Retro Talk: Yoshimi & The Pink Robots

Retro 1951 and Brad Dowdy (of The Pen Addict) have come together twice before to produce really nice designs for the Tornado, which is one of my favorite rollerball pens. But this latest collaboration, The Pink Robots Tornado, may be evidence in favor of the old saying, “the third time’s the charm.”

I’ll leave it to Dowdy to tell the story behind the pen — he wrote a great post in which he explains it all. But, in short, the design that wraps around the barrel is an illustration created by Matthew Morse, which is an homage to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the song and album by The Flaming Lips. If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to check it out. It’s good!

Morse’s design for the pen wrap is similar to the original Flaming Lips album cover, albeit in a totally different style. It depicts a young Japanese Girl, Yoshimi, wielding a long, pink sword, ready to do battle with a couple of giant pink robots. The twist, clip, and tip of the pen are a all black, and, on the disk inset at the top of the twist, the “pen addict” logo is centered inside a hot pink background.

In my opinion, the best Tornado designs are the ones that adapt the work of artists, like the Bioworkz Edition and the Joey Feldman Edition, or the ones that tell a story, like the Tiger Shark or the Albert. This Pink Robots Edition manages to do both, which is probably why I like it so much. The bad news is that there were only 500 of these pens produced (I’ve got #156), and they sold out quickly. But with the success of this pen, there’s sure to be plenty of creative stuff coming next time Dowdy and Retro 1951 team up.

Squire Special Edition: Field Nuts

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It’s been nearly a year since Baron Fig shipped the final Squire rollerball pen from their now defunct Squire subscription service, but that hasn’t stopped them from pumping out the special editions. Since then, Baron Fig has released the orange Mysterium, the yellow Bolt, a Squire made of stainless steel, and, recently, one made of copper. Though a couple of those made me take notice, none of them enticed me so much that I wanted to place an order.

I have enough Squires, after all, and they all feature pretty much the same mechanics and refill. However, a couple months ago, this Field Nuts Edition Squire popped up for pre-order, and it broke my resolve.

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Unless you’re a crazed fan of Field Notes like I am, you’ve probably never heard of “Field Nuts.” Essentially, it’s online fan group for Field Notes users, mainly based on Facebook but also with some presence on Instagram and Twitter. A member of that community partnered with Baron Fig to make a special edition Squire that is painted with the Field Nuts logo. The community voted on the color – they went with this leafy green (reminiscent of the “gumdrop green” notebook in the Shenandoah edition) – and, boom, here it is.

I don’t expect that many of you out there will care much about this pen, but as a daily user of Field Notes, I find it pretty cool. Baron Fig wouldn’t say how many of these pens were made in total (probably somewhere between 50-150), but they currently seem to still have a few available. I think this will satisfy my Squire itch for a little while, but if Field Notes ever officially partners with Baron Fig, then I may as well just send them my wallet.

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Retro Talk: The System

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In April of this year, Mike Dudek of The Clicky Post announced that he had collaborated with Retro 51 to create an exclusive Tornado. Called The System, the barrel of the pen features a stylized, overhead a map of the sun and planets in our solar system (plus Pluto) on a black background. The design looked awesome, so I had to get it.

You may not be able to see it in the pictures, but The System also has glossy black (“dark matter”) strips curving across the barrel that add a little texture, making it a little nicer to hold. The clip, twist, and tip are painted black, and the disk inset at the top of the pen is colored a sun-bright orange. It doesn’t have any acid-etching or glow-in-the-dark elements like other recent Tornados, which may have worked well here too, but I still think it manages to be one of the best Tornado designs out there.

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It didn’t come without a small bit of drama, however. Initially 300 of these pens were produced, but this was described as an “open numbered edition,” which apparently confused a lot of people into thinking it was a “limited edition.” Like limited edition Tornados, each of these pens has a number stamped near the twist, but Dudek planned to keep making them as long as there was a demand.

