The Perch has always endeavored to be a beacon, shining light on the varied bits of Pelikan arcana. That endeavor has led me down some pretty interesting paths over the years. Of course, I can only expand upon the established body of knowledge by standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me. Occasionally, I am approached about hosting a guest post from someone with a unique insight or experience with the brand which is where we find ourselves today. I’m happy to hand over the reins to Rick Propas, proprietor of the Penguin and a well-known Pelikan collector, retailer, and friend of this blog. The 400 was released in the first half of 1950 and became an incredibly popular model that helped to rebuild the company’s fortunes following World War II. Perhaps lesser known are the many variants derived from the 400 design, namely the 500, 600, and 700. Of these, the 600 remains the most obscure which makes it the perfect fodder for a post. Rick takes a look a close at the 600 and tries to fill in some of the many questions that still surround this model. Without further ado, I give you his take on the model 600.
One of the least known models of the Pelikan 400 series of the 1950s is the 600. Throughout the decade Pelikan produced one basic model, the 400, with five variants of that series. There was, of course, the 400 with an acrylic body wrapped in a striped celluloid band along with a celluloid cap; the 500, which featured a gold filled cap and turning knob; the 520 which offered a gold filled cap, barrel and turning knob overlay; the 700 series with a full 14 karat solid gold overlay; and our subject, the 600 which had a 14 karat solid gold cap. Some 600s also had, at various times, a solid gold turning knob and/or cap top. In the course of the last twenty years, I have been fortunate to acquire both a 600 and a 600N. But, I have long been curious about these two pens, since, apart from being rare, both pens feature what would seem to be anomalies, or are they? What follows is an illustrated description of each pen along with some questions. And there are, I fear, as many questions as there are answers.
To try to gain some understanding of this obscure model, I turned to the standard catalogue of Pelikan sources, the product catalogues themselves, the Pelikan Schreibgeräte series, editions one and two, and the various, and somewhat less definitive, online sources. To begin with, the 600 was made from 1950 until late 1955 or early 1956. Its record is somewhat clearer than that of the 600N if only because it was made for about six years, as opposed to the eleven months of the N series.
As noted, the 600 featured a solid gold overlay cap and turning knob. Over its production run there were several variations. The early pens, one of which is mine, do not have the solid gold cap top, which appeared on the pens that came after 1952. One anomaly of my pen, which is not mentioned in the literature or catalogues, is a check mark inscribed on the turning knob rather than the “14C-585” stampings that appears on the other gold components. The mark is deep, presumably to show that the overlay is solid gold and not a fill, and under magnification it is clear that it was made at the factory and not the result of some attempt after the fact to verify content. My pen, as shown, is in tortoise, but there were also black and dark green variants.
Of the early plastic barrels made before September 1952, one most commonly sees barrels marked 400 and 500. The barrel of my pen, which reads like an early model, is unmarked except for the standard Günther Wagner Pelikan imprint and a nib grade stamp, which generally appeared on these early pens on the turning knob, suggesting perhaps that this barrel was meant to have a turning knob with a metal overlay, either a 500 or 600. But there is no data to support this supposition.
Next, we turn to the 600N, and in the literature and in my singular example the questions begin to exceed the answers. My pen has the cap, the clip, and the cap top all in 14 karat and all appropriately stamped. But, in contrast to the 600 the turning knob on this pen is not overlaid. It is plastic. Is that correct or not? In contrast to the 600, there is no catalogue for the 600N. And in the first edition of Pelikan Schreibgeräte there is no mention of a 600N whatsoever. That changes in the 2004 edition where the 600N is listed, but with the note, “To-date, model 600N has not been found in any document, but some specimens are known.” Online Martin Lehmann’s site offers the same information, slightly reworded to “never seen in pricelists, but some items were found.” And there you have it. No one mentions any color other than tortoise.
If you go online there is little more, except in Pelikan Collectibles hosted by Dominic Rothemel, which notes a brown (plastic) turning knob, which my pen has. But, my pen has a barrel that is stamped Pelikan 500 Germany. I would expect to see that imprint on a pen from 1952-54, before the model imprints moved from the barrel end to the cap ring. So, what does that mean? Has someone fiddled with the pen? I could easily see this pen with a plain barrel, but to have a 500 imprint on a pen from 1956 is anomalous. What does it mean? That is very hard to say. That barrel could just as easily have been swapped into the pen later as having come from the factory that way. There is no way of knowing.
Finally there is the 600NN, but for current purposes I have ignored the 600NN, simply because I have never seen one. They exist. Dittmer and Lehmann mention them in tortoise, black and green. But a 1962 catalogue shows only tortoise and black. Online, Ruettinger asserts that the NN had a 14 karat turning knob, but without supporting data or images. The 500NN, which is common, has only a plastic turning knob. More than that I would not hazard to say, simply because there is no clear data.
As I put this note out to the internet through the kind agency of Joshua Danley’s Pelikan’s Perch, I eagerly solicit comments and any additional information that might come to light on this tantalizing model.