*UPDATE* I've made a minor correction to this story after learning some new information about the box that my pen came in. Thank you to Chase for pointing this new information out.
Have you ever had one of those moments, where there is a sequence of puzzling events that are explained all at once by a sudden epiphany? That phenomenon is basically what describes my experience with my charcoal Lamy Safari.
If you've read my review of my Lamy Safari, you'll recall that it was a gift to me by a very gracious family member (Josh) for Christmas. He had just gotten a Safari of his own and rekindled his love of fountain pens similarly to how I did. When he found out that I was a fountain pen fan, he was kind enough to buy me one to help me get back into the habit. It certainly worked; though little did we know, that this pen would have quite an effect on several future events, which I'm about to tell you about. Grab some popcorn, you'll be here a while!
My new Safari was still in its typical Lamy box with the slotted holes in it. I couldn't wait to get home and open it up and try it out. When I finally got home, I cracked open the box and found two things that I wasn't expecting: the Lamy cartridge was a blue-black instead of the regular blue that normally comes with the Safari, and there was a Z24 converter included in the box as well. I was excited because I like blue-black more than blue, and I thought I was going to have to buy a converter separately like everyone else I knew, (including Josh, who didn't receive one with his pen). I immediately called him and told him the good news, and he was happy, but a bit miffed that he hadn't gotten one with his pen. He bought both pens on Amazon, but from different sellers, so we assumed that mine had come from Germany which is why it included a different cartridge and the converter.
Since I didn't have a bottle of ink yet, I went ahead and popped in the cartridge and began using my new Safari. I got a Fine nib, and right away I noticed the pen was writing very wet. I knew from watching Brian Goulet's videos that German nibs tend to run wetter, so after some time I realized I needed to pick up an Extra-Fine nib. I placed an order from Goulet for an EF nib and a bottle of Noodler's Dark Matter. After they arrived, I went to put my new nib on my pen and noticed right away that it fit very loosely. I gave the sides of the nib a good squeeze and it was still very loose but I was still able to write with it. Right away I noticed that the line produced by this new EF nib was much, MUCH thinner than that of the F nib I'd just been using. At this point I was a bit puzzled, as the difference was so pronounced that I thought I'd possibly gotten a dud. So I emailed Goulet and described the problems I'd had, and they were very quick to let me know that this was not a typical experience with a Lamy EF nib, and sent out a replacement to me right away.
When I received the new EF nib, I unfortunately experienced the exact same issues. In fact as I was refilling my pen, the nib was so loose that it actually fell off into a completely full 3oz bottle of ink. You can bet I lost my cool when that happened...I had to empty the bottle into another clean container, fish the nib out, and then carefully transfer it back into the bottle with a 6ml ink syringe. After that fiasco, the nib still wouldn't stay on the feed at all. I did some Googling and found one other person who had a similar issue and he said to gently use some rubber pliers or a couple of hard surfaces to slightly bend the fins on the nib in to tighten it. After several minutes of trying not to overly bend the nib, I was finally able to get it to stay on the feed. That was one hurdle defeated, but there was still the issue of it writing much drier than I'd expected when compared to the F nib. So I consulted Brian Goulet's videos again and he suggested that I very gently apply pressure to the nib while writing to spread the tines a bit to increase ink flow. I was able to get the tines opened up enough to where it felt like it was writing wetter.
I'd finally gotten my pen set up the way I liked it, so I happily used it for a few months. Over time I noticed that the Z24 converter that came with the pen had a black ring right below the piston knob that started to come loose. It didn't affect the functionality, so I didn't worry about it. Despite all of these issues I'd ran into, I wasn't deterred from accumulating inks, other pens and a full-on obsession with the hobby.
I had a bunch of ink samples I wanted to bring Josh, so we met up and exchanged inks and tried each other's new pens. I happened to pick up his Safari, and immediately, alarm bells went off...this pen felt COMPLETELY different than my Safari. It was heavier, sturdier and had an overall feel of high quality. I pointed this out to him and he agreed they felt quite a bit different. We ultimately surmised that it was because one of the pens could have come from a different country of origin (Germany vs. U.S.), and didn't think much of it after that.
Over the next couple of weeks I kept thinking back to Josh's Safari and I couldn't help but fixate on the differences. One big thing I noticed was that the cap on my pen spun freely while capped, and his did not. This had bothered me about my pen from day one, because it never really felt like the cap fit it well. It just so happened that around this same time, I was browsing Instagram and I saw a post from @InkJournal teasing a new story for their blog about the differences between real Safaris and fake Safaris. When I read this, it hit me - could my pen be a counterfeit?? 'Surely not,' I thought. But I couldn't help but to look further into it. It was at this point that I came across a thread on FPN (Fountain Pen Network, for those who aren't familiar) that detailed another pen fan's experience with a fake Safari they purchased from, you guessed it, Amazon. As I read over the details he gave of his pen, I knew immediately that Josh had unknowingly purchased a counterfeit Lamy Safari.
Everything I'd been experiencing with this pen began making sense now. The light weight feel, the spinning cap, the blue-black cartridge, the included converter...all of it matched perfectly with what I'd been reading on FPN. I couldn't wait to get home so that I could compare the box and the pen to the pictures I'd seen.
