As a Pelikan enthusiast and collector, I try to keep on top of the used pen market in an effort to stay apprised of the current trends in pricing. This has allowed me to understand at least some of the factors that drive prices either upwards or downwards. If you have done similar, I’m sure that you have come across sales of Pelikan pens listed as rare, very rare, or (my favorite) ultra rare. To a new collector or user who doesn’t know any better, these descriptions may seem fitting for the price being asked. More commonly though, these “tags” are applied to run of the mill models with sellers asking top dollar for pens that are in no way extraordinary. Perhaps this is being perpetrated by a shrewd salesperson that is trying to eek every penny they can out of their listing or perhaps it is someone who genuinely knows no better and gets caught up in the pricing frenzy that sometimes seems to grip the secondary market. Many features may be used to drive a sale but one in particular has recently been on my mind. What I refer to is the cap band engraving denoting the country of manufacture as either “W.-Germany” or “Germany.”
To briefly recount the significance of these markings, Germany was divided into East (controlled by the communist Soviet Bloc) and West (aligned with capitalist Europe) blocs following the Nazi defeat at the end of World War II in 1945. A wall was constructed along the border to divide the country and the two portions remained separated until the late 1980’s when the East German regime began to falter resulting in the reunification of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). On November 9th, 1989, the border between the two blocs was opened which was the first step in the ultimate destruction of the Berlin Wall. The year 1990 is credited officially as the year of reunification and the official date celebrated is October 3rd. In 1973, prior to the reunification, the Federal Court of Justice of Germany ruled that “Made in Germany” did not adequately distinguish between the two Germanys of the time and therefore “Made in West Germany” came into popular use. Items with that stamping date roughly 1973-1990. Given the stark contrast between the divided country and the political tensions of the time, for many, that engraving carries with it a significant emotional connotation. (This is only a brief recounting and I would encourage you to seek out more information about this fascinating and tumultuous period of time in world history).
With that history in mind, I would like to discuss and solicit opinions regarding whether or not Pelikan pens stamped “W.-Germany” should command a higher monetary premium than those stamped “Germany.” Generally we see this stamp on the Pelikans manufactured from 1982 through probably around 1990. This would include the models M100, M150, M200, M250, M400, M600, and M800. I have had several recent conversations with various people in the business of selling pens and there seems to be the pervading idea that the “W.-Germany” stamping should impact the value of the pen allowing for a higher premium to be requested.
Most of the above lines were produced before, during, and after reunification so it is common to see two identical pens for sale which then are only distinguished by the engraving on the cap band. Given that these two pens are identical, I do not necessarily feel that a pen stamped “W.-Germany” should have a higher intrinsic value than one stamped “Germany.” I do recognize that there may be some caveats to that statement. For instance, pens of the M100, M150, and M200 series are likely otherwise indistinguishable due to their manufacture with a stainless steel nib. I do acknowledge though that many people (myself included) feel that the older Pelikan nibs are far superior to their modern counterparts. A stamping of “W.-Germany” allows for easy identification of pens from that more desirable time period and, to the right buyer, may certainly make that pen with a gold nib more valuable. The value of a pen ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder.
How much of a premium should these pens command? I say little to none. It is an interesting time in our history but the pen in no way reflects that other than it’s stamping which was merely employed for clarification after a ruling by Germany’s high court. The markings certainly help narrow down a time frame of production and some may favor a nib from that period over another but that is a personal preference. The fact that this stamping was only utilized on the models listed above for approximately 5-8 years does indicate that they are probably less represented in the secondary market. Indeed, in my collection of Pelikan fountain pens, only 12% bear the “W.-Germany” mark so there may be something one could say about the relative scarcity and its subsequent impact on value.
I ask you now to share your thoughts below and to please participate in the poll above (polling will be open for one week). Where do you stand on this issue? Should more money be expected and paid just because the pen has the “W.-Germany” stamp or should its value be considered no different from the otherwise identical pen produced a year or two after reunification. I look forward to your input and discussion on this topic.