The German city of Frankfurt has a long tradition of hosting trade fairs, a history that spans more than 800 years. The first Frankfurt trade fair to be documented in writing dates back to 1240 under the auspices of Emperor Frederick II. Since 1330, trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt twice a year; once in the spring and once in the fall. It was at the Frankfurt Spring Fair of 1987 that Pelikan launched the M800, their first modern oversized pen. Held from February 21-25, the event was regarded as a success by its organizers with 4,375 exhibitors displaying their wares to an estimated 100,000 visitors. Pelikan maintained a large display at the fair separated into two parts, one of which featured the sizable Pelikan collection of stylophile Mel Strohminger. It was the following year (1988), on the occasion of Pelikan’s 150th anniversary, that their newest Souverän model would be brought to the shores of the United States. Presumably, the M800 emerged as the result of market competition from rival Montblanc’s Meisterstück 146 and 149 amongst others. The Souverän series, by today’s standards, was rather anemic before the M800’s introduction, consisting of only the M400 which got its start in 1982 and a version of the M600 which launched in 1985. Despite differing model numbers, both of the existing Souveräns at the time were actually the same size, the M600 being distinguished only by its more upscale trim package. These were considered standard sized pens though are somewhat small by today’s reckoning. It wasn’t until 1997 that Pelikan adjusted the lines to make the M600 more of an intermediate size to bridge the gap between the M400 and M800. You can well imagine how the M800 dwarfed its siblings in the lineup at the time of its introduction and represented a truly new size option for the first time in the company’s modern history. The M800 was initially available in Green/Black (striped) or Black but the line would quickly expand throughout the 1990s to encompass many limited edition releases. Even today, the M800 chassis is the go to platform for a large number of Pelikan’s special and limited edition models. Read on to learn how the M800 has evolved over the years.
From the time Pelikan ventured into the pen business in 1929, their writing instruments had been consistently kept to a standard size which made for easy pocket carry and imparted an exquisite balance when posted. The M400 and M600 lines circa 1987 measured 5.00 inches capped and 5.87 inches when posted with a diameter of 0.46 inches. They weighed in at a svelte 0.52 ounces. The M800 would represent a major step up for consumers with a capped length of 5.59 inches, a posted length of 6.57 inches, and a diameter of 0.52 inches. Thanks to the brass housing of the piston assembly, the M800 weighed in at a much more substantial 0.99 ounces. These new dimensions put it on similar footing with Montblanc’s Meisterstück 146 and bridged a gap until the M1000 arrived on the scene in 1997 to go head to head with Montblanc’s 149. I don’t mean to imply that Montblanc was the only manufacturer putting pressure on Pelikan by dominating the market for larger pens but they were perhaps the most visible. As an interesting aside, Pelikan’s literature from the late 80s/early 90s says of the production process that it took an entire month to make a single Souverän pen, a process that included over one hundred steps.
“Its larger size means a bold statement without disturbing the delicate writing balance people have come to expect from a Pelikan fountain pen… Performance, quality and value. The Souverän M800 is everything you’d expect from a product crafted to old-world standards and ‘Made in Germany.'” – Pelikan sales literature
The M800 was the first model to launch with the furniture that we have come to equate with the Souverän line. This includes two trim rings on the piston knob, two cap bands, and one trim ring on the section. Almost all M8xx models to date have included Pelikan’s standard beak clip (the M818 Tiffany  and Chronoswiss Styloscope  being notable exceptions). The company’s sales literature states that the trim was plated with 22K gold initially but the plating was reduced to 18K by 1990. The M800’s cap band was stamped “Pelikan W.-Germany” until roughly 1992 after which point, they would bear the stamp “Pelikan – Germany.” Around 1997, the cap band inscription would again change to its current form which reads “Pelikan Souverän Germany.” The M800 is a piston filler like the other Souverän models that came before but the M800’s filling mechanism distinguishes itself in two ways. First, there is a brass connector employed in the assembly rather than plastic which adds a heft to the pen commensurate with its size. Secondly, the M800’s piston assembly is threaded and screwed into the barrel meaning that it can be removed from the pen with less risk of damage. The models that preceded it had friction fit assemblies that did not readily allow for disassembly. This convention is unchanged today making the M800 and its derivatives, as well as the M1000, the only Souveräns with threaded piston assemblies.
