Is it worth it?: The Louis Vuitton pounds 690 alligator fountain pen: only for those with more cash than dash
When shopping and unable to decide between potential purchases I often find it helpful to "go Disney" for a minute or two. I think, if this dress/bra/lipstick suddenly found itself in Fantasia, how would it act, what would it say, and would I be filing for divorce in a few months? In the case of this pounds 690 alligator leather Anouska Hempel-designed fountain pen from Louis Vuitton, I rather see it frequenting Spanish resorts built next to golf courses and wearing an unconscionable amount of gold jewellery.

At first sight one is not sure whether to try to smoke the pen or remove its pin and throw it into a war zone, bearing as it does a remarkable resemblance to both a cigar and a hand grenade. The press release describes it as "amphora-like in shape"; now either my Classics lecturers were sadly deluded in the Greek pot department, or this is a feeble attempt to construe the pen as something other than what it actually is: a rich person's status symbol with too much gold and leather for its own good.

Carole Cumine, manager of The Pen Shop in Regent Street, immediately pointed out some crucial design faults. "It's far too heavy; you could use it for signatures but not for letter writing" (it weighs, in fact, around three times more than your average fountain pen). She also remarked on the two hard gold ridges on the pen which would make a prolonged grip very uncomfortable, and the fact that the lid does not fit on top to provide that necesssary extra balance when writing. But most importantly, she explained that for such a high price, a sensible buyer would be looking for something that would make a good long-term investment, such as a Mont Blanc limited edition. The Louis Vuitton pen is unlikely to increase much in value as there is unlimited stock whereas, for example, the Lorenzo de Medici Mont Blanc pen from 1992, of which only 4,810 (the height of Mont Blanc in metres, natch) were made, originally retailed at pounds 850 and now changes hands for about pounds 5,500.

If all this is rather silly money, help is at hand. Nick Caulkin, secretary of the Society for Italic Handwriting, reassures when he says that "pens as cheap as pounds 5 give you the same writing as expensive pens". But to avoid going from the ridiculous to the daft, there's the Parker "Sonnet", a respectably elegant black pen with an 18-carat gold nib for pounds 85 (in Fantasia, this pen would assiduously be doing the washing up). And if Parker is just a little too reminiscent of maths equations in the fourth form, there's the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck range. For pounds 280, in the shape of the 149 pen, you'd get a cultured companion you could show off in any company. The same size as the LV monstrosity, this discreet number in black and gold combines swank value (the little snow-cap logo on the lid just peeks out nicely from a jacket pocket) with an ability actually to get ink on paper without leaving the writer permanently indented.

And it would almost certainly never jangle its Rolex at you whilst peeling out a wad of cash...