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A Taxonomy of Swag Pens

Since pens aren’t living (except maybe to the truly pen addicted), using taxonomy isn’t correct, but it sounds cooler than classification.  In any case, here is my classification of my swag pens, which were mostly picked up at trade shows:

Just Pens With Advertising

NXP Microcontrollers Pen

NXP Microcontrollers Pen

These are just regular pens with some added advertising, typically ballpoints with cheap refills.  The NXP Microcontrollers pen shown looks better than the classic hotel pen, but it’s nothing special and writes like a regular cheap office ballpoint.  I normally give these to other, less picky, family members.

Good Looker, But No Substance

These pens look really nice, often with metal bodies, but I’m always let down once I start to use them, because every single time they’ve come with a cheap ballpoint refill inside.  However, I’m looking at retrofitting a few of the top ones with a decent refill, e.g. a Schmidt, Schneider, or similar.

Second Runner Up: Screaming Circuits

Screaming Circuits Pen

Screaming Circuits Pen

Curvy metal body, bright color, and standard Parker refill equals a pen worth keeping – once it has a decent refill.  It’s a pretty typical example of a nice swag pen.

First Runner Up: ST Microcontroller Pen

ST MCU Pen

ST MCU Pen

Unique modern style + groovy plastic body + quality, weighty feel + standard Parker refill = a winner!

Winner: Synopsys

Synopsys Pen

Sleek, understated style in a metal body makes it the category winner.  It appears to take Parker refills, but only slimmer ones; for example, the fatter refill from the Screaming Circuits pen won’t fit.  It looks a bit like my Schmidt capless pen, but the quality isn’t the same — but it’s great for a free pen.

Cool Gadget But No Use

This category includes flashlight pens and other such pens that may look cool, but aren’t great at doing what a pen is meant to do, with limitations such as large bodies and small, cheesy refills.  They are, however, fun conversation pieces.

Second Runner Up: Sharp Bluestreak Microcontroller Pen

Sharp Bluestreak MCU Pen in the dark

Sharp Bluestreak MCU Pen in the dark

Sharp Bluestreak MCU Pen

Sharp Bluestreak MCU Pen

This is just a cool, classic flashlight pen that will never be made again, since Sharp sold their Bluestreak line to NXP.  Of course, the light is blue.

First Runner Up: Qioptiq Flashlight Pen

Qioptiq Flashlight Pen

Qioptiq Flashlight Pen

This pen isn’t as cool a pen as the Bluestreak, but it’s cooler as a flashlight: it’s got little bubbles that move around, and as the video shows, the colors change.

Winner: Blaze Network Products Rocket Pen

Blaze NP Rocket Pen

Blaze NP Rocket Pen

Blaze NP Rocket Pen

Blaze NP Rocket Pen

Blaze NP Rocket Pen in the dark

Blaze NP Rocket Pen in the dark

This pen is so totally useless as a pen, but it’s so totally cool to put on my desk.  It’s another pen that will never get made again (since Blaze went up in flames during the dot-bomb crash), but I somehow managed to snag three of them.

Pens That Are Actually Good Pens

This is the rarest category, swag pens from a company whose marketing folks actually love pens.  In fact, it’s so rare that I’ve only found examples from one company two companies.  So the winners are:

Runner Up: Green Hills Software 25th Anniversary Pen

Green Hills Software Pen - Capped

Green Hills Software Pen – Capped

Green Hills Software Pen - Posted

Green Hills Software Pen – Posted

Green Hills Software Pen - Guts

Green Hills Software Pen – Guts

I re-discovered this pen after I had originally posted this article. It’s an impressive pen, with a real Schmidt 888 rollerball refill (the only rollerball in my collection) and a solid metal body that snaps together with a precise, audible click.

Samtec Signo 207 Grand Prize Winner!!!

Samtec Uniball Signo 207

Samtec Uniball Signo 207

Yep, Samtec was actually handing out orange and blue Uniball Signo 207’s at a recent trade show.  I’ve never before seen a gel pen, let alone a good quality gel pen, as trade show swag.  After picking this pair up, I made sure to complement the salesmen — and checked if they made anything we could use at work (Samtec makes a variety of connectors).

Note: Added Green Hills pen 8/30/2012

2 comments

1 Joan Trolinger { 02.14.13 at 11:32 am }

In reference to your “Winner: Blaze Network Products Rocket Pen” – OK, no one will ever get a “Blaze” logo pen again, but the pen itself is available several places online & used by lots of folks in the Space Industry. Anyway, I have one such pen from a Space Industry event and @#$%^ someone has taken it apart & taken my batteries (glad they left me the pen). I want to get new batteries, but I do not know the ID#s of the batteries. I was hoping you could gently unscrew the baseplate between the tail fins of one of your Rocket pens, gently remove a gummy disc using a toothpick or something small, then look inside the base of the pen to see if the numbered side of the batteries is such that you can read what they are and let me know – I know there are 2 batteries, but like I said I have no clue what ID#/size…If you can let me know, then I’ll be off to either Radio Shack or Batteries Plus for replacements, then my single light-up Rocket pen will be back in working order (Hurray – ’cause it is so cool). And if you know anyone that wants to order a bunch of the Rocket pens, I just saw they were on sale [med-Feb. 2013] at (1 of the many links I found while searching to figure-out about the batteries – I am not associated with this vendor): http://www.alpiasi.com/public/index.cfm?fuseaction=prodbrws.detail&productid=708006&catID=708006&CFID=19836981&CFTOKEN=63712983

2 Tony { 02.14.13 at 1:54 pm }

Thanks for the info, it’s always cool to learn new things. Unfortunately I haven’t been to any aerospace expos….

I took me a while to find batteries for my rocket pens. I’m currently using Maxell LR1130’s which I bought from Amazon; a bunch of other companies make the same size battery under different names such as AG10. Amazon is a lot cheaper than local sources such as Fry’s.

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