The M800 of today comes equipped with an 18C-750 gold nib in the standard widths of EF, F, M, and B with BB and IB sizes being more recent additions. In 1987, the M800 was launched with a 14C-585 gold nib, a situation that persisted until March of 1990 (with the odd exception of the Nord-LB M800 from 1995 that also came fitted with a 14C nib). Some have put forth that the 14C nib was a first year only phenomenon but it is clearly listed in Pelikan’s catalogs which hail from 87/88, 88, and 89/90 which further lends credence to a somewhat broader availability. These 14C nibs have a cult like following and are highly sought after as some purport a bit more inherent flexibility compared with the 18C variants. In fact, they are the superior canvas for modification and thinning to achieve flex. Finding an M800 with a 14C nib then is potentially indicative of an early model made within the first few years of introduction. At launch, nibs in the widths of EF, F, M, B, BB, OM, OB, and OBB were readily available. By 1989 3B and O3B nibs were added as exclusives to the M800 line-up making the available nib selection inclusive of 10 different options. Many of those nibs, predominantly the ones made throughout the 1990s, would be stamped with PF or EN hallmarks, customs stamps employed in European markets. As to the fate of all those juicy broad nibs and exotic obliques which were historically available, it was around 2012 when they were discontinued, presumably due to a lack of demand. All of the M8xx nibs are logo nibs. Despite the company logo being changed in 2003, the two chick logo persisted on the M800 nib until approximately 2010 after which we see the single chick imprint. This is likely due to a combination of using up existing old stock as well as waiting for the older stamping dies to wear and require replacement. The tools to manufacture the nibs are expensive and not simply discarded due to changes in marketing. One additional word about exotic M800 nibs should be made to acknowledge the existence of 20C-833 gold nibs which were predominantly sold within the Japanese market.
“The filling system, for example, is so simple, it’s ingenious. Encased in the barrel is a single piston that pumps out air and breathes in ink. The ink feeds down to the nib through tiny, precision-cut air channels engineered to within .00078 of an inch – smaller than a single human hair. Virtually leak proof, they allow only the perfect amount of ink to flow through. Sleek, smooth writing is automatic.” – Pelikan sales literature
Another distinguishing feature of the M800 at launch was the presence of brass medallions adorning the cap top and piston knob. The cap top was stamped with the company’s two chick logo whereas the medallion on the piston knob was generally kept plain (the M810 Blue Ocean which depicts a compass being a notable exception). A close study of the cap top stamping can help to more accurately date the earlier models. The medallions would remain in place until 1997 when the line underwent subtle revisions. The earliest medallions encompassing the first two years of production were enamel filled and had a narrow spacing between the pelican’s beak, feathers, and chicks. By 1989 and for the duration of the medallion motif, the spacing between elements would be significantly increased. In 1997 the cap top medallions were abandoned all-together, in favor of a golden two chick logo screened on a black background. In 2003, the logo underwent its first revision since 1938, now with just one chick depicted. The final revision to the cap top to date occurred in 2010 when it became 24K gold (or palladium in the case of the M805) plated.
The M800 featured a green striped (Green/Black) or all black resin barrel at launch with a cap, section, and piston knob made from black resin. Putting most of the numerous limited edition releases aside for a minute, the line saw a slow expansion with several additional models over the years. A near legendary tortoise variant was released circa 1988/89. The company’s first unofficial limited edition took the form of the Transparent Green M800 Collector’s Edition in 1992. A blue striped model came to market in 1996 and a red stripe variant was launched in 2001 (now discontinued as of 2012). In 1997, the M850 was introduced and featured a vermeil cap added to the standard black resin and green striped barrels. That model’s run would end circa 2001. The M805 line would come about in 2002. The gold plated furniture of the M800 would be swapped out for palladium plating giving the furniture a silver appearance. Nine models in total have been released to date in that line. In 2018, a new model was launched, the M815 Metal Striped. This was a special edition that featured a brass barrel which added some extra weight to the pen. Pelikan’s naming conventions haven’t always been easy to follow. Internal designations for models have commonly seeped onto packaging and into catalogs. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a more confusing scheme which can lead one to easily get tripped up on outliers like the M810 Blue Ocean, M815 Wall Street, M816 Golf, and M818 Tiffany. We can also throw in the CP6 Charlotte which was a special sterling silver clad edition with a unique guilloche put out in collaboration with Classic Pens. There have been dozens of others, particularly those in Maki-e, the details of which are beyond the scope of today’s post (but I can always treat you to some eye candy below). Finally, I would be remiss to not point out that the M900 and M910 Toledo lines are also based off of the M8xx platform and therefore have a similar form factor.
