For those of you that keep up with Pelikan’s usual cycle of releases, you know that by the end of March in most years, we’ve already had news of two and sometimes up to three new fountain pens. Sadly, this year, like the one before it, is not like most years. That unfortunate fact, made evident by the dearth of new releases out of Hannover, is almost certainly attributable to the chaos that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought upon supply chains across the globe. The drought may be coming to an end however as Atlas Stationers out of Chicago, IL broke news of Pelikan’s next release via their website this evening. The next pen to market will hail from the company’s Classic line and carry the moniker of M205 Petrol-Marbled. Petrol is a color scheme that Pelikan has employed with pens from some of their other lines including the Pura, Jazz, and Twist. Pelikan’s new marbled finish will combine blues and greens in a way that, to me, is reminiscent of the M805 Ocean Swirl from 2017. Rather than a standard addition to the line-up, this one looks to be a special edition release, intended only as a limited run. The Petrol-Marbled is reportedly targeted for a mid to late April 2021 ship date. I would expect most vendors to start taking pre-orders soon.
I must implore you at the outset to forgive my jubilation over this post and ask that you indulge my exuberance. Today we take a look at something special, something not often seen, a rarity even amongst a brand that has created its fair share of unique and uncommon goods over nearly a century of pen making. What I’m alluding to is the Pelikan music nib or musikfeder in its native tongue. For some reason, I cannot think of telling the story of how I came across this nib without the soundtrack to Frank Oz’s 1986 big screen adaptation of “Little Shop Of Horrors” running through my mind, specifically set to the tune “Da-Doo.” With your leave; So there I was, browsing around Yahoo! Auctions in Japan one day and I passed by a bunch of listings where I sometimes find weird and exotic pens ’cause you know that Pelikans are my hobby. They didn’t have anything unusual there that day so I was just about to, ya know, browse on by, when suddenly, and without warning, there was this strange Tortoiseshell Brown 400NN. It had a nib like something from another world just, you know, stuck in, among the 140s and M800s. Thank you for letting me get that out of my system. The nib was unique indeed. It had two slits and three tines with the pre-1954 Pelikan lettering below. I could hardly believe my eyes but was almost certain that I was looking at one of Pelikan’s fabled music nibs. I had to wait six days for that auction to conclude and fight hard during the last thirty minutes of bidding but, in the end, I prevailed which is great for me and good for you because it allows me to give you an up close and personal look at this seldom seen specialty nib. Of course, just for a bit of added drama, the pen got lost in the mail for a short time while on its way to me but all’s well that ends well.
While we await official news of this year’s upcoming releases, I wanted to take one last look back at a model from last year. I have already reviewed the M205 Moonstone and the M600 Tortoiseshell Red so this time I will be performing a shakedown of the M405 Silver-White. Pelikan has embraced the use of white resin over the past several years, predominantly amongst their M6xx models. This time around, rather than something in a medium size, the company has decided to instead show some love to their M405 line which consists of smaller pens by today’s standards. The M405 series has only been around since 2002 and the Silver-White is just the fifth pen to grace the line. It is also the first of its line to incorporate white resin into its design. The other M405 models are the Black, Blue-Black, Dark Blue, and Stresemann. Upon first glance, the Silver-White has a very similar appearance to 2017’s M605 White-Transparent. The major difference between the two are their size and the barrel’s striping. What makes the M405 Silver-White worth reviewing is the fact that it is not a limited or special edition but rather a release added to the standard line-up meaning that you will have time to pick this one up should it suit your fancy. The Silver-White is a very solid release but brings nothing new to the table. Read on to find out if this is the pen that you’ve been waiting for.
