that this was actually a premium version decades ago, I bought that pen without further hesitation, and it arrived at my doorway in a parcel shipped from German.

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It was my second purchase from MyUberPens.com, and the condition of the pen was mind-blowing good. It came in a plastic box, sealed in a plastic bag, with a zero fingerprint and grease barrel and a shining nib. Excellent restoration and presenting. As the pen itself, the quality is so high that I wouldn’t relate its brand to gift ballpoints if I knew this pen in the first place. Its 18k gold-filled barrel, duo cartridge capacity and a precise 18k nib convey the most of its presence. Its quality really justifies the price, and I have to say thanks to Mr. Bedford for his introduction.

The idea of a gold-filled pen has always been seducing me: rather than a flimsy layer of gold plating, the weight of solid gold material applied to a pen has to be at least 5% of the item’s total weight to make a gold-filled pen. While the most typical gold-filled jewelry is using 5% 12kt or 14kt gold to bond its base material, in this Quill pen, however, the maker opted to a rather extravagant formula: 10% of this pen weighted by 18kt gold, according to its gold stamp around the neck of the cap. The result is a super durable and the gorgeous look of its gold surface. I can see no wear out or oxidation after years passing by and my carrying it around if I wear my thin jacket.

Another point-earing feature of this pen its classic design of cartridge filling system. Usually, there is nothing to pinpoint about a filling system like this, but it is just amazing to find its filling mechanism was capable of holding 2 cartridges while maintaining a slim profile. I love the way it weighs when it carries another backup ink cartridges, not to mention the additional confidence of mileage give by that spare cartridge.

The factory has ground the tipping material of this gold nib into a ball shape and made the slit of the nib extremely restricted, making it suitable to write in all position, with a wide choice of paper. I have tried to write on my Moleskines with this pen, and it performs insanely good with no visible feathering and seeping through. But the downside of such a characteristic is that it lacks somehow the handling and wetness of a fountain pen.

I picked up this pen with me when I was packing for the Long Island Pen show, in the hope to present it to Mr. Bedford and Susan. I showed this gold pen to Susan the moment I got a chance to talk to her (she is always busy and talking with clients during a pen show), and she was impressed. Walking out from the back of her booth, she grabbed this pen and wrote with it with full attention. “The only thing it lacks is the nib.”She made a swift tuning job after getting my approval, and magically It turned out to be the most balanced note-taking pen I have: not too round, but far from picking your writing position like a stub nib; not too dry, but far from seeping into the back of the office copy paper. Sadly, Mr. Bedford wasn’t there. Susan recommended me to make an arrangement before the DC Pen Show with Mr. Bedford since he usually goes to that show, and it would be great for him to see such a brilliant artwork from his family business.

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It has never come to my mind that that was my last interaction with Susan. The news of her pass away shocked the whole pen community, and I was really regretting not being able to go to the Chicago show to meet her roughly one week before. Anyway, I really appreciate the works she has done to my pens and the valuable knowledge I got from here. As for this Quill 18k pen, its meaning has become more significant to me since it represents our last meetup.


PS: Great thanks also goes to the team members at MyUberPens.com for their generosity to let me use their amazing pictures for this post.

In Memory of Aunt Susan

I was stunne by the news about Susan’s passing away from us. I regret I didn’t write a follow-up letter to tell her how much I appreciate the works she has done for the pens of one friend of mine, along with her hospitality every time I met her during a pen show.

Susan was one of the first exhibitors I get known with during my pen show experience here in the states, and all the stories began when I was talking with her Friend, Neville, about a pen I was carrying and casually talking about some defects of it. Susan also loved that pen. Later that day, Susan helped me a lot in coping with the problems of that pen with great passion and introduced me to Deborah, Nikola and Barbara​. Knowing the fact that this pen comes from a friend of mine, Susan prompted a deal to improve its grinding to give it more appealing personality.

We decided to make the grinding happen during last month’s Long Island Pen Show, and she delivered it in a thorough way. She was holding a seriously high bar about the final quality of the modification that she told me once realized that she couldn’t handle that nib by her part, she sent that pen to Richard Binder in the opening of the show, with some description stickers attached to the pen. I asked Richard what’s the purpose of those labels with unique terms, and he told me that Susan has always been using this system for years. In the end, I got a brilliant Italic nib with both Susan and Binder’s grinding in it, and Susan only charged me the usual price of her rather than the actual price she paid Binder.
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Words can’t express how much I appreciate the detailed works and passion she has imbued into my pen, a pen simply from an ordinary pen show newbie, and all the brilliant people she has introduced me to. To me, she is my mentor in the pendom.

I still remembered the way she handled the packaging process seamlessly and fluently at the end of each pen show, and how resilient she was no matter how challenging the schedule was. Last time I met her, she complained to me a little about how exhausted she always feels every time after a show, especially during the season when one pen show follows tight on another. It must be a challenging job, both physically and mentally to consistently participate in the events in the Pendom, but it never came to me that things could happen so fast.

Rest in peace Aunt Susan.

Frank Dong