The Evolution of the IBIS: A Story Of Death And Resurrection

Pelikan IBIS Box

Last year, we took an in-depth look at the Rappen fountain pen, a lower tier offering from Pelikan that was available during the 1930s and 1940s, priced as a more affordable alternative to the model 100. That work concluded with a look at the so called Rappen-IBIS, an IBIS pen sold under the Rappen branding in order to avoid trademark infringements in certain export markets. Make no mistake about it, however, that model was far more IBIS at its heart than Rappen which begs the question; “What is a Pelikan IBIS? It was October 15, 1936, when the IBIS fountain pen was officially introduced to Germany, replacing the Rappen in that market. Perhaps it was with some deliberation that the IBIS moniker was chosen. In the hierarchy of biological classification, the order Pelecaniformes contains several medium to large waterbirds including the families Pelecanidae (pelicans) and Threskiornithidae (ibises) indicating a distant relation between the company’s namesake bird and the ibis. By the time of the IBIS’ introduction, Günther Wagner had been producing and selling fountain pens under the Günther Wagner/Pelikan brand for seven years. Whereas the Rappen originally employed a bulb filling method with a sac, the IBIS was equipped with a piston filling mechanism more in line with the company’s upmarket offerings. This effectively makes the IBIS a hybrid of sorts, combining the looks of the Rappen with the mechanics of the model 100. Despite being supplanted in Germany, the Rappen would continue to be sold in export markets until the end of World War II and would eventually be outfitted with that same piston filling mechanism towards to end of the product line’s run. Unlike the Rappen, the IBIS would be sold under the Günther Wagner/Pelikan brand, where it continued to fill the gap of a more affordable, entry level model when compared with the 100 and 100N. In their literature to dealers, Pelikan would explain that “The IBIS was created… so that the specialist trade could also offer a solidly made transparent piston filler from Günther Wagner in the medium price range.” Price lists from the 1930s described the IBIS as a “fountain pen of good quality, moderate in price and reliable in use.” World War II had a significant impact on the IBIS’ production, but it would survive the tumult and ultimately go on to enjoy an eleven year production run. Today, many of the surviving pens, especially those from the post-war era, can be had relatively cheaply on the secondary market which makes this a model well worth learning about. Read on to learn how the IBIS fell to the pressures of war only to later be resurrected.

Pelikan IBIS box, pen, and instructions, and guarantee

An early pre-war black IBIS with the original box, guarantee, and instructions

The IBIS can be divided into two distinct designs, essentially pre and post-war variants, separated by World War II. From the time of its introduction in 1936, the pre-war IBIS would be produced in a few different finishes. There was the standard, all black model which is what is found in the price list of the time. Also known to exists are several uniquely marbled variants, chiefly in gray, red, and green, likely made for the export market. Given the nature of the marbled material that these were made from, it has been presumed that their production was most likely early amongst the pre-war models, but examples have been found with Chromium Nickel (CN) nibs suggesting their production extended into the early 1940s. It is unclear why, but none of the colored models are included in any of the price lists available in Hannover’s archives or elsewhere. At the outset, IBIS pens had barrels made from celluloid with hard rubber caps and piston assemblies. The pre-war IBIS measures 4.53 inches long when capped with a diameter of 0.43 inches. They are lighter models, weighing just 0.39 ounces and hold approximately 1.5mL of ink. The piston mechanism is reverse threaded into the back of the barrel and there was a knurled pattern added to the piston knobs of early production models, presumably to provide a better grip. The knurling on the piston knob was omitted towards the end of the pre-war IBIS’ production run. The piston seals were originally made from cork, but synthetic seals were introduced in the early 1940s, completely replacing the cork. Circa 1939/40, Pelikan began to transition away from hard rubber, utilizing celluloid instead. There was likely a transition period where old stock would have been utilized therefore it is possible to find models in the wild dating from this time comprised of mixed components.