How well do you know Pelikan’s Classic/Traditional line? Not as well as you might think I’m willing to wager. Let us review; M100, check. M150, check. M200, M205, M215, and M250; check, check, check, and check! Many of those model lines have since been discontinued but a few still persists and are being expanded to this day, some 35 years after the series’ introduction. There is another entry into that line-up that is not nearly as well known and easily overlooked, even by the most hardcore of collectors. Enter the #350. There is a lot to unpack here so please bear with me. First, let’s tackle that hashtag or number sign. Most of Pelikan’s fountain pens have an ‘M’ or a ‘P’ preceding the model number. These designate either a Mechanik-Füller (piston filling) or Patronen-Füller (cartridge) fountain pen respectively (though exceptions exists). The ‘#’ was widely used in Japan during the 1980s and 90s for many of Pelikan’s piston filling models sold in that market and is therefore an appropriate regional prefix. You might recall that I first introduced the concept when detailing the Mitsukoshi #660. In addition to the unusual prefix, model numbers also sometimes differed. For instance, the M400 used to retail in Japan as the #500. Today, the regional sales literature generally adheres to the M/R/K/D prefix scheme and model numbers used elsewhere. The #350 will be easier to understand when its predecessor, the #250, is considered so I will detail both of those models in this post. Japan has long been a fertile ground for some of Pelikan’s most interesting releases, models not widely available anywhere else. The Maruzen Tortoiseshell Brown M600, the Mitsukoshi #660, the East/West reunification commemorative M800, and the Merz & Krell 400NN re-issue were all either exclusive to the Japanese market or came about as a result of that market’s influence. Read on to learn how the #250 and #350 models fit into Pelikan’s Classic series.
Tortoiseshell has a long history of use in small items such as combs, glasses, guitar picks, knitting needles, boxes, and even as furniture inlays. The beauty of the material’s mottled appearance, its durability, and its organic warmth against the skin made tortoiseshell attractive for both manufacturers and consumers. The time invested to hunt and harvest the tortoises and the care needed in working with the shell to preserve its color made such items rather expensive. Unfortunately, the quest for profit has resulted in several of those species being hunted to near extinction with many now findings themselves on the endangered species list. The trade has been banned internationally for some time but that has not deterred harvesting shells for sale within the black market. Thankfully, more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives exist. The tortoise look is well suited for the likes of fountain pens and fans of Pelikan’s fine writing instruments can’t seem to get enough of such releases. The company’s tortoise finishes have been captivating people for decades thanks to their refined, upscale look. I’m happy to report that no actual tortoises have ever been harmed by Pelikan, the characteristic look instead being derived from cellulose acetate crafted to artificially resemble the mottled pattern of true tortoiseshell. There is no shortage of tortoise variants out there with some of the company’s most iconic and sought after models having been tortoises of one type or another. The original M800 Tortoiseshell Brown (1989) or the M600 Maruzen Tortoiseshell Brown (1999) come to mind as more recent examples of nearly mythical birds and that is just counting the company’s relatively recent production history to say nothing of the countless historic models such as the 400NN Light Tortoise (1957-60). To close out 2020, Pelikan has given us the M600 Tortoiseshell Red which looks to be a take on the previously released M101N Tortoiseshell Red (2014), now adapted to the more traditional Souverän line. Rather than a straight up adaptation however, this new model appears to be a reimagining of sorts. With a color scheme apropos for a December launch, this one is sure to please with its bold, vibrant hues and unique tortoiseshell application. Read on to learn if this model stacks up like Theodor Geisel’s Yertle the Turtle, king of the pond in Sala-ma-sond.
