Pelikan’s #350: An Eastern Oddity Of The Classic Line

Pelikan #250 and #350How 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.

 

Pelikan #250 and #350

Excerpts from Pelikan’s Japanese catalogs circa 1989 (left) and 1990 (right). The pages depict Pelikan’s #250 and #350 models along with their suggested retail pricing.  Catalog pages reproduced with permission from Tokyo based vendor Euro Box

 

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.

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Pelikan’s Japanese #250 models, each equipped with a 12C-500 gold nib. Top to bottom; Black, Burgundy, and Green Marbled

 

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Pelikan’s #250s uncapped

 

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.

Pelikan's #250 and #350

The photo on the left is a close-up of Pelikan’s 12C-500 monotone gold nib in oblique broad (OB) width which was available in the Japanese market for the #250. The photo on the right is a sticker affixed to barrels prior to sale and meant to indicate a pen’s nib size

 

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Pelikan’s 12C-500 nibs as found on Japanese #250s and #350s. Clockwise starting at 12 O’Clock; #250 HM, #250 OB, #350 HEF, #350 HM, and #250 HM

 

Pelikan 12C Nibs

A side by side look at the Pelikan 12C-500 monotone gold nib (top) and a 12C-500 bi-color gold nib (bottom), both in HM (hard medium) width

 

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.

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Left to right; Rare Gray 350 mechanical pencil (1952), Black/Vermiel M350 fountain pen (1998-2001), and Blue Marbled #350 fountain pen (1989-1993)

 

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Pelikan’s Gray and Blue Marbled #350s sold for only a few years in the Japanese market

 

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Each #350 came equipped with a bi-color 12C-500 nib

 

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.

Japanese Designation

German Designation

Price (Japanese Yen)

USD Equivalents

#500 M400 ¥30,000 $276.29
#350 *** ¥21,000 $193.41
#250 M250 ¥20,000 $184.20
#200 M200 ¥15,000 $138.15
#481 M481 ¥12,000 $110.52

† 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.

Pelikan's #250 and #350

The complete collection of Pelikan’s #350 and #250 models as sold in Japan in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  All of the pens depicted in this post are from my personal collection

 

Pelikan's #250 and #350

Most models are seen with the “W.-Germany” stamping on the cap band

 

Pelikan's #250 and #350

A pre-1997 old-style derby cap top with an etched two chick logo


 

A special thanks to Dominic Rothemel of Pelikan Collectibles for bringing this collection to my attention and Eizo Fuji of Euro Box for his regional insights.

23 responses

    • Thanks! The research is the fun part for me. I love chasing down these details and seeing how they all come together. Shining light in the dark corners of Pelikan’s past is one of the things that make the endeavor worthwhile.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Exceptional work. Accurate, complete and inspiring to do more research myself. i thought i knew a bit about Pelikan pens but after your article i’ll crawl back into my corner and get on with improving my knowledge.

    Like

  2. Thanks for sharing this info! You really don’t see too much variance in gold content anymore. I know that Hero has/had some 12k/10k options made in the late 90s, but today it’s pretty difficult to see anything less than 14k. Perhaps this is due to the improvement in steel alloys (both in terms of stress durability as well as corrosion resistance; not to mention inks generally becoming more inert).

    I’ve also had limited experience with older “hard” nibs. I had an older M400 with a HF 14k nib but even that seemed a lot softer than most modern nibs. I’m surprised that Pelikan didn’t push their manifold nibs towards the East when they encountered durability concerns. Thanks again!

    Like

    • Agreed. Seems like pens only come with 14C or 18C nibs these days. Not sure that the other carat weights would provide any meaningful difference though for day to day use. These standards are likely a standard for a reason.

      Like

  3. Thank you Joshua. This is another informative, data-rich article that has a lot of interesting points and history. As someone above already pointed out, there seems always to be more to learn about Pelikan and its products and history.

    I never really thought about gold alloys and stress corrosion cracking before, but when one considers the amount of cold-working a nib gets during its construction (which can cause considerable internal stresses in the material) maybe it isn’t so surprising, especially with more complex and lower-gold alloys. What happens down in those stressed grain boundaries is sometimes not appropriate in polite company. 😃

    Thanks again. Looking back, you seem to have at least one (and maybe more) good graduate thesis worth of material in these years of posts. Now, whether that thesis belongs in a history, management, or material science department (or somewhere else) is a whole ‘nother discussion…

    Like

    • Probably somewhere else at the end of the day, lol. Good point about the stresses the nibs endure during manufacture. Thankfully, they are pretty reliable in the higher carat weights.

      Like

  4. Thank you for your research,Joshua.As far as I’m concerned,the 12C-H series nibs have much more flexibility than the 14C-H series.I’d like to rank hardness of them as 14C-H>mordern single chick 14C>12C-H,though 12C-H nibs are not flexible enough to English letters.I really enjoy using my 12C-HM,which can handle densive straight lines in Chinese characters or kanji perfectly while providing a relatively soft/flexible touch.

    Like

  5. I have been following your site for couple years now and since then I acquired over 18 Pelikan pens ranging from M200 to M800. I want to take the time today to thank you for your reviews. This has helped me tremendously in acquiring my pens. I was wondering if there is a way to find out about special editions first hand. The reason I am asking is that I read here about special editions pens like the M201 Bayou and I would like to be able to pre-order those special editions pens when they are release. And my second question is: is there a site where those special editions pens are sold? Thanks in advance!

    Like

    • Hello and thanks for reading. I’m happy to have helped enable your flock to grow. Taking your example of the M201 Bayou, that is a special case. There were only 100 of those pens produced. That means they will be very unlikely to show up for sale with any regularity and, when they do, will likely be rather expensive. If you follow the blog here, I break news about any and all special editions as close to real time as I can. You will know of any edition and all of the details available by following the blog. That will allow you to preorder as you see fit. Sales after the run is completed and sold out is more challenging. At that point, bet to look at sites like eBay and Martini Auctions. I hope that helps you.

      Like

  6. Hi Joshua having two 12-C monotone one 12-C bi-tone nib, I can replicate these japanese bird just putting them in old style green and blue marbled M200?

    Like

    • Theoretically, yes. They pens are otherwise indistinguishable. One thing that I would say though is that all of the Japanese variants with 12C nibs that I’ve come across have had the W.-Germany stamping on the cap band. Therefore, for authenticity, I would only swap into similarly appointed M200s.

      Like

  7. Thank you for this amazing work which definitely provides precious information upon those rare Japanese Pelikans!
    I am also wondering if I am allowed to translate this article into Chinese and post it on a Chinese fountain pen forum to let more ppl learn about them? I noticed that some people are confused with the Japanese edition classification. I will cite your link and your name. Thank you in advance for considering this request.

    Like

    • You’re welcome. I don’t like to see my work published elsewhere but for select pieces, I make exceptions. In this instance, I am OK with the translation of just this one article provided that you link to the original source material and properly credit the source. I would also ask you to place a disclaimer that any errors that might arise from the translation are yours and yours alone. If that is all acceptable to you, feel free to translate it.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: