While browsing through some listings on eBay one day in late March, I happened to stumble across an auction titled “Vintage Pelikan Fountain Pen 14 Karat NIB.” The nondescript caption led me to believe that the seller wasn’t quite sure of what it was they were trying to peddle. The pen in question had seen better days, that much was obvious. Upon closer inspection, the binde was missing and a few gouges marred the surface of the cap and filling mechanism. It would have been easy to dismiss the listing and move on if it weren’t for the lack of cap bands. They weren’t missing mind you; they just weren’t part of the design. The look of the cap offered just enough hope and a promise of what might lie beneath. Scrolling through the rest of the photos in the series revealed just what I had hoped to find, a nib with a heart shaped breather hole. A holy grail for some, the ID became immediately clear. While not in fighting shape, the pen was no doubt a 1929 Transparent Pelikan Fountain Pen and looked very serviceable for a 90 year old writing instrument. Understanding that a major restoration would be needed, I entered the fray, placed my bid, and began the waiting game. To my surprise and delight, I ended up winning that listing on April 1st. The pen arrived a few days later and I half expected it to be an utter disappointment, perhaps with a note tucked inside saying “April Fools’.” Once I was able to inspect it, I knew right away that it was worthy of restoration so I turned to Rick Propas, a fellow Pelikan enthusiast and friend, who agreed to take on the task of reconditioning the eldest of Pelikan’s fountain pens. Such a project is not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced because disaster can befall at any step of the process. With any restoration of this nature, concessions have to be made. For instance, the early green bindes disintegrate when removed from barrels and spares are next to impossible to find. Despite such limitations, I believe that the final product speaks for itself. As an added bonus, Rick was kind enough to offer to document the restoration process. Read on to learn how this wounded bird again learned how to fly as told by the restorer himself.
With the M800 Brown-Black just starting to ship from retailers this week and the recently announced M200 Gold Marbled still not quite a month away, fresh news breaks yet again detailing the next release out of Hannover. For those that have been particularly observant, I’ve been teasing about Pelikan plugging one of the glaring holes in their M6xx line-up this year. Once again, it is Appelboom, this time via their Instagram account, who informs us that day is now upon us with the upcoming release of the M605 Stresemann (a.k.a. Black-Anthracite). Due out in mid-November, this M605 will join the M805 (2015), M405 (2016), and M1005 (2019) models that already sport the same design. Many people have been waiting for this finish to grace the mid-sized model that so many prefer. The only other model that might make a bigger splash would be a Tortoiseshell Brown M600 but the rumor mill remains silent on that one. If you’re seeing the Stresemann name for the first time and are wondering from where it originates, it is most simply explained as a term that has long been used to describe the classic pinstriped appearance of Pelikan’s pens. An unofficial nickname of sorts for the Souverän line, it was derived from the Secretary of State of the Weimar Republic, Gustav Stresemann, who was well-known for wearing black/grey striped trousers and a jacket in black or anthracite. The Stresemann pens honor that legacy.
Pelikan’s recently released M205 Star Ruby fountain pen is a trail blazer worthy of review. It is not the form factor or the nib that stands out nor is it the filling system. All of those bits faithfully follow the company’s time tested formula that Pelikan fans and longtime readers of this blog are accustomed to. What really shines here is, well, the shine. The M205 Star Ruby has a sparkle to its finish, the likes of which we have not seen before. As Dorothy Gale says in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” (you couldn’t expect me to review a sparkly ruby colored pen without at least one Wizard of Oz quote). That is perhaps due in large part to typically reserved German sensibilities. When you think of pens that sparkle, Japanese and Chinese brands such as Sailor and Jinhao are more likely to spring to the forefront of your mind than anything out of Germany. The Star Ruby marks the fifth consecutive time that Pelikan has released a matching pen for the Edelstein Ink of the Year collection. This year’s iteration joins the likes of the M205 Amethyst (2015), M205 Aquamarine (2016), M200 Smoky Quartz (2017), and M205 Olivine (2018). While each of those pens have a deep, rich color that compliments their namesake nicely, none have had occasion to sparkle. Perhaps Pelikan wanted to honor the asterism of its namesake. For those that don’t know, star rubies are a special class of gemstone that display a sharp, shimmering six-rayed star on their surface. True to form, however, nothing feels gratuitous here. The coloring of the pen is a deep burgundy and the sparkles are hardly overblown as some had feared. This may be one of the best looking models of the quintet but certainly won’t appeal to everyone. Read on to find out whether or not this is one you should consider adding to your flock.
