The Pencil Is Mightier Than The Pen – Part 1: An Exploration Of The 350

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil

Pelikan introduced their first mechanical pencil to the market on June 26, 1934. The model 200, known as the AUCH-Pelikan, was initially designed to accompany the 100 and, later on, the 100N line of fountain pens. The AUCH-Pelikan continued to be manufactured until October of 1951 with little variation in its design over its 17-year production run. The 1950s would bring a flurry of new mechanical pencils, most designed with an eye towards matching Pelikan’s burgeoning line-up of fountain pens. Pelikan’s focus has always seemed to rest squarely upon their pens with add-ons like mechanical pencils being more of a secondary consideration. That isn’t to say that Pelikan’s mechanical pencils aren’t solid additions to their other writing implements, they absolutely are. In fact, the pencils that they produced were even somewhat ahead of their time when you compare them with other brands. It’s just that the development of their pencil lines has never seemed to be a primary goal. One of the first models to follow on the heels of the AUCH-Pelikan was the 350, first introduced on October 24, 1950. This model changed its looks several times over the course of its production run and is therefore worth exploring in a bit more detail. As far as companion pieces go, the 350 would actually have a few different dancing partners early on in its existence. Care should be taken to not confuse the vintage 350 mechanical pencil that we are discussing here with either the #350 fountain pen made for the Japanese market or the M350 Vermeil fountain pen, two modern models produced in the 1990s. Read on to explore all of the 350’s many forms.

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil Packaging

An example of the original packaging and warranty information that would have accompanied a 350 mechanical pencil

The very first iteration of the 350 mechanical pencil, version I if you will, was meant as a companion piece for the 100N which was entering into the last few years of its production at the time of the 350’s release. This earliest version of the 350 featured either a Green Marbled top half and a black lower half separated by a gold band, or an entirely Black barrel designed to match the standard finishes of the 100N. Also present on this early version was a drop clip that likewise matched that of the 100N. The gold band in the center generally lacked an inscription which was instead found along the topmost portion of the barrel. It typically reads something like “Pelikan Günther Wagner” or “Pelikan 350 Günther Wagner Germany” when present. There is a gold cone at the tip and a black, plastic clip nut surrounds the push button at the back of the barrel. Unlike the AUCH-Pelikan, the conical tip of the 350 lacks any slits, a feature that Pelikan touted in their literature as preventing wear and tear. These early pencils also do not have any type of built-in eraser. The push button at the back end of the barrel is retained by a spring washer. Removing the push button reveals the chamber that stores and feeds lead into the mechanism. Unlike many other mechanical pencils from the era, these self-feed from the reservoir rather than front load via the tip. The first version of the 350 measures 5.03 inches long, has a diameter of 0.42 inches, and weighs 0.60 ounces.

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil and 100N fountain pen

A Pelikan 100N Green Marbled fountain pen (1949-53) alongside its matching 350 mechanical pencil (1950-55)

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil

The first version of the 350 mechanical pencil had a green marbled barrel and drop clip to match the 100N fountain pen

Pelikan 200 and 350 mechanical pencils

The model 200 AUCH-Pelikan on the left had slits at the tip whereas the 350’s design, as seen to the right, omitted these

One word of caution about this first version of the 350 since that is the model which I find most frequently afflicted. The plastic clip nut that sits above the clip, surrounding the push button, is exposed and therefore at risk for damage. It is not uncommon to encounter one of these pencils for sale with what appears to be a brass clip nut featuring a series of exes (xxx) around its circumference. Having seen these come up for sale a number of times prompted me to seek an explanation from Pelikan’s archives. According to the current archivist, Wilfried Leuthold, “This is the inner part of the clip nut. The black plastic part is missing! The xxx embossing was necessary to fix both parts together.” This is clearly the case as you can see the diameter of the brass clip nut is not as it should be. The pencil functions just fine in this condition but is damaged and should be priced accordingly. Also, I don’t mean to imply that later versions cannot be similarly impacted, it’s just with this first variant that I tend to see this occur most often.

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil

Early versions of the 350 can sometimes be found missing the plastic piece surrounding the clip nut, a weak spot prone to damage after decades of use

 Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencils
Pelikan 350 mechanical pencil clip nut

The pencil on the left sports a black clip nut which is how the pen was manufactured and sold. The brass nut on the right lacks the plastic outer casing. The xxx embossing was part of the assembly process necessary to help marry the plastic to the metal

