Everywhere you turn these days, goods and services invariably cost more. Everyday items such as bread, milk, diapers, and gas command prices not seen in decades. The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting supply chain crisis deserve much of the credit for getting the ball rolling but those are only the origins of this story. Russia’s war in Ukraine and the resulting economic sanctions further disrupted many of the global supply chains, adding fuel to the economic fire already raging. Sprinkle in a healthy share of corporate greed for good measure and it’s not too hard to understand how we got here. Prices are now at levels not seen since the 1980s and consumers, who had been better positioned than during past crises to weather the storm early on, are now finding that their household finances are becoming increasingly strained. This is inflation, a rise in prices or the decline of purchasing power over time, and there is little remedy for it at the moment. Pen makers are not insulated from the harsh economic climate any better than the rest of us and the cost of doing business is rising. Pelikan generally raises prices once or sometimes twice a year in order to keep up with the usual annual increases in cost. This generally manifests as a 2-3% increase on fine writing instruments and a 5% increase on inks, refills, and accessories. What we have seen as of November 1st, at least here in the US, is a much more significant increase than in years past, no doubt a reflection of the current global situation. Read on to discover how your favorite Pelikan pens and inks have been affected.
The following breakdown is specifically for the North American market, predominantly the United States, where prices have historically been significantly more than those found in Europe. You will notice in the table below that prices don’t always rise. In fact, 2022 saw a correction of sorts where prices actually stayed stable or were slightly reduced from the year prior. The table below depicts how that played out.
|2021 MSRP||2022 MSRP||Difference||Net Effect|
|M900 Toledo||$2,840||$2,500||$340 less (12% decrease)||Decrease|
|M700 Toledo||$1,680||$1,600||$80 less (4.8% decrease)||Decrease|
|M1000 Black/Green||$1,040||$990||$50 less (4.8% decrease)||Decrease|
|M800 Black/Green||$730||$740||$10 more (1.4% increase)||Increase|
|M600 Black/Green||$530||$580||$50 more (9.4% increase)||Increase|
|M400 Black/Green||$490||$490||$0||No Change|
|M200 Green Marbled||$200||$190||$10 less (5% decrease)||Decrease|
|4001 Royal Blue, 30mL||$10||$9||$1 less (10% decrease)||Decrease|
|Edelstein Tanzanite, 50mL||$35||$35||$0||No Change|
It is important to note that the prices reflected in these tables represents the manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing (MSRP). In the USA, retail prices tend to list for about 20% below these values meaning that these are not the prices you would pay at the register, but they directly impact how much the items will cost you. The changes that took effect on November 1st have significantly increased prices compared with the year prior and at a rate that is higher than we’ve seen in the recent past. With the current increases, the prior year’s reductions have essentially been wiped out and then some for most models. An M400 today, for instance, now cost more than an M600 did just two years ago.
|2022 MSRP||2023 MSRP||Difference||Net Effect|
|M900 Toledo||$2,500||$2,600||$100 more (4% increase)||Increase|
|M700 Toledo||$1,600||$1,700||$100 more (6.3% increase)||Increase|
|M1000 Black/Green||$990||$1,040||$50 more (5% increase)||Increase|
|M800 Black/Green||$740||$820||$80 more (10.8% increase)||Increase|
|M600 Black/Green||$580||$640||$60 more (10.3% increase)||Increase|
|M400 Black/Green||$490||$540||$50 more (10.2% increase)||Increase|
|M200 Green Marbled||$190||$210||$20 more (10.5% increase)||Increase|
|4001 Royal Blue, 30mL||$9||$10||$1 more (11% increase)||Increase|
|Edelstein Tanzanite, 50mL||$35||$37||$2 more (5.7% increase)||Increase|
The larger than usual magnitude of these increases likely reflects a combination of the typical adjustments along with an additional sum that is indicative of the current global economic situation. Forbes, Xometry, and Zogby recently polled 150 manufacturing CEOs in late August which gives us a glimpse into the realities of that sector. Amongst the companies polled, 45% had passed on the cost of inflation to customers, 38% had avoided dosing so, and 17% absorbed the cost despite the financial hit. Looking ahead, 87% of them said that they will hike their prices in 2023. The majority of executives polled who had passed on the costs of inflation said that they increased their prices between 5% and 15%. That fits what we’re seeing here with Pelikan. Keep in mind that Pelikan only sets rates to the first trade level which means for customers buying directly from the company. Any other prices in the market are subject to free market forces. The prices above are handed down from Chartpak, Pelikan’s North American distributor. To bring the disparity between pricing in the USA and the EU into stark relief, we can look at the case of a Black/Green M800 equipped with a medium nib. Vendors in the United States sell this model for $656 at retail. Overseas, the same pen is available to US customers for $401.96 once the VAT is excluded. That is a substantial savings of $254.04, a situation that plays out with essentially every model in the line-up.