Pelikan’s M800 would not stand alone for long. As the flagship model of the Souverän line, the fountain pen would soon be followed by a K800 ballpoint pen (#337 refill) and a D800 mechanical pencil starting in 1989. At the time of its launch and through 1997, the D800 would take 0.5mm lead refills. By 1998, the D800’s specifications were changed to accept 0.7mm lead. To round out the line, an R800 rollerball (#338 refill) was introduced in March of 1991, billed as one of the largest rollerballs in the world. In order to facilitate easy identification while in the pocket, from 1991-1997 the fill color of the cap top logo was designed to be indicative of the type of writing instrument. A black crest represented a fountain pen or ballpoint whereas a gray filled crest indicated a rollerball or pencil. According to a US price list from 1991, MSRPs for the different products were as follows; the M800 was $359, the R800 was $159, and both the K800 and D800 were $145 each. When you consider an annual inflation rate of 2.59% from 1987 until 2020, the M800’s MSRP from 33 years ago would be roughly $834.87 in today’s dollars. That means pricing has remained relatively flat over the years as the current MSRP is around $760 for a standard Green/Black model.
“Pelikan’s royal family has two new heirs. Introducing the new Souverän 800 ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil. For generations, Pelikan’s royal family of Souveräns has ruled over the world of fine writing instruments. The newest Souveräns continue that regal tradition.” – Pelikan sales literature
When polled, many owners of the M800 will cite the balance/size, smoothness, ink capacity, piston filling, classic looks, interchangeable nib, ease of maintenance, and quality craftsmanship as pros for this model. Cons most consistently made mention of are the higher price, particularly in the US market, and a somewhat inconsistent quality with some of the nibs over the years. Despite the few detractors, the M800 has been a favorite amongst users and collectors of fountain pens for over 30 years now. When held up against relatively comparable models in terms of quality and dimensions pens like the Pilot Custom 823, Montblanc 146, or Aurora 88, while nice in their own respects, seem to fall short for a lot of enthusiasts. While the larger size of this model is not well suited for all hands, it does hit the sweet spot for many, perhaps one of the reasons it is so regularly used as a go to for limited editions. On a personal note, the M8xx line is a favorite of mine for all of the reasons outlined above in addition to the ease and joy that the model imparts to routine writing. Despite its larger size, I have never found it cumbersome or fatiguing. I would love to hear your thoughts about the M800 so please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section below.
- Capped length – 5.59 inches. Posted length – 6.57 inches. Diameter – 0.52 inches. Weight – 0.99 ounces
- Circa 1987-1992: Pelikan W.-Germany
- Circa 1993-1997: Pelikan Germany
- Circa 1997-Present: Pelikan Souverän Germany
- 1987-1990: 14C-585
- 1990-Present: 18C-750
- Circa 1990-???: 20C-833 (for the Japanese market)
Available Nib Widths
- 1987-1988: EF, F, M, B, BB, OM, OB, and OBB
- 1989-2011: EF, F, M, B, BB, 3B, OM, OB, OBB, and O3B
- 2012-2018: EF, F, M, and B
- 2019-Present: EF, F, M, B, BB, and IB
- Two chick logo stamped on the nib – 1987-2010
- Single chick logo stamped on the nib – 2010-Present
- PF & EN stamping found stamped on nibs – ~1990-2000
Cap Top Logo
- 1987-1988: Enamel filled medallion with cap top crest showing narrow spacing
- 1989-1997: Stamped medallion with cap top crest showing wider spacing
- 1997-2003: Screened two chick logo on a black background
- 2003-2010: Screened one chick logo on a black background
- 2010-Present: One chick logo plated in 24K gold (M800) or palladium (M805)
- 1989: K800 Ballpoint
- 1989: D800 Pencil
- 1991: R800 Rollerball
- K800 Ballpoint, 1989-Present: Ballpoint pen refill #337
- Widths: F = fine (0.8 mm Ø), M = medium (1 mm Ø), B = broad (1.2 mm Ø)
- Colors: Blue (F, M, B), Black (F, M, B) and Red (M)
- D800 Pencil, 1989-1997: 0.5mm lead
- D800 Pencil, 1998-Present: 0.7mm lead
- R800 Rollerball, 1991-Present: Rollerball refill #338
- Widths: F = fine (0.8 mm Ø), M = medium (1 mm Ø), B = broad (1.2 mm Ø)
- Colors: Black and Blue
Related Lines (all M8xx sized)
- M805: 2002-Present
- M810: 1993 (Blue Ocean)
- M815: 1995 (Wall Street) & 2018 (Metal Striped)
- M816: 1996 (Golf)
- M818: 1990 (Tiffany)
- M850: 1997-2001
- M900: Introduced 1991
- M910: Introduced 1992
- M915: 1994 (Hunting)
*All dates are approximate and reported as accurately as possible based on the available reference materials. Exceptions exist.
- Dittmer, Jürgen & Lehmann, Martin. “Pelikan Schreibgeräte 1929 – 1997.” Art Forum beim Baumhaus Verlag. Pages 54, 57-61. 1998.
- Dittmer, Jürgen & Lehmann, Martin. “Pelikan Schreibgeräte 1929 – 2004.” A.H.F. Dunkmann GmbH & Co KG. Pages 92, 96-123. 2004.
- Karkow B., McGraw P., Willinger D., and Ernsberger G. “The Week In Germany.” Feb. 27, 1987. Page 6.
- La Tortuga Vacumática. “Pelikan M800 – OLD STYLE – La de la lenteja dorada.” Feb. 11, 2014. Last accessed 10/26/2020.
- Pelikan Official Catalogs: 1987/88, 1988, 1989/90, 1990/91, 1991/92, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, and 1998
- Propas, Rick. “Decoding the Pelikan M800.” 2012. Last accessed 10/24/2020.
- Propas, Rick. “Pelikan History Part IV.” 2003. Last accessed 10/24/2020.
- Rothemel, Dominic. “Nib units since 1929.” Last accessed 10/28/2020.
- Rothemel, Dominic. “Pelikan M800 fountain pen.” Last accessed 11/1/2020.
- Strohminger, Mel. “A Collector Meets Big Bird: Encounters With Pelikan.” Pen World. Vol 1, No 1. Pages 10-13. Fall 1987.
- Wikipedia contributors. “Messe Frankfurt.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Oct. 22, 2020. Web. Oct. 25, 2020.
A special thanks to Rick Propas of The Penguin and Dominic Rothemel of Pelikan Collectibles for their assistance in composing this post
UPDATE 11/15/2020: Post updated to reflect a more accurate dating for the cap band engravings.
Bravo my pen friend! This is a beautifully written piece…thank you!
The first M1000’s from 1997 had “Souveran” cap bands, so they were seen earlier than 2003, at least on the M1000.
Boy do I miss the pre-1997 metal cap top and filler-knob disk! The logo was black on the fp and grey/green on the rollerball…the inner cap showing thru the cutout was much cooler than the silkscreen 😎
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Thank you. You are right. The M800 cap brand transition as best I can tell was 1997 when I looked back. I meant to revise that but it slipped past me in my final revision. The post is now updated to reflect the more accurate dating. I think the medallions were very sharp looking indeed. Maybe everything should have jumped over to the medallion motif rather than the other way around. Oh well.
Thank for the lovely historical piece! It was fun to read.
I have a W. Germany set of 3 with M, K, and D models. The D (pencil) also has a grey fill in the crest, but the K is black like the M. From the logos on the crests shown above, I suspect production on my specimens is between 1989 and 1992.
It was interesting to learn that Pelikan continued to produce cap rings marked “W GERMANY” after 1990.
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Glad that you enjoyed. That is a great set to own. Yes, the cap band stamping had “W.-Germany” persisting on several model lines, even after reunification.
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Thank you for this. It is fascinating. I am a relatively new fountain pen collector and Pelikan is one of my favorites.The M600 fits my hands better than the M800; so I have more of those. I treated myself to a red and black M600 for Fountain Pen day and I have been collecting the M200 with the matching inks for the past several years as I like inks as well a pens. Thank you again for your column. I really enjoy it.
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Thanks for reading. I’m happy to hear that it was enjoyable for you. Sounds like a lovely flock. Enjoy it!
Most excellent review of my absolute favorite pen of all time! All others are measured against this pen in my book. Thanks again, Josh.
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You’re welcome and you’re not alone in holding the M800 in such high esteem.
Timely and welcome reading for me! I’m currently waiting for an M805 Stresemann – my second modern Pelikan after earlier jumping in with a M1005 Stresemann. I’m happy to understand this history.
Any chance you can update this article to also include metric weights and measures? When it comes to fountain pens, that’s the way my brain works.
The M805 Stresemann is a nice model. A bit more portable than your M1005. Google is your friend when it comes to conversions. My brain works on the Imperial system I’m afraid. I guess it’s how you grew up. I’ll consider including metric measurements in the future though. Thanks for reading.
