Here is my second piece in my writings about the Type-100 fountain pens produced by Shanghai HERO Pen Factory. Thanks to the reaction from my readers, I finally decided to write something new about this notoriously famous Chinese pen.
What I was dealing with my last article on the topic of HERO-100 was reviewing the two NOS models that was made in the 90s and 70s, though they are amazing products, they could be hardly accessed, especially for pen users outside mainland China. But the stake behind this model is still high, so what I am doing here is to summarize the current state of various HERO-1OOs you can own one, along with a personal buying guideline.
The Current State of HERO-100s
In my last article, I claimed that the old versions made before the 00s are the ones with top-notch quality. Does this claim still hold? The answer is yes since the newly-made HERO-100s can still hardly challenge the achievement of their old brothers, despite the attempts by HERO’s staff around the year 2014 to improve it. The quality control is still awful, and the past designs have never resurrected.
But this means the newly-made ones bear no advantages to the NOS ones.
First, the long-lasting problem of model 100, the hood shell that is susceptible to crack, has been solved by HERO, thanks to the new plastics adopted to mold the shell. Though the improved hood section is slightly thicker than the old models, it is still worth more to get rid of the cracking feature. In some extreme occasions, the new hood still could crack, according to some comments, but it has become much harder to find such an incident. The reason my first HERO-100 retired was the two cracking events it brought me in one month, so here I am quite happy to see HERO finally solve this bug. As for the pricing, this group of standard versions HERO-100 is asking for the same price as it was five years ago, roughly over 220 RMB.
The Standard HERO-100s
Second, besides the standard versions, we are quite familiar with in the past decades, HERO has launched three exciting variants of model 100: a Gold & Silver Edition, a Classic Edition and a Commemorative Glory Edition (Ouch, the name). Both of these three versions share the same nib unit and filling system, a refill one slightly different from the standard one only for the added gold-alloy arrow inlaid at the end of the hood shell. As for the pricing, these special editions are sold at a price between 300 to 500 RMB. The specific specs for each edition go as follows:
- The Gold & Silver Edition offers a streamlined designed made from brushed metal bodies in two Gold & Silver tones, quite like a slim Diplomat Aero;
- The Classic Edition will give you a torpedo-shaped body, and a rose-gold trim is also available, which is somehow a rare feature in Chinese pens;
- The Commemorative Glory Edition has a rather new design language, with bold gold (or silver) stripe across the barrel and cap, and it features a slightly tapered end in both ends.
Third, the most interesting part of the story of current HERO-100s is that there is a group of business who are also committed to bringing this model to perfection by making upgraded or customized ones. The typical way for them to do this is to buy the newly built HERO-100s in the first place, then open the packages and seals to do some extra work on them:
Some would check the nib alignment and the airtightness if problems revealed they will disassembly the pens and fix them. Some would transplant a third-party converter filling system into the pen, making it more modern. Third party acrylic or wooden barrel made by major online retailers have also become quite popular in recent years in the hope to reinvigorate the looks of standard HERO-100s. In the end, some have even made one more step: dramatically change the appearance of this pen by handcrafting the barrel and hood shell from celluloid rods. I was shocked by the stage achieved by the customizing business around HERO-100, and some of them, are quite good. The pricing of these customized ones should be judged on a case-specific basis, but even for the celluloid ones, its price tag is still under 400 RMB.
In summary, the newly-made HERO-100s, the ones you will probably end up getting, have become less-likely to crack and bear more special editions to offer. What’s more, when the third party modified models considered, this pen has become quite diversified and exciting. Though the original characteristics of the type-100 may be hard to find among these new models, especially after the changing of the plastic formula, the new HERO-100s are actually on a routine to become more decorative and fun to play with.
Some fans may have some issues with this trend, but it is still better to see those changes and reiterations. Bear in mind that HERO-100s is not the best HERO product, while it has stayed in production in the roughly same formula for 50 years.
- eBay or TaoBao?
