Günther Wagner co-founded the Pelikan artist supply company in Hanover, Germany in 1878, but it wasn’t until 1929 that the firm produced its first fountain pen. Other companies, such as Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer, Wahl, and Montblanc, had all beaten Pelikan to market, but Pelikan entered the fray with an innovation—a pen with an efficient telescoping piston-filler. With a piston-filler, a turn of a knob was all it took to suck ink into a pen, which is why piston-filler pens are sometimes referred to as twist-fillers. The invention belonged to an engineer named Theodor Kovacs, who sold his patent to Wagner.

Pelikan’s first pens were cigar-shaped examples of the German modernist movement promoted by the Bauhaus school. Pens from the year 1929 were made of Bakelite—Pelikan switched to hard rubber and a plastic called celluloid in 1930, which is one of the many reasons why the 1929 pens are so coveted by collectors of vintage Pelikans.

That first year, Pelikan pens were offered only in all black (the conservative palette was a hit with German businessmen) or black with a jade-green barrel. Marbled-green barrels came a bit later and are more common than pens with jade barrels, but the colors of these pens have faded and changed over the years, so sometimes it can be difficult to tell which is which.

By 1931, these early pens would be labeled as Pelikan 100s. The hard-rubber caps now came in plain or banded styles and the colors of the barrels expanded to include blue and silver. 1931 was also the year Pelikan began making luxury models, the first of which was the 111. These pens had patterned, guilloché barrels of 14-karat gold. One of the most collectible Pelikan 111s is the Toledo, which featured Moorish metalwork with a pelican incorporated into the design, rather than just machine-made patterns. After 1937, Pelikan released a Toledo version of the 100N.

The 110 that followed the 100 had a white-gold-filled cap, while the 112 was gold from top to bottom, except for the piston mechanism, which remained black. Another variant was the 101, which came in celluloid barrels resembling lizard skin, tortoise shell, or coral. Some barrels were transparent so the ink reservoir could be easily viewed. By 1939, Pelikan was using celluloid in practically all of its pens’ pieces, from the caps to the barrels to the filler knobs themselves.

Pelikan fountain pens are handsome enough and they feel good in the hand, but one of the things Pelikan collectors like most about these pens are the nibs. In particular, vintage Pelikan nibs that are flexible and oblique are highly prized. Interestingly, the slant of most oblique nibs was designed for right-handed writers, so lefties would have to purchase a "left-oblique" in order to use the pen properly.

The Pelikan 100 and all its incarnations were the company’s mainstay until the late 1940s. After World War II, the clip on the cap of Pelikan pens became noticeably more pelican-beak-like. In 1950, Pelikan introduced the 400—its signature feature was a pinstriped barrel (giving users a peek at the ink supply) in colors ranging from green to tortoise. For accountants, a model was produced with a red tip on the cap, to signal to users the red ink inside the barrel...

In 1955, as a hedge against the coming onslaught of ballpoint pens, Pelikan produced a Roller version of the 400, but the company was pretty late to the party. After starting out as an innovator, Pelikan was now taking a go-slow approach with models like the 500, 520, 600, and 700, which, despite being handsome, were all basically the same 400 pen with varying amounts of gold in their caps and bodies.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Parker51.com

Parker51.com

Ernesto Soler's extensive homage to one of the most popular pens ever produced, the Parker "51," introduced in 1941… [read review or visit site]