(Updated w/new info) What I thought was a laughable counterfeit box, turns out to be a counterfeit version of the old packaging that Lamy used. I've found several reviewers online who got their pens a year or two ago that have a box that matches the bottom box. I at first thought that the seller may have gotten his/her hands on some old Lamy packaging, but after further inspection it seems they've produced a pretty decent fake of it. One thing that I noticed from the pictures I'd seen online compared to this one - is that it appears that the slits in the box are cut differently. If you notice on my grey box, the edges of the slits in the box have a positive texture. They stand up, and if you run your finger over them you can feel the edges sticking up - almost as if it was cut from the inside out instead of the outside in. I've included a photo below of the legitimate old Lamy packaging, and you can see that there are no positive edges on it. You'll also notice that on both the legit old grey packaging and my new black box from my Al-Star, the base of each slit has a horizontal line on it. The counterfeit packaging does not. This leads me to believe that they have produced a really good fake of the old packaging.
Another aspect that sets the counterfeit Safari apart from the legitimate one is the instruction booklet that comes in the box. The legitimate booklet is simply a warranty card with Lamy's contact information. The counterfeit booklet has quite a bit more information in it. It features instructions on how to fill a cartridge converter pen, as well as how to fill a piston pen. It also has illustrations of different nib sizes on it.
The body of the pens appear very similar, however once you hold them in your hand you can tell the difference immediately. The biggest red flag for me was the weight difference. The counterfeit Safari weighs considerably less than the real Safari, and just has a cheaper feel. The matte finish on the real Safari is considerably better than the counterfeit. The counterfeit is quite a bit smoother, and actually has more of a brown tint instead of the correct charcoal grey.
Though the body of the pen is fairly convincing as a fake, once you experience the nib and compare it to a legitimate one, it's a totally different story. Unfortunately, this skewed my view of all nibs for quite a while and I made several choices on nib sizes that I likely wouldn't have made if I'd known what I know now. The "Fine" nib on the counterfeit writes more like a real Lamy Medium nib, and because of this I'd obsessively chosen EF nibs on other pens that I bought, thinking that it was my only choice since German F nibs (or what I thought was a real German F nib) wrote such a wide line. Luckily with a lot of trial and error, I've learned the true nature of both German and European nib sizes and now know what I like.
As I mentioned earlier, because I had so much trouble with the counterfeit nib, I ordered an EF nib from Goulet. After all the fits I had getting the thing to fit on there, once I had I was extremely pleased at how different the EF nib felt. It wasn't scratchy and didn't hard start like the F nib did. Upon closer inspection, the counterfeit F nib had a number of things wrong with it, including an off-center nib slit, and one nib tine being longer than the other!
Something else that I didn't even notice myself until I read the FPN thread was how far forward the breather hole is on the counterfeit nib. From this angle, you can see that if you draw an imaginary vertical line starting at the "fins" of the nib, it *should* line up perfectly with the breather hole. On the counterfeit nib, it doesn't; it's quite a ways further forward.
Of course a counterfeit Safari wouldn't be complete without a counterfeit Z24 converter to go with it. This was of course my first converter, so I had no idea that it was a fake; I was just excited that I got one with my new pen and didn't have to buy it separately! Over time, the converter started to feel flimsy and even began to deteriorate in places. The black ring just below the piston knob randomly came loose one day while I was cleaning it. Luckily it didn't affect the function of it, but looking back now, it should have been a red flag, as most true Z24 converters never have this issue. The piston action on the fake feels...wobbly...and and not smooth. Now that I have experienced a real Z24 converter with my CopperOrange Al-Star, I can certainly tell a difference. Another red flag for the converter is how loosely it fits into the pen; it takes little effort to pull it off of the feed.
I think that has covered the major differences between this pen and a real Lamy Safari. My hope with this post is that I can help others be aware that there are sellers out there on eBay and even Amazon who sell counterfeit pens as if they were the real thing. Keep in mind that this is different than companies like Jinhao who sell "look-alike" pens and market them as just that: look-alikes. They don't sell them under the false pretense of being a real branded fountain pen. My pen unfortunately was the latter. I was fortunate to eventually be enlightened on the situation, and be able to remedy the false information that I'd learned from using this instrument. I'm better for having experienced this, and now will be extra diligent in urging people to use a legitimate retailer such as Goulet Pens, Anderson Pens, JetPens or Pen Chalet (or others). The few extra dollars that you pay will be worth it when there is an issue and you need to utilize their customer service. From my experience, the customer service at all of these retailers is top notch; especially Goulet (who doesn't love a hand-written note with their order?!).
If you've taken the time to read this thank you for hanging with me! I hope that it has at least been interesting and given you some useful info.
You'll be pleased to know that the seller of this pen is no longer listed on Amazon; however I did find a seller with a very similar name that is selling pen related items. Josh has reached out to Amazon detailing what happened and is currently awaiting a response from them. **UPDATE** Amazon let us return the pen for a full refund with little effort or explanation. Kudos to their customer service for that!
If you're interested, here are the links I referenced for details on counterfeit Safaris:
http://tieba.baidu.com/p/2933849141? (you'll have to use the translate function in your browser; I recommend Google Chrome)