Pelikan launched the M800, their first oversized pen, at the Frankfurt Fair in 1987. The new pen was initially available in the company’s classic green striped Stresemann pattern with an all-black model to follow shortly thereafter. We know that around this time a third model was released, the fabled Tortoiseshell Brown. For over twenty years, this was the only tortoise variant available from Pelikan in a larger sized model. Why this was the case, we can only speculate. While the brown tortoise M800 has achieved a cult status amongst collectors, some have posited that sales at the time of the initial release may have been somewhat lackluster. Nonetheless, in 2013 Pelikan re-introduced the M800 Tortoiseshell Brown to great fanfare. The company must have realized the pent up demand as their sales literature kicked off with the line; “Finally, it is back! The much coveted model Souverän 800 tortoiseshell brown….” Both models are now scarce in the secondary market and command a hefty sum when found. The provenance of that original tortoise has always been shrouded in a touch of uncertainty. The issue is compounded by the fact that German law only requires companies to preserve records for a period of 15 years so the historic archive is often times fragmented and lacking in primary supporting documents. That said, Pelikan has done a better job than many at preserving the company’s rich history. I thought that it might be interesting to explore the available evidence as well as the past statements of some subject matter experts in an attempt to find the truth. It also provides a good opportunity to take a closer look at each of the two M800 tortoises side by side. While we may never know the definitive answer as to original pen’s origins, the mystery only enhances its intrigue as a collector’s model.
It’s time for another review on The Perch and while I normally like to scrutinize models that are unique in some way, I’m taking a look at the M800 Brown-Black largely because of its seemingly similar appearance to a past release. If you have had any experience with the Pelikan catalog over the past decade, you might find yourself drawing parallels between this new model and an old favorite. The M800 Tortoiseshell-Brown (2013) quickly comes to mind as a special edition that also utilized stripes and brown resin components. Pelikan’s product literature describes the Brown-Black like so;
“A graceful and subtle appearance. That’s the look of the new Special Edition Souverän 800 Brown-Black. The warm brown hue resin material of this writing instrument series is perfectly complimented by dark brown stripes. The barrel with brown and black stripes is crafted out of high grade cellulose acetate which is then turned into a sleeve. The rings and the clip are elegantly decorated with 24-carat gold.”
Is the Brown-Black something we’ve seen before or a new design unto itself? I think that the best analogy I can put forth is that while it all may be chocolate it comes down to the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Does the Brown-Black have enough going for it to stand on its own merits? Read on to find out.
Pelikan has introduced over 40 different nib widths and styles during their 90 years of fountain pen production. Time and market forces have slowly taken their toll, whittling away at the available variety and eroding character. Around the year 2012, Pelikan discontinued production of oblique nibs in the widths of OM, OB, OBB, and O3B. The following year, the larger BB and 3B nibs were also removed from the standard line-up. Correspondence from representatives of the company around that time cited low global sales as justification for the discontinuation. For the past six years, Pelikan’s fine writing instruments could only be purchased with nibs in the standard widths of EF, F, M, and B. There have been exceptions to this rule as seen with the intermittent availability of an IB (italic broad) nib option or Niche Pens batch of M8xx BB nibs first offered in 2015. Neither option has been widely available or part of the standard line-up. Many have lamented Pelikan’s lack of variety, particularly as other manufacturers have continued to offer a significantly wider array of nibs. One such example of innovation in the nib space that comes to mind is Montblanc’s Meisterstück Solitaire or 149 fountain pens equipped with a flexible 18C-750 gold calligraphy “expression” nib which can reportedly vary line widths from about 0.3 mm to 1.6 mm. These calligraphy pens buck the familiar trend of hard as nails nibs, capitalizing on a maturing market of enthusiast looking for modern day flex writing pens. While Pelikan has yet to venture into that space, we’ve recently learned, courtesy of Appelboom, that they are re-introducing IB and BB nibs, adding them to the standard line-up on a restricted basis. Read on to learn more about the reincarnation of these older nibs as well as a few other tidbits.
September is usually good for news of a new release (or two) from Pelikan and 2019 proves to be no exception. History has taught us that this is the month some of the bigger birds get unveiled. Last year, it was the M800 Stone Garden. This year, we have the M800 Brown-Black Souverän fountain pen. The newest special edition out of Hannover sports a brown and black striped barrel with a very warm tone, an appearance that could easily be mistaken for a Tortoiseshell design upon first glance. Those who were excited by Pelikan’s use of sparkles in the forthcoming M200 Star Ruby may be disappointed by the more conservative Brown-Black. As best I can recollect, this is the first traditionally striped pattern to grace the M8xx line since 2014’s Stresemann. Availability is anticipated starting sometime in mid-October.
It isn’t easy deciding which pens to review here on The Perch. I like to focus on those pieces that bring something new to the table or tell a story. I mean, there is only so much you can say about another M800 with a different color scheme. That line of thinking is what lead me to today’s review. The recently released King Michael fountain pen stands out as unique in Pelikan’s catalog for a couple of reasons. The official name of this model is the King Michael I of Romania – Royal Edition and was only sold through Herlitz in Romania making this an ultra-exclusive regional edition that was not available through the usual retail channels. In fact, acquiring one required registration on the web, being selected, and then facilitating payment via a direct bank transfer. Honoring King Michael I (10/25/1921 – 12/5/2017), the last king of Romania, this edition is limited to just 300 pieces. While the underlying bones are clearly recognizable as those of a standard M800, this model incorporates a few design elements not previously seen. That allows this edition to stand out as an example of what good can come from local distributors partnering with the company to put out a unique product. While the opportunity to own one has largely passed at this juncture, I think that this pen is worthy of a closer look.
When you dig back through Pelikan’s long and storied history of pen making, you can find all sorts of odd editions made for local markets or done by regional distributors. Some of those models came from company sanctioned production runs while others had a more dubious genesis. The M800 Laser (2000) comes to mind as a good example of a strictly regional release. The Laser was an exclusive limited edition of only 100 pens which were specially engraved by Visconti and authorized by Pelikan Milan. This pen was made only for the Italian market, but it was not warmly welcomed in Hannover resulting in several being destroyed but that is a story for another day. My point is that it has been some time since we’ve seen a truly regional release from Pelikan which is why May 30th will be a stand out day in the company’s history. On that day, Pelikan Romania unveiled a new fountain pen titled “King Michael I of Romania – Royal Edition.” This model is not like many of the other Souveräns that we’ve seen and its unveiling was met with much more ceremony than we’ve been accustomed to. Read on to learn more about this neat and ultra-limited edition.
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.