A trio of pre-war IBISes spanning production from 1936 to 1942. The marbled variants such as the Gray Marbled depicted here are particularly rare. Click an image to view the gallery

Pelikan IBIS cap

The caps on early pre-war IBIS pens prior to 1940 featured the IBIS name engraved along the side, filled in with reddish-orange paint. The IBIS branding was subsequently moved to the cap top

Pelikan IBIS piston knobs

Piston knobs on pre-war models from earlier in the production run have a knurled pattern (shown on the pen to the left). This was omitted later on in production (shown on the pen to the right)

Pelikan IBIS section and nib

A close up of the section on a pre-war IBIS depicting the ink view and IBIS branded 14C-585 gold nib

Pelikan utilized a black paint inside the barrels of the all black models and the paint on many surviving examples has worn away due to the ravages of time and use, resulting in a demonstrator-esque appearance. Caps belonging to pens produced in the first several years have the word “IBIS” inscribed lengthwise, an engraving which is frequently found filled-in with a reddish-orange paint. This engraving was moved to the cap top sometime around 1940. The cap tops display circumferential inscriptions such as “Günther Wagner,” “IBIS Patent,” and “IBIS Günther Wagner.” These pens have green or yellow ink views behind the section, many of which have become ambered and/or clouded with time. The pens are adorned very simply, featuring only a gold plated drop clip and a single cap band. They originally came equipped with 14C-585 gold nibs featuring the dotted IBIS engraving. Price lists indicate that nibs were available in a variety of widths ranging from very fine to very broad and soft to firm. As the war escalated, the IBIS would be the first of Pelikan’s models to suffer restrictions on precious metals. On February 19, 1937, production of the IBIS transitioned from the use of gold to palladium as the substrate for their nibs, subsequently identified as such via the marking “PD.” Models 100 and 100N would follow suit approximately 15 months later. The IBIS’ nibs were similar in size to those of the 140 which it preceded though the shoulders of the IBIS nib were not quite as broad (6.1mm vs 6.4mm). The IBIS’ nib assembly utilizes the same size collar as the model 100 though the feed is overall shorter. Each feed consists of three fins. Future models such as the 140 and 400 would include four fins on their feeds. Marketed as a quality, lower tier fountain pen, its pricing was consistent with this. In 1938, the model 100 listed at 13.50 Reichsmarks (RM) and the model 100N was listed at 17.50 RM. The IBIS could be had much more affordably at only 7.50 RM. Regarding accessories, a ‘NR. 4 Füllhalter-Ständer für IBIS-Halter’ (fountain pen stand) could be purchased in order to rest the pen in-between periods of writing. In 1942, production of the IBIS would be halted all together, effectively marking the end of the pre-war design.

Pelikan IBIS feeds

Two pre-war IBIS feeds are depicted in the photo above. On the left, the feed has an incomplete center fin. This was replaced by the feed on the right which subsequently included a complete center fin. The feeds are shorter than what is found on the 100 but the collar’s diameter is the same

Pelikan IBIS nibs

Pre and post-war IBISes came with nibs in one of three varieties. Left to right; 14C-585 gold utilized 1936-37, 1949-56, Palladium (PD) utilized 1937-39, and Chromium Nickel (CN) utilized 1939-42, 1949-52

Pelikan price list 70 circa 1938

Page 159 of Pelikan’s price list 70 from 1938 (scanned from my personal library) shows the IBIS along with an optional accessory pen stand

Pelikan number 4 pen stand

An IBIS shown with the optional NR. 4 pen stand for resting the pen between writing

The IBIS would lay dormant for approximately seven years before its re-introduction on June 20, 1949. This time, it was provided a model number, the 130, but this was not the same IBIS as before. Chief amongst the subsequent revisions to the design was the fact that the 130 was made from plastic (injection molded) rather than hard rubber. That said, there has been evidence of post-war pens produced with hard rubber components, likely a reflection of old stock being depleted. The pen was also lengthened by 0.19 inches and now measured 4.72 inches when capped. The extra length added some nominal weight, but the dimensions were otherwise unchanged. The furniture was not altered and again included a drop clip and a single band on the cap, plated in gold. Unlike the earlier version which came in a variety of colors, the post-war model only came in black and featured a green ink view behind the section. There are reports that suggest a dark green version may have been produced but I’m not aware of any examples of such. The cap tops of the post-war pens sport engravings such as “IBIS Günther Wagner” and “IBIS 130 Günther Wagner Germany.” The piston seals on these post-war models are exclusively made from a synthetic material rather than cork. Many examples have the width of the nib originally included with the pen engraved on the piston knob. At the time of its re-introduction, the new IBIS 130s were equipped with chromium-nickel (CN) nibs when offered for sale in the domestic German market, an option that would persists until about 1952. By July 25, 1949, models fitted with 14C-585 gold nibs could be sold on the export market. The German market wouldn’t again see a model 130 with a gold nib until March 2, 1950.

