When the fictional character Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard (James Stewart), a revered US Senator, reveals the truth about his origins to newspaper editor Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young), Mr. Scott utters one of the most resonant lines in all of cinema, proclaiming; “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This line comes at the end of acclaimed director John Ford’s western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Pelikan’s catalog is full of models that have a somewhat unusual provenance, their origins obscured just like those of Jimmy Stewart’s character. Perhaps few models have been surrounded by as much palace intrigue as the M800 Stilo “Laser.” Heard of it? I’m not surprised if you haven’t. The “Laser” has largely fallen into obscurity in the intervening decades since its launch, the details behind its genesis largely forgotten to time. As such, it’s hard to tease out where the facts end, and the fiction begins. In the spirit of the romanticized American West, I will endeavor to present you the legend of the Stilo “Laser” sprinkled with as much fact as we know. Read on to learn about this model’s unique design and history.
Pelikan Italia, located in the city of Milano, Italy, was responsible for this model’s creation back in the year 2000. In a run limited to just 100 pens, the Stilo “Laser” was intended for sale solely within the Italian market. A standard black M800 served as the base chassis upon which a laser engraving was applied. This is notable because, at the time, lasers (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) were a newer technology in this space and not nearly as ubiquitous as they have become, having since grown to find utility in thousands of highly varied applications amongst every sector of modern society. This pen was one of the first writing instruments to embrace the burgeoning tool. The black resin cap and barrel are complimented by the standard gold plated furniture characteristic of the Souverän. This consists of two trim rings at the piston knob, a single ring at the section, two cap bands, and a beak clip. The body of the pen is broken up by a green ink window that sits just behind the section threads. The cap top boasts the company’s screened two chick logo which was still in use at the time these were manufactured. Each pen in the series is individually numbered, with a laser engraving located at the end of the piston knob (e.g. 001/100). Every Stilo “Laser” came equipped with a two-toned 18c-750 gold nib in medium width which included a “PF” stamp. Officially assigned item number 970 939, the pen came enclosed within the typical gift packaging that was commonly used at the turn of the twentieth century, individually numbered to match the pen. That packaging included a bottle of 4001 Royal Blue ink featuring a pen rest and the “Schreibgeräteablage – SGA1 – 970 285” one or two pen wooden desk holder.
Images of the packaging that accompanied the M800 Stilo Laser. Photos courtesy of the Pelikan Archive; Hanover, Germany
Where the story gets interesting is that rival pen maker Visconti, also based out of Italy, had a hand in the design. As outlined above, the Stilo “Laser” derives its name from the unique laser engraving found along the entirety of the cap and barrel. That engraving consists of parallel lines running lengthwise, broken up by a zig zagging geometric pattern thereby creating a unique and dramatic look not encountered on any other Pelikan. The design is clearly rooted within the Art Nouveau style. That approach to art and design is characterized by a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry or whiplash lines, frequently inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Unfortunately, three attempts to contact Visconti have gone unanswered as of the time of this publication. An email to Pelikan Italy was forwarded on to Germany where it eventually arrived upon the desk of Jens Meyer, director of Pelikan’s Fine Writing Instruments division, who checked some of the legend’s details against the Pelikan archives. Whether from a lack of retained records or some subtle subterfuge, Jens could only find that the engravings were applied by a local Italian supplier. The archives include no mention of Visconti’s involvement. Tom Westerich, a well-known merchant and collector, was able to verify Visconti’s involvement through reliable secondhand information that he received many years ago. The details behind how these two rival manufacturers came to collaborate are unclear and may be lost to history as those who were involved have either retired or have long since moved on.
The legend that accompanies the Stilo “Laser” goes on to relate that when Pelikan headquarters based out of Germany got wind of the unsanctioned model, they were none too pleased. Pelikan was forthright in confirming that production of the Stilo “Laser” was not officially authorized. As the story goes, Pelikan’s ire manifested in the removal of an unknown quantity of pens from the market. Whether they were upset at Pelikan Italy going rogue or chagrined by Visconti’s involvement is anyone’s guess. Jens tells me that he could find no official record of any pens being removed from the market contained within the archives. I’m not sure that is something Pelikan would have left a paper trail about if it had so the absence of such information is proof of nothing. Considering alternate possibilities, it is conceivable that this part of the story was later added by eager vendors, intent on increasing the perceived rarity of this model and hence its intrinsic value. Whatever the truth may be, it is very likely that we will never get to the bottom of it. For what it’s worth, I have seen or heard tell of nine examples of this pen over the last decade, so they are out there if you keep your eyes peeled.
The M800 Stilo “Laser” is a functional work of art. Its mythos is almost as intriguing as its design. Whether models were actually removed from the market or not, at only 100 pens, this was an incredibly limited run to begin with. These are quite hard to come by and when you do find a nice example for sale with all of its original packaging intact, they command upwards of $3,500, far more than the price of the base M800 they are crafted from. It’s a steep price of admission but the “Laser” could easily serve as the crown jewel in any collection.
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