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-...

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    

Mint Pelikan M1000 Starlight Raden & Gold Limited Edition 333 Fountain Pen M NibPelikan Souveran M800 Green-striped Fountain PenA Vintage Pelikan 400 Gunter WagnerNew Pelikan Germany M600 Fountain Pen With 2-tone 14k Gold & Rhodium "fine" NibPelikan Fountain PenBeautiful Vintage Green Striped Pelikan 400nn Fountain Pen !!!Pelikan Souveran Germany Fountain Pen Grey & Black & GoldPelikan M205 Demonstrator Fountain PenPelikan Hunting Limited Edition Fountain Pen #2247/3000Pelikan Toledo M700 Fine Point Fountain Pen - #927822Rare, Pelikan M1000 Oblique Pf Mark K18 Solid Nib Souverän Fountain Pen*clearance Sale* ! Peklikan M101n Bright Red Fountain PenPelikan Fountain Pen Souveran M800 Black/green Nib Gold 18k EfPelikan Fountain Pen Souveran M800 Black/green Nib Gold 18k B*clearance Sale* ! Peklikan M320 Pen, Ruby RedPorsche Design P3110 Tech Flex Stainless Steel Gold Plated Roller Ball Pen Pelikan Souveran M405 Stresemann Fountain Pen Bold Italic***amazing*** Vintage Pelikan 400 Nn Fountain Pen (14k Gold Ef Nib) Tortoise Pre-1989 Boxed Pelikan West Germany M400 Fountain Pen : 14k Gold "m" Nib + Ink !New Pelikan 18k Bb Extra Broad Gold & Rhodium Nib Only - For 800 / 900 Series .Pelikan M205 Duo Yellow Highlighter Fountain Pen Bb NibBeautiful Vintage Pelikan 400 Nn Green Striated Fountain Pen 1956 14c Ef NibPelikan Souveran M800 Nib - MediumPelikan Ceramic Pen HolderVintage Pelikan 100n Fountain Pen ~ Flexible Nib ~ Green Stripe Ready To Use!Beautiful Vintage Green Marbled Pelikan 100 Fountain Pen !!!Beautiful Vintage Brown Tortoise Pelikan 400 Fountain Pen !!!1985 Pelikan W. Germany M250 Ob 585 14c Gold Nib Black New Old Stock Vintage PenBeautiful Vintage Green Striped Pelikan 400 Fountain Pen !!!Beautiful Vintage Black Pelikan 140 Fountain Pen !!!Beautiful Vintage Grey Marbled Pelikan 100n Fountain Pen !!!Beautiful Vintage Light Green/ Grey Marbled Pelikan 100n Fountain Pen !!!Pelikan Part For Fountain Pen Rare Transparent Pelikan Broken For Parts Vintage Green Striated Pelikan 140 Piston Fountain Pen With 14c Ef Gold Nib, BoxVintage Pelikan 140 Fountain Pen Original Gold Nib & 355 Ball Pen Set In BoxVintage Pelikan M 400 Green Piston Filler Fountain Pen - 14 C B NibRare Vintage Pelikan Twist Guitar Fountain Pen Vintage Pelikan 120 Green Black Fine Soft Steel Pelikan Nib Vintage Pelikan Pelikano P450 Fountain Pen Nos With PapersVintage Pelikan # 400 Fountain Pen - Piston -14 Karat Nib -ob- Tip- Ca 1950sMint Pelikan Tradition M 150 Fountain And K 150 Ballpoint Pen Set In Box1936/7 Vintage Pen Pelikan 100 Black # Old Logo # RestoredPelikan Fountain Pen Germany Green Marble VintageJinhao 599 Transparent Business Office Medium Nib Fountain Pen Stationery D3042