A brand is often a company’s greatest asset. Frequently more than just a logo, tagline, or ad campaign, a brand is the sum total of the consumer’s experiences and interactions with it. Brands are fueled by a purpose and nurtured by the emotional attachment that they cultivate with their target audience. They are the vehicle by which a company defines itself, allowing it to differentiate its products and services from those of its competitors. Brand names can have a significant impact on the consumer’s perceived quality of a product, an item’s price, or even someone’s intention to purchase. The rise of global branding has transformed the marketing industry over the past century. While many brands have been able to successfully conform to a variety of cultures and their values, the discipline is littered with examples where that wasn’t the case. In a field complicated by cultural factors, the diversity of languages, and nationalism, adapting a brand name to the language of the target market can mean the difference between success and failure but the choice is not always so clear-cut. Linguistic and cultural assessments are key when entering a new market and this is something that Pelikan wrestled with in the first half of the twentieth century.
Pelikan’s fountain pen production spans nearly nine decades and more than a few mysteries have arisen over that time. Many of those puzzles relate to the provenance of certain models and are born largely from the lack of available documentation today. One lasting consequence of World War II (1939-45) has been the destruction of countless historic records. An area of fountain pen production that has been subjected to a fair bit of speculation has been the models attributed to Günther Wagner’s Danzig-Langfuhr plant. This facility is chiefly known for a unique version of the Pelikan 100N that has long been attributed to it. Danzig is the German word for Gdańsk, a Polish city on the Baltic coast. Following World War I (1914-18), the Treaty of Versailles established the Free City of Gdańsk, a territory that was under the oversight of the League of Nations. While largely influenced by Polish rule, the region remained fairly independent, acting as a conduit between Poland and Germany. The Polish or Danzig Corridor as this region was known was created so that Poland would not be landlocked or completely dependent on German ports. German citizens could cross the corridor by railroad, but were not permitted access to it without special authorization. Danzig’s unique status between the two nations prompted many German manufacturers to establish a presence there in order to sell goods in Poland without incurring the high customs fees that were usually levied on products from foreign companies. In the borough of Wrzeszcz (the Polish word for Langfuhr) during the late 1800s, brick carriage houses served as the base of operations for the troops of the 17th West Pomeranian Railway Battalion. Following World War I, those troops moved out of the region and the demilitarized area was turned into an industrial park of sorts. It was well suited to this purpose being on the outskirts of the city with a well-developed rail line running through the area. It is in this borough of Gdańsk where Günther Wagner would come to establish a factory. Due to a large population of Germans in the region, the Nazi party eventually came to demand that the city be turned over to Germany while the minority Poles hoped for a return to Poland. Hitler used the status of the city as a pretext for attacking Poland in September of 1939.
Pelikan has several brightly colored models in its stable of past releases though only a precious few bear the moniker ‘vibrant.’ Prior to this year, we only had the M600 Vibrant Green (2014) and the M805 Vibrant Blue (2016). It seems a biennial pattern of vibrant releases is emerging because this year we’ve been given the M600 Vibrant Orange. It may surprise you to learn that these finishes are not unique nor did they originate with these larger birds. Back in 2004, Pelikan gave us the M320 Orange followed by the M320 Green three years later. The smallest of the Sovueräns, these tiny pens pioneered the vibrant finish even if they weren’t named as such. Other manufacturers have produced similar finishes which can be seen with the Delta Dolce Vita Oro, Pineider Avatar Saffron Yellow, and the Aurora 88 Sole to name just a few. Pelikan appears to have dusted off the old cellulose-acetate to bring us this year’s Vibrant Orange. Looking back at the releases that have graced the M6xx line in recent years, it certainly looks as though this line, more than any other, is Pelikan’s outlet for colorful expression. I’d wager that few lines have seen the bouquet of colors that the M6xx has which is ironic since so many voices have clamored for a Tortoiseshell Brown or Anthracite Stresemann to grace the platform. As my little kindergartener tells me, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” So it is with open arms that I welcomed the Vibrant Orange into my flock and after some use, have found it unique enough to review. Read on to find out if this is the model for you. I have a suspicion it may well be the last official release we see out of Hannover for 2018.
In my review of this year’s Stone Garden M800, I included a picture of the Nord/LB limited edition which generated a few inquiries. Given the history behind the Nord/LB and its somewhat obscure nature, I thought that the topic would be ripe for a post of its own. First off, this limited edition was designed at the request of the Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale. Somewhat unique to Germany, the Landesbanken are a group of state-owned banks that are regionally organized and predominantly focused on wholesale banking. Abbreviated Nord/LB, this North German bank was at one time counted amongst the top 10 banks in Germany and the top 100 banks in the world. As of 2016, the company’s total income was $2.3 billion with total assets of approximately $205 billion. It is a public corporation owned by the federal states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt with headquarters in Hannover. Originally established in 1765 as the Braunschweigische Staatsbank, it began operating under its current name on July 1, 1970 following the merger of four predecessors. Nord/LB specializes in investment banking, agricultural and real estate banking, corporate finance, ship and aircraft financing, and private banking. In 1995, the company celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding. To mark the occasion, the firm’s board contracted with Pelikan in order to provide each of its employees at the time with a Limited Edition Souverän M800 fountain pen. The pen in question was never made available for purchase to the general public but several examples have entered into the collector’s space over the past 23 years.
