Merz & Krell – Who Were They?

Merz & Krell Factory circa 1920

Merz & Krell factory circa 1920 (Photo courtesy of Merz Pharma GmbH & Co. KGaA)

 

In my post “The Evolution of the Collar, Feed, & Nib,” I mentioned a company called Merz & Krell who manufactured pens for Pelikan for a period of time in the 1970’s.  The company’s full name was Merz & Krell GmbH & Co. KGaA and it was founded in 1920 and headquartered in Gross-Bieberau, Germany.  Friedrich Merz was born in 1884 and grew up to become a pharmacist.  He had invented several water-soluble topical creams and beauty aids which he put into production in 1908 when he built a factory in Frankfurt.  Twelve years later he turned his attention to writing instruments and along with his brother Georg Merz and Justus Krell, a machine lathe operator, founded Merz & Krell, a subsidiary of Merz Pharma.  Merz Pharma still exist today and is involved in research in the area of Alzheimer’s disease.  The company had modest beginnings, employing only a dozen workers initially.  Aside from having to shut down production during World War II, the company has continued to grow and thrive.  When approached by Pelikan, the company already had a history in designing and manufacturing writing instruments and are probably best known for their Melbi, Senator, and Diplomat lines of pens.  In January of 2006, the company changed its name to SENATOR GmbH & Co. KGaA and continues to make pens today and is a leading manufacturer of promotional pens and related items.  In the 1970’s, two models of pen were produced by Merz & Krell for Pelikan under contract and should be considered genuine Pelikan products since they were factory authorized.  The two models that I speak of were the 120 and the 400NN.


 

Model 120

The original model 120 made by Pelikan was produced from 1955-1965 and is known as the Type I.  Production dates of the 120 made by Merz & Krell range from 1973-1977 and this pen is known as the Type II.  The Type I models are shorter, measuring a total length of 4.92 inches whereas the Type II is 5.20 inches.  The reissued model came in only two variations as depicted in the table below.

Barrel Color

Cap Color

Green
Black
Black
Black
120M&K

Green & black Merz & Krell 120’s.

 

While these were factory authorized re-issues, there were distinct differences between the two runs which I will endeavor to outline below.  When compared with the Type I 120, the Merz and Krell version can be distinguished by;

  1. A flatter, less curved grip section
  2. Broader clip
  3. Longer barrel
  4. Absence of a lip between the barrel and piston knob (no step between the two pieces)
  5. Beveled cap lip
  6. Different cap threading (not compatible with Type I)
  7. Different nib collar & feed (not compatible with other Pelikan models)
120-I&II

Side by side comparison of capped 120’s. Top: Type I, Bottom: Type II

120-I&IIb

Side by side comparison of posted 120’s. Top: Type I, Bottom: Type II

 


 

Model 400NN

The 400NN was reportedly reissued as the result of a request from Japanese retailers.  The original model 400NN made by Pelikan was produced from 1957-1965 whereas production dates of the 400NN made by Merz & Krell range from 1973-1978.  The original issue is 5.12 inches in total length with the reissue just a bit shorter.  The Merz & Krell versions seem to be in demand in today’s market and are somewhat harder to locate.  The reissued model came in the variations depicted in the table below.

Barrel Color

Cap Color

Green Striated
Black
Black
Black
Black Striated
Black
Tortoiseshell Brown
Brown
M&K-400NNs

Merz & Krell 400NN’s from left to right; Tortoiseshell Brown, Black Striated, Green Striated. Picture courtesy of Tony Rex of FPGeeks; http://goo.gl/pYRFFs

 

When compared with the Guenther Wagner 400NN, the Merz and Krell version can be distinguished by;

  1. A slightly broader clip
  2. Shorter barrel
  3. Absence of a lip between the barrel and piston knob (no step between the two pieces)
  4. Different cap threading
  5. Different nib collar & feed (not compatible with other Pelikan models)
  6. A threaded, screw-type piston mechanism (versus friction fitted as demonstrated by Tony Rex here)
M&K-Compare3

Side by side comparison of capped pens. Top: Merz & Krell 400NN, Bottom: Pelikan 400NN. Picture courtesy of D. Caspersz; http://goo.gl/qXorQm

M&K-Compare4

Side by side comparison of uncapped pens. Top: Merz & Krell 400NN, Bottom: Pelikan 400NN. Picture courtesy of D. Caspersz; http://goo.gl/qXorQm

M&K-Compare2

Close-up view of the interface between the piston knob and the barrel. Top: Merz & Krell 400NN, Bottom: Pelikan 400NN. Picture courtesy of D. Caspersz; http://goo.gl/qXorQm

M&K-Compare1

Side by side comparison of the nib collars. Left: Merz & Krell 400NN, Right: Pelikan 400NN. Picture courtesy of D. Caspersz; http://goo.gl/qXorQm

 

I hope that this helps clear up some of the confusion surrounding these variations and provides some insight into who Merz & Krell are.  Feel free to post any comments, thoughts, or critiques that you may have.