Penhero.com

Penhero.com

Jim Mamoulides' vintage and modern pen-cyclopedia. Start at the main gallery, featuring detailed articles (with pho… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Stunning Vintage Pelikan 400 Fountain Pen 14k-585-m Collectors-item BoxedStunning Rare Vintage Pelikan 400nn Fountain Pen Green Striated 14k585 M Top PenUltra Rare 1929 Vintage Hard Rubber Pelikan 100 Fountain Pen 14k Heart-hole NibRare Stunning Vintage Pelikan M400 Tortoise Fountain Pen 14k585 Obb-nib Top PenPelikan 400 Set Piston Fountain Pen + Mechanical Pencil Brown Tortoise - VintageStunning Rare Vintage Pelikan 400 Nn Brown Tortoise Fountain Pen 14k585 Om-nibN/m Rare Stunning Vintage Pelikan M400 Green Striated Fountain Pen 14k585 M TopVintage Pelikan # 800 Fountain Pen Black-green Striped 14 C - Om Tip -1980s-Rare Stunning Vintage Pelikan 100 N Fountain Pen Cn-nib Oblique Medium Top PenRare Stunning Vintage Pelikan 100 Fountain Pen 14k585 F-nib Rare 4-hole CapPelikan 100 Piston Fountain Pen In Lapiz Blue / Hardrubber - Vintage 1932Pelikan Tortoise Fountain PenMib Rare Stunning Vintage Pelikan 140 Green Fountain Pen 14k-585 F Nib New PenBoxed Rare Stunning Vintage Pelikan 140 Green Fountain Pen 14k-585 Ef Flex. NibStunning Rare Vintage Pelikan 400nn Fountain Pen Green Striated 14k585 M BoxedPelikan 100n Fountain Pen, Gray/black, RareVintage Pelikan 400nn Fountain Pen,rare!!!!df-14c Gold Nib,germany 50s,60sPelikan 100 Piston Fountain Pen In Green Marbled / Hardrubber - VintageUltra Rare Vintage Pelikan Taylorix 6-jg Fountain Pen Black 14k585 DefVintage Pelikan 140 Fountain Pen,green Striped,made In Germany 50s,60sN/m Rare Vintage Pelikan Fountain Pen M400 Green Striated 14k585 Broad StunningRare 1929 Vintage Stunning Pelikan 100 Fountain Pen Cn-f Nib No Rings Cap -rareTop Mint Vintage Pelikan 400 Nn Green Striated With A 14 C Ef Gold NibVintage Pelikan 400 Tortoise Barrel 14k Gold Nib Piston Filler Fountain Pen *5 Days* Pelikan M805 Pen, Black, BoxVintage Pelikan 400nn Fountain Pen,green Striped,made In Germany 50s,60s Lot Vintage Pelikan Fountain Pen For Spare Parts 4 Nibs For 100 En 400 TypeUltra Rare Pelikan ,emege, Fountain Pen 14k585 ,very Old, Not WriteStunning Rare Vintage Montblanc Monte Rosa 042 Fountain Pen Black Om-nibVintage Pelikan 140 Fountain Pen,green Striped,m-nib,made In Germany 50s,60sPelikan M200 Piston Fountain Pen In Green Striped In Box With Papers - VintagePelikan 400nn 400 Nn Piston Fountain Pen In Green Striped - VintagePelikan Pen 120Pelikan 100n Green Marbled Vintage Fountain Pen Ef 14ct Gold NibRr Rare Old German Pelikan No400 Fountain-pen With 14 Carat Gold 585 Nib + Doc. Mint! Pelikan M1005 Special Edition Black Fountain Pen 18k Single Tone Ef NibVintage Pelikan 120 Merz And Krell Fountain Pen,ef-nib,germany Made 70sR Rare Old German Pelikan 400 Fountain-pen Very Nice Vintage Pelikan 140 Green Striated - 14c Ef NibPelikan Pen Mk10Pelikan Souveran 400 White Honey Fountain Pen W/ Broad NibPelikan Pen Mk10Pelikan Souveran Fountain Pen M400 Green Stripe- In Excellent Condition! German Vintage Pelikan Set Fountain Pen 585 Pencil Brown Tortoise 1950s W/ Case Vintage 2 Pelikan Pencils # 450 & # 350-tortoise-green -leads 1,2 Mm -late 1950sStipula Red Fountain Pen. In Perfect Condition Free ShippingVintage Pelikan 30 Rolled Gold Fountain Pen,ob-14c Gold Nib!!!!!!germany 60sVintage Pelikan Mk 10 Fountain Pen,f-gold Plated Nib,made In Germany ,60sVintage Pelikan NLovely Vintage Pelikan Brushed Steel Fountain Pen - Working ConditionPelikan M600 Fine Point Green/black Striations - 14k Gold Trim Pelikan Gv 150 N Rare Vintage New Gift Box Fountain Pen And Rare Ink Bottle Set*5 Days* Pelikan M101n Red Tortoise Pen, Choose Your Nib SizeStipula Yellow Fountain Pen. In Perfect Condition Free ShippingPelikan Pura Series Blue & Silver Fine Point Nib Fountain PenVintage Pelikan 120 Merz And Krell Fountain Pen,f-nib,germany Made 70sPelikan L5 Gold Fountain Pen 18k 750 M NibLevenger Fountain Pen "f" Nib New Free ShippingPelikan 400 Size Roller Ball Pen In Blue MarbleNos New Old Stock Pelikan 400 Med Green Stripe Fountain Pen