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
Tortoiseshell Brown
Brown
M&K-400NNs

Merz & Krell 400NN’s from left to right; Tortoiseshell Brown, Black, 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.

11 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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