Pelikans from top to bottom: M900 Toledo (1991-2002), M700 Toledo (1986-90), M1000 Black/Green (2012-15), M800 Black/Green (2005-10), M600 Black/Green (2003-10), M400 Black/Blue (1997-2003), and M200 Green Marbled (2015). Shocking, but I don’t have a post-1997 Black/Green M400 Souverän in my collection
|2023 MSRP||2023 Expected US Retail Pricing|
|M200 Green Marbled||$210||$168|
In other news, Pelikan updated their main web page last year but the site for their fine writing instruments, which had been in desperate need of revision, was not included in the refresh leaving many to wonder what was going on. Pelikan took their time getting around to it and the rollout, from a layman’s point of view, seemed rather botched. Delays aside, the new fine writing instruments site has finally launched, announced in a newsletter to fans on November 13th. The website plays off of the “Pelikan Passion” branding that they’ve embraced over the last several years. Touted as being more informative and modern, the new website certainly is a bit cleaner than the prior iteration. Interestingly enough, the site is only available in an English language version at present, but the company promises other languages to follow in the near future. Despite their claims to the contrary, I find navigating the new site a tad cumbersome, but it certainly is improved over the prior product and should make for a good starting point for future updates and revisions.
Finally, it’s worth noting a change in the “Make-A-Wish-Nib” program. I believe it was sometime around 2014 that Pelikan began providing an opportunity to get a custom ground nib as part of their factory tour. Starting with a broad nib as the base, a nib specialist would grind the nib to your specifications whilst you wait. It was an appointment only service that required the purchase of a pen at the time of the visit meaning you couldn’t have one of your existing nibs modified. These nibs are distinguished from off the shelf options by an “S” engraved at the base. As special as the service was for some, you were not allowed to observe the actual grinding of the nib itself but were able to test the nib immediately after the grind and the nib specialist would work on it until it met your expectations. Pelikan’s new website states; “Presently, we are reorganizing our internal processes and adjusting our structure of the Make-A-Wish-Nib program. For these reasons, we are unfortunately not offering neither any appointments nor vouchers at this time. As soon as we have new information, we will provide the details here for you.” If you had hoped to partake of this experience in the near future, your plans may have to be adjusted. This is certainly not a service for everyone given the somewhat strict limitations but hopefully it will be back soon for those who do wish to participate.
I am from Europe and always a bit jealous at US prices (at least prior to the period when the Euro was stronger than it is today). Anyway, I noticed you calculate with the EU price excluding VAT (which can be as high as 25% in some European countries, but Germany calculates with 19% VAT). When you buy a pen overseas though, let’s say directly from Germany, you have to pay shipping to the US, but also VAT when the pen arrives at US customs, right? So what’s the difference between the official US mrsp and the imported price then?
I use Germany as my reference standard with regards to the VAT so I’m using the 19% figure. When I place my order for an item from Germany, I pay the retail price with the 19% VAT excluded. In general, shipping to the USA is pricey, anywhere from 30 to 60 euro. As long as the shipment is under $1000, there are no customs fees on my end. Even with shipping then, the savings are still significant. By way of example, Fritz-Schimpf has the Black/Green M800 listed at 463.25 euro. My price here in the USA would be 389.28 euro plus shipping, no customs fees invoked. That makes a world of difference between US pricing and what we can pick the same pen up for overseas.
International customers do not have to pay VAT. USA does not charge customs on goods until $800 USD.
As a Canadian, we can be charged customs on anything over $20 CAD but it’s subject to the whims of our customs officials and nowhere near as much as VAT. I’ve purchased many pens from Europe and more often than not I’ve not been charged customs. I’ve never had to pay VAT.
You are correct and I was mistaken. The threshold is indeed $800 and not $1000 as I had mistakenly stated. “De Minimis Value as the threshold is known, varies from country to country. Items imported into the United States are subject to duty when the value is over USD 800.” In the last 10 years of collecting, I have made hundreds of international purchases and have only been hit with customs for high dollar items such as Maki-e or Raden models. Run of the mill purchases never really flag for customs fees here in the US in my experience.
I appreciate you mentioning the corporate greed. It doesn’t seem to get the press coverage it deserves.
Yes, I think too few people realize that part of these price increases reflect unavoidable factors owing to the state of the world today but a hefty additional sum is simply price gouging.
Wow, heavy prices over there – I paid about 30000 Yen each for 2 M1000s in Japan – NOS.
