The Life And Death Of The Souverän M300

Pelikan M300 Fountain PenThe Souverän M300 did not burst onto the scene with any fanfare.  There was no large, elaborately orchestrated debut such as what we saw with the M800 some eleven years earlier.  Perhaps the lack of flourish was fitting given the pen’s diminutive and unassuming size.  It was 1998 when the M300 emerged as the smallest Souverän in the line-up.  News of Monica Lewinsky’s affair with Bill Clinton was just breaking, the XVIII Olympic Winter Games were being held in Japan, and Titanic became the first motion picture to gross US$1 billion.  The late nineties were also a time of great change for Pelikan’s high end models.  The M400 received an upgraded trim package, the M600 was given an entirely new form, and the massive M1000 would take up the mantle as Pelikan’s flagship.  All of the furniture on the company’s Souveräns was standardized, essentially creating five models, each representing a different sized pen catering to a variety of tastes and purposes.  The marketing which would follow highlighted this; “You can buy suits in different sizes.  So why not fountain pens?”  Amongst Pelikan’s refreshed line-up, the M300 fit the smallest niche, both literally and figuratively.   Not much larger than your standard golf pencil, the M300 has ruled over its tiny kingdom for 22 years.  That reign comes to an end in 2020 as the model line has now been officially discontinued.  I was first alerted to this fact by vendors who could no longer order new stock and it has subsequently been confirmed to me by Juana Schahn, the Social Media Manager for Pelikan.  Read on to learn the how’s and why’s behind the pen’s demise and get a glimpse at some of the M300’s history over the past two decades.

 

Pelikan's Souverän Sizes Compared

Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that the M300 is no more.  The signs have been pointing that way for some time now.  There has not been a new special edition since 2011 meaning the Green/Black (striped) M300 has been the only current production model in that line for the past nine years.  To understand why this has been the case, you need to know the purpose for which the M300 was designed.  Step back with me into a time when analog agendas and planners were ubiquitous and digital calendars were just a fledgling novelty on your Blackberry or Palm Pilot.  The small size and easy portability/storability of the M300 positioned it as the perfect companion piece for these types of everyday essentials.  Well suited to the tasks of jotting quick notes and planner entries, it frequently proved to be too small for comfort when utilized for extended sessions such as with letter writing or journaling.  As advancing technology made paper planners much less necessary for a large portion of the population, the popularity of and demand for the M300 has fallen off sharply.  Over the years, production lots have shrunk accordingly and this year Pelikan has finally decided that the continued production of the M300 line is no longer economically feasible.  I’m sure that the current global realities and economic hardships brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have only hastened that decision.  It should be noted that production is continuing on the other four model lines in the Souverän series: the M4xx, M6xx, M8xx, and M10xx.

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

The M3xx line of pens are relatively small in the hand, even when posted

 

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

A Pelikan M300 Green/Black fountain pen manufactured within the last 10 years shown both capped and posted

 

The introduction of the M300 did muddle the issue with the company’s product naming scheme, as Pelikan is wont to do.  Ascending product numbers usually indicate a larger size so an M400 is easily recognized as smaller than an M800 and both are dwarfed by the M1000.  If you focus exclusively on the Souverän series, this scheme is both clear and firm.  Things get confusing because of the Traditional or Classic series which is comprised of models encompassing the M1xx and M2xx product ranges.  If your experience was limited to those lower tier models, you might expect an M300 to be larger than the M200 but this is not the case, resulting in no small amount of confusion for consumers over the years.  Suffice it to say, the M300 is in fact the smallest Pelikan amongst all of the company’s Traditional and Souverän product lines.  A general scheme that is useful to remember is as follows; M3xx < M1xx < M2xx = M4xx <= M6xx < M8xx < M10xx.

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

The M350 on the left is dwarfed by the M1050 on the right. This photo depicts the stark differences between the two extremes of Pelikan’s line-up

 

At launch, the M300 came in the standard colors of Green/Black and Black.  In that same year, the M350 was also made available which saw the standard black resin barrel married to a vermeil cap.  These tiny Pelikans really have to be seen to truly appreciate just how small they are.  Measuring 4.33 inches in total length, they have a diameter of 0.39 inches and a weight of only 0.38 ounces.  Size notwithstanding, the M300 contains all of the same innards of its larger siblings, maintaining the same high quality fit and finish.  The differential piston filling mechanism draws up approximately 0.7mL of ink due to the reduced barrel size, once again highlighting its focus on quick notes and agenda entries over more serious writing tasks.  All of the hallmarks of the traditional Souverän are present, just on a smaller scale.  The furniture features two trim rings at the piston knob, two cap bands, and a trim ring at the section.  Unlike every other Souverän model, there was never a palladium plated option therefore all M3xxs have gold plated furniture and bi-color nibs.  Most of those pens sport 14C-585 gold nibs with the exception of the M350 which came with an 18C-750 gold nib.  Because of the small form factor, M3xx nibs cannot be exchanged with any other product line.  Available widths from the earliest days of production included EF, F, M, B, BB, OM, OB, and OBB but that range was significantly limited to just three options by the early 2000s, long before the larger models saw a similar reduction.  Anecdotally, despite their small size, it has been my experience that these M3xx nibs are a bit softer with just a hint more spring than their larger counterparts.

