Decoding the M481

Pelikan15Allow me to start this post by saying that I am not an expert on this topic and have no special insight into the heritage of this model.  That said, what follows is the culmination of much careful research.  Given the lack of a good knowledge base on this topic, I have had to make inferences and educated deductions where necessary.  I present you my thoughts and ask you to draw your own conclusions.  The M481 is a little understood model, likely owing to its relative scarcity. Just how many were produced over its run is unclear. The model was initially released by Pelikan in 1983, largely for the export market, and it appears to have enjoyed only a relatively short production run. Released just one year after the re-introduction of the M400, it seems safe to say that it can be considered the predecessor/prototype of the M200.

One of the confounding factors surrounding this model is the fact that the early, pre-1997, M150’s were released with labeling/packaging that stated ‘M150/481.’ In actuality, it appears that the M481 was already being phased out at the time of introduction of the M150 and M200 (1985). It is my understanding that the 481 designation was an early name for the M150 but when the success of the, then newly released, M400 became apparent, Pelikan decided to build a range of pens around that line. In order to avoid signficant confusion, the 481 nomenclature was dropped and we were left with the M150 as we know it today.


Left: Early M150/481 packaging circa 1985/86. Right: Export M481 packaging circa 1983/84


Despite the confusion with the model numbers, the M150/481 and M481 are very different pens with distinct features.  Depicted below is an example of each, shown with Pelikan’s original retail tags.


Green M150/481 on the left and green M481 on the right


Hopefully, by this point, I’ve convinced you that the M150/481 and M481 were sold as two separate entities, separated by time and likely not in active production concurrently.   At quick glance, the green models can appear very similar but the two pens clearly have distinct differences when examined side by side.  The defining characteristics between the M150/481 and M481 are the ink window, cap band, cap top, and overall size.


Ink Window
Cap Band
Cap Top
Total Length
Single, Beveled
2 Chick Logo
4.80 in
0.43 in
Single, Straight
5.00 in
0.47 in


M150 Green Old1

Green M150/481 capped & posted




Green M481 capped & posted



With the M150/481 versus M481 controversy explained, we can now focus on the M481 as the precursor of the M200.  The M481 was predominantly an export model, likely for the Japanese and perhaps Middle Eastern markets.    It is the same size  as what we know today as the M200 but has several differences in trim detail.  The introduction of the M481 preceded the M200 by two years and it appears to have been discontinued when the M200 was introduced (production dates of 1983-1985).    The M481 has a derby cap top that has no logo design (it is a smooth cap top), gold trim, absent trim ring on the barrel, and a single cap band.  The cap band is inscribed as either “Pelikan Germany” or “Pelikan W.-Germany.”  Interestingly, if you unscrew the derby cap top, you will find a two chick Pelikan logo etched beneath (see below).  


M481 Cap Tops: Assembled & Disassembled

Pelikan M481 cap tops without logos

M481 cap tops without logos


In contrast, the pre-1997 M200 had a derby cap top, gold trim, absent trim ring on the barrel, and two cap bands.


Black M481 capped & posted




Black pre-’97 M200 capped & posted



The M481 is known to have been available in black, green-black, burgundy, and clear demonstrator color variations.  The clear demonstrator was not labeled as an M481 but rather listed as “Pelikan Demonstrator.” Though it does not officially carry the name, it has the same trim as the other pens in the line.  Many of the examples that I have come across have employed the experimental and short lived friction fit feed which Pelikan was also known to reintroduce for a very brief time on the M400 of 1982.  The nibs on these pens are gold-plated stainless steel, like the M200 that followed.  Available nib sizes were EF, F, M, B, BB, OM, OB, and OBB.  Below is a scan from a Pelikan brochure depicting the M481, interestingly alongside the M150 and M100, which likely dates the brochure to 1987 with a brief period of overlap between the two models.

Pelikan brochure featuring the M481 (Japan).

Pelikan brochure featuring the M481 (Japan)


The black and green-black variants of the M481 are seen for sale at auction from time to time with the clear demonstrator coming up less often.  The burgundy variant is exceedingly rare.  If you have any additional info on this topic, please feel free to share or correct me where I may be mistaken.  As always, I’m open to any and all comments/discussion.


1984/1985 Pelikan Brochure

1984/1985 Pelikan brochure depicting the M481. Images provided by Dominic Rothemel;


The above pages are taken from a German Pelikan catalog circa 1984/1985.  They loosely translate as follows;

“Pelikan Model 481.  

Ink window for a fast check of the remaining ink level (picture caption). 

Pelikan fountain pen M 481.  Classic fountain pen model with black plastic, gold-plated pelican beak clip, plunger mechanism, ink window, gilded stainless steel nib in 8 nib widths: EF, F, M, B, BB, OM, OB, OBB.  Pelikan ballpoint pen K 481.  Classic pen model with black plastic push-button mechanism with cartridge refill, gold-plated pelican beak clip.  Style need not be a question of price.  

Traditional gift packaging made of cardboard with flocked liner.  Original design from 1897. Content: 1 fountain pen M 481, M-nib. 1 bottle of ink “1897”, royal blue.

M481 Deutsche Mark 39,00

K481 Deutsche Mark 25,00″



 1982:  Souverän M400 Green-Striated introduced
 1983:  M481 introduced
 1984:  Souverän M400 Tortoiseshell Brown introduced
 1985:  M100, M150 (M150/481), M200, M250 introduced; M481 likely discontinued

21 responses

  1. Pingback: The M481 Revisited « The Pelikan's Perch

  2. Pingback: The Mystery of the Lagostina M150 « The Pelikan's Perch

  3. My black M481 has the screw in nib collar and not the friction fit nib collar. In fact I am using a M400 (1982) screw in gold nib unit in my black M481 pen.


