Review: A Trio of M101N’s



The M101N Tortoiseshell Red was recently released in September of 2014 and I wanted to mark the occasion by reviewing all three of the pens available in the series.  The M101N is the modern version of a line of pens that Pelikan first introduced in the 1930’s.  There were several variations released in that series, all of which command top dollar in today’s market due to their desirability amongst collectors.  Included in the original series were pens such as the highly sought after Lizard and the Tortoiseshell Red.  This new series pays homage to that lineage with an updated design while still retaining the original’s dimensions.  The first pen released in the series was the  Tortoiseshell Brown followed by the Lizard and then the Tortoiseshell Red. 


  • Tortoiseshell Brown:  This model was released in 2011 and has a tortoise patterned barrel and cap with a brown piston knob, section, and cap top.  There are two cap bands, a green ink window, and the furniture is gold.  The cap top has an etched one chick logo and the nib is a monotone 14C-585 gold nib with ‘Pelikan’ inscribed across it.


  • Lizard:  This model was released in 2012 and has a lizard pattern, though it is rather different from the historical model from which its design was inspired.  The piston knob, section, and cap top are black in color.  Like other M1o1N’s, there are two cap bands but the furniture on this model is rhodium and the ink window is grey.  The cap top has an etched one chick logo and the nib is a monotone 14C-585 rhodium plated nib with ‘Pelikan” inscribed across it.  


  • Tortoiseshell Red:  This model was released in September of 2014 and has a tortoise patterned barrel  with a red cap, piston knob, and section.  There are two cap bands, an amber ink window, and the furniture is gold.  The cap top has an etched one chick logo and the nib is a monotone 14C-585 gold nib with ‘Pelikan’ inscribed across it.  This pen was released with special packaging that includes a bottle of Pelikan 4001 ink with vintage labeling.


Peliakan pen stand and M101N tortoiseshell red

M101N Tortoiseshell Red & Cobalt Blue Pen Stand


Pelikan 4001 royal blue with vintage lable

4001 ink packaged with the M101N Tortoiseshell Red


*Ratings below read from left to right and denote Tortoiseshell Brown, Lizard, and Tortoiseshell Red respectively


  1. Appearance & Design (8, 7, & 10/10) – Striking, beautifully styled pens which cater to all sorts of taste

The M101N is a beautiful pen with an overall very striking appearance.  They are all styled very similarly in terms of size and trim.  In general, there are double cap bands but no other gold furniture aside from the cap clip.  The piston knob and section are color coordinated.  The nibs are styled after the vintage script nibs and are lacking the Pelikan logo seen on most of the nibs since the 1950’s.  The Tortoiseshell Brown is very beautiful and has a rich appearance.  The cap and barrel coordinate well earning this pen an 8/10.  The Lizard is the lowest scoring of the trio in terms of looks.  There is no texture to the pattern and while attractive, it is very subdued and underwhelming.  For that, it earns a 7/10.  The Lizard is a case where the vintage model remains superior in appearance.  The Tortoiseshell Red is stunning and has a beautiful red cap, piston knob, and section.  The striations of the barrel really stand out to good effect and the amber colored ink window is very complimentary earning this pen a 10/10.

M101Ns-Capped M101Ns-Posted


  1. Construction & Quality (10/10 across the board) – A pen that you’re not afraid to use

The M101N is no small investment but I feel a pen is meant to be used and not just admired.  I have put all three through a minimum of several weeks of use each and so far have not had any issues.  They seem durable and not at all fragile.  While light, they don’t feel insignificant in the hand.  I have had the Tortoiseshell Brown fall to the floor capped and survive none the worse for it.  I wouldn’t recommend dropping the pen as regular practice but it’s nice to know that it can take it if tested.