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

Dollars and cents. The M3xx line’s small size put into perspective

 

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

The M3xx line has had a limited nib selection for some time now

 

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

SML3 Etui

In addition to the standard Green/Black and Black models, the M3xx line would also come to enjoy some special and limited edition releases, though nothing on the scale of their larger brethren.  The vermeil styled M350 remained in production from 1998 until 2001.  A few years later, in 2004, the M320 range of pens would be introduced.  These included the Orange Marbled (2004), Jade Green (2007), Ruby Red (2010), and Pearl (2011).  In 2008, the Black resin model would cease production which meant that after 2011, only the Green/Black model was considered current production.  The line was unique enough to actually receive its own etui, the SML3.  This pen case is sized specifically for the M300 line and is able to accommodate up to three small pens.  As a compliment to the fountain pens, a K300 ballpoint pen (#38 refill) and a D300 pencil (0.7mm lead) were available for purchase as well in the Green/Black and Black finishes.  The same holds true for the M350 series.  While most of Pelikan’s ballpoints take the larger 337 refill, the smaller #38 is much more limited in variety, only available in a medium width of 1mm with color choices of blue, black, or red.  The M320 series did not include any pencils but each model had a matching K320 ballpoint save for 2011’s Pearl which stood alone.

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pens

M3xx releases left to right: M300 Green/Black (1998), M300 Black (1998), M350 Black (1998), M320 Orange Marbled (2004), M320 Jade Green (2007), M320 Ruby Red (2010), and M320 Pearl (2011)

 

Pelikan K300 and D300 ballpoint and pencil

Pelikan’s Green/Black K300 ballpoint and D300 pencil

 

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

Pelikan’s #38 refill

 

Despite its small size, the M300 has been saddled with a relatively large price tag which has also likely contributed to a reduction in demand.  Its US MSRP has most recently hovered around $490 putting retail pricing anywhere between $355 and $392, depending on the vendor.  For that price, one could obtain a new M6xx or even an M8xx depending on the vendor which, in my mind, makes the M300 a poor value for the money.  Pre-owned standard models on the secondary market tend to be less expensive, generally bringing in anywhere between $135 and $225 based on a review of recent past auctions.  The more limited and exotic M320 editions tend to hold onto their value better and go for more when they are found for sale.

The M300 certainly catered to a niche within a niche and perhaps its discontinuation is long overdue as the niche that it served has shrunk considerably over time.  I suspect that there won’t be too many out there that are horribly broken up by the news of the M300’s demise.  Personally, I have been blessed/cursed with the ability to use just about any sized Pelikan fountain pen comfortably, from the smallish M100 up through the gigantic M1000.  The M300 is the one size that never fit well for me and therefore never saw much representation within my own flock.  With today’s news, I would offer a word of caution regarding reading too much into this move and extrapolating it to the overall health of Pelikan’s fountain pen business.  In general, this decision has seemingly been a long time in the making and is more indicative of a model line with an evaporating market than anything to do with the company’s pen business as a whole.  I do wonder how this news might affect prices on the secondary market as people’s desires seem to get re-kindled when they are told that they can no longer have something.  Please share any thoughts, comments, or experiences that you have had regarding the M300, both good and bad, below.

Pelikan M300 Fountain Pen

Pelikan’s Souveräns compared. Top to bottom; M350, M450, M650, M850, and M1050


 

M3xx Summary

Release Date
  • 1998
Dimensions
  • Capped length – 4.33 inches.  Posted length – 5.15 inches.  Diameter – 0.39 inches.  Weight – 0.38 ounces
Cap Band
  • 1998-2020: Pelikan Souverän Germany
Nib Material
  • M300: 14C-585 gold bi-color
  • M320: 14C-585 gold bi-color
  • M350: 18C-750 gold bi-color
Available Nib Widths
  • 1998-1999: EF, F, M, B, BB, OM, OB, and OBB
  • 1999-2000: EF, F, and M
  • 2000-2020: F, M, and B
Nib Features
  • Two chick logo stamped on the nib – 1998-2010
  • Single chick logo stamped on the nib – 2010-2020
Cap Top Logo
  • 1998-2003: Screened two chick logo on a black background
  • 2003-2010: Screened one chick logo on a black background
  • 2010-2020: One chick logo plated in 24K gold
Companion Pieces
  • 1998: K300 Ballpoint
  • 1998: D300 Pencil
Refills
  • K300 Ballpoint, 1998-2020: Ballpoint pen refill #38
    • Width: M = medium (1 mm Ø)
    • Colors: Blue, Black, and Red
  • D300 Pencil, 1998-2020:  0.7mm lead
Related Lines
  • M320: Orange Marbled (2004), Jade Green (2007), Ruby Red (2010), and Pearl (2011)
  • M350: 1998-2001

*All dates are approximate and reported as accurately as possible based on the available reference materials.

