Pelikan’s schedule of new releases has been unavoidably altered for 2020 due to the global issues affecting us all today. One of the most highly anticipated models expected this year has been a fountain pen inspired by the Edelstein Ink of the Year, Moonstone. I’m happy to report that the wait is now over as Bookbinders, a stationary shop out of Australia, has given us our first glimpse of the M205 Moonstone Special Edition Demonstrator. The latest special edition to join the Classic series continues the tradition that began with the M205 Amethyst (2015) and now marks the sixth release to be based on their Edelstein line of inks. The M205 Moonstone joins ranks with the M205 Star Ruby (2019), M205 Olivine (2018), M200 Smoky Quartz (2017), M205 Aquamarine (2016), and the M205 Amethyst (2015). Last year’s Star Ruby broke the mold by employing a material with a sparkly, shimmering character. The Moonstone looks to continue this trend by utilizing the same sparkling material encased within a dark gray translucent medium. Pre-orders should be available from most vendors by September 1st with this one expected to hit store shelves sometime in early October.
It was just eight months ago that Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization to several pneumonia cases of unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China. To most of us, I’m sure it feels like much longer due to the global saga that has since ensued. We are now all too familiar with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Not since the H1N1 influenza outbreak of 1918 have we seen a pandemic with such far reaching ramifications for everyday life. Countries across the world have taken unique and unprecedented measures to try and stop the spread of the virus. These have varied in severity by location and have met with mixed degrees of success. Actions universally agreed upon to be effective have included social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene. Germany’s government and healthcare system were well positioned to tackle the challenges posed by the virus at the outset but that is not to say they have had it easy. With the fourth largest economy in the world and approximately 11% of its gross domestic product spent on health care, Germany ranks among the top five countries in the European Union for the number of nurses and physicians per 1,000 people. Germany recorded its first case of COVID-19 on January 27, 2020 in Bavaria. By February 27, the total number of cases had climbed to 26. Towards the end of February mass gatherings and travel were increasingly restricted. In mid-March schools started to close and by March 22, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the federal states and national government had jointly decided to implement a “contact ban.” This served to limit public gatherings to two people, required a physical distance of at least 5 feet, and closed many businesses. Today, Germany has reported approximately 224,000 cases and just over 9,000 deaths, a sad reminder of just how infectious and deadly this virus is. The necessary restrictions outlined above along with others have resulted in the pandemic taking a heavy toll on the operations of most businesses, Pelikan’s included. Read on to learn of the disruption that has been caused thus far and what it means for the company’s fine writing instruments division for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
Italy is rife with manufacturers whose products focus on the culture of writing. Aurora, Montegrappa, Pineider, Stipula, and Visconti are just a few that quickly come to mind. Despite the already crowded market space, German interlopers have also done well in the region. One such instance that comes to mind is the curious case of the M151. In 2015, I wrote a brief piece titled “The (Short) Story of the M151” which explored from where the pen’s moniker was derived. As it turned out, the M151 was simply a repackaged M150 Green/Black meant to be sold within the Italian market. The name of the model arose from the company’s own internal description for the M150. Despite the seemingly simple explanation, the pen’s marketing has suggested that there is a lot more to this model than meets the eye. At the end of 2019, the M251 was released, destined for the same region and meant to serve as a larger companion piece to the M151. Rather than a repackaged model, this was a unique addition to the Classic line, employing the same Green/Black color scheme as its little brother. Regional sales literature for the M151 can be found with tag lines such as; “Everything passes…myths remain” and “A legend from the past is back.” This piqued my curiosity. What was so special about this little fountain pen that would elevate it to mythical status and why was it worthy of a new regional companion piece? Was it simply a matter of overzealous marketing or was there something more to it? To answer those questions, I enlisted the help of Mario Pagnozzi of Stilo&Stile. Based out of Rome since 2004, his company’s mission has focused on welcoming enthusiastic, curious people to the world of handwriting. With his help and an inquiry to Pelikan’s Italian division, the cultural connection to the M151 has been made just a little bit clearer. Read on to learn why these two pens might hold a bit more significance for the country than they at first let on.
There has been a dearth of new releases from Pelikan during the first half of 202o which is likely a reflection of the turbulent times that we find ourselves in. If pre-release rumors are to be believed, the second half of the year promises to be much more exciting. That run gets kicked off today with Pelikan’s announcement of the forthcoming Maki-e release, Kingfisher. This newest model further flushes out the company’s Maki-e portfolio, adding to last year’s Five Lucky Bats and Japanese Umbrella. Pelikan describes the Kingfisher as, “a masterpiece that combines the craftsmanship of Pelikan Germany coupled with superior Japanese traditional Maki-e painting techniques.” The accompanying literature describes the newest Maki-e fountain pen thusly;
“Kingfisher is a small bird that lives near the waterside. The kingfisher has a long, dagger-like beak. The plumage of most kingfishers is bright, with green and blue being the most common colors. In Japanese, it is also called jade or blue gemstone because of its bright colors. On the fountain pen, two beautiful Kingfishers are vividly painted on the background of burning red autumn leaves. The motive fantastically expresses a colorful scene in the autumn of Japan.”
The Kingfisher is built off the M1000 chassis, consistent with most of their past Maki-e releases. Given the timing of the announcement, you can expect this model to be available next month. While there is no word yet on pricing, you should expect this ultra-limited edition to command a king’s ransom. This one is reported to be limited to just 123 pieces worldwide.
