Historic examples of lower tier pen manufacturers emulating successful models from larger companies abound. While these pens may share a lot of similarities, they can usually be distinguished by a few telltale signs. Sometimes the distinctions are so few that you might suspect a collaboration between two companies. Such was the case with Gimborn and Pelikan, two businesses that share a history together. The term doppelgänger is used to describe a person that bears an uncanny resemblance to someone else without being a twin. It’s a word that is aptly applied to the Gimborn 150 Master which is eerily similar to its cousin, the Pelikan 300. The similarities are less surprising once you understand the history of Gimborn. Read on to learn about the company’s origins and how their first fountain pen came to look an awful lot like a Pelikan.
The Gimborn company was founded by its namesake Heinrich von Gimborn (1830-1893) in 1855 when Pelikan was just 17 years old and still run by Carl Hornemann. Heinrich was a German citizen who came to take over his father’s pharmacy in the town of Emmerich, Germany which lies just 2.5 miles from the Dutch border. Shortly thereafter, he founded a pharmaceutical company known as H. von Gimborn Chemische Fabrik & Dampf Pulveriser Anstalt, more commonly referred to as H. von Gimborn GmbH. The company started off producing pharmaceuticals and later expanded to include office supplies such as inks, paints, stencils, typewriter ribbons, and carbon paper. In 1886, a second factory was opened across the border in Heerenberg, Netherlands. Upon the passing of its founder in 1893, the company would be inherited by his two sons. August von Gimborn (1866-1927) would take over the Emmerich factory while his younger brother, Max von Gimborn (1872-1964), would inherit the Heerenberg factory. It is Max who would continue the company legacy, moving the factory to Zevenaar, Netherlands in 1907 and renaming it H. van Gimborn to give it more of a Dutch authenticity. The company struggled to overcome its German heritage and be seen as a truly a Dutch institution at a time when protectionism was rampant. Max went so far as to apply for and be granted Dutch nationality in 1916. Ultimately, Max would come to sell H. van Gimborn to Günther Wagner in 1931. Despite the new ownership, it has been reported that Gimborn was largely left to its own devices. Pelikan would continue to own and operate the subsidiary until financial troubles in the 1980s forced them to close the Zevenaar factory, sell the brand, and withdraw from the Netherlands.
Gimborn had been in business for nearly 100 years before producing its first fountain pen, a fact that it shared in common with Pelikan. Launched in 1951 and only available in black at first, the Gimborn 150 was assembled at the Zevenaar factory from Pelikan produced parts. Production of the Gimborn 150 ran from 1951 until 1957 which means it actually appears to have preceded the Pelikan 300 by a few years. Perhaps the 150 was used by Pelikan to gauge the market’s reaction before committing to a full scale release under the Pelikan name though that is only supposition on my part. The 300 was positioned as an intermediary between Pelikan’s 140 and 400 and released predominantly as an export model targeting Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. As I previously discussed in my post dedicated to the Pelikan 300, production ran from 1953 until 1957. That fountain pen was built from parts derived from the 140 and the 400 (400/N/NN barrel + 400 cap/clip + 140 cap top + 140 piston knob + 400 nib = Pelikan 300). Genuine 300s are best identified by the inscription “Pelikan 300 Pelikan 300 Pelikan 300” along the cap band and a barrel inscription that reads “Pelikan 300 Günther Wagner Germany” above the piston knob (though genuine exceptions do exist). Both the 150 and 300 are the same length and shape measuring approximately 5.15 inches capped with a diameter of 0.46 inches and a weight of 0.49 ounces. The Gimborn model was only available in solid colors (primarily black, green, blue, and red) whereas Pelikan’s version was only available in black and green striped variants. The 150 came with a different clip resembling a tear drop shape reminiscent of the 100 and 100N whereas the 300 sported Pelikan’s iconic beak clip. There is no engraving on the cap band and there is no logo on the cap top of the 150. “Gimborn” can be found inscribed on the barrel near the piston knob as well as on the nib which is engraved “Gimborn 14KT”. The 150 had an accompanying pencil, the 175, which was similar in design to Pelikan’s 350. At the time, the 150 fountain pen sold at retail for 32.50 Dutch guilders while the 175 pencil cost 12.50 Dutch guilders. In 1956, the Gimborn 150 was re-named “Master” in an effort to be more in line with Gimborn’s other models; the 130 “Senior” and the 120 “Junior.”
The similarities between both models far outweigh any differences. Both are great pens that are not commonly encountered in today’s secondary market. Either is worth picking up should you stumble across one. Pelikan’s influence upon the 150 is unmistakable. Perhaps it served as a testing platform of sorts for Hannover. Given that the 300 followed shortly after, it likely was a successful test, having been well received in the marketplace.
- Borst, Allard. “Gimborn: A Dutch Division of the Pelikan Company.” Writing Equipment Society. 2013.
- Dittmer, Jürgen & Lehmann, Martin. “Pelikan Schreibgeräte 1929 – 1997.” Art Forum beim Baumhaus Verlag. Page 43. 1998.
- H. von Gimborn GmbH. “About Us > History.” Last accessed 8/22/19.
- Lambrou, Andreas. “Fountain Pens of the World.” Andreas Lambrou Publishers Ltd. Page 342. 2014.
- Rothemel, Dominic. Pelikan Collectibles. “Gimborn a Pelikan company.” Last accessed 8/20/19.