Fountain pens were once the writing instruments that ruled all others. In a relatively short period of time, the ballpoint pen was able to overthrow the kings of old. Sometime around the mid-twentieth century, ballpoints had clearly become the de facto standard. While fountain pen usage was on the wane, it never went away completely. By the early 1980s, Pelikan saw an opportunity for a revival of sorts. No longer the essential tool for daily life that it once was, the fountain pen was again being taken up, this time as more of a status symbol or collectors item. The early 1980s would come to herald what could be considered a fountain pen renaissance. It was 1982 when Pelikan chose to try to capture this market with the re-introduction of the 400, a pen that the company had a lot of success with decades earlier. With little in the way of cosmetic differences, the new model would be called the M400 and it would become the cornerstone of a high end line of pens known as the Souverän series, a moniker likely prompted by Montblanc’s long standing Meisterstück. Quite perilously, this came at a troubled time for Pelikan as a rapid expansion of the business in the late 1970s resulted in the company having to declare bankruptcy right around the time of the M400’s release. The company was ultimately taken over and various divisions were parted out, either into subsidiary companies or sold off completely. It is lucky for us that the production of fine writing instruments would survive this tumultuous time. What separates the 400 from the M400? How do you identify the subtle and not so subtle differences between the two? Read on to find out.
It seems like forever ago that we got our first glimpse of Pelikan’s 2019 line-up. News of the Herzstück 1929 limited edition and Edelstein Star Ruby broke in late December. January came and went with the much anticipated announcement of the M1005 Stresemann. Most recently, February brought news of the M101N Grey-Blue. Despite the regular flow of new releases out of Hannover, we have only seen the Star Ruby ink materialize which went on sale earlier this month. The fountain pens have yet to turn up. A few were pushed back slightly from their originally announced release dates and another has seen a more significant delay for what have been unclear reasons. If you recall, the M1005 was due in mid-February, the M101N Grey-Blue sometime in March, and the 1929 by late March. Rumors have been floated as to the reasons for the hold up of the M1005, some suggesting that there was an issue with the plating on the nibs. I reached out to Pelikan to specifically address these issues and was able to get a little clarity on what we can expect in terms of upcoming release dates. Pelikan also took the opportunity to debunk some of the recent rumors going around about their products.
The Pelikan 400 of the 1950s and 60s is perhaps one of the most iconic and successful pens ever put out by the company over its 90 year history of fountain pen production. Perhaps it is telling that Pelikan chose this model to rekindle its fountain pen production and turn the company’s fortune around in 1982 with a reincarnation of the 400 dubbed the M400 Souverän. We will focus squarely on the original 400 for the purposes of this article which introduces the final pen in this three-part series. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my in-depth look at both the 300 and the 140 which were in production alongside the 400. Glass negatives in the Pelikan archives indicate that this model was first conceived in 1939 and likely had World War II to thank for its eleven years on the drawing board. Launched on May 25, 1950, the Pelikan 400 was produced for a period of fifteen years (not including a brief resurrection in the 1970s) but underwent several modifications in that time. With each major revision, the suffix “N” was added to the model number. This stood for “neu,” the German word for new, and was a designation only meant to be used internally. This nomenclature was utilized for the 400 as well as several other similarly styled product lines and is the reason we have the 400, 400N, and 400NN. Of course, when these pens were being marketed, they were all simply called the 400 which is why you won’t find the “N” designation in any price list. Read on to learn more about just what changes came with each revision and how to identify them. As you read through, be sure to click on the photos found within to enlarge them for further study.
My recent exploration of the less commonly encountered Pelikan 300 gave me occasion to pull my 140 and 400 out of the pen cabinet. Looking over those two models made me realize that both were equally deserving of their own post so consider this the second installment of a three-part series looking at some of Pelikan’s finest work from the 1950s and 60s. Today we will focus on the 140, the direct successor to the Ibis 130 (1949-54). First introduced in 1952, the 140 came in a plethora of colors, many of which are not often seen today. The 140 was also a platform adapted to unique purposes and sold by other manufacturers without Pelikan’s branding so there is a lot of variety to be found out there. Production officially ran from April of 1952 through July of 1965 and many small changes occurred to the line over that time, particularly early on in the run. These changes can help to date earlier pens and I will endeavor to highlight most of them below. Read on to learn all about this iconic model.