A trio of post-war IBIS 130s spanning production from 1949 to 1954. Click an image to view the gallery

Pelikan IBIS and IBIS 130 compared

The photo above depicts a pre-war IBIS (top) alongside a post-war IBIS 130 (bottom). Note the difference in size between the two with the post-war version being obviously longer

Pelikan models Rappen, IBIS, 140, and 100

The photo above shows the IBIS’ relative size in relation to some other contemporary models. From left to right, Rappen (1939-45), IBIS (1937-40), IBIS 130 (1949-54), Rappen-IBIS (1949-54), 140 (1954-55), and 100 (1942)

Pelikan IBIS 130 piston knobs

The piston knobs of post-war IBIS 130s had the original factory nib width stamped on them for a time

By 1951, pricing of the model 130 varied depending on which nib it was fitted with but remained consistently below the price of the model 100N as well as the newly introduced 400. For instance, a model 130 with a CN nib listed for 10.50 Deutsche marks (DM). A gold nibbed model listed for 14.50 DM. There was an upcharge if one desired a Durchschreibfeder or manifold nib which listed for 17.00 DM. Contrast those prices with a 100N sporting a gold nib which listed at 23.50 DM or a 400 similarly equipped at 25.00 DM. Production of the IBIS would continue on rather uneventfully until its official discontinuation on January 20, 1954. That said, some evidence has suggested that the IBIS would continue on in certain foreign markets (e.g. Switzerland) until approximately 1956. The heir to the IBIS’ throne was none other than the much adored model 140.

Pelikan IBIS advertisement

A mid to late 1930s advertisement for the IBIS extols the pen as “Reliable yet not expensive!”, a common marketing refrain for this model

The post-war IBIS 130 also saw some use as a specialty pen. IBM had developed a machine in the late 1930s that could sense written marks when made with lead or ink with a high graphite content, dubbed Electrographic. In response to this, there was an “Elektrographik” version of the 130 called the 130E, designed for handling the high graphite inks necessary for making marks readable by the machine. It was a low production item likely made in the 1950s. The graphite content of the specialized ink allowed the markings to conduct electricity, a precursor to the modern Scantron machines commonly used for standardized testing today. There were also accounting versions of the 130 produced for companies like Taylorix and the LEOMA-Buchhaltung Augsburg accounting firms. These systems utilized handwritten carbon copies which took more pressure to produce than standard nibs would accommodate. These accounting pens therefore employed Durchschreib or manifold nibs which were very stiff and better suited to that purpose. Pens manufactured for these other parties frequently lacked the markings of a standard IBIS and were largely devoid of any Pelikan specific branding.

Pelikan Elektrographik cap

A Pelikan cap featuring the “Elektorgaphik” engraving designated a pen designed for special use with high graphite containing inks

Pelikan IBIS 130 Taylorix

Depicted above is an example of an IBIS 130 made for the accounting firm Taylorix. The pen shows no Pelikan branding but is unmistakably an IBIS 130

One thing that has been a source of consternation with these models are the variety of nibs found accompanying the IBIS. Regardless of the era of production, the IBIS as a matter of course came fitted with IBIS branded nibs. As discussed above, these came in either 14C-585 gold, Palladium (PD), or Chromium Nickel (CN) variants. Why then do so many of these models feature Pelikan’s standard, non-IBIS branded script nibs or even the logo nibs that launched towards the end of the 130’s production run? My research into this matter was unable to yield a decisive answer. The available price lists offer no insight into this phenomenon, so I turned to the current archivist for Pelikan, Wilfried Leuthold, in an attempt to find a definitive answer to this question. His response was simple and direct (lightly edited for clarity); “As far as I can see, all of these [IBIS] nibs were embossed with the IBIS logo. If you did have a version with a Pelikan nib, then I believe that somebody has changed the original [IBIS] nib into a Pelikan version.” By this logic and based on the frequency with which these pens are encountered with non-IBIS branded nibs, such a swap must have been an incredibly popular option in the past. While earnest, I find this answer to be too simplistic, too reductive and, while I have no specific evidence to contravene the opinion of the archive, my personal sense, based on nothing but my own observations, is that the jury is still out on this one. At the risk of being overly speculative, I think that the preponderance of non-IBIS branded nibs on these pens suggest that it may have been more than just consumers swapping nibs though concede it’s not impossible. One scenario that I could envision would be a buyer who purchased a pen originally equipped with a wartime manufactured CN nib later swapping that nib out for a gold one which may or may not have had the IBIS branding. I would also postulate that it is possible that Pelikan was outfitting some of these models with whatever nibs they could muster given the shortage of available materials during and immediately after the war. I have seen several of these Pelikan branded nibs match the nib width imprinted on the 130’s piston knob, though the evidence is circumstantial at best. While it is feasible someone could exchange nibs of the same size, it at least leaves room for doubt to exist.

