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under $100: letter openers

by Grace Bonney


a few months ago after brunch at buttermilk channel, i picked up a great vintage letter opener at general & fine. i’ve been hunting for more great letter openers ever since, so i thought it would be fun to round up the most affordable options for today’s under $100 column. i was surprised to see there weren’t as many stylish letter openers on the market as i was hoping, but i managed to find over 20 that would make my wishlist. however, if you’re up for a little bit of searching, ebay, 1st dibs, and ruby lane are full of unique letter openers that might be worth a few extra dollars (or a little bit of auction fun). i hope you enjoy the roundup!

*thanks to everyone on twitter for the extra tips last night!

[image above, clockwise from top left: gecko opener $95, vintage opener $55, customized heart letter opener $41 for 100, benbecula opener $95, bodo sperlein horse leg opener $75, match letter opener $57, spike letter opener $15, gingko letter opener $30, zeus lighting bolt opener (just got the price this morning, sadly it’s €155, sorry!), @ sign opener $25.16, whale opener $20.25, ruler + letter opener $25, brio opener $89, saw letter opener $15, fox letter opener $24.95, kikkerland letter opener $4.95, girotondo letter opener $36]

CLICK HERE for the rest of the roundup after the jump!


[image above, clockwise from top left: murano glass openers $12.95 each, personalized opener with wooden beads $25, hand-carved rosewood opener $14, safari letter openers $3.90 each]


[image above, clockwise from top left: emma opener $15, seashell opener $25]

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Comments

  • I absolutely love letter openers. In times where we don’t exchange nearly enough actual letters, it even makes opening bills seem a little bit more appealing. Thanks for the round up, Grace.

  • Ok, I know this is completely off the topic of letter openers, but how was Buttermilk Channel? It’s been on my radar for a bit, and it looks like I will be in Brooklyn for a long weekend at the beginning of April so I am beginning to compile my “hit list” :)

  • I hope a letter opener will cost me less than $100!!! Shouldn’t an under $100 post help us find a good deal on something? Mirrors or bedding? They are all pretty, but maybe just call it Letter Openers.

    • sammy

      agreed- most should be under $100, but since we’ve already covered mirrors and bedding (and most other large categories of furniture), i’m trying to run through reader requests and this was one people asked for. and surprisingly, the most “designy” letter openers were more than i expected. the less expensive ones were fairly bland and predictable.

      grace

  • I love those zebra ones! The link that reads ‘safari letter openers’ takes me to a different one though. Where are the safari ones sold?

  • These are lovely, as are all the lists, but I have 10 letter openers on the ends of my arms. And scissors. It’s hard to justify spending this kind of money on a one-purpose tool. In my house it’s clutter. And also, feels so extravagant when I turn on the TV these days.
    But I do love the round-ups. Keep ’em coming.

    How about one for writing utensils. As a professional writer I use pens all day long and leave them all over the house and office. I also lose them, so budget is nice. But Bics are making me cringe.

  • look, i love d*s and the under-$100 features, and i understand grace that this is what people have asked for. but this post just disgusts me *because* of the fact that so many people have asked for it. i know i am sounding holier-than-thou here, but seriously people, there are really freaking poor people out there and you need a $100 letter opener?! what is wrong with a “bland and predictable” letter opener that you could stick in a drawer anyway? i really do not understand designer and aesthetes sometimes. i understand the need for letter openers, i understand the want for design. but someone please explain to why it is important to have a cool *looking* rather than just a functional letter opener.

  • Jenny

    I did one 2 weeks ago actually :)

    I’m on my phone so I can’t get the link, but click on any if the “under 100” tags in the post above and you’ll see it on that landing page.

    Grace

  • perfect- just in time for valentine’s day love letters!

    also, how was buttermilk channel? i’m trying to convince my husband to go… i need some of their chicken and waffles!

  • Jen

    I could go on and on about this, but you and I seem to be coming from a place of fundamental disagreement. And that is that I strongly believe that a person can both enjoy pretty things and still care about (and support) those who are less fortunate.

    I don’t think that owning, or just wanting, something (like a $25 letter opener) that goes slightly beyond functional makes you some sort of elitist jerk. I think it simply makes you someone who appreciates design- which in my world is all about enhancing the world around you.

    Do I think everyone should own a $100 letter opener? Of course not, but if it’s a pretty and functional object I don’t mind seeing it alongside other options simply as inspiration.

    Design*Sponge and DS readers do a lot to give back to those less fortunate than us every year (stay tuned for info on our group summer charity project) and I don’t think a roundup of pretty letter openers negates that or makes people somehow more shallow and less caring.

    Grace

  • This is an great post and interesting comment debate.