With the 100N exiting the scene in January of 1954, the 350’s appearance was altered to re-purpose it as the companion pencil for the newly minted model 140 which launched in April of 1952. While not explicitly stated in any of the available literature, it is also conceivable that this would have made a good companion piece to the model 300 fountain pen that launched in July of 1953 for the Swiss and Scandinavian markets. This second version of the 350 saw the drop clip removed, replaced with the now iconic beak clip that the models from the 1950s first made famous. The available finishes were also expanded to match the 140 line with Red, Blue, Gray, and Green variants following on April 22, 1952. The Gray model, like the fountain pen it was designed to match, only lasted three months in production making it an exceedingly rare find today. A Black/Green striped model was the last to be produced, launching on February 13, 1954. Despite all of the additional colors, it was only the Green Marbled and Black variants which continued production into the early 1960s. All of the changes to the second version were largely cosmetic meaning that the dimensions and function remained the same as the first version. The engraving was moved from the top of the barrel to the band in the pencil’s center which commonly reads, “Pelikan 350 Pelikan 350.”

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil and 140 Fountain Pen

The second version of the 350 was altered to match the 140 fountain pen. The colors were expanded, and the beak clip was introduced. The gray models on the left were only produced over 3 months in 1952 and are very rare. The blue models to the right were made in the early 1950s

Pelikan 140 and 300 fountain pens along with 350 mechanical pencils

The second and third version of Pelikan’s 350 mechanical pencils seen with their matching 140 (left) and 300 (right) fountain pens

For the most hardcore amongst you looking to earn extra credit, now would be a good time to pause and remember the Gimborn 175 mechanical pencil which was a kissing cousin of the first two versions of the Pelikan 350. Second generation company owner Max von Gimborn (1872-1964) inherited a manufacturing plant in Heerenberg, Netherlands from his father which he would move to Zevenaar in 1907. The Dutch arm of the H. van Gimborn company manufactured office supplies, but the business would ultimately be acquired by Günther Wagner in 1931.  As a Pelikan subsidiary, the Gimborn 150 Master fountain pen would come to be assembled at the Zevenaar factory from 1951 to 1957, an amalgamation of Pelikan produced parts. As has previously been discussed on this blog, the Gimborn 150 was incredibly similar in design to the Pelikan 300. It should not be surprising then to learn that the 150 also had an accompanying pencil, the 175, which likewise would be based off of the Pelikan 350. The two models were the same size and featured a plastic clip nut, a drop clip, a gold band in the center, and a golden cone shaped tip. The 175 was available in the solid colors of red, green, blue, black, and gray. Like the Gimborn 150 and Pelikan 300 fountain pens, the Gimborn 175 and Pelikan 350 mechanical pencils have an eerily similar appearance thanks to their close kinship. At the time of its manufacture, the 175 pencil cost 12.50 Dutch guilders.

Gimborn 150 Master fountain pen and 175 pencil advertisement

An advertisement depicting the Gimborn 150 master fountain pen and the 175 mechanical pencil. Both models were made with Pelikan produced parts, hence the similarity between models

Getting back to Pelikan proper, it was during the production run of the second version of the 350 that the self-contained eraser was introduced to the design. From the 350’s introduction in 1950 and through all of 1954, Pelikan’s mechanical pencils were devoid of an eraser, a standard feature today, but one that was slower to be adopted in Europe during the early days of mechanical pencils. Starting in 1955, Pelikan would introduce a self-contained eraser into the 350’s design. Because most of the colored models ceased production by 1955, they are usually found without an eraser. Those models that persisted beyond 1955 would from then on be found with an eraser attached to the bottom of the push-button. The first iteration featured a shorter eraser contained within an elongated plastic shaft, surrounded by a brass casing which would have to be unscrewed and removed to facilitate its use. While somewhat cumbersome by today’s standards, it was a major step forward in terms of convenience and usability. Below the brass casing is where the lead reservoir would continue to be found. This design was again altered in 1959 to coincide with further changes to the model as outlined below. The eraser would be doubled in size and no longer protected in a brass casing. Instead, there was a small plug that separated the lead reservoir from the eraser. Holding the pencil upside down caused a small rod or pin to drop out of the back of the barrel which could then be used to remove the plug, exposing the reservoir beyond. Rubber degrades over time therefore the original erasers included with these are generally no longer functional as a consequence of their age. While Pelikan no longer makes a suitable OEM replacement for these vintage pencils, a Staedtler 77N R52 or similar eraser can be substituted very satisfactorily. One thing that may not be readily known is that the push buttons sporting erasers could be reversed, leaving the eraser exposed in order to better facilitate its intermittent use.

