Historic examples of lower tier pen manufacturers emulating successful models from larger companies abound. While these pens may share a lot of similarities, they can usually be distinguished by a few telltale signs. Sometimes the distinctions are so few that you might suspect a collaboration between two companies. Such was the case with Gimborn and Pelikan, two businesses that share a history together. The term doppelgänger is used to describe a person that bears an uncanny resemblance to someone else without being a twin. It’s a word that is aptly applied to the Gimborn 150 Master which is eerily similar to its cousin, the Pelikan 300. The similarities are less surprising once you understand the history of Gimborn. Read on to learn about the company’s origins and how their first fountain pen came to look an awful lot like a Pelikan.
It has been several months since we have had any fresh news of a pending Pelikan release. Customers continue to await the M1005 Stresemann now long delayed by supply chain issues. The drought has ended as news of the upcoming M205 Star Ruby Special Edition Demonstrator broke today. As expected, the company continues their streak of M2xx releases based on their Edelstein Ink of The Year. The Star Ruby will be the fifth model in that line-up and our first glimpse comes to us courtesy of Appelboom in the Netherlands. The M205 Star Ruby follows the likes of the M205 Olivine (2018), M200 Smoky Quartz (2017), M205 Aquamarine (2016), and M205 Amethyst (2015). This year’s M205 appears to be a departure from past releases in that the material has a sparkly, shimmering quality for lack of a better descriptor. Pre-orders should be available soon as this one is expected to be in stores starting sometime this September.
A removable nib has long been one of Pelikan’s hallmark features since the earliest days of the transparent Pelikan fountain pen first introduced 90 years ago. Pelikan Schreibgeräte tells us that one of the company’s early slogans was “The right nib for every hand.” The screw-in nib unit allowed retailers to keep a small cache of nibs on hand which allowed Pelikan’s products to meet a wide range of customer preferences. The convenience of this thoughtful design and the marketing put behind it allowed Pelikan to quickly earn the esteem of vendors and customers alike. Each unit consisted of a nib and an ebonite feed held together by a threaded collar which would screw into the pen’s section. Pelikan has long had mechanisms in place for the safe removal of those units. For the 1oo, 100N, and Rappen models, a special pair of pliers was developed to suit the purpose. The pliers had a series of three or four notches into which the fins of the ebonite feeds could be slotted. This would allow for a more secure method of nib removal with less risk of damaging the feed’s fragile fins (try saying that three time fast). The engineers at the company went back to the drawing board with the introduction of the 400 in 1950. Rather than a pair of pliers which still ran a risk of damaging the nib, they designed a socket wrench, also known as a box or tubular spanner, to accomplish the task.
It isn’t easy deciding which pens to review here on The Perch. I like to focus on those pieces that bring something new to the table or tell a story. I mean, there is only so much you can say about another M800 with a different color scheme. That line of thinking is what lead me to today’s review. The recently released King Michael fountain pen stands out as unique in Pelikan’s catalog for a couple of reasons. The official name of this model is the King Michael I of Romania – Royal Edition and was only sold through Herlitz in Romania making this an ultra-exclusive regional edition that was not available through the usual retail channels. In fact, acquiring one required registration on the web, being selected, and then facilitating payment via a direct bank transfer. Honoring King Michael I (10/25/1921 – 12/5/2017), the last king of Romania, this edition is limited to just 300 pieces. While the underlying bones are clearly recognizable as those of a standard M800, this model incorporates a few design elements not previously seen. That allows this edition to stand out as an example of what good can come from local distributors partnering with the company to put out a unique product. While the opportunity to own one has largely passed at this juncture, I think that this pen is worthy of a closer look.
Pelikan was officially founded in 1838 but did not produce its first fountain pen until 1929. The first pens to roll off of the assembly line came without a model number and were known only as the Pelikan fountain pen, presumably since they were the company’s only such product. It wasn’t until 1931 and after a few small revisions that it would come to be known as the model 100. Armed with a removable nib assembly and an industry leading differential piston filling mechanism, that first model would go on to set a bar of excellence for generations to come. This year marks the 90th anniversary of Pelikan’s foray into fountain pen production. There have been hundreds of different models produced in that span of time and the company has just added a new limited edition to its catalog, this time to commemorate those 90 years of pen making history. The Herzstück 1929 pays homage to the company’s first fountain pens without being a direct copy. It stands out as unique in Pelikan’s catalog, incorporating features from several historic models. Coupled with updates for the modern age, this new addition is not your great grandfather’s fountain pen. The name of this limited edition suggests just how important this design has been to the company as Herzstück can be roughly translated to mean core or heart. The last time that we saw such a commemorative model was in 2004 when the M1075 was debuted to honor 75 years of pen production. That model was ultra-limited to just 75 copies. The Herzstück has been produced as an edition of 462 pieces, a number that was derived from the last three digits of the company’s original patent, which will serve to make it somewhat more widely available than its predecessor. How does this retro inspired fountain pen stack up today? Read on to find out.