      • As you wrote that many of the M481 examples that you have seen came with the friction fit feed, I just wanted to share with you that mine has the screw in nib-feed unit. In fact I bought the pen so that I can use my spare M400 screw in gold nib unit in it.

        Mine is a a very clean or rather NOS example that I bought for what I consider very good price. Only Pak Rupee 2500.00 ($23.50 approx).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi

    I would like to ask you for advice. I am no connoisseur or collector and I would be interested in today’s price of the model M150 / 481 F, which I discovered at home. It is in 100% state.
    Thanks for the reply
    best regards

    I’m from Czech Republic


    • Hello. The M150 that you reference is selling for about $30 to $75 at auction in today’s market depending on the condition. I think $50 is a reasonable midpoint. Nice pens but they just don’t bring in big money which actually makes them a great buy if you like smaller pens.


  5. I have one of those M481, but unfortunately the seller replaced the cap with an M200-cap. I found a dealer who would sell me one of those cap tops without logos, but I’m not shure on which Cap it might fit. I assumed it would fit on an M400 Old style after removing the gold ring. But I’m not sure if an M400 old style Cap fits on the M481. Perhaps there are even more Caps that could fit, that I haven’t thought of yet. Would make it easier to get one.

    In case you know this it would be so nice if you could share the information




    • The M400, M200, and M481 are approximately the same size so, theoretically, the caps should interchange between them. There may be some individual variances imparted by time and wear that throw the fit off a bit but the dimensions are similar enough to where it should work without issue. The M481 had a single cap band so you would have to find an M481 cap, an old stye M400 cap, or a new style M200 cap if you’re looking for a cosmetic match. I’m not sure if the crown cap top would simply swap out if you had the M481s derby cap top and inner cap but I don’t see a reason right off to doubt that it would. I’ve just never tried it. Only way to know is to try. It’s a simple process of unscrewing the crown, removing the inner cap, and replacing it the the M481 parts that you have sourced. Missing-Pen on eBay has some suitable caps if you’re interested.


  6. Thank you so much! I already looked on eBay but my search wasn’t successfull. But I’m patient.

    I thought about the M200 New Style Cap, too. But I don’t have one. So I’m not sure, if the black top crown cap can be screwed off. And there would be more risk, that the thread on the top has changed beween Old and New Style. My thought was, that it is unlikely that they produced an extra cap for the M481 but just used an M400.

    And of course, that would be the highlight: as the M481 was produced in the 80ies only, the gold band should say Pelikan W.-Germany instead of Pelikan Germany. So the ideal case would be an M400 Old Style Cap that was produced before 1990.

    Unfortunately I don’t own an M400 Old Style and only M200/M250 Old Style, so I neither have a M400 Old Style cap nor a M200 New Style cap to check how they fit/if the crown is unscrewable.

    I still hope I’m lucky. Perhaps someone sells an defekt M481 that I can get cheaply and swap the whole cap.


    • Don’t get hung up on German vs W.-Germany. Half my M481s have Germany and the other half have W.-Germany. The stamping wasn’t uniformly applied back then so either way could be correct.


  7. Joshua,

    you left me a little bit stunned or cofused with your last statement.

    As far as I know the M481 has been produced from 1983 to 1985. The German Reunification was in October 1990, five years after the production of the M481 stopped.

    I don’t know how fast there even were Caps with only “Germany” instead of W.-Germany, but all caps produced before End of 1990 must have been with W.-Germany. Or am I wrong?

    So all M481 should have – in their original condition – have an W.-Germany cap.

    That doesn’t necessary mean they were sold like this. It was quite usual that sellers had range of replacement parts and perhaps they changed a few of them. As far as I can know mine was sold with an M200-Cap and was never used.

    But it really makes me wonder, how it came to so many M481 with Caps like yours, so that you “by coincidence” got a few of them in your collection.

    Perhaps my presumptions are wrong?



    Liked by 1 person

  8. addendum:
    you’re absolutely right. I tried to look at some enhanced pictures and as far as I can say (the part isn’t pictured very often or is blurred most of the time) there are quite a lot M481 with just “Germany” in the cap band.

    But I can’t explain this after the aforesaid. This is really courious!


    • Curious indeed and not just limited to the M481. My 1982 M400 has a cap band stamping of “Pelikan – Germany -.” Take it for what it’s worth but that has been my experience. I have no reason to suspect caps were swapped out for later versions.


  9. Hello, I hope that I may still post something here.

    A very nice website, very informative written. I am embarrassed to have found Joshua’s web pages only recently. Ashes on my head, I live in Germany, the home of Pelikan fountain pens.

    To the point: I use, among others, two Pelikan M 481 fountain pens. I bought the first fountain pen in 1984 and it is still in use and equipped with an F nib (later exchanged). This fountain pen is inscribed on the cap with “PELIKAN GERMANY”.

    Also the second M 481 fountain pen , bought in 1985 and equipped with an M nib is imprinted with “PELIKAN GERMANY”. (The reunification of Germany happened in 1989).

    In contrast, the M 150, which came on the market after the M 481, is labeled “PELIKAN W. GERMANY”. The older Pelikans are my favorite.
    They write sensationally soft, lay a nice rich ink trail and the nibs are very flexible.
    And yes, I admit: I don’t have any of the newer models, my best Pelikan is the M 400 from 1995 😉

    All Pelikans are in regular use.

    What else I want to say: Thanks for the work Joshua! I always find articles that I find very interesting.

    Keep up the good work!


    • Of course you may. Discourse is always welcome. Thank you for the kind words. Sounds like you have a great flock there. Some nice pens that make great writers.


      • I have now another black M481 that I am using with a 1950s’ 400NN flexy nib unit (plastic screw collar and hard rubber feed).
        I love the pen.

        Liked by 1 person

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