The Perch may have been quiet recently but I assure you that it has not been idle. Almost a year’s worth of research on a very interesting topic is coming to a close and I hope to get it out into the wild in the coming weeks. For today’s post, I wanted to bring you something a little more timely because I know that a lot of people remain on the fence about this one. I’m referring to Pelikan’s recently released M800 Stone Garden. Pelikan’s pre-release photos continue to cause consternation amongst potential customers. In this case, the official marketing photos look more like a computer rendered image than an actual photograph. With so much of the decision to purchase a fountain pen relying on its visual appeal, inaccurate photos can result in significant buyer’s remorse. Sadly, that is just how many products are advertised today. Pelikan’s literature describes the pen as follows;
“Stone gardens are known for their serenity and peaceful effect. The new Special Edition Souverän 800 Stone Garden was created to be symbolic of this special place and the calming influence from life’s hectic everyday pace. The combination of opaque dark blue and the sophisticated marbled structure with blue and brown colors give a noble and elegant look to this series.”
While dark blues and browns are not the palette of most of the stone gardens that I have ever encountered, I’m willing to allow Pelikan some artistic license provided that the pen is able to bring something new to the table. It has been a very conservative and dichromatic year thus far for the bigger birds as seen with the M815 Metal Striped and the M805 Raden Royal Platinum. Read on to find out whether or not the Stone Garden can bring some much needed color to this year’s line up.
The quintessential collector understands passion. It permeates every act of assembling, using, preserving, and displaying whatever may be the focus of one’s interest. The aforementioned undertaking can convey a tremendous sense of satisfaction. The activities of the collector should not, however, be confused with those of a hoarder. The collector is deliberate, focused, even if only loosely, and with a self-awareness that the hoarder lacks. Why do we collect? It seems to be a part of human nature, the motivations behind it as varied as the individuals who partake. Some of us do it as a celebration of the objects as works of art. Others use collecting in order to make sense of the world or as a means of accumulating a source of knowledge and ideas. Collecting can showcase a prowess or even be used to teach a lesson. Over the years, Pelikan has produced individual pens meant as part of a larger grouping. One such assortment began in 2001 when Pelikan released the first model in a group of pens known as the City Series. These special editions have become incredibly coveted by collectors. The pens are part of the M6xx line and officially dubbed M620. A total of twelve models in all were made and collectors have spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to amass the entire series. Many have been successful while others continue the hunt. What follows is meant to highlight the City Series and to pay homage to the efforts of my fellow collectors. I can assure you that photos do not do these pens any justice. Their beauty needs to be seen in person in order to be truly appreciated. This particular post is dedicated to the efforts of Mike W., a fastidious collector whose years of effort and perseverance brought the pens that you see below together.
The Edelstein collection of inks now spans 15 different shades inspired by various gemstones. These have been split between a standard perennial line up of eight inks with the remaining seven comprising a more limited edition series usually only available for a short time. In a surprise move during March of 2017, Pelikan announced that Aquamarine, the 2016 Ink of the Year, would become part of the regular line-up, swelling the ranks to nine. Today, Pelikan took to social media to announce another resurrection. This time it is Garnet, the 2014 Ink of the Year, that will joint the standard assortment, bringing the total number to an even ten.
“We have some great news for you! It‘s back again: our Edelstein Ink of the Year 2014 Garnet is now part of our standard assortment! 🙂 Catch it, if you can. 😊”
Garnet was billed as a dark red color. The fact that this is the second time an older limited edition has been put back into service suggests that this might be a new trend for Pelikan. That possibility may give hope to those longing for some of the inks from days gone by. Amber, Turmaline, and Amethyst come to mind as past fan favorites that have been sorely missed since their discontinuation. I’m a little bit at a loss as to why Garnet may have been chosen ahead of any one of those. It’s not that Garnet doesn’t have its admirers but it generally received somewhat mixed reviews at the time of its original release. Amber, in my opinion, would have been the smart play here, hands down. Still, I won’t complain about added variety and I’ll take heart in the fact that we may yet see some of the more desired inks make a return. What are your thoughts on Garnet’s new status?
In January of this year, I reported that Pelikan pens equipped with an EF nib and sold in the European Union were to experience a price increase of 10-12%. We have since seen this in full effect across all of the releases out of Hanover this year. What this translates into is that an EF furnished M800 cost €44 (~$50.79) more, an M600 cost €32 (~$36.94) more, and an M205 cost €10.40 (~$12.01) more than the same model equipped with an F, M, or B nib. To add insult to injury, it’s not as if the premium price is buying anything new or improved. So why did Pelikan single out the EF nib? The official explanation offered was that EF nibs are popular, make up a decent portion of sales and, due to their extra fine width, take more time to produce due to the extra grinding and polishing that needs to occur for a smooth writing experience. If that justification sounds weak, consider the alternative explanation put forth by several sources citing that the unofficial reason for this price increase was to discourage EU vendors from selling their wares to Asia. The implication then is that the price increase represented Pelikan’s attempt to further control the market. To date, the United States has been spared from this practice. Perhaps that is due to the fact that U.S. customers already pay a significant premium when purchasing domestically. Well, it appears the other shoe has finally dropped and, to the excitement of no one, Pelikan has decided to extend the EF premium across the pond with the release of the M600 Vibrant Orange.