I haven’t yet had a chance to officially wish all of you reading the blog a Happy New Year! If you blinked, you may have missed it but a mailer from Fahrney’s Pens at the end of last year alluded to a price increase for some of Pelikan’s products in 2021. The actual header read, “Certain models increase in price effective January 1.” The United States has seen a steady rise in prices for Pelikan’s fine writing instruments and inks over the last several years. Some of that is to be expected due to inflation, fluctuations in manufacturing costs, and the numerous other factors that play into market pricing. Still, the United Sates remains home to some of the highest prices for Pelikan’s products anywhere around the globe. Increases this year may be more justified than years past due to the economic realities brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s without dispute that every step of the manufacturing process has been impacted. Raw materials are harder to source and production costs have risen. For the most part, ink pricing has remained stable and some pen pricing is relatively flat. On the one hand, we see some notable increases for models within the Classic series and on the other, some small reductions in Souverän pricing. Across the board, effective January 1st, 2021, there was what looks to be an average increase of nearly 5% in the company’s MSRP across all product lines for the United States’ market. Read on to get a sense of which of your preferred products may have been affected.
Since I like my dessert first, I’ll start with the biggest winners of 2021 and that is anyone in the market for one of the standard Souveräns. For uniformity, I’m comparing the Green/Black striped Souveräns which does not take into account pricing for special edition releases. Also, some other standard lines such as the Stresemann have higher list prices which aren’t included here. Most of Pelikan’s higher end models have seen a near 5% reduction in prices and all now have a list price that is less than 2019. We will use 2019 as the benchmark for comparison because that was the last time that we saw price increases in the United States. Make no mistake, these are still expensive items and the reductions do nothing to change that. While it is a step in the right direction, much work still needs to be done to achieve some sort of parity with the European market. The biggest price drops are attributed to the M600 and M800 which now enjoy 7.3% and 6.7% reductions in MSRP respectively. Even the flagship M1000 is down 2.4% when compared with 2019. Don’t let the percentages fool you though. The ups and downs only amount to roughly $20 to $25 in either direction with a few notable outliers.
The losers of 2o21 are those who enjoy Pelikan’s Classic series. All of those models have seen price increases for 2021. The M200 is now 7.9% more expensive. The M150 has an 8.5% higher list and the M205 has jumped 11.8%. These price increases take pens meant to be lower tier introductory models and puts them out of reach for many consumers. It could certainly be argued that the current list price is quite high for pens equipped with stainless steel nibs. It really brings into question the Classic series’ value for the dollar which seems to be shrinking with each passing year. The Pelikano and Pelikano Jr. lines also saw decent jumps and all of your Pelikan inks will now carry a slightly higher list in the US with MSRP increases of 5.6% to 8%. We can still anticipate vendors offering their fountain pens at the customary 20% off list pricing but the disparity means that consumers will continue to find better prices from overseas vendors for the time being.
I think the pricing differences for 2021 are an overall wash with little here to dissuade or incentivize those who were already in the market to purchase a new pen. I’m actually surprised that the increases weren’t greater and, at the end of the day, I don’t think there is much to see here. Obviously higher pricing in the US market will continue to hamper US vendors but I’m hopeful that the small declines we see with the Souveräns are a first attempt at a market correction that could allow the US to eventually be more competitive with foreign vendors. Only time will tell though it is hard to be optimistic given the complicated economics that factor into product pricing. Price increase are always a bitter pill to swallow for the consumer but there are things that a company can do to make the medicine go down more easily. Things that neither Pelikan nor Chartpak do well are advanced notice and/or transparency. I think consumers should be made aware of changing prices ahead of their planned increase rather than finding out about it after the fact. This allows customers to come to terms with increases, reconsider their budget, and perhaps make that one last purchase under the old pricing scheme before the increases go into effect. We all know Pelikan is a manufacturer of quality products and price increases are often necessary in order to match higher operating costs, meet changes in staffing needs, and to deal with increases in the price of materials. Nobody would want to see quality suffer for the sake of maintaining a certain price point. Consumers have largely become inured to the rising cost of goods. Provided that a company keeps up the value inherent within its products, increases in price will generally be accepted. Pelikan and Chartpak would do well to remind consumers of the value that their products offer.
My very good condition 400NN’s were less (including new seals) than what a M200 is now. 😦
Sad but true. There is a lot of value to be found when shopping for vintage Pelikan pens in the the secondary market. The Classic series has priced itself out of reach for many beginners I’m afraid which is a shame.
I have been a Pelikan user, lover and collector of Pelikan pens since 1984. I purchased my first Pelikan from Lincoln Stationers in NYC, after watching the art student working behind the counter drawing with an M800. Those green stripes (and her smile) pulled me in. Around 1991, I ordered my the Limited West German M900 Toledo (that smile could sell anything!). When it arrived, everyone gathered around the counter and she said “we were hoping you would open it here, because we’ve never seen one before.” I had my Toledo and she had a boyfriend. This first modern M900 had a list price of $1200, and with my discount as a “regular” (she *was* cute), I paid $780. I still have that pen, and it’s my favorite and bast writing Pelikan. Lincoln Stationers is long gone…and so is the girl.
Happy writing everyone…treat yourself and remember the story. Stay safe 😷👍
Thanks for sharing the story. That’s a great pen with a nice memory attached. Those old Toledos are a treat and that price is unreal when compared with today’s ask. Glad that you still have it. Definitely a keeper.