An excerpt from Pelikan’s price list 70B dated June 15, 1951. The photo shows Pelikan’s line-up from the early 1950s, including the IBIS 130. The expanded view on the right clearly shows that the pen is depicted with an IBIS branded nib (click to enlarge)

Pelikan branded IBIS 130 nibs

A sampling of Pelikan branded nibs that have been found on IBIS 130 fountain pens

Pelikan IBIS guarantee

A copy of the guarantee that accompanied the IBIS. The text translates to; “I fully guarantee the quality of the IBIS fountain pen and its nib. Damage caused by material and manufacturing defects will be repaired free of charge. Do not disassemble the fountain pen!”

As you can see, the IBIS was a capable successor to the Rappen and admirably bridged the gap between the entry level segment and the company’s more upmarket offerings. Despite the lower price, the IBIS remained a capable piston filler that provided a lot of value for the money in its day. Its lack of colorful finishes or gold embellishments fits well with the prevailing German sensibilities of the time. The fact that the model was resurrected after its wartime hiatus is likely a testament to its popularity. Sales of the IBIS most certainly helped Günther Wagner and Pelikan regain some of the footing lost in the markets during and in the aftermath of World War II. While it remains curious as to why so many of these are found with such a variety of nibs on today’s secondary market, the dissonance in no way detracts from the pen’s style or performance. The IBIS remains an affordable vintage Pelikan that has held up well over the years and makes for a great addition to any collection but also serves as an excellent means of entry for anyone wishing to get a taste of vintage Pelikan on the cheap.

Pelikan IBIS instructions

A German language copy of the original instructions that accompanied the IBIS including the filling and cleaning of the pen along with some additional notes and tips



  • 1929 – Günther Wagner introduces the Transparent Pelikan Fountain Pen.
  • 1931 – Due to the introduction of additional models, the Transparent Pelikan Fountain Pen is assigned the designation “model 100.” Upscale versions of the product designated as models 110, 111, T111, and 112 are introduced to the market.
  • 1932 – The Rappen brand of fountain pen with a bulb-filling mechanism is introduced to the German and export markets at half the price of a model 100.
  • 1936 – The piston filling IBIS is officially introduced to the German market on October 15. The Rappen is discontinued domestically but remains available to export markets.
  • 1937 – On February 19, the IBIS is no longer equipped with gold nibs. Palladium (PD) is now used due to wartime restrictions. The feed is also slightly altered, extending the center ebonite fin. The previously bulb-filling Rappen is now produced with a piston filling mechanism, bringing it more in line with the IBIS, for sale in markets such as Holland and Argentina. Some regions continue to list the bulb-filling version.
  • 1939 – The use of palladium is abandoned in October due to further wartime restrictions. The IBIS now comes equipped with a chromium nickel (CN) nib.
  • 1940 – The piston assembly is modified. The previously utilized cork seals are replaced with a synthetic version. Aside from the nib feeds, Pelikan transitions away from hard rubber components. The “IBIS” engraving on the cap is moved to the cap top.
  • 1942 – Production of the IBIS is discontinued.
  • 1945 – The Rappen brand of fountain pens is seemingly discontinued.
  • 1949 – On June 20, the IBIS 130 is reintroduced, now featuring a model number, resin components, a Chromium Nickel nib, and elongated dimensions. It comes to be sold in certain export markets under the Rappen branding in an effort to avoid trademark infringement. By July 25, the IBIS 130 is again available with a gold nib for the export market.
  • 1950 – By March 2, the IBIS 130 is again being sold with gold nibs in the domestic German market. The model 400 is introduced on May 25.
  • 1952 – The model 140 is introduced on April 22.
  • 1954 – Come January 20, production of the IBIS 130 is officially discontinued.
  • 1956 – The IBIS 130 continues to appear in the price lists of some export markets until 1956 after which no further mention is made.


11 responses

  1. Joshua what a great article I never knew about this pen,you gave a lot of great information,thanks.DebraJI are you the Debra that I knew from the Jersey pen club,I was the one who won the Pelikan at our first meeting.


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