I was pretty surprised when I saw the TOPS Idea Collective Mini Journal (via Amazon), as I really only ever associated TOPS with the big yellow legal pads. Surprisingly enough though they have their own line of hard cover journals that I was unaware of so lets take a closer look.
As you can see from the first two photos, the cover has a grooved design in it that to me resembles a stained glass window, minus the bright colors. There is the obligatory elastic closure which in this case is a nice contrasting gray color and feels pretty sturdy.
The TOPS Idea Collective Mini Journal measures 5.5″ by 3.5″ and contains 192 pages of ruled, ivory, acid-free paper that can be marked with the included yellow ribbon page marker. Although its hared to tell the story via photograph, its important to note that this journal wont really lay flat if that is an important feature for you. The most noticeable element in the picture above though is probably the show through on the opposite page of the journal, which immediately became an issue for me. Generally I can tolerate a small amount of show though, but the amount seen here with a fountain pen is just way too much for me as it makes the back of the pages unusable.
In trying to give the TOPS Idea Collective Mini Journal a fair shake I wanted to test some non-fountain pens on it, so I grabbed a Pilot Precise V5, Uniball 307, and Zebra G-301 to see if their inks would go a little easier on this paper.
Above is the answer to that question, simply put even some gel and liquid ink pens proved to be too much for this paper in terms of show through.
In addition to the show through issue with fountain pen ink, the close up picture here shows a second issue, which is some feathering. I’ve had good luck with Pelikan’s Edelstein line of ink and seen it behave well on all types of paper, but as you can see here, the TOPS Idea Collective Mini Journal doesn’t handle it so well.
I actually find it a bit suspect that these have somehow garnered an average of 4.8 stars on Amazon over 44 reviews. I’ve used much better journals and notebooks that don’t achieve such great results in their reviews. Although its a fairly nice looking journal with a unique design on the cover (you know, the part that you shouldn’t judge a book by) the paper really doesn’t seem like it’s anything better than what you would find in the pile of yellow legal pads sitting in the supply cabinet at your office that nobody really wants to use. Overall I cant really recommend the TOPS Idea Collective Mini Journal (via Amazon), for fountain pen users or for users of gel or liquid ink pens.