Those are great prices for an M1000. Yes, the USA has hefty prices indeed, a long standing issue I’m afraid. It’s the reason that I source most of my new pen purchases overseas.
I wonder what the actual Euro prices are for Pelikans in 2023. I guess the increases could be a lot higher than you are showing, because the current strength of the US dollar should make buying European-sourced goods significantly cheaper.
I did not have the updated data for the European RRP available, just the North American figures. I believe that Pelikan has made adjustments overseas as well recently, eating into the margins for EU vendors from what I’ve heard. Challenging times all across the globe but the stronger dollar definitely provides more overseas purchasing power than we’ve had available to us here in the USA for years.
I think that Pelikan would have increased prices despite all the reasons stated. I remember when the Visconti Homo Sapiens were affordable, I think Pelikan is just following the path set by Visconti and the others. I haven’t seen the innovation in these pens that justify paying the extra $250 to $300 dollars for the same pen three to four years ago.
Lower the selection and availability and increase the price, it’s just market manipulation and nothing else.
There has definitely been a trend towards higher pricing, seemingly in an effort to compete in the luxury market and perhaps increase the brand cachet. There is no innovation, just different colors for the most part. I believe that it is a strategy that will eventually have diminishing return. I have seen more and more people turn away from the brand over exorbitant pricing. I agree that market manipulation likely weighs heavy on the final pricing. I would love to know Pelikan’s cost per unit but I’m sure that is something we’ll never discover.
Thanks for this and many previos posts, Joshua. You’ve created an excellent ongoing source of Pelikan-related news and information. Even though this is my first post here, I’m a long-time reader.
I was at the recent Pelikan Hub in Hanover and sat at the same table as one of the team from Pelikan. Someone brought up the topic of the Make-A-Wish-Nib programme. As it was essentially a public event, I don’t think repeating what was said is breaking any confidences, so I feel able to provide my understanding of what was said.
The Make-A-Wish-Nib was in the past created/ground by one of Pelikan’s in-house nib specialists. That person has now retired. Their departure means that the company no longer has someone on payroll with enough spare capacity to work on the nibs, which is after all a rather specialised service. If Pelikan does choose to proceed with the programme, then however it does so will mean greater cost for the company, and ultimately probably a higher-cost service. My guess is that the delay is about Pelikan deciding whether or not it would make financial sense to reintroduce the programme (and then if it does, finding the best way of doing so).
Hello Stephanos. You’re most welcome. I appreciate you sharing the insight on what you learned about the Make-A-Wish-Nib program. That puts the situation in a much clearer light. The decision is all Pelikan’s of course but I think that the final decision will rest on just how popular the prior implementation of the program was. Makes no sense hiring personnel for a seldom used service. It was already an expensive service since you had to buy a pen to get it so I can’t see there being much head room for a price increase. Stay tuned I guess.
The price increase is not the only thing, they are also changing the way the M400/600/800/1000 barrels are made, the space between the stripes is no longer translucent and there is no ink window anymore, as you covered in your blog. I believe they did it to reduce manufacturing cost and delays. So they are not only increasing the prices, they are are also degrading product quality (although how big of a degradation it is is personal taste I guess).
Yes, your assessment is accurate though I wish that it weren’t. Hopefully Pelikan’s decisions will be positive in the long run.
I believe the cost saving from removing transparent parts is that there is no longer a need to polish inside the barrel.
In that vein, I think that it might not only be cost saving. They have a back log of orders so fewer manufacturing steps likely means quicker turn around and throughput. I suspect both factored into the final decision.
not mentioned in the piece, but Pelikan Fount India ink has also reappeared, after becoming unavailable in early 2020. The new ink seems indistinguishable from the earlier ones.
Hello Sam. Truthfully, I wasn’t aware that Fount India had disappeared. It’s not something that I use. Glad to hear that its back for those that have a use for it.
Excuse my lack of sophistication regarding VAT and European purchases. But if I purchase a pen in Europe and carry it home myself, thus no shipping, what is the status of VAT? Will the vendor document that I do not need to pay VAT at the time of purchase? Or is it refunded somehow as I leave the EU?
I am not an expert but can share what I do know. Full disclosure, my knowledge largely comes from past research and not any first hand experience. At the point of sale, you will pay the VAT. Once you leave the country and return home to a non-EU location, you have effectively exported the item and therefore are entitled to a VAT refund. The problem is that I’ve heard it’s a bit of a headache to claim. Different regions have different minimums. I’ve heard working with the merchant is the easiest way but there are agencies that help facilitate this process as well. The claim is made after you’ve left the country since it’s invalid for goods that remain in the country. That’s all I know about the issue.
Many thanks for your insights!
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