  1. Weight & Dimensions (8/10 across the board) – A shorter, lighter pen with a good balance in the hand

These pens are 4.84 inches capped and 6.22 inches posted. It fits well in the hand whether posted or not.  I do like to post my pens but the cap does not post as securely as other pens that I’ve used and therefore this pen does not quite achieve that perfect balance for me that I’ve become accustomed to from my other Pelikans. That’s not to say you can’t post these pens, they just don’t post strongly and I have had the caps fall off the back of the barrel.  The weight of these pens is 0.52 ounces which is on the lighter side but they are neither cumbersome nor difficult to write with over longer periods which is a big plus.

Capped pen size comparison

Pen size comparison when capped. From left to right: M800, M600, M405, M200, M200, M101N, M150, M100

Pen size comparison posted

Pen size comparison when posted. From left to right: M800, M600, M405, M200, M200, M101N, M150, M100


  1. Nib & Performance (9, 8, & 9/10) – Very smooth, wet writers as expected from a Pelikan

M101N-NibThese nibs are 14C-585 gold done in the vintage style script nib featuring an inscription of the word “Pelikan.”  The two-tone logo nibs that we have known for some time are absent here.  The Lizard model has a rhodium plated nib whereas the others have monotone yellow gold nibs.  My Tortoiseshell Brown model has a medium nib and puts down a smooth, wet line that I would say is true to a medium.  I value smoothness and good ink flow and so give it a 9/10.  My Lizard has an extra fine nib which puts down more of a fine line.  The line is wet but there is some tooth to the writing experience.  This does not bother me in particular but certainly does put some people off.  For that bit of tooth, it gets an 8/10.  My Tortoiseshell Red has a fine nib and puts down a very wet and super smooth line that really is more of a medium than a fine.  Like most other modern nibs, these do not have any flex to them but they do have a very slight spring.  I generally find minimal to no line variation amongst my examples.  The iridium tipping continues to be the ball-type tipping pervasive on Pelikan’s since the mid-’90’s.  These are true to Pelikan’s habit of making very wet and generous writers though.  Of course actual line widths will depend on the ink type and paper used.  I have included a video of writing examples from each pen below.  Organics studio vintage style black was used on a Rhodia No 8 pad with each pen being dipped and not filled.



  1. Filling System & Maintenance (10/10 across the board) – Pelikan’s tried and true piston filling mechanism

There isn’t much to say here.  The filling system is Pelikan’s legendary piston filling mechanism.  The piston is very smooth and consistent with the feel that all of the company’s piston filling pens provide.  One nice touch is that the mechanism is screwed into the barrel rather than being a friction fit like many of their other contemporary models.  It should be noted that the threads are left-handed though in the event you need to disassemble one.  While there is usually little to no reason to ever remove the piston assembly, it is nice to know that it can be easily done if need be.

M101N Piston Assembly

M101N piston assembly


  1. Cost & Value (7/10 across the board) – Somewhat pricey and not likely to be much cheaper on the secondary market

These are beautiful pens that appeal to a wide variety of taste.  Pelikan is certainly positioning themselves as purveyors of luxury writing instruments and, unfortunately, their prices reflect that.  The MSRP for these has been around $550 and the most recent model can be found for $450 – $520 at retail.  Given that these are produced in limited quantities and that the demand has been high, it can be hard to find deals on the secondary market and there have not been a lot of used models out there for sale.  Everyone has to determine for themselves if these pens are worth the price.  They certainly are sturdy and reliable writers with a definite level of panache but they don’t fit all budgets by any means.  I do feel that these pens will hold their value over time so purchasing one is not likely to result in a significant financial loss if you choose to sell it at a later date.


Conclusion – Excellent pens either as daily users or display pieces

  • Tortoiseshell Brown: 52/60 or 87%
  • Lizard: 50/60 or 83%
  • Tortoiseshell Red: 54/60 or 90%

I love the look and the feel of these pens.  The Tortoiseshell Red has clearly become my personal favorite but I understand that the design is not to everyone’s taste.  The more that I use it, the more I fall in love with it. These pens are durable, beautiful, and excellent performers. I would certainly recommend any one of these to anyone looking for a beautifully styled luxury pen that is also a joy to write with.  If you are looking for more character to your writing though, you will likely need to invest in a custom grind after purchase as there isn’t much variation inherent in these nibs.


