The Pelikan 400 of the 1950s and 60s is perhaps one of the most iconic and successful pens ever put out by the company over its 90 year history of fountain pen production. Perhaps it is telling that Pelikan chose this model to rekindle its fountain pen production and turn the company’s fortune around in 1982 with a reincarnation of the 400 dubbed the M400 Souverän. We will focus squarely on the original 400 for the purposes of this article which introduces the final pen in this three-part series. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my in-depth look at both the 300 and the 140 which were in production alongside the 400. Glass negatives in the Pelikan archives indicate that this model was first conceived in 1939 and likely had World War II to thank for its eleven years on the drawing board. Launched on May 25, 1950, the Pelikan 400 was produced for a period of fifteen years (not including a brief resurrection in the 1970s) but underwent several modifications in that time. With each major revision, the suffix “N” was added to the model number. This stood for “neu,” the German word for new, and was a designation only meant to be used internally. This nomenclature was utilized for the 400 as well as several other similarly styled product lines and is the reason we have the 400, 400N, and 400NN. Of course, when these pens were being marketed, they were all simply called the 400 which is why you won’t find the “N” designation in any price list. Read on to learn more about just what changes came with each revision and how to identify them. As you read through, be sure to click on the photos found within to enlarge them for further study.
My recent exploration of the less commonly encountered Pelikan 300 gave me occasion to pull my 140 and 400 out of the pen cabinet. Looking over those two models made me realize that both were equally deserving of their own post so consider this the second installment of a three-part series looking at some of Pelikan’s finest work from the 1950s and 60s. Today we will focus on the 140, the direct successor to the Ibis 130 (1949-54). First introduced in 1952, the 140 came in a plethora of colors, many of which are not often seen today. The 140 was also a platform adapted to unique purposes and sold by other manufacturers without Pelikan’s branding so there is a lot of variety to be found out there. Production officially ran from April of 1952 through July of 1965 and many small changes occurred to the line over that time, particularly early on in the run. These changes can help to date earlier pens and I will endeavor to highlight most of them below. Read on to learn all about this iconic model.
In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. She was the sibling of Cerberus the three-headed hound of Hades and the Hydra, a serpentine water monster. In ancient times, merely sighting the Chimera was an omen for disaster. Today, we use the term to refer to anything made of disparate parts. Pelikan produced a chimera of sorts back in the 1950s though nothing as monstrous as the beast of ancient mythology. The pen that I’m alluding to is the Pelikan 300 which holds a unique spot in the company’s catalog. It was made for export only and positioned in the market between the 140 and 400. It enjoyed a production run of just five years spanning June of 1953 through November of 1957. As such, these are not commonly encountered on the secondary market today. The 300 came in just two colors, a black/green striped version and an all black striped model though an all burgundy variant, possibly a prototype, is known to exist as well. When discussing the 300, it is important to keep in mind that it has no relation to the M300 Souverän which didn’t debut until 1998. Due to a paucity of information out there, I thought that the 300 might be well suited to a post of its own.
Now that we are well into the new year, I thought that it might be worthwhile to explore a topic that many may not have previously thought about. While this post is not specific to the Pelikan brand or even fountain pens, I hope that it will be of some interest to anybody who has invested the time and money to cultivate an assortment of pens and pen related paraphernalia. As many of us know all too well, what starts out as a pen or two can quickly balloon into a collection, the contents of which may grow to represent a substantial outlay. What if something were to happen to that collection? Loss, theft, and fire are all real threats in today’s world and, while only objects, our collections represent an emotional investment as much as one of time and money. As casual collectors, this is hardly on the forefront of our minds but it is something that you should think about at least once. Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. While statistics show that this has been on the decline over the past decade, the menace remains very real. According to the FBI, there were an estimated 7,694,086 property crime offenses in the U.S.A. in 2017 resulting in losses approximating $15.3 billion. That equates to a rate of 2,362.2 crimes per 100,000 people. Burglary accounted for 18.2 percent of all the property crimes cited above and is something that is always in the back of every homeowner’s mind. We all hope that it won’t happen to us but tragedy could be just around the corner which begs the question; “Are you properly covered in the event of a loss?” A few high-profile examples of pen theft over the past few years come to mind. Recall that Dan Smith, aka The Nibsmith, had $40,000 worth of fountain pens stolen from his vehicle in May 2017. Then there was the case of Novelli who was robbed of a large quantity of pens and lighters in August 2018. While these cases represent the unique situation of vendors with large inventories, they still serve as good examples to illustrate the threat that is out there. Of course theft is only one peril that might befall a collection. Read on to learn what you may be covered for and what you should do to protect yourself.
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.
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 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.