Pelikan 350 mechanical pencil without eraser

From the 350s introduction in 1950 through all of 1954, Pelikan’s mechanical pencil was devoid of an eraser. The push button mechanism was retained by a spring washer

Pelikan 350 mechanical pencil with eraser

From 1955 through 1958, Pelikan’s first attempt at an eraser saw it contained within a brass casing which had to be unscrewed to facilitate its use

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil with eraser

From 1959 through 1963, the eraser was elongated, and the brass casing done away with. A plug was incorporated that sealed the reservoir from the eraser

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil with eraser

The push button could be reversed to leave the eraser exposed for convenient use

Pelikan mechanical pencil instructions

An excerpt from Pelikan’s instruction manual depicting how the push button could be converted into an eraser

Pelikan erasers

The two erasers on the left are original, produced by Pelikan. The first was included with models that utilized the brass casing. The second one is the longer version that came with the eraser that featured a plug. To the right is a Staedtler 77N R52 eraser as sold and removed from its plastic housing. In this state, it can be retrofitted to fit Pelikan’s pencils

The 350 mechanical pencil would go through one more revision, this one occurring on December 28, 1959, creating the third and final version. In addition to the changes to the eraser as outlined above, it was at that point in time that the pen was streamlined into a smaller form factor. The new dimensions included a length of 5.12 inches with a diameter of 0.39 inches and a weight of 0.53 ounces. The appearance of the clip was also altered. The new, more svelte model was lighter, longer, and thinner than what had been produced before. The engraving on the gold band in the center of these also changed, commonly displaying “Pelikan 350 – Germany.” By this time, only the Green Marbled, Black, and Black/Green versions persisted according to Schreibgeräte, but these too would cease production by April of 1963 which corresponded with the final production year of the 140.

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencil

The third and final version of Pelikan’s 350 was lighter, longer, and thinner than its predecessors. They subsequently contained less lead in the reservoir due to the narrower diameter

Like most of Pelikan’s vintage mechanical pencils, the 350’s many variants invariably take 1.18mm lead thanks to the prevailing convention of the time. None of the 350s accept lead that is any finer, which is not necessarily the case for its higher end brother, the 450. The reservoirs inside both the first and second versions hold 15 pieces of replacement lead measuring 5cm each. This was a carryover from the days of the AUCH-Pelikan when a full pencil held approximately 75cm of usable graphite. With the 1959 revision, the slimmer body necessitated a max capacity of only 10 pieces of lead giving these a lead write out measuring 50cm. Lead remained available in a variety of colors (red, blue, green, and red-violet) in order to suit various purposes. Colored push buttons could be special ordered to match a colored lead for easier identification at a glance. By 1962, lead would be sold by Pelikan in the grades of 3H, H, HB, B, and 2B, a slight expansion over that which was available for the model 200. Copy lead could also be purchased for this pencil. Just like the model 200 that preceded it, the mechanism of the 350 was promoted as having a pair of pincers and a clamp to extend and prevent any unintentional rotation or retraction of the lead.

Pelikan 350 mechanical pencil

Lead could be purchased for the 350 mechanical pencil in small, round tubes that contained 15 pieces which were available in various colors and grades

Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencils disassembled

A Pelikan 350 disassembled to show its component pieces. Photo courtesy of Natasha B.

In 1951, the 350 represented Pelikan’s lower priced tier of mechanical pencils, a position it shared with the 250. That doesn’t mean these were necessarily cheap, coming in at 8.50 Deutsche Marks (DM). The 350, like the AUCH-Pelikan that came before, had simple mechanics which promoted a robust and lasting performance which largely owes to the simplicity of the design. Many of these models continue to go strong today. The push button mechanism is generally stiff with a satisfying click that extends the lead roughly 1.25mm with each actuation. The addition of the eraser further improved the usability of these models later on in their run. These are great companion pieces for the 100N, 140, and 300 which can still be had for fairly reasonable prices on the secondary market today. One final point of clarification that I would like to add is that the classification of these pencils as either version I, II, or III is my own and introduced here solely for simplicity’s sake to better facilitate distinguishing the model’s evolution over time.

FinishProduction BeginsProduction Ends
Green Marbled10/24/19501960
Black/Green, Striped2/13/19544/1963
Dates are approximate and are extrapolated from both Martin Lehmann’s web reference as well as the Schreibgeräte text
Pelikan 350 Mechanical Pencils

The Pelikan 350 in its many forms. From top to bottom; Version I produced 10/24/1950 – 1952, version II produced from 1952 – 1959, and version III produced from 12/28/1959 – 4/1963. All told, the 350 enjoyed nearly a 13 year production run


7 responses

  1. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your knowledge – it’s very much appreciated! It was very interesting discover that you started the blog to share the fruits of your research and that you have a ‘real’ job elsewhere – haha! I wondered if you write your doctors notes with a fountain pen, and if so, how often do they smudge/run?


    • I used to when we used to write. Now we type so much, the fountain pen is relegated to jotting notes. No, I never really had issues with smudge. The big problem was feathering due to poor paper quality so nib and ink selection was always a paramount concern.


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