26 responses

  1. Thank you for another interesting review. The M300 is certainly a rare bird and I sometimes still regret not buying a Ruby Red M300 I saw in a small fountain pen shop in Genoa, while visiting there on business. But happily I have the M600 Ruby Red, which is one of my treasured Pelikans!

    I am sure that you are right that Pelikan found little demand for such a small pen after the initial enthusiasm for miniature pens for pocket diaries and similar.

    As always, thank you for your wonderful research in this great pen manufacturer!

    Like

  2. Thanks, Josh—great and informative stuff, as always. For quick notations, I like my black M300 quite a bit, with its nice, soft Medium nib. I can’t remember how or why, but I somehow also ended up with a medium nib Ruby Red M320 plus a spare OB nib! It’s quite a pretty, sparkledy wee jewel—I thought I might sell it along with some others at the Philadelphia Pen Show but that ain’t gonna happen. I’m sorry I’ll miss you there but fingers crossed for post vaccination DC…?

    Like

    • Only time will tell. I’m not getting too excited about a post vaccination world until 3rd or 4th quarter 2021 so not likely to see D.C. but hopefully not too long thereafter.

      Like

  3. An excellent and very thorough review of an interesting albeit niche pen. I would not have bought this whilst it was widely available and certainly not now; it does not excite passion or interest. Thanks for the review.

    Like

  4. Your review of the Pelikan M300 was very useful to me and the comparison with the rest of the Pelikan pens.
    I used to have a 1950’s Pelikan 300 (marked such) which as I remember was the same size as the Pelikan 400…..or was it smaller?

    Like

  5. Well, I’m in mourning. As a woman with rather small hands, I gravitated toward the M3XX as soon as I knew it existed. I love all things MINI, and I’m very happy I have a few of these, “Chicks,” as I call them. I have a green/black striped M300, plus orange, ruby red, and pearl M320s. I have focused my fountain pen collection on minis, and my baby Pelikans are my favorites. I always wished for more colors in this diminutive line, but I see it’s not to be. I realize I am part of a small market, so I will not whine. But I’ll need a little time to get over this one. Sigh….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry for your loss. I know that this size of pen didn’t suit many but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have a dedicated group of followers. Sounds like you have a good number of these mini birds to enjoy for the foreseeable future, even if the line won’t see any further expansion.

      Like

  6. Wow. This announcement is a bit of a surprise, though maybe not completely. I had an M300 in traditional green stripes that went missing some years ago. Somewhat ironically, something moved me to replace it a couple of months ago. I am glad that I did.

    I tend to agree that the appeal of such a small pen is limited, but once in a while, something really small is exactly what one needs. I should probably hunt down a pencil while they are still to be found.

    Thanks for post, Joshua!

    Like

  7. Sad news, indeed. I recently acquired a NOS orange; it joins a green-stripe, black and ruby. While I have the green and black ones inked and use them regularly. I’d never inked up the ruby but after inking the orange, I dug the ruby out and inked it up as well which, in a bizarre twist of fate, I did right before coming across this article. (That’s right up there with eating a Cup Noodles at work one night while reading the newspaper and turning the page to see an obituary of the inventor of Cup Noodles! I kid you not. And what more fitting tribute to the man.)

    Like

    • Funny the daily coincidences that we encounter. Sounds like a nice flock. Wouldn’t take much to finish up the collection if you were so inclined but those M320s don’t seem to come cheap these days and the M350 is a tough one to find.

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  8. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – November 29, 2020 | Fountain Pen Quest

  9. Thanks for another wonderful article. I have the orange M320, which is quite a comfortable writer in spite of my large hands. I especially love vermeil capped x50 models, and the photo of all of them together is spectacular.

    Like

    • That Orange M320 is one of the best looking of the lot IMHO. The Vermeil Souverans are really neat together. I found the M350 to be one of the harder ones to source.

      Like

  10. My first Pelikan was a M320 Ruby Red. I fell in love with it in a shop in Carmel CA. That was the beginning of my interest in fountain pens. Pelikans were my first love and I have a nice collection of them now. My favorite size is the M600 although I still love my Ruby Red and continue to use it.

    Like

    • It’s neat to hear how that little Ruby pen was your gateway into fountain pens. As we lose more and more brick and mortar stores, opportunities to fall in love like that sadly become fewer. Sometimes, you just need to see and hold the pen to know if it’s a fit for you, something internet shopping does not provide for. The Ruby was my first M3xx as well but I passed it on because of its size. Enjoy your flock.

      Like

  11. Thank you for this great article!! I noticed the M3xx models were missing recently. A quick search led me to your post about the demise of this great little pen.

    I have had my M300 for many years and it has long been my favored writing instrument. I don’t have small hands but this pen has always just “fit” and felt very comfortable. I wrote with it extensively – often exclusively – for long periods with no fatigue. I am one of those who carried my Pelikan in the leather strap of my paper organizer. I’m sad that it has been discontinued

    Like

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