Italy is rife with manufacturers whose products focus on the culture of writing. Aurora, Montegrappa, Pineider, Stipula, and Visconti are just a few that quickly come to mind. Despite the already crowded market space, German interlopers have also done well in the region. One such instance that comes to mind is the curious case of the M151. In 2015, I wrote a brief piece titled “The (Short) Story of the M151” which explored from where the pen’s moniker was derived. As it turned out, the M151 was simply a repackaged M150 Green/Black meant to be sold within the Italian market. The name of the model arose from the company’s own internal description for the M150. Despite the seemingly simple explanation, the pen’s marketing has suggested that there is a lot more to this model than meets the eye. At the end of 2019, the M251 was released, destined for the same region and meant to serve as a larger companion piece to the M151. Rather than a repackaged model, this was a unique addition to the Classic line, employing the same Green/Black color scheme as its little brother. Regional sales literature for the M151 can be found with tag lines such as; “Everything passes…myths remain” and “A legend from the past is back.” This piqued my curiosity. What was so special about this little fountain pen that would elevate it to mythical status and why was it worthy of a new regional companion piece? Was it simply a matter of overzealous marketing or was there something more to it? To answer those questions, I enlisted the help of Mario Pagnozzi of Stilo&Stile. Based out of Rome since 2004, his company’s mission has focused on welcoming enthusiastic, curious people to the world of handwriting. With his help and an inquiry to Pelikan’s Italian division, the cultural connection to the M151 has been made just a little bit clearer. Read on to learn why these two pens might hold a bit more significance for the country than they at first let on.
There has been a dearth of new releases from Pelikan during the first half of 202o which is likely a reflection of the turbulent times that we find ourselves in. If pre-release rumors are to be believed, the second half of the year promises to be much more exciting. That run gets kicked off today with Pelikan’s announcement of the forthcoming Maki-e release, Kingfisher. This newest model further flushes out the company’s Maki-e portfolio, adding to last year’s Five Lucky Bats and Japanese Umbrella. Pelikan describes the Kingfisher as, “a masterpiece that combines the craftsmanship of Pelikan Germany coupled with superior Japanese traditional Maki-e painting techniques.” The accompanying literature describes the newest Maki-e fountain pen thusly;
“Kingfisher is a small bird that lives near the waterside. The kingfisher has a long, dagger-like beak. The plumage of most kingfishers is bright, with green and blue being the most common colors. In Japanese, it is also called jade or blue gemstone because of its bright colors. On the fountain pen, two beautiful Kingfishers are vividly painted on the background of burning red autumn leaves. The motive fantastically expresses a colorful scene in the autumn of Japan.”
The Kingfisher is built off the M1000 chassis, consistent with most of their past Maki-e releases. Given the timing of the announcement, you can expect this model to be available next month. While there is no word yet on pricing, you should expect this ultra-limited edition to command a king’s ransom. This one is reported to be limited to just 123 pieces worldwide.
Five years ago, I published an article titled Chartpak & Their Policies. That piece was the result of a telephone interview with Abigail “Abi” Weeks of Chartpak’s pen repair department. At the time of the interview, Chartpak was servicing the warranty claims for all Pelikan pens purchased from authorized dealers, regardless of the country of origin. By 2017, Chartpak had reversed course and began to honor only those warranty claims for pens purchased from authorized dealers in the United States. For the past several years, those of us looking for better deals from overseas did so with the knowledge that we would have to forego domestic warranty support. While the move created some hard feelings with consumers, it was hardly surprising. Other distributors in the industry have similar policies, policies put in place as a result of international competition. It’s not dissimilar to the camera industry’s long held approach to gray market or parallel import items. Many manufacturers have opted to not provide warranty support for genuine products purchased outside of a region’s distribution channels. This has hardly dissuaded customers from buying overseas as Pelikan’s pens tend to be quite robust and most foreign vendors provide excellent after sales service in my experience. Fast forward to 2020 and things have again changed. Read on to find out how a recent change in Chartpak’s repair policy will affect consumers, effective immediately.
The Perch has always endeavored to be a beacon, shining light on the varied bits of Pelikan arcana. That endeavor has led me down some pretty interesting paths over the years. Of course, I can only expand upon the established body of knowledge by standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me. Occasionally, I am approached about hosting a guest post from someone with a unique insight or experience with the brand which is where we find ourselves today. I’m happy to hand over the reins to Rick Propas, proprietor of the Penguin and a well-known Pelikan collector, retailer, and friend of this blog. The 400 was released in the first half of 1950 and became an incredibly popular model that helped to rebuild the company’s fortunes following World War II. Perhaps lesser known are the many variants derived from the 400 design, namely the 500, 600, and 700. Of these, the 600 remains the most obscure which makes it the perfect fodder for a post. Rick takes a look a close at the 600 and tries to fill in some of the many questions that still surround this model. Without further ado, I give you his take on the model 600.