The best Chinese pens are sold via Taobao, the biggest online purchasing platform in China. For the pen users outside the mainland China, it used to be a difficult case for them to buy merchants directly from the TaoBao but in recent years things began to change. So, if you happen to know some Chinese, or have some friends who speak Chinese or travel China, do check the TaoBao. If you don’t want to try this platform, it is still not the end of the story since eBay is always handy, at least you can get some factory versions quite quickly.
- So, if you want the genuine factory versions —
It is entirely understandable if you want to have just a basic HERO-100 fighter, which is what I did in my first purchase of this model. Thanks to the improved plastic, it seems the right time to buy the factory versions if you want to have this pen just for daily writing.
The first two stores are the most well-known retailers among Chinese pen collectors. A little note here that Jingdian is the player behind the moonman, Junlai is operated by Green who is doing an excellent job in bring Wing Sung back. Both of them are carrying a broad range of HERO-100s, including the special editions, and offering excellent services such as the pre-shipment check.
The BAI Lab is a leading stationery retailer based in Shenzhen, Guangzhou Province, and it is growing at a noticeable speed thanks to the Chinese stationery aficionados. The BAI Lab only offers standard HERO-100, but it is the only store that offers the choice for you to buy one in factory-seal if you can take the risk of HERO’s bad QC. There are also some interesting pen-related products in The BAI Lad, do give them a second thought.
If I were still in my college, I might probably go for one Gold Edition along with one Glory Edition as the daily workhorses.
- Or, you want to tailor your unique HERO-100 —
If you want to have a mildly customized one, just go back to Shanghai Jingdian and Shanghai Junlai, who also supports basic adds-on service such as changing the filling system or the barrel material.
But if you want to do more, then what you are looking now is a Chinese counterpart of Ariel Kullock, and she does exist.
When I first encountered a cracking hood shell from my first HERO-100 in the year 2012, I began to consider the third-party bodies over the still functioning writing parts of that poor pen. However, most of those bodies were of poor quality, so I didn’t pull the trigger.
Five years later, I found myself becoming a loyal supporter of ANITO Pen Worm, a TaoBao store operated by veterans from HERO Pen Factory. Early 2015, I noticed the existence of a group of HERO-100s which I have never seen before. They all featured a beautiful handmade celluloid barrel, an old-style HERO metal arrow at the end of the hood shell.
The ANITO HERO-100 I Bought in 2016
I did order one that summer, it was a great-looking pen, and the old-style HERO metal arrow felt just right, the same as HERO used to do in their 3xx series. But the only downside of that pen was the hood shell was still using the original part from HERO, which makes it looks like a suspended project when uncapped.
This year, ANITO has begun to offer an upgraded version of this design:
- The whole celluloid version is finally available;
- New celluloid material has been added, and some are breath-taking nice ;
- You can choose other bronzing patterns besides the HERO arrow, even a New Orleans Saints one, quite an international vision;
- You can also opt to make it a converter filler if that is your thing.
The ANITO HERO-100s
The pricing for ANITO’s customized 100 is still affordable, no more than 600 RMB. I haven’t tried this version yet, but I consider it seriously. Do keep in mind that since there is only one friendly auntie in charge of all the barrel-tuning job behind the ANITO, you may wait a long time before your its being shipped, and the curve or cut in her pen may vary a little from a factory HERO-100.
If I were in college, a right ANITO HERO-100 might probably be the holy grail pen of mine for a long time. Oh, nope, I will buy two of them cause I have found the Snowy Night, a model with snowflake stamped all over the black body also extremely chic.
In compiling this article, I used a lot of pictures from the comment section of TaoBao, which made me hard to trace back to the name or even the avatar of the kindred users who shared their amazing experience with us. If you see your pictures listed here, do contact me, I will update the article and give you my honest credit.
Finally, if the reason you are looking into HERO-100 is its similarity between Parker 51 or 61, then, you should get a Parker 51 or 61. I am serious: the HERO-100’s character is vastly different from its American ancestors, and its nib is even harder to give line variation than a hooded nib from Parker.
But if you can stick to this post, and finally decide to try one of those newly-made HERO-100s, I appreciate that.