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The Birth of the Bexley Imperial Custom Fountain Pen, a Massdrop Exclusive
A custom product made possible by the Writing Community

Past Meets Present

Everything old is new again for Howard Levy, longtime vintage pen enthusiast and founder of Bexley Pen Company. Before starting the Columbus, Ohio business in 1993, Howard spent decades admiring, collecting, and restoring vintage writing instruments. At the same time, he was working across manufacturing, operations, and engineering functions for some of the world’s best-known pen companies.

Eventually, Howard took his collected knowledge, joined up with a handful of like-minded folks, and Bexley was born. Today, the operation remains intimate (with an average of five full-time employees) and heavily influenced by the classics. Products are inspired by the Golden Age of the fountain pen, with filigree overlays, streamline shapes, and other elements made popular during the 1920s and ‘30s.

To this, Howard and team add contemporary materials and processes. Acrylic resin arrives at the Columbus facility in sheets or ¾-inch rods, and is turned on site. All components are CNC precision-machined to meet exacting specifications, then finished and assembled by hand by one of the company’s skilled craftsmen.

Bexley has the distinction of being one of the oldest American pen brands that’s kept its manufacturing site in the US—and one of the largest in terms of production, too, churning out an incredible number of pens for its size.

An Idea Takes Root

By the time we met Howard in person last spring at the Triangle Pen Show in Cary, North Carolina, we were hardly strangers. By then, we’d exchanged countless emails and phone calls, and launched three successful drops for current production models in Massdrop’s Writing Community.

All were well received by members who appreciated Bexley’s thoughtful, high-quality construction and small-business cachet: first, the distinguished Admiral; then the retro-inspired Stalwart; and finally, the new Phoenix. So when Howard suggested we collaborate again, this time on a custom product that incorporated Bexley’s modern take on classic design with Massdrop’s philosophy of community participation, we agreed on the spot.

The Community Votes

The Massdrop-Bexley custom project began with two polls: Community members were invited to vote on their favorites of seven pen models, and their favorites of nine resin colors. The Imperial design came out ahead (Intrepid was a close second), beating out America the Beautiful, Model 58, Owner’s Club 2015, Poseidon Magnum II, and Stalwart. The Imperial’s cigar-like shape has been used by many manufacturers over the past century, some with variations like a truncated top. For members, it was a timeless choice: the same size and style seen in the pricey Japanese ebonite urushi models, available here for a more accessible sum.

In the colors poll, Green and Light Blue were neck-and-neck to the very end, with Bronze Pearl and Purple Haze rounding out members’ top four, all offered as choices in the final drop. Mid-poll, we noticed the Discussion lighting up with questions about pocket clip color matching. Though Howard considers himself a purist, preferring certain colors with certain metal finishes, he decided to let folks vote on that, too, between gold and rhodium plating.

A Custom is Born

The Bexley Imperial Massdrop Exclusive was released in late July, just two months after the concept was first kicked around in that exhibition hall outside of Raleigh. Illustrating the minimalist, throwback style Bexley has built its name on, the torpedo-shaped body is decorated with a simple clip—no rings around the barrel, no finial on top. Each pen is fitted with a threaded, postable cap and a gold-plated stainless steel nib, made in Germany by JoWo and engraved with the Bexley logo. The drop reached its lowest price point within 24 hours.

More to Come

Based on the success of the Imperial drop, we're working with Howard to create another custom pen, this time with new resins. Vote for your favorites.

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