As the year meanders towards its close, I thought it a good time to look back on some of Pelikan’s releases this year. First up will be the M205 Moonstone fountain pen that accompanied 2020’s Edelstein Ink of the Year of the same name. It was 2019’s M205 Star Ruby acting as a pathfinder with sparkles adorning its finish that set the stage for the Moonstone. It represented a departure from Pelikan’s typically reserved German sensibilities and the gamble seems to have paid off as the Star Ruby was generally well received. I think a large part of that owes to striking just the right balance as the sparkles never came off as overblown and I think that the Moonstone also hits its mark in a similar fashion. It seems hard to believe but this year’s M205 now counts as the sixth consecutive pen to accompany the annual Edelstein Ink of the Year release. Prior models have included the M205 Amethyst (2015), M205 Aquamarine (2016), M200 Smoky Quartz (2017), M205 Olivine (2018), and M205 Star Ruby (2019). All of those models have been demonstrators, the overwhelming majority of which have had silver colored, chromium plated furniture (all except 2017’s Smoky Quartz). The sparkles are again fitting here because just as they paid homage to the asterism of the star ruby gemstone, they do equal justice with the true moonstone’s adularescence. What is that you may ask? The actual gemstone of its namesake displays a blue to white adularescence, a phenomenon where light appears to billow across the surface giving the stone a moonlight-like sheen. Read on to find out whether or not Pelikan’s reach for the stars hits the mark or falls flat.
The Souverän M300 did not burst onto the scene with any fanfare. There was no large, elaborately orchestrated debut such as what we saw with the M800 some eleven years earlier. Perhaps the lack of flourish was fitting given the pen’s diminutive and unassuming size. It was 1998 when the M300 emerged as the smallest Souverän in the line-up. News of Monica Lewinsky’s affair with Bill Clinton was just breaking, the XVIII Olympic Winter Games were being held in Japan, and Titanic became the first motion picture to gross US$1 billion. The late nineties were also a time of great change for Pelikan’s high end models. The M400 received an upgraded trim package, the M600 was given an entirely new form, and the massive M1000 would take up the mantle as Pelikan’s flagship. All of the furniture on the company’s Souveräns was standardized, essentially creating five models, each representing a different sized pen catering to a variety of tastes and purposes. The marketing which would follow highlighted this; “You can buy suits in different sizes. So why not fountain pens?” Amongst Pelikan’s refreshed line-up, the M300 fit the smallest niche, both literally and figuratively. Not much larger than your standard golf pencil, the M300 has ruled over its tiny kingdom for 22 years. That reign comes to an end in 2020 as the model line has now been officially discontinued. I was first alerted to this fact by vendors who could no longer order new stock and it has subsequently been confirmed to me by Juana Schahn, the Social Media Manager for Pelikan. Read on to learn the how’s and why’s behind the pen’s demise and get a glimpse at some of the M300’s history over the past two decades.
The German city of Frankfurt has a long tradition of hosting trade fairs, a history that spans more than 800 years. The first Frankfurt trade fair to be documented in writing dates back to 1240 under the auspices of Emperor Frederick II. Since 1330, trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt twice a year; once in the spring and once in the fall. It was at the Frankfurt Spring Fair of 1987 that Pelikan launched the M800, their first modern oversized pen. Held from February 21-25, the event was regarded as a success by its organizers with 4,375 exhibitors displaying their wares to an estimated 100,000 visitors. Pelikan maintained a large display at the fair separated into two parts, one of which featured the sizable Pelikan collection of stylophile Mel Strohminger. It was the following year (1988), on the occasion of Pelikan’s 150th anniversary, that their newest Souverän model would be brought to the shores of the United States. Presumably, the M800 emerged as the result of market competition from rival Montblanc’s Meisterstück 146 and 149 amongst others. The Souverän series, by today’s standards, was rather anemic before the M800’s introduction, consisting of only the M400 which got its start in 1982 and a version of the M600 which launched in 1985. Despite differing model numbers, both of the existing Souveräns at the time were actually the same size, the M600 being distinguished only by its more upscale trim package. These were considered standard sized pens though are somewhat small by today’s reckoning. It wasn’t until 1997 that Pelikan adjusted the lines to make the M600 more of an intermediate size to bridge the gap between the M400 and M800. You can well imagine how the M800 dwarfed its siblings in the lineup at the time of its introduction and represented a truly new size option for the first time in the company’s modern history. The M800 was initially available in Green/Black (striped) or Black but the line would quickly expand throughout the 1990s to encompass many limited edition releases. Even today, the M800 chassis is the go to platform for a large number of Pelikan’s special and limited edition models. Read on to learn how the M800 has evolved over the years.