How well do you know Pelikan’s Classic/Traditional line? Not as well as you might think I’m willing to wager. Let us review; M100, check. M150, check. M200, M205, M215, and M250; check, check, check, and check! Many of those model lines have since been discontinued but a few still persists and are being expanded to this day, some 35 years after the series’ introduction. There is another entry into that line-up that is not nearly as well known and easily overlooked, even by the most hardcore of collectors. Enter the #350. There is a lot to unpack here so please bear with me. First, let’s tackle that hashtag or number sign. Most of Pelikan’s fountain pens have an ‘M’ or a ‘P’ preceding the model number. These designate either a Mechanik-Füller (piston filling) or Patronen-Füller (cartridge) fountain pen respectively (though exceptions exists). The ‘#’ was widely used in Japan during the 1980s and 90s for many of Pelikan’s piston filling models sold in that market and is therefore an appropriate regional prefix. You might recall that I first introduced the concept when detailing the Mitsukoshi #660. In addition to the unusual prefix, model numbers also sometimes differed. For instance, the M400 used to retail in Japan as the #500. Today, the regional sales literature generally adheres to the M/R/K/D prefix scheme and model numbers used elsewhere. The #350 will be easier to understand when its predecessor, the #250, is considered so I will detail both of those models in this post. Japan has long been a fertile ground for some of Pelikan’s most interesting releases, models not widely available anywhere else. The Maruzen Tortoiseshell Brown M600, the Mitsukoshi #660, the East/West reunification commemorative M800, and the Merz & Krell 400NN re-issue were all either exclusive to the Japanese market or came about as a result of that market’s influence. Read on to learn how the #250 and #350 models fit into Pelikan’s Classic series.
We will first explore the Japanese #250 which is nearly indistinguishable from the M250 that was widely available in Pelikan’s other markets save for one major difference. Rather than the standard 14C-585 monotone gold nib found on the M250 elsewhere, the #250 came equipped with a 12C-500 monotone gold nib which seems to have been nearly exclusive to the Asian markets. The #250 was available in Black, Burgundy, and Green Marbled variants only as best I can tell and was packaged within the typical clamshell case of that era. The dates are a bit hazy but they appear to have been introduced in 1985 and persisted equipped with 12C nibs at least through 1990 and possibly as late as 1996, after which time 14C nibs became the standard until the line’s discontinuation in the early 2000s. Anecdotally, all of the models that I’ve seen for sale on the Japanese auction sites have had the “W.-Germany” stamping suggesting production prior to or around re-unification. All of these models embody the pre-1997 trim which is characterized by a derby cap top sporting the company’s former two chick logo, two cap bands, and no additional furniture aside from the traditional beak clip. Each model has a smoke colored ink window and, as I stated earlier, are indistinguishable from their M200 and M25o counterparts when you exclude the nib.
Some online accounts suggest that the 12C-500 nib was utilized in Japan from roughly 1985 through 1996. Felt to be a good fit for writing Kanji, they were abandoned after a decade of use. While there is no objective data to suggest why, I was able to find a few contemporary accounts from the region that might offer a plausible explanation. The karat system is used to denote the purity of gold by fractions of 24. If 24C is pure gold, then 12C has a gold content of 50% with the other 50% being a mixture of metal alloys including copper, silver, nickel, or zinc. These alloy metals give 12C gold increased durability over its 14C, 18C, or 20C counterparts. Despite that durability, anecdotal reports indicate a higher than expected nib failure rate was experienced with many cracked nibs being returned. An older listing on the Pen Cluster website states, “At Kubo Kogyosho, there were piles of cracked 12C-500 nibs that were discarded during replacement.” Historically, a large number of nibs found within the Japanese market have been of the HEF, HF, and HM varieties as the average Japanese writer used to favor a stiff nib (in contrast to the West’s desire for more flexible nibs). These are hard nibs used for firm writing and are not given to any type of flex. It may well have been the combination of a stiff, unforgiving gold alloy and the unique demands of writing Japanese Kanji that resulted in the 12C nibs being overtaxed and subsequently cracking. The other consideration that I have seen cited was the lower acid resistance inherent to the 12C gold alloy. Gold is by its nature unreactive with most acids (aqua regia aside) however can become embrittled with repeated exposure to low level acids. This is a phenomenon known as stress corrosion cracking and is more prevalent in gold with reduced purity (e.g., less than 14C). The properties intrinsic to 12C nibs likely made them more susceptible to such damage than their counterparts sporting higher gold content. This would not have been an acute issue but one that may have contributed to nib failure over time.
So far, we have established that the #250 was a regional Japanese variant of the M250 which was available in three standard colors and came equipped with a monotone 12C-500 gold nib until sometime in the 1990s. That brings us to the subject of our post, the #350. This is a rare model these days, one not commonly encountered outside of the Asian markets (and even there it is scarce) but stands alone as its own model line, offered as a more upscale alternative to the #250. You will not find evidence of its existence in any of the German catalogs or other regional literature outside of Japan therefore there was no corresponding model sold in other markets. It’s also important to note that this model should not be confused with the M350 that came about much later in 1998 or the 350 which was a vintage mechanical pencil from the 1950s, both of which are completely unrelated models. The #350 existed in just two variants; the Blue Marbled introduced in 1989 and the Gray Marbled which followed in 1990. Like the #250, both models of #350 were identical to the M200 and M250 of the same design. The difference again can only be found in the nib. Instead of a 12C-500 monotone nib, the #350 came with a rhodium plated bi-color nib. The design was similar to the bi-color nibs utilized on select Souverän models beginning in 1987. It is unclear how this model came about but since it was exclusive to the Japanese market, it stands to reason that it was at the behest of vendors/distributors in that region. It may also have been hoped that the rhodium plating might add a bit of durability to the nibs by reducing the risk of stress corrosion cracking. Incidentally, the only other region these bi-color 12C nib are encountered with any frequency is within the Italian market, attached to the M481 thereby creating a limited production model that was not meant for sale to the general public. The #350’s run was short lived, having been discontinued by 1993.
At the time of their launch in 1989, the #350 went for ¥20,000 (~$139.76) and the #250 went for ¥15,000 (~$104.82). Fast forward to 1993 and we can get a more complete picture of Pelikan’s Japanese line up as depicted in the table below. By the time of the line’s discontinuation, there was only a ¥1,000 (~$9.21) difference between the monotone 12C nibbed #25o and the bi-color 12C nibbed #350. It is conceivable that the line-up was consolidated to resolve the inconsistency in pricing policy since the #350 didn’t appear to have enough to distance itself from the more upscale #500 or the nearly identical #250 or #200. Please note that all of the currencies quoted are in 1989 or 1993 equivalents, do not take into account inflation, and are therefore not representative of today’s equivalent values.
Price (Japanese Yen)
† USD equivalents based on JPY to USD currency conversion as of December 1, 1993
The details that have been presented thus far have been cobbled together from a mix of objective data and regional accounts. The records in this area, particularly as they relate to these models, are sparse and many details are missing resulting in some inferences necessarily being drawn. Still, the accounts make for an interesting story about a unique regional release that never really seemed to have found its footing. These can be a challenge to collect and, if you’re so inclined, I would recommend looking to the Japanese auction sites which can be daunting for those of us in the Western world. Many proxy sites exists today which make such purchases infinitely more accessible but do your homework before jumping in. Perhaps you’ve had an old Pelikan pen in the drawer with a 12C nib that you couldn’t really explain. It just may be that you have one of these odd entries in the Classic series. Feel free to share any personal experiences or thoughts below on the Japanese #250 and/or #350 model lines.