As anticipated, Pelikan kicks off the month of October with a new Maki-e release, this one titled Japanese Umbrella. This is actually the second Maki-e pen to debut in 2019 with Five Lucky Bats having been launched this past summer. These ultra-detailed and labor intensive pieces have been a show case of the marriage between German engineering and Japanese artistry. The prior four themed models have included the Spring & Autumn (2016), Dragonfly (2017), Peacock (2018), and Five Lucky Bats (2019). Pelikan has this to say about their new Maki-e model;
“The umbrella was introduced from China to Japan during the Heian period (AD 794-1185). The traditional Japanese umbrella is made of natural material such as Japanese paper, bamboo, and wood. Thirty to seventy bamboo bones are used to open and fairly spread the umbrella made of Japanese paper. On the fountain pen, there are four Japanese umbrellas drawn in Taka-Maki-e, using techniques such as raden and kirikane. Rain is expressed using many narrow pieces of mother of pearl.”
As has been the case with many of the prior releases, this one will again be built off of the M1000 chassis. Japanese Umbrella will likely start shipping later this month or early next but beware. This limited edition will command a hefty price and many vendors will see only limited availability due to the number of pieces available. I wouldn’t wait too long if you have the means and the desire to add this one to your flock.
The Pelikan Hubs event is now over and, after a day of reflection, it’s time for my traditional recap. The most dramatic thing that struck me about the sixth annual Hub event is the sheer amount of growth that has occurred over the past six years. As I demonstrated in my post analyzing this year’s numbers, the annual registrations continue to grow at an astounding clip. The 2019 event saw Hubs take place in 200 cities spread across 46 countries with over 5,500 registered participants, a roughly 15% increase over 2018’s numbers. While those worldwide stats are indeed impressive, I can’t help but be awed by the growth of my local hub. At the very first Hub back in 2014, there were four of us sitting around a table in a small cafe passing around pens and sharing our experiences with various inks and papers. Five years later, the Philadelphia Hub is bursting at the seams and I’m sure similar stories can be seen the world over. The passion of this year’s batch of Hub masters was clearly on display, many going above and beyond to make their individual Hubs extra special. I commend those who have taken up the mantle because it is thanks in no small part to their efforts that this event has been able to continue to grow. In Philadelphia, Frank Limper of Federalist Pens and Paper helmed the Hub for the second year running, once again selecting The Victoria Freehouse Pub to play host. With tasty food and refreshing drink, the venue provided a cozy atmosphere though perhaps one our Hub has outgrown. The only major downside to the location this year was the lack of street parking due to an event happening at the waterfront.
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.
I thought that it might be fun to explore a trio of pens that we don’t get to see nearly often enough. Many of us are intimately familiar with the M400 that revitalized Pelikan’s fine writing fortunes back in 1982. That model continues to be a cornerstone of their line-up today. Over the years, there have been many special editions based off of the M4xx chassis. Three in particular come to the forefront of my mind due to their silver embellishments. The trio of loosely related models to which I allude are the M420, M425, and M430. While the same length and diameter as your standard M400, they carry some extra weight due to the inclusion of sterling silver elements in their construction. These pens were manufactured between the late 1990s and early 2000s. Each Souverän mentioned here stands out amongst their lesser decorated siblings and I assure you that they look much better in real life than these photos depict. One pitfall to be aware of is mistaking one of these with the M730, an earlier model that sports a very similar shape and construction but is easily distinguished when you know what to look for. Now long out of production, all of the pens mentioned here are rather hard to find in today’s secondary markets which means that when you do find them for sale, they are usually much more expensive than your standard M4xx model. Read on to learn more about these silvered Souveräns.