Let me know what you think of this review and of these pens in general in the comments below.

16 responses

  1. Very nice review. I have to buy the Red Tortoiseshell, but I have to wait. but your review makes me want the other 2 pens. Thanks for the videos. What ink did you use on the red tortoise?


  2. That pic of the red tortoise in the beak of the blue Pelikan holder is brilliant. If Pelikan Co had used that to market the pen I’m sure it would have accounted for a measurable increase on sales. Those contrasting colors really make the pen pop, …. and really makes me want one!


  3. Great review, Joshua! These are so nice, I could easily see myself owning any one of them. (not that I will ever be able to) The red is such an unusual shade that it makes it pop. I think that is its appeal (at least to me).


  4. I agree with you both, Dr. Codfish and Brad. The red really does pop and it makes the Tortoiseshell Red stand out in a way that the other two do not. The solid red cap was a great design choice. The blue Pelikan pen holder does help it stand out that much more.


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  6. I have all three, and in order of preference, I rank them tortoiseshell brown first, tortoiseshell red second, and lizard bringing up the rear by some margin. I like the tortoiseshell body and cap per the brown, and the lightweight makes it an easy shirtpocket pen for everyday use. My go to pen, which says something given I have scores of fountain pens. The nibs on the red and brown are excellent, smooth, free flowing, and while less of a favorite for me, I can understand why some find the contrast between the tortoiseshell red body and solid red cap a more appealing look.

    Then comes the 101N lizard. I find the lizard looks boring and nondescript, and the nib on mine, although a medium, is raspy, stiff and slow to start. I could have it worked on, but one should not have to work over the nib on a $500 pen before it will perform without skipping rather maddeningly; and the fact the lizard does not really look all that attractive leaves me disinclined to invest time and still more money to perfect its sub-mediocre nib.


    • I agree with you about the Lizard bringing up the rear of the trio. I do have to say that I put the red tortoise ahead of the brown personally but I love them all in the end.


    • It looks I am quite alone in this, but of all the 4 101Ns that have been reissued my favorite is the lizard. Definetly one of the most elegant pens I have seen. The bright red and the tortoise red I find them too bright, and I am not that convinced about the combination of the greenish tortoise with the brown/purplish crown and piston knob. The gray scales of the lizard, however, match perfectly with the black finish and the rhodium plated nib, in my opinion.


      • The Lizard is a fine pen on its own but when placed besides one of the original Lizard pens that its design emulates, then I find it to be a poor imitator. Glad that you enjoy yours. I have always fancied the silver colored furniture over gold when married with the right finish.


  7. Your mention of dropping the pen to the floor almost made my heart miss a beat! It would be one of the most scary things for me in my everyday life (a programmer’s life is very sheltered :-)). Every year for my birthday, I buy something nice and then look forward to opening it. After reading your article, I just bought a M101N Tortoiseshell brown. It looks beautiful in photo. I am looking forward to enjoying my birthday with this new addition. As always, love reading your articles and thanks for sharing your wealth of information and insights.


  8. I am the fortunate owner of an original 1938 101N with the green lizard pattern. It is such a beautiful little pen, full of character with one of these early flexible nibs of yore… it is constantly inked and ready to go. Although normally I would use only occasionally such a precious and rare pen, this one I like it too much to leave it stored.


    • I’m jealous of such a fine pen in your flock and I admire you for inking it and putting it into rotation. I’ve never been a fan of show pieces as these pens were made to write. Great to hear that your pen gets to fulfill its purpose.


  9. Wow I’m loving these pens especially the brown tortoise. Thanks for providing all this educational material on these pens.


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