In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. She was the sibling of Cerberus the three-headed hound of Hades and the Hydra, a serpentine water monster. In ancient times, merely sighting the Chimera was an omen for disaster. Today, we use the term to refer to anything made of disparate parts. Pelikan produced a chimera of sorts back in the 1950s though nothing as monstrous as the beast of ancient mythology. The pen that I’m alluding to is the Pelikan 300 which holds a unique spot in the company’s catalog. It was made for export only and positioned in the market between the 140 and 400. It enjoyed a production run of just five years spanning June of 1953 through November of 1957. As such, these are not commonly encountered on the secondary market today. The 300 came in just two colors, a black/green striped version and an all black striped model though an all burgundy variant, possibly a prototype, is known to exist as well. When discussing the 300, it is important to keep in mind that it has no relation to the M300 Souverän which didn’t debut until 1998. Due to a paucity of information out there, I thought that the 300 might be well suited to a post of its own.
Those of us in the U.S.A. awoke this morning to news of yet another forthcoming release from Pelikan. The company is once again going retro with the introduction of a new model in the M101N series. Perhaps it is no coincidence that such a pen is being brought to light during the 90th anniversary of Pelikan’s first foray into fountain pens. The newest M101N on the block has been dubbed the Grey-Blue and it will become the fifth pen in a line that takes its inspiration from the historic models of the 30s and 40s. To date, the Grey-Blue has been preceded by the Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), Lizard (2012), Tortoiseshell Red (2014), and Bright Red (2017). Whereas the first three models listed emulated some of the more popular vintage finishes, the Grey-Blue will join the Bright Red in blazing its own trail as a fresh take on an old design. Pelikan’s promotional materials state; “The grey and blue color and pattern is reminiscent of the original historical model of the 1930s,” but I do not recall any historic 101N ever having come in this color scheme. If you cannot wait to get your hands on this one, be thankful February is a short month as these are due to make their way to market sometime in March.
Now that we are well into the new year, I thought that it might be worthwhile to explore a topic that many may not have previously thought about. While this post is not specific to the Pelikan brand or even fountain pens, I hope that it will be of some interest to anybody who has invested the time and money to cultivate an assortment of pens and pen related paraphernalia. As many of us know all too well, what starts out as a pen or two can quickly balloon into a collection, the contents of which may grow to represent a substantial outlay. What if something were to happen to that collection? Loss, theft, and fire are all real threats in today’s world and, while only objects, our collections represent an emotional investment as much as one of time and money. As casual collectors, this is hardly on the forefront of our minds but it is something that you should think about at least once. Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. While statistics show that this has been on the decline over the past decade, the menace remains very real. According to the FBI, there were an estimated 7,694,086 property crime offenses in the U.S.A. in 2017 resulting in losses approximating $15.3 billion. That equates to a rate of 2,362.2 crimes per 100,000 people. Burglary accounted for 18.2 percent of all the property crimes cited above and is something that is always in the back of every homeowner’s mind. We all hope that it won’t happen to us but tragedy could be just around the corner which begs the question; “Are you properly covered in the event of a loss?” A few high-profile examples of pen theft over the past few years come to mind. Recall that Dan Smith, aka The Nibsmith, had $40,000 worth of fountain pens stolen from his vehicle in May 2017. Then there was the case of Novelli who was robbed of a large quantity of pens and lighters in August 2018. While these cases represent the unique situation of vendors with large inventories, they still serve as good examples to illustrate the threat that is out there. Of course theft is only one peril that might befall a collection. Read on to learn what you may be covered for and what you should do to protect yourself.
Rumors of the M1005 Stresemann began early last year and it was widely expected that we would see it hit the market sometime in late 2018. The year came and went without such an announcement suggesting that the release had been pushed back with a new estimated arrival set for the first quarter of 2019. The wait is now over as word of the upcoming M1005 Stresemann finally broke today from the Netherlands courtesy of our friends at Appelboom. This new model will join the M805 (2015) and the M405 (2016) in the same finish. The M1005 will be the largest model to sport the anthracite stripes and is a welcome addition to a line that hasn’t seen a refresh in some time. The last M10xx model not host to an ultra limited Maki-e or Raden finish was the M1005 black released seven years ago in 2013. In case you’re new to the blog or brand and may be unaware of the origins of the Stresemann finish, allow me to explain from where the designation derives. The former foreign minister of the Weimar Republic and Nobel prize recipient, Gustav Stresemann (1879-1929), had a proclivity for wearing suits with thin stripes which became something of a defining trait. After a time, people started drawing parallels between Pelikan’s now well-known striped pattern and the Stresemann look resulting in the nick-name that has persisted to this day.