    I too would probably never spend $100 or even $50 on a letter opener. That said, I should also admit that I am a poor college student so even if I wanted to, it isn’t an option.

    That being said, I still very much enjoyed this round-up because I love seeing how artists/designers can take something mundane like a letter opener and make it beautiful.

    I also think that making assumptions about a person’s generosity or way of life based on an interest in a $100 office accessory is a little much. Sometimes, there are simple albeit silly things that can just make you smile. I’m the lowly office assistant where I work at the moment and part of my job is opening what seems like a never ending stack of mail. My cheap-o letter opener isn’t very sharp and leaves me covered in a pile of envelope dust each day. I know that saw would put a smile on my face each morning.

  • If you can redo a room for $100 by all means send in pictures- we’d be happy to showcase a great budget- friendly makeover

    btw- there are plenty of letter openers in this guide that aren’t anywhere near $100, hope you caught those as well.

    Grace

  • hey grace, all! thanks for the thoughtful responses and apologies for my unconstructive criticism, which is totally hypocritical considering i personally don’t know anyone — myself included — who does not covet objects that go “slightly beyond functional.” i didn’t mean to be judgmental and regret offending anyone. however, i’m glad it’s spurred some interesting discussion at least!

    i think this post caused a bubbling up of a frustration i sometimes have with the disconnect between design and the greater good. i’ve been very inspired recently by design FOR the greater good — and would love to see more of it across the design world. sustainable design, humanitarian design, radical design. love that stuff!

    but certainly not all art or design can or should make a social statement. you’re right, grace and julie, that designed objects can sometimes serve simply to inspire, enhance the world around you, or put a smile on your face.

    i’m looking at the roundup again and do enjoy it, and am noticing quite a few items way under $100 as well.

    so, sorry for my outburst and carry on!

  • Sure these are great, but what’s next? “Under 100” paper clips?

    I’m sure the lovely folks who received juicy bonuses on Wall Street can a afford these cute office trinkets. But as for me and my creative-minded friends who have lost our jobs in the last few years (in architecture, fashion design, television production, radio, magazines) with no possibility of getting them back anytime soon, we open our unemployment checks and collection letters using a kitchen knife (free).

    Jen, you had it right the first time. The fact is a $100 letter opener is a sign of excess (because you CAN open a letter using just your hands after all). Specially in a time when the US Postal Service is thinking of shutting down one day a week because nobody writes letters letters anymore.

    For $100 you can buy a lot of paint, which, designers agree, is the quickest and least expensive way to change a room.

    • CLF

      i understand and appreciate where you’re coming from in terms of having lost a job, and having friends who are going through a tough time financially. i don’t know any of us who haven’t had to cut back in some way over the past year or so.

      but that said, if you have a problem with decorative objects i’m surprised you read this site at all. we do nothing but focus on ways to decorate and enhance your life. we talk about decorative (and affordable) paint projects every wednesday and thursday on a regular basis, so there’s no lack of that on the site.

      i can see how a $100 letter opener isn’t something that anyone “needs” right now, or at any point. but what’s the crime in looking at one? and, for the record, the entire roundup is made up of openers that are well under $100. it seems like everyone saw the $95 opener and decided the entire guide was $100 products. it’s not.

      of course you can open letters with your hands. you can also live in homes without wallpaper and furniture that’s decorative- but this site has always focused on sharing ideas and products that go beyond function to bring something decorative and pretty into your life. and i feel really strongly that looking at those objects and ideas does nothing to change the fact that we care about those less fortunate than us.

      the bottom line is this- well crafted metal letter openers cost a bit more than some people expect. so i chose to share some of those hand-crafted products alongside more affordable $25-range letter openers. do you have to own one in order to open a letter? no. but does it make you shallow or uncaring if you want to look at them? no.

      grace

  • While I understand the viewpoint of those who would not pay $100 for a letter opener (I wouldn’t,) the very same thing can be said about countless things in design magazines and blogs.

    There are a number of couches, paintings, and refrigerators that I see in the design world that have outrageous pricetags, from my perspective.

    The whole reason we come to this website is for inspiration. You Grace, have given it. While I would not pay more than $4 on a letter opener or $500 for a couch, I appreciate the inspiration that you provide on your site.

    Grace: In the words of others that come before me, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

  • I love seeing all the beautiful round-ups you do and also appreciate all the work that goes into them! I don’t know if you’ve done this before, but I am on the hunt for a magazine rack! Love to see what you could find…seems like there’s a lack of exciting ones that I’ve found out there.
    Thanks for sharing all these beautiful things with us every day!

  • I love the letter openers. When I was a travel agent I would buy one every where I went and keep them all on my desk. They’re a great souveneir item and easy to display. My favorite was a replica of William Wallace ‘s sword (Braveheart) from Edinbough.

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