While I don’t fully understand the point, the “open numbered” concept really doesn’t upset me. After all, Retro 51 did the same thing with The Flying Tiger. Ultimately, a total of 1,300 pens were produced, and I think the only real angry people were the re-sellers. For my part, I’m just happy to have a cool pen.

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If you missed out on this one, it unfortunately doesn’t seem like Dudek plans to produce any more – though you can get still get the pencil version, if that’s your thing. But definitely keep an eye out for whatever he does in the future. I know I will.

Retro Talk: NYC Tornado

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New York, New York. I’ve only visited a few times (and I’ll be going back later this year), but I know that it’s an amazing city – one that I love. So when Goldspot Pens announced this NYC Skyline Retro 51 Tornado late last year, I immediately jumped on the pre-order train.

The NYC Skyline Edition is a standard Retro 51 Tornado in almost every way, except the barrel is wrapped with the iconic structures of New York City. The art includes the obvious and mandatory Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, and Empire State Building. But the barrel also shows off The Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center (along with the 200 Vesey Street and 225 Liberty Street buildings nestled below), the Bank of America Tower, and the CitiGrooup Center. There’s even one building I can’t ID, but it looks like it could just be generic Manhattan offices.

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Another neat feature is the disc at the top of the pen, which features a logo reminiscent of the old NYC Transit tokens. Additionally, like a few other Tornadoes of late, the wrap glows in the dark. With this Skyline edition, however, the gimmick makes sense because it represents the city at night, which, frankly, looks cool.

This is an amazing edition for anyone that loves New York City, but it was unfortunately limited to an odd 333 pieces. So, as you might have guessed, it’s already sold out. If you’re looking for something similar, the Statue of Liberty Tornado is still widely available, or Anderson Pens sells a Chicago Skyline Tornado. It also seems likely that Retro 51 will continue with this line. I can think of plenty that might come next… San Francisco? London? Paris? It will be interesting to see whatever it is.

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Squire Sub No. 04 – The Key

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The Key is latest and, also, possibly the last installment of Baron Fig’s Squire subscription service. Rumor has it that the company will continue making special edition Squire pens – they’ve already produced a bunch of new colors – but without the pressure of meeting a quarterly deadline. The Key, in fact, should have been released in Q4 of 2017, but it wasn’t shipped until early January 2018. I’m inclined to overlook the delay, however, because they managed to put out a pretty good edition this time ’round.

After my disappointment with The Insightful Spectre Squire, an edition that boiled down to a paint job with mildly interesting marketing, I am very happy to see that Baron Fig has attempted something new. Instead of the body being made from the Squire’s standard aluminum, The Key is entirely made of brass. This change is immediately noticeable, as it’s easily twice as heavy as the other Squires I own.

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It comes with Baron Fig’s standard 0.6mm refill (a rebranded Schmidt), but the refill included with mine was a dud. This happens occasionally with these refills, but it was no problem for me because I have plenty of extras. It is the same style refill used in the Retro 51 Tornado, after all, and I have a ton of those.

Overall, the pen looks minimalistic and sleek, it has a good (bottom-heavy) balance for being so heavy, and pairing it with the company’s new Lock notebook was a good marketing move. My one complaint, as always, is that this pen likes to roll away, perhaps even more so than the other Squires I own.  On multiple occasions I’ve jumped at the loud “thunk” The Key produces when it falls off my desk and hits the floor. Luckily there has been no noticeable damage (to either the pen or the floor).

If Baron Fig keeps releasing these limited-edition Squires, I can’t say for certain whether or not I would purchase them. There have been ups and downs with this subscription service, after all. So, for the moment, I’m content to take a “wait and see” approach.

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Click here to see my review of the original Baron Fig Squire Review.  Click here to see my review of the first limited edition Squire, The Alphabet. Click here for The Experiment Squire. And click here to see The Insightful Spectre,