28 responses

  1. Pingback: The Evolution of the Collar, Feed, & Nib « The Pelikan's Perch

    • I think that the short answer is, ‘yes.’ The Merz & Krell version was mostly destined for the Japanese market and wasn’t widely available making one harder to source and therefore more desirable/expensive for today’s collector. These can easily get misidentified when put up for sale however and deals can be had with some patience.

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  7. I found a 120 at a yardsale and was pleased to find this information about the Merz & Krell pens. My pen fits your description of the Merz & Krell. I believe mine was made by them, but I have a question. The cap says, “Germany”, not “West Germany” and since the reunification occurred in 1990, would that mean my pen was made then or later? The seller had guessed that the pen was purchased in the 1970’s, but it was just a guess.

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    • Hello Pamela. I’m glad that you found my post on Merz & Krell useful. A lot of pens made prior to 1990 were only stamped Germany, including the Merz & Krell models from the 1970’s. Don’t be thrown off by the missing W. as it is not an absolute. In my experience, the W.-Germany stamping is predominantly seen on pens manufactured in the 1980’s. Enjoy your M&K 120.

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  8. I always wondered about Mertz and Krell. The black 120 was my first fountain pen. Every time I use it I love it more and more. It’s a smart little pen – Easy to break down and clean. Do you know if a gold nib was ever available for it?

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  9. Pingback: Merz & Krell 400NN – 1975 | STILOURI ȘI PENIŢE

  10. Pingback: Mi Blog » Blog Archive » Pelikan Merz & Krell

  11. Are the Nib collars interchangeable between the MK 120 and the MK 400NN?. I have the 120 that I purchased off of eBay and was looking for other nib options (like possibly a gold option).

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    • Hello Dave. I cannot speak definitively as I have not owned a Merz & Krell 400NN. From the photos that I’ve seen and what I know, I do believe that the collars are the same between the two MK models and are interchangeable. Only M&K collars will fit and not those from any other Pelikan models.

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  12. Pingback: The Pelikan 400 And Its Many Forms « The Pelikan's Perch

  13. Pingback: Merz & Krell 400NN - atelier

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  15. I just picked up what is apparently a Senator (made by Merz & Krell) but don’t know the model. Found it in a box of mostly BPs at an estate sale company’s warehouse sale this morning. Someone on FPN, when I described the pen, posted a couple of links to German eBay listings and the second one (with “Senator” and “Germany” engraved on the cap band looked just like the one I bought). I also found a current listing on eBay here in the US from a seller who is apparently in Serbia — that pen looks IDENTICAL to mine, including the nib width (medium) [not sure if posting the URL is okay or not]. The piston seems to be working but I haven’t had a chance to flush it out yet or see if I need anything like a new o-ring on the piston head. Any information about it you have, or could point me to, would be really helpful (most of the recent threads on FPN are four or five years old at this point).
    I just did a side by side comparison and it’s a bit longer than my M120 Iconic Blue, but similar in girth. Guessing that it’s post Reunification (i.e., made after October 1990) since it just says “Germany” on the cap band.

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    • Hello. I can’t really help much on the Senator side of things. That is a line of models that I only have casual knowledge of. I wish that I had more details for you. Sounds like a nice pen though.

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      • Thanks. I did some online searches yesterday, and the model appears to be a “Windsor”. May have to have a pro look it over because when I flushed it out yesterday there appeared to be some ink on the sides of the piston head, and not sure if the nib units come out easily. But for a buck? I can afford the repairs…. 🙂

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          • I certainly hope so. Going to try and make the Commonwealth Pen Show next month, and if I can’t get it done there, I’ll hit the Ohio Pen Show in November, which is a lot bigger. And I may be able to get it done through a local pen club meeting even before that, because Ron Zorn comes to those.

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  16. One thing I discovered early on with the 120 M & K that I have is the ink capacity is very small. Something on the order of .65 ml versus the Type I 120 and many other Pelikan models of about 1.3 ml. a 120 M & K with an EF was one of my first Pelikans (the other, bought at the same time was a red M205). Those pens were lost, I replaced the 120 with one that had a very wet M nib and was quite surprised how quickly I went through ink in that pen. It sort of makes sense as a student pen though if you think about it. I still don’t have one of those red M205’s. Maybe that needs to be a future purchase…..

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    • I love the red M205, great color and worth tracking down if you ever find a deal. A surprising sleeper for me was the Taupe as well. Something about the color I thought I’d hate but it really grows on you.

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