You must be a real Pelikan lover since you continue to purchase there even though you know she got a boyfriend!
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@Pelikan Paul – thank You for such a nice and romantic history … 🙂
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in the movie @PelikanPaul gets the girl!
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This quote from Joshua’s article says it all: “the United Sates remains home to some of the highest prices for Pelikan’s products anywhere around the globe.”
I’m sure US collectors will simply purchase from the EU.
For others, I don’t know. 🤷♀️ Seems like Pelikan has chosen to remain a niche brand here in the US. If so, I think that always disappoints their fans here.
I enjoy and use regularly my little collection of M2xx pens, but I already have more pens than I have hands, so I have no need or desire to acquire more pens.
Always enjoy reading Pelikan’s Perch!
Hello and thanks for reading the blog. I really appreciate the support. The US is actually a big market for Pelikan and many people still purchase domestically for a multitude of reasons. It is true though that, at least anecdotally, many people have been driven to shop abroad. Part of the blame lies at the feet of the US distributor. Markets aren’t equal across the globe for countless products, that’s just a fact of life. I don’t know if the degree of discrepancy seen here is justified though. The economics behind market pricing make my head hurt and part of the pricing, I’m sure, is to allow the brand to have more of a luxury appeal. I’m hopeful that we will see some form of correction in the future but only time will tell.
Thanks for the new post, Joshua. I always appreciate data-rich information, and your posts are generally very good in that sense. I’ll say, when I saw the lead-in graphic, I expected a slightly different story, but it was quite interesting to see the pricing development in the US over the past decade.
Pelikan’s combination of design, technology, and choice of materials, in my view, make their products both unique and difficult to emulate at knock-off prices. Combined with a restricted distribution channel in the US/Canada (does Mexico have a different distribution channel?), it is perhaps not surprising to see some rent-seeking in those markets.
It is interesting to observe the global Pelikan distribution and pricing strategy and how it impacts the dynamics of retail purchasing.
The data is not always readily accessible and can be difficult to source but I do think there is value in it and that the effort is worth it. I believe that the USA, Canada, and Mexico are one distribution channel served by Chartpak. Rent seeking may certainly play a role though how much is due to infrastructure and regulatory burden as well, I’m not sure. I’m sure that Pelikan has reams of expensive market research on all these things but that is something I’m sure we’ll never be privy to.
Thanks for your new post, Joshua. The pricing differences between markets are quiet interesting. I have always been wondering how can Pelikan have lower online retail price in China than in EU. For example, I can get a brand new M600 Tortoiseshell Red for 1850CNY (about 285USD now).
There are stark differences between markets with prices varying by hundreds of dollars depending on the item. There are definitely complicated factors that make up the difference but it is hard to believe that such wild swings are entirely necessary. Still, this is why it pays to shop around and there is little downside with today’s global market place.
Joshua, do you have any comparison of Pelikan classic models cross multiple markets?
Nothing formal but it you take a look at just the actual retail pricing for the M200 Brown Marbled…
USA: $160 –> $160
UK: £74.17 (minus VAT) –> $101.48
Germany: €77.93 (minus VAT) –> $94.88
Netherlands €95.04 (minus VAT) –> $115.71
Greece: €72.90 (minus VAT) –> $88.75
Italy: €95.90 (minus VAT) –> $116.75
Australia: $215 (in AUD) –> $165.93
*Prices for US customers therefore regional VAT excluded and currency converted based upon the prevailing exchange rate at the time of this posting.
As I am fond of saying: any job you don’t have to do yourself is, by definition, easy. I am sure the financial commitment to importing and supplying all of North America, supporting hundreds if not thousands of retailers with orders, returns, warranty, product support, marketing materials, etc., is not trivial.
That said, I am very familiar with the logistics of import and distribution of products out of the EU to the US. Shipping of items of the value, size, and weight of Pelikan, if done sensibly, is not terribly expensive (think, for example about the size and weight of a pallet containing, say 1000 pens [10x10x10] wrapped for shipping) and the last time I checked the tariff schedule, the import duty on fountain pens from Germany was 1.56%.
If one has a bit of reference data on the operating costs, capital, and personnel requirements of running a distribution operation for items of similar size and value as a premium fountain pen, it is not surprising unusually difficult to estimate, to 1.5 or 2 decimal places (say within 15% or so) the effort required to sell pens as a distributor in the USA.
After going through that exercise, I suspect it is still fair to wonder about some of the pricing decisions/practices.
In some prior communications that I have had, the discrepancy has been acknowledged and there was even discussion under way as how to best improve upon the situation. I can assure you that US vendors are acutely aware of the situation and the lost sales because of it. I’m not sure how much give would have to come from Pelikan’s side or the North American distributor’s side in order to achieve better pricing parity.
This is like the sales strategy of the top European luxury brands: Louis Vuitton, Channel, Hermes: annual increase of 10-20% for all their classic models. Comparing to those, Pelikan has been generous?!
One of the reasons that I first got into Pelikan was their accessibility. They were premium products for but didn’t command the luxury prices. Someone on a budge had a chance. Over the years, it has definitely changed and it now feels they are all in with the luxury pricing strategy which is a shame because that locks so may people out of ownership of these amazing pens.
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