In 2001, Chartpak, Inc. became the exclusive distributor for the Pelikan brand in the United States as well as Mexico and Canada. The company manufactures and imports fine artist materials, fine writing instruments, and office products for distribution in the Americas. Their website states; “Chartpak has an established portfolio of 14 brands with 60 product lines that span 17 distinct categories of art materials, fine writing, craft & hobby and office products, many of which are made in the USA or Europe.” Chartpak is located in Leeds, Massachusetts and is nestled in the five-college area of the state which boasts a vibrant and active student artist population. While Chartpak’s story accounts for nearly the past 20 years of Pelikan in the United States, have you ever wondered about Pelikan’s past US operations or who distributed their products in North America before Chartpak? A recent inquiry from a reader led me to ponder that very question in greater detail. When you search Google for the answer, you come up with surprisingly little, most likely because the bulk of the history occurred prior to the rise of the internet. Not to be discouraged, I turned to a resource that was satisfyingly nostalgic, the newspaper. After searching through dozens of papers and hundreds of articles, I learned that Jack Kelly was probably correct when he said, “…headlines don’t sell papes. Newsies sell papes.” I also learned a great deal about Pelikan’s more public affairs throughout the 1980s and 90s. While the record in incomplete, we can get at least a basic sense of Pelikan’s operations in the USA over that two decade span. It is important to keep in mind that Pelikan’s business structure is incredibly complex with many divisions. Pelikan AG and later Pelikan International acted largely as holding companies, a type of financial organization that owns a controlling interest in other companies called subsidiaries. While the parent corporation controls the subsidiary’s policies and oversees management decisions, the days to day operations are left to the subsidiary. In this way, the holding company protects itself from losses accrued by the subsidiary (creditors can’t go after the holding company). What we had in the US focused on hardcopy or printer consumables which started out as a product group in the Pelikan product range. The distribution of fine writing instruments in North America has been managed by various agents over the years which I will endeavor to explore. I should make it clear that at no point were fountain pens or fountain pen inks manufactured in the USA. Read on to learn how the company’s fortunes rose and fell over the span of approximately 15 years and why operations eventually ceased.
The Pelikan’s Perch has long striven to be apolitical, preferring to focus on pens and not politics. While I am not without conviction, I have never felt it appropriate to espouse my personal views on this forum. While I will continue to refrain from doing so on a regular basis, I would like to make it a point to acknowledge the exceptional pain and anger that we see bubbling over in our communities. Silence is no longer a luxury that any of us can afford. Since the earliest days of our country, people of color have long had to deal with systemic racism, whether overt, insidious or structural, as well as brutality suffered at the hands of those in positions of power. I have seen firsthand what racism looks like from the vantage of my white privilege. I grew up with it every day of my life and yet I do not hate the way I was taught to hate. I long ago made the decision to not discriminate, to not judge, and to not hate solely based upon the color of one’s skin. Despite that, I have no doubt that I have been passively complicit in furthering racism within our culture. By choosing to not see color, we marginalize and invalidate the racist experiences that those of color encounter on a daily basis, thereby contributing to the problem. I am not a perfect human being, none amongst us are. We all make mistakes and will continue to do so. We need to learn from those mistakes, to recognize that we must do better, to strive for empathy, and to never settle for complacency within ourselves for as long as people continue to be discriminated against.
Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the COVID-19 infection that arises from it have changed the face of our world. We now find ourselves in a place that could scarcely be imagined just a few short months ago. With 5,580,000 people infected and 350,000 dead worldwide, there has hardly been a corner of the globe that has escaped unscathed thus far. In fact, only 15 countries and 11 permanently occupied territories are known to be without any confirmed cases of the virus (and some of those are suspect). Our invisible enemy has no consideration for whom it infects and does not discriminate based on any race, color, creed, or social stature. Perhaps the one thing that makes this tragedy just slightly more bearable is the fact that children have largely been spared its ravages. The upheaval in daily life almost all of us are facing will have far reaching implications for years to come. The impact can be felt in even the smallest aspects of our usual routines. Whether it is social distancing, homeschooling, wearing a mask when out in public, self-quarantining, working from home, or losing one’s job altogether, I think that it is safe to say that whatever “normal” we land on when the dust settles will not be the normal we took for granted a precious few months ago.
I find it somewhat taxing to consistently review Pelikan’s fountain pens here on the blog, not because they aren’t great pens but because many of them are just variations on a theme. It becomes a challenge to find new things to write about with pens that are essentially unchanged aside from a fresh coat of paint. Consequently, I try to pick my reviews carefully, keeping my selection criteria to new, unique, or especially exciting features and finishes. I’m also hesitant to review pens that a majority of people won’t get to see in real life let alone own. Still, from time to time there comes a new finish so exciting that it just begs to be reviewed. That is the situation I find myself in with this year’s M1000 Raden Green Ray. This release follows the M805 Raden Royal Platinum (2018) and the M800 Raden Royal Gold (2017). The last Raden based off of the M1000 chassis was the Sunrise (2016). The newest entry in the lineup flaunts wide green stripes that reflect a rainbow of shimmering color in good light. We are so accustomed to the pinstriped pattern of Pelikan’s pens that this one cannot help but stand out. The stripes are made all the more impressive when juxtaposed against a background of deep black Japanese Urushi lacquer. The end result is really something to behold but, sadly, only 400 of these special edition M1000s were made. If pens utilizing the Raden technique appeal to you, then this is a must own Pelikan. Unfortunately, high pricing and limited production will keep this out of the hands of most so read on if for nothing more than to enjoy the eye candy.