June 30th marked the end of the registration period for Pelikan Hubs 2019. A lot of new cities were chosen this year which is a testament to the buzz surrounding this event and the enthusiasm of the pen community. With each passing year, the Hubs have grown larger and more diverse and this sixth annual gathering looks to be no different. Perhaps the most important byproduct of this growth has been the ability to expand the Hub locations in order to provide access to more people. While not everyone has a Hub convenient to them, each year makes it just a little easier to find a nearby location. Using the most recent version of the map publicly available on Pelikan’s website (as of 7/3/19 at 10:00pm EST), we can get a feel for this year’s chosen venues and number of registrations. These numbers will be subject to some fluctuation between now and the actual day of the event so the analysis that follows should not be considered a final tally. Still, I’m hopeful that the insight the numbers provide will be of some general interest. Nearly two dozen new cities have been added to this year’s line-up, representing a 10% increase over last year. Growth continues to be steady with each year bringing more registrations than the one before it. For 2018, Pelikan reported that there were 181 individual Hubs spread across 44 countries with 4,896 registered participants. Based on the map data currently available, this year’s event will span 200 cities spread out amongst 46 countries with over 5,646 participants. That represents at least a 15% increase in anticipated attendance over last year and an eye opening growth of 475% since the first Hub event in 2014. The United States continues to play host to the most chosen cities and registrations with the Philippines, Canada, Australia, and India rounding out the top five. Just in case you need a reminder, this year’s Hub event will take place on Friday, September 20, 2019 at 6:30pm local time. Pelikan’s designated Hub masters should be reaching out in the next few weeks with additional details for each individual location. Of course, if you are unable to attend this year’s event, you can follow along via the hashtag #pelikanhubs on your preferred social media platform. Similar to last year, I have put together a series of maps and graphs to help better depict the information outlined above. Read on to see this year’s line-up and where your city/state/country may rank.
Pelikan has been responsible for the innovation and production of some of the most iconic fountain pens of the 20th century. With 90 years of experience in pen making, a great number of models have been released into the wild. Some releases were only meant for certain markets and therefore are fairly scarce in most other parts of the world. As such, a model may be sighted so infrequently that it generates years of debate amongst enthusiasts about its authenticity. One such example is the elusive M600 Tortoiseshell Brown (circa 1985-96) but it is not the only example. While the M600 mentioned here turned out to be a factory produced model made for the Japanese market, there is another, older tortoise that has also been subject to a fair amount of speculation. That model is a Pelikan 101N Dark Tortoiseshell Brown. While that may not sound controversial, it’s the accents found on this particular pen that make it so. Rather than the well documented red or tortoise colored components, both the cap top and piston knob of this Dark Tortoise are black. Much of the information offered to justify this pen’s existence to date has been circumstantial and based on regional anecdotes. Enough of these have been spotted in the wild to at least suggest that they may have been more than someone’s backroom special. Today, I try to examine the available evidence and demonstrate once and for all the true origins of this controversial and largely undocumented 101N.
The company that we know today as Pelikan is now 181 years old. In all of that time, it has cultivated a rich history full of unusual anecdotes and outstanding achievements. Just take a close look at any of their fine writing instruments and you will see a glimpse of bygone days. Perhaps not as well known are the guardians of that history. Those of us who have studied the company and their products are well aware of the select few who have been chosen to stand watch over precious artifacts from the days of yore. The modern world is so focused on consumption that it seems precious little is built to last, and the history of things can quickly be forgotten. In that setting, it is reassuring to know that there are still companies looking to preserve even a small piece of history, not because they have to but because they want to. It is with that backdrop in mind that I would like to introduce you to Pelikan’s archivists, past and present. Currently housed in the original location of Pelikan’s Hannover factory in what is known as the TintenTurm, the company’s archives contain a wide variety of artifacts. These include vintage inks, prototype pens, old displays, historic advertising, and more. We have recently passed a transition point where Pelikan’s long time archivist, Jürgen Dittmer, has officially retired and whose role is now being filled by Wilfried Leuthold. Who are these men and what is their charge? Read on to find out.