Five years ago, I published an article titled Chartpak & Their Policies. That piece was the result of a telephone interview with Abigail “Abi” Weeks of Chartpak’s pen repair department. At the time of the interview, Chartpak was servicing the warranty claims for all Pelikan pens purchased from authorized dealers, regardless of the country of origin. By 2017, Chartpak had reversed course and began to honor only those warranty claims for pens purchased from authorized dealers in the United States. For the past several years, those of us looking for better deals from overseas did so with the knowledge that we would have to forego domestic warranty support. While the move created some hard feelings with consumers, it was hardly surprising. Other distributors in the industry have similar policies, policies put in place as a result of international competition. It’s not dissimilar to the camera industry’s long held approach to gray market or parallel import items. Many manufacturers have opted to not provide warranty support for genuine products purchased outside of a region’s distribution channels. This has hardly dissuaded customers from buying overseas as Pelikan’s pens tend to be quite robust and most foreign vendors provide excellent after sales service in my experience. Fast forward to 2020 and things have again changed. Read on to find out how a recent change in Chartpak’s repair policy will affect consumers, effective immediately.
The Perch has always endeavored to be a beacon, shining light on the varied bits of Pelikan arcana. That endeavor has led me down some pretty interesting paths over the years. Of course, I can only expand upon the established body of knowledge by standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me. Occasionally, I am approached about hosting a guest post from someone with a unique insight or experience with the brand which is where we find ourselves today. I’m happy to hand over the reins to Rick Propas, proprietor of the Penguin and a well-known Pelikan collector, retailer, and friend of this blog. The 400 was released in the first half of 1950 and became an incredibly popular model that helped to rebuild the company’s fortunes following World War II. Perhaps lesser known are the many variants derived from the 400 design, namely the 500, 600, and 700. Of these, the 600 remains the most obscure which makes it the perfect fodder for a post. Rick takes a look a close at the 600 and tries to fill in some of the many questions that still surround this model. Without further ado, I give you his take on the model 600.
In 2001, Chartpak, Inc. became the exclusive distributor for the Pelikan brand in the United States as well as Mexico and Canada. The company manufactures and imports fine artist materials, fine writing instruments, and office products for distribution in the Americas. Their website states; “Chartpak has an established portfolio of 14 brands with 60 product lines that span 17 distinct categories of art materials, fine writing, craft & hobby and office products, many of which are made in the USA or Europe.” Chartpak is located in Leeds, Massachusetts and is nestled in the five-college area of the state which boasts a vibrant and active student artist population. While Chartpak’s story accounts for nearly the past 20 years of Pelikan in the United States, have you ever wondered about Pelikan’s past US operations or who distributed their products in North America before Chartpak? A recent inquiry from a reader led me to ponder that very question in greater detail. When you search Google for the answer, you come up with surprisingly little, most likely because the bulk of the history occurred prior to the rise of the internet. Not to be discouraged, I turned to a resource that was satisfyingly nostalgic, the newspaper. After searching through dozens of papers and hundreds of articles, I learned that Jack Kelly was probably correct when he said, “…headlines don’t sell papes. Newsies sell papes.” I also learned a great deal about Pelikan’s more public affairs throughout the 1980s and 90s. While the record in incomplete, we can get at least a basic sense of Pelikan’s operations in the USA over that two decade span. It is important to keep in mind that Pelikan’s business structure is incredibly complex with many divisions. Pelikan AG and later Pelikan International acted largely as holding companies, a type of financial organization that owns a controlling interest in other companies called subsidiaries. While the parent corporation controls the subsidiary’s policies and oversees management decisions, the days to day operations are left to the subsidiary. In this way, the holding company protects itself from losses accrued by the subsidiary (creditors can’t go after the holding company). What we had in the US focused on hardcopy or printer consumables which started out as a product group in the Pelikan product range. The distribution of fine writing instruments in North America has been managed by various agents over the years which I will endeavor to explore. I should make it clear that at no point were fountain pens or fountain pen inks manufactured in the USA. Read on to learn how the company’s fortunes rose and fell over the span of approximately 15 years and why operations eventually ceased.
The Pelikan’s Perch has long striven to be apolitical, preferring to focus on pens and not politics. While I am not without conviction, I have never felt it appropriate to espouse my personal views on this forum. While I will continue to refrain from doing so on a regular basis, I would like to make it a point to acknowledge the exceptional pain and anger that we see bubbling over in our communities. Silence is no longer a luxury that any of us can afford. Since the earliest days of our country, people of color have long had to deal with systemic racism, whether overt, insidious or structural, as well as brutality suffered at the hands of those in positions of power. I have seen firsthand what racism looks like from the vantage of my white privilege. I grew up with it every day of my life and yet I do not hate the way I was taught to hate. I long ago made the decision to not discriminate, to not judge, and to not hate solely based upon the color of one’s skin. Despite that, I have no doubt that I have been passively complicit in furthering racism within our culture. By choosing to not see color, we marginalize and invalidate the racist experiences that those of color encounter on a daily basis, thereby contributing to the problem. I am not a perfect human being, none amongst us are. We all make mistakes and will continue to do so. We need to learn from those mistakes, to recognize that we must do better, to strive for empathy, and to never settle for complacency within ourselves for as long as people continue to be discriminated against.