The Code of the 120 Schulfüller

Pelikan 120 Type II Cap

120 Type II Cap

The Pelikan model 120 was introduced on May 23rd, 1955 and served as Pelikan’s first entry into the schulfüller or school fountain pen market.  Prior to that, their focus had been on writing implements designed almost exclusively for adults.  I spoke a bit about the 120 in my post discussing Merz & Krell, the company that briefly revived an updated version of the 120 line for Pelikan in the 1970’s.  To be clear, in this post I’m only discussing the Type I 120 made from 1955-1965 and not Merz & Krell’s Type II produced from 1973-1977.  Pelikan was not the first to attempt to capitalize on this market segment and therefore had to play a bit of catch up in catering to these school aged consumers, their parents, and teachers.  School pens generally follow certain guidelines, incorporating characteristics that can be seen across school pen models, even those from different manufacturers.  At least initially these were available in only basic colors, lacked ornate furniture, and usually came equipped with a  stainless steel nib.  In the case of the 120 Type I, they were only offered with a green barrel, black cap & piston knob, a green ink window, and a gold-plated stainless steel nib married to Pelikan’s ebonite feed with the longitudinal fins.  All 120s were piston fillers, a contrast to the later school pen models which were almost exclusively cartridge pens.

Pelikan 120 Type I Capped

120 Type I (1955-65) capped & posted views (unnumbered example)

Pelikan 120 Type I Posted


Astute owners have noticed that there is a string of letters & numbers running longitudinally along the barrel of many 120s, near the piston knob.  Short strings of characters like the ones illustrated in this post (K56730, E83794, 83HV) have caused a degree of consternation amongst users regarding what these numbers might signify.  They are not serial numbers as one might expect and are not present on all 120’s.  What they in fact are is a progressive numbering system utilized so that the school children could identify which fountain pen was theirs without any confusion.  You can imagine how this would be practical in a school setting where many of the students may have the same pen.  There was only one color scheme and design so there really was no other way to uniquely identify and establish ownership of the pens.  The longer, six character strings seem to be more common with a letter preceding numbers making the depicted ’83HV’ engraving somewhat of an outlier though this too was likely a code engraved for identification purposes.

Pelikan 120 Type I Capped

120 with a superimposed red rectangle depicting where the code can be found if present



Pelikan 120 School Code Engravings

Engraved 120s: Photos courtesy of delphin1060 of eBay (TOP LEFT), Robert Greene of FPN (TOP RIGHT), and Yesteryears Fountain Pens of eBay (BOTTOM)


Pelikan actually utilized this coding system as a selling point and, in 1958, they launched an advertising campaign built around this feature.  In fact, parents/children who notified the company of the serial number were given a gold & blue colored badge or pin.  I encountered a resident of the Netherlands who informed me that, at least in his country, these were available in stores until 1967.  A badge identical to the one from the Netherlands is depicted below and while I’m not certain that this was the badge offered in the actual campaign, I suspect that it was.

Pelikan Gold & Blue Badge/Pin

Gold & blue Pelikan pin given to children who purchased a 120 schulfüller (Photo courtesy of Yesteryears Fountain Pens of eBay)


After five years of experience in the school pen market, Pelikan began production of the first Pelikano model which was launched on March 22, 1960.  Pelikan based the Pelikano’s design on lessons learned from the 120 as well as the feedback they received from teachers.  This gave birth to a very successful and lasting line of school pens for Pelikan which persist to this day.

21 responses

  1. Wow! Very nice article. I did not know that the 120 was the “pre Pelicano” school pen and always wonder whats was that serial number on the barrel. thank you very much for your page. It is really awesome.


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  4. Thanks for this article! I just purchased an early Pelikan 120 in this same color scheme. It does not have the student identification stamping on the barrel though. Do you think that would make it earlier than 1958? It also has a slightly flexible nib, which I’ve never seen on one of these. . .


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  6. I just bought one of these. Supposedly new and it does look unused, but ink does not flow well through the nib. At all. Bought a brand new bottle of Pelikan ink to try it out. Am considering returning it but it will be a hassle (ebay). I paid $100 and think I might have been taken.


    • Hello Elaine. Have you tried flushing the nib with water before inking it up? How about a dilute ammonia solution? Even pens that look unused may have old ink blocking the feed. The other thing that I would try failing that is to floss the slit with a thin brass shim to remove any fouling. I hope that you are able to get it up and running.


  7. Thanks. I’ll give that a try. I have a brass shim. I was afraid it was some kind of super fine nib. Will report. back. What a fantastic site!! Thank you.


    • You should know that the Pelikan inks are notorious for being ‘dry inks’, meaning that they dry quickly once it gets on paper, but they can also cause quite a bit of flow problems. It might help to use a ink that’s widely considered ‘wet’ like Waterman Serenity Blue.


      • Floris makes good points about the ink that should also be kept in mind but even the wettest inks won’t work in a clogged up feed. My process is to focus on the nib and after much attention is paid to flushing and unfouling, if problems still persists, than try a “wetter” ink. Waterman as suggested is a good and cheap choice. Pelikan inks are indeed formulated to be on the drier side, likely to tame what is usually a very generous feed.


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  9. although late to the party, I’d like to say great article as usual Joshua! The 120 is so dear to me, it was my first pen when I was 6 at school, and yes, fountain pens were compulsory in those days at school and all my class (25 plus kids) had the same pen! I remember the pen as huge… unfortunately my 1965 120 was sometime later lost or broken… when many years later I bought myself a vintage one, it looked much smaller! Still a great pen and one of my favourites.


  10. I just picked up what I think is an early-ish 120 in an antiques shop in Washington County, PA. Didn’t notice whether it’s got the number code on it (I’ll have to look tomorrow). It does seem to have the same clear top piston head that the Senator I picked up last weekend does, so I’m now wondering if the pen and cap (which definitely says Pelikan 120 engraved along the length of the cap) are mismatched. Did the later (post-1965) models have the lengthwise channels on the feed? And did the early 120s have the translucent piston head?


    • Nice find. The Merz & Krell 120s from the 1970s has fins on the feed that are perpendicular to the barrel. The original 120 from the 1950s has fins that are parallel with the barrel. The early 120s from the 1950s had synthetic seals. I can’t recall definitively off the top of my head, and I don’t have my example handy at the moment, but I believe my example has a black synthetic piston seal. Thats not to say that other seals weren’t employed over the course of production.


      • Thanks. I’m starting to suspect that it *is* an early 120. The “fins” on the feed, as you put it, are definitely the earlier style (I have other old pens of various brands that have that style of feed). And from photos I’ve seen, the cap is definitely the earlier style, and doesn’t have the conical cap band. Although I noticed that (like the Senator I told you about last week) the engraving on the cap band says “GERMANY” and NOT “W. GERMANY” — which seemed odd to me, since it was the height of the Cold War at the time (a friend of mine married a guy from West Point, and they were stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down and re-unification happened). Going to ink the 120 up today, now that it’s flushed out — it was really clean, unlike the Senator — either it had been cleaned really well by the time the antiques store booth got it. It was more like a 1990s era M200 in the original box that a friend gave me a few years ago as a joke, because it has the Bayer logo on it (that pen looked as if it had never seen ink, and the box was in pristine condition) — she got it on Freecycle, not realizing that it was probably a $100 pen!
        For the 120, I’m just trying to decide between filling it with 4001 Brilliant Black and Edelstein Olivine (or maybe Edelstein Smokey Quartz). And it’s another pen to bring to the Pittsburgh Pelikan Hub in November! 🙂


        • Well, an old feed and nib won’t fit a later 120 as the collar was completely different so that most likely is the older version. A straight vs tapered cap band would be another give away. You never see W.-Germany engraved on the older Pelikans. That engraving wasn’t really employed until 1980s and lasted through the very early 1990s. Enjoy!


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