First released to the luxury market in 1931, the Pelikan T111 featured a steel binde (BIN-duh) hand engraved in the Damascene style, a technique imported to Toledo, Spain by the Arabs. Damascene artists traditionally decorate steel with threads of gold and silver to create beautiful, painstakingly crafted pieces. The Toledo models of today use a sterling silver binde rather than steel to which a thin layer of gold is applied. The technique that is used to produce the Toledo has changed very little over the past 85 years. Pelikan re-introduced the Toledo in 1986 with the M700, an M4xx sized pen depicting the classic Pelikan Toledo motif. Production has always been limited by the unique, hand crafted nature of each pen that rolls off of the line (Pelikan cites a quantity of just 200 pens produced per month). In 1991, Pelikan introduced the M900 Toledo, a pen with a similar design and motif but in the larger and heavier M8xx form factor and meant as a limited edition. The M900 was billed as “The Collectors’ Edition Toledo” in the United States and released as a run of just 500 pens earmarked specifically for the North American market (some accounts report an additional 500 pens made for sale overseas). Each North American pen came with a certificate declaring the rarity of the release. This exquisite model sold out quickly with many collectors being spurred into action by the limited and distinctive nature of such a release. The story might have ended there if it were not for Pelikan’s decision to re-release the M900 as a standard issue pen which has since enjoyed a lengthy production run.
The original run of M900s can be distinguished from the later production models by only a few subtle characteristics. The cap band on the initial run bears the inscription “W.-Germany” whereas the models that followed were inscribed “Germany.” The engraving near the piston knob initially lacked the “925” marking that was included on models from the second batch. Believe it or not, that is about the extent of what separates the different batches, paperwork aside. The only other thing of note is that some of the very early M900s from the second run included a 20C-833 gold nib (depicted to the right), later replaced by the same 18C-750 nib found on the original run. The MSRP on those earliest M900s was $1200.
Those first 500 pens came with documentation to support the exclusivity of the release. Included with each pen was a certificate that recognized the limited nature of the run. These certificates declared;
“Toledo M900 Collectors’ Edition Registration. This Toledo M900 is one of a small, exclusive edition specially commissioned by Pelikan, Inc. In the entire United States, there are only five hundred of these rare, exquisite pens. This Toledo bears the German number _____ and the American registration number _____ of five hundred in the Toledo M900 Collectors’ edition.”
The certificate was finished with an inspector’s signature and a date. An accompanying sales brochure was available at the time which also extolled the rarity of the release. The front of the brochure declared, “Something Extraordinary is About to Disappear Forever.” Open the leaflet and the headline, reads “Introducing The Collectors’ Edition Toledo M900. There Will Never Be Anything Like It Again.” I think that we can all agree that Pelikan’s literature unmistakably indicates just what a limited release this was intended to be. You can then understand the anger and betrayal that collectors felt when Pelikan re-released this pen to the masses in an unlimited run (and with cheaper pricing) thereby diluting much of the perceived value of the original purchase.
One such disgruntled and well known collector attempted to file a class action lawsuit in a case known as Zazove v. Pelikan, Inc (Zazove v. Pelikan, Inc., 761 N.E.2d 256 [Ill. App. Ct. 2001]). The law firm Krislov Law handled the suit on behalf of the collector and touts the case as a notable decision achieved by the firm in consumer protection matters. The broad overview of the litigation is that a gentleman from Illinois purchased a Pelikan M900 Toledo from the initial supply of 500 pens at a price of $1200.00. He figured that he was investing in an item that would become a rare collectible with time. He was later informed by a Pelikan representative (circa September 1997) that the M900 Toledo pens were now widely available for sale to the general public. Shortly after that, in October, he received a brochure from Fountain Pen Hospital which listed new M900 Toledo pens at $1,075.00, a full $125 cheaper than the original run. The suit is based upon the notion that Pelikan violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1998)) and sought declaratory and monetary relief for the class of persons who purchased the first 500 Toledo pens, as well as attorney fees and costs.
On January 5, 1998, Pelikan-USA filed a special and limited appearance and on July 30, 1999, Pelikan-USA moved to dismiss the complaint against it for lack of personal jurisdiction, pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 1998)). On February 18, 2000, the plaintiff’s class action complaint against defendant Pelikan, Inc. (Pelikan-USA) was dismissed by the circuit court of Cook County for a lack of personal jurisdiction. Pelikan-USA ceased operations in March 1996 and had no offices or employees at the time of the litigation. They argued that they never sold pens directly in Illinois and that litigating in that state would be burdensome. An appeal was filed on November 30, 2001 with the sole issue on appeal being whether the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint against Pelikan-USA for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendant Pelikan International Handelgeshellschaft mbH & Co., KG. (Pelikan-Germany) was not a party to the appeal. After a bunch of legal maneuvering, the appeals court ultimately reversed the initial dismissal, a decision seen as a victory for consumer protection. The case established Illinois jurisdiction over a foreign producer of consumer products for consumer claims under the ‘stream of commerce‘ concept. While this was a victory in one respect, I could not find documentation of any further legal proceedings in the case leading me to conclude that the suit ultimately failed to achieve its desired outcome. Perhaps its simply a quirk of the legal world but nowhere in the suit did Pelikan ever claim innocence but rather focused solely on the Illinois courts lack of jurisdiction to litigate them.
While the plaintiff and those other 499 enthusiasts may have ended up on the wrong side of a bad deal, the rest of the community certainly benefited from the wider availability of a gorgeous pen. It is a shame that Pelikan did not honor their initial promise of exclusivity and thereby misled those initial 500 consumers. Thankfully, this is not a mistake they have often repeated which hopefully means a lesson was learned.