I have just entered the Pelikan market this year. I started with a 200. I was then able to acquire an older 600 with a OM nib. I have had on order since August 2 M800’s. I await every day getting an IB nib. Your article was like holding water in front of a thirsty man. I can wait to get that 800.
You really jumped in head first. I’ve definitely been there myself. That’s a great flock your assembling. Didn’t mean to be a tease. Enjoy them!
Wow, Joshua, you have outdone yourself with this post. What an informative, interesting article. I am a big M800 fan and they make up the bulk of my flock. I recognize all of them in your photo of 51 except the one that is just past 12:00. It looks to be an orangish-brown with a cap that matches the body. Which model is that?
I really appreciate the kind words and am glad to hear that you like my work. To answer your question, that is the M800 Maki-e Autumn Leaves from 2008. Beautiful pen.
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Great article from a novel perspective. Have a decent sized flock but my favorite is the Stone Garden. Recently, I decided to put together a Red/Black set. I have an M400 and M600 FP, 600 RB and 600 BP. I will pick up the pencil before the end of year ( to celebrate surviving 2020?).
The Red/Black color scheme is sharp. That sounds like an awesome set. Surviving 2020 sounds like as good a reason to buy a writing implement as any I’ve heard.
as always, a great article!
one question: the red m800 right to the m800 tortoise brown; which model is this?
thank you and servus from austria, stefan
That would be the M800 Maki-e Autumn Leaves from 2008. It’s an absolute beauty up close.
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What a great article! I parsed every word and chart. Really interesting about the changing size of the M600 and the looming presence of the MB 146 and 149. Perhaps as humans we are getting bigger?
Loved the parts diagram at the end of the article. I think it may have had an unintended effect on me, however. Yes I treasure the M800 I bought at the factory a few years back even more … but now I want to add an M1000 Stresemann to the flock here!!
Glad that you enjoyed it John. The M1005 Stresemann is a great pen. It would make a nice addition to your flock.
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Thank you Joshua for the recap of the story of the Pelikan’s flagship pen. Being a fan of the red striated model that I own in the M600 variant, I never understood their decision to cease production of this color at the M800 chassis. Highly sought after, nowadays you need to sell a kidney for a piece of doubtful condition and origin, usually found overseas. Another question that is haunting me is why the orange burnt variant is now available only from Japanese sellers in eBay, though never mentioned somewhere that this was made for the Asian market. Thanks for the beautiful stories
Pelikan keeps all of that information close to the vest but I assume it was a simple matter of sales. While those of us who love and collect these birds can’t understand the decision, I’m sure it made sense from a corporate level at the time. They are desirable these days, hovering between $650 and $700 on the secondary market. If there is a big enough demand, it’s not impossible to believe they might one day bring it back. The Burnt Orange wasn’t a regional release but it may be that vendors in that region sat on stock to release at a later date. Each region is different and I find Pelikan’s relationship with the Asian market the most fascinating of all.
Writing with fountain pen is a priceless experience. Unfortunately, this digital age has taken away this pleasure!
It only takes away the pleasure if we let it. There is nothing stopping us from writing letters and embracing the analog. We have to overcome the inertia of the digital age and to remember the joys of writing. Perhaps even more so, we need to pass the love on to others to keep it alive.
Thank you for the excellent, well-researched, article – I very much enjoyed reading it and learning more about Pelikan. I recently purchased an M805 and absolutely love the nib (M), the size and weight of the pen and, of course, it’s quietly elegant looks.
A beauty, congrats on the new M805. Glad the article was of some interest to you. Thanks for reading.
Hi Joshua. This is such an amazingly well researched and ordered insight into this legendary pen. As usual super work. Just a minor observation….you say 18C-585 in a lot of places in the article, which should be 18C-750.
Hello and thank you for the kind words. Also, I very much appreciate you capturing my mistake. I have no excuse but the odd hours I’m forced to fit my blogging into which aren’t always my strongest mentally. I have corrected the two captions. Thanks again for your help.
How does one date a m900 Toledo?
Not cheaply. All jokes aside, there isn’t a great method to do so. The “serial” number cannot be reliably used for dating. A 20C nib can indicate an early model. The medallions on the cap top can indicate the early run of these. The cap top is probably your most reliable indicator to at least narrow it down. If you have a more specific inquiry, you can email me at email@example.com.
A fabulous article. Just superb.
I own a M800 Broad from 1987.
A true classic. Enjoy it.