October is a busy month, playing host to a number of international holidays such as Oktoberfest and Halloween to name just a few. It is punctuated by the crisp fall air, a tapestry of fall foliage, and the scent of pumpkin spice. Perhaps less well known globally is that October is also home to German Unity Day, celebrated on the third day of the month. It was 1990 when East and West Germany were reunited after 40 years of division set against the backdrop of the Cold War. The most recognizable symbol of that division was the Berlin Wall, a concrete barrier under armed guard that served as both a physical and ideological barrier from 1961 to 1989. Built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and portrayed as protecting the eastern population from fascism in the west, the wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany. It became a tale of two Germanys with the West, guided by the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), flourishing under capitalist rule whereas the East languished under Communism, facing regular shortages and a lack of opportunity. Such was the case until political unrest and revolution within several Eastern Bloc countries helped fuel dissent in the East. Faced with increasing pressure due to mounting protest, the communist leadership opened the border between the two states on November 9, 1989. A celebration ensued as crowds of East and West Germans intermingled freely for the first time in decades. This paved the way for German reunification, which went into effect on October 3, 1990, via treaty. To commemorate the occasion, Pelikan released a special edition “Rebirth of a New Germany” Green-Black M800, exclusive to the Japanese market. It’s a model not commonly encountered outside of Japan therefore you may have never seen one before. Read on to find out what, if anything sets this fountain pen apart.
Perhaps more striking than the pen itself is the presentation. The original packaging consists of an outer box made of brown cardboard that simply had the Pelikan logo emblazoned in gold lettering across the top. This houses a plain wooden box featuring rounded edges and two metal hinges. The clamshell design opens to reveal three distinct pieces embedded within the brown, felt covered lining. The first is a single 7.5 inch long stick of Pelikan’s 60/10 red sealing wax. The next is an ornate wax seal stamp, presumably made from a solid piece of brass. The design of the handle has some rounded embellishments to add a bit of style. The actual stamp features Pelikan’s former two chick logo. Measuring 3 inches in length, it weighs in at 108 grams (3.75 oz) and feels fairly substantial in the hand. Between these two pieces is a Green-Black Pelikan M800 which I will describe in more detail below. A gold colored plaque is affixed to the inside of the lid which displays the German flag along with the words “Commemoration For The Unification Of East And West Germany” followed by the corporate logo. The box and its design make for an attractive display.
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There are only two pieces of literature contained within the box. The first is a small leaflet detailing the company’s warranty and filling instructions, both written in Japanese, along with the contact details for Pelikan Japan in Tokyo on the back. The other piece is a small, green card folded in half. On the front are the same words found inscribed on the plaque within the box. On the inside are instructions on how to use the sealing wax. The Japanese text roughly translates to; “After melting the sealing wax, wait about 30 seconds before using it with a stamp. If the melted wax is sooted and turned black, stir it to finish it in a beautiful color.” The back of the card features the text; “The commemoration of the Rebirth of a New Germany special limited commemorative fountain pen (20K Bi-color nib). The masterpiece of Germany, praised by the world, Pelikan Fountain Pen Co., Ltd. released a limited edition fountain pen here on October 3, 1990, to celebrate the unification of East and West Germany.”
Lastly, we have the M800 itself which is remarkably unremarkable. The pen sports brass medallions embedded within the cap top and piston knob, in this case, the ones which were in use from 1989-1997. One might expect that a pen celebrating the unification of East and West Germany would proudly feature the word “Germany” inscribed on the cap band but that is not the case here. Instead, the cap band reads, “Pelikan W.-Germany,” likely a reflection of the stamping dies not yet being retooled to reflect the new national reality. There are no special engravings or unique markers to indicate the events that this pen commemorates. The cap, piston knob, and section are made from black resin and the barrel features the iconic green stripes that Pelikan is known for. The furniture is all gold plated and standard for any M800 Souverän hailing from the late 1980s/early 1990s. The only distinguishing characteristic of this M800 is the 20C-833 two toned gold nib that it sports. 20 carat nibs are a Pelikan oddity found on the earliest of Toledos but mostly within the Asian markets on certain M800 models for reasons that have never been made quite clear.
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There you have it; a thorough look at one of Pelikan’s mostly forgotten special edition M800s. While the pen may not be particularly memorable, the events that it commemorates should never be forgotten. While I endeavored to provide a brief overview in my introduction, I barely scratched the surface and would encourage anyone with even a remote interest to seek out additional resources in order to review in more detail the historical events that led to the division and eventual reunification of Germany. As far as pens go, I continue to be amazed by the unique microcosm of releases that seem to revolve solely around the Japanese market. If you’re wondering just how a 20C-833 nib stacks up against the traditional 18C-750 nib, the experience by the end user is little different and perhaps something that I will explore further in a follow-up post. The inclusion of a 20 carat nib here was likely solely for marketing purposes. Japan’s top fountain pen manufacturers (Pilot, Sailor, and Platinum) dabbled in higher gold content nibs several decades ago, trying to outdo one another, therefore many consumers came to regard nibs of higher gold content as being of better quality. If nothing else, this M800 makes for a neat foot note in Pelikan’s production history, one that has been obscured by a dearth of details until now.
I would like to thank MinAsuka for help with some of the Japanese to English translations.