Guide to Pelikan's Modern Piston Fill Fountain Pens

Many writers, after experiencing the allure of entry-level German brands like Lamy, Kaweco and Faber-Castell, often look at Pelikan as the next level up in quality, craftsmanship and writing experience. Shopping for a Pelikan can seem intimidating, especially to someone who is taking a jump out of their comfort zone in purchasing $50 pens. Yes, Pelikan pens are expensive, but they are well worth the value, especially over the long-term.

pelikan souveran m805 demonstrator fountain pen

Why Buy a Pelikan?

The main attraction of the Pelikan brand is their patented internal piston-filling mechanism. Besides having a higher ink capacity than cartridge / converter pens, the mechanism is reliable and requires little maintenance to upkeep other than flushing it between fills of ink. Over time, if the piston starts to feel stiff when it is operated, you may opt to lubricate it with a bit of 100% silicone grease. "It is really quite a simple procedure that anyone can do in just a few minutes time," says Joshua Danley of the Pelikan's Perch.

pelikan brand logos

Another huge perk of owning a high-end Pelikan is their reliability and excellent after-sales service, should you ever need it. Through Chartpak (the official US distributor) you can even swap out the nib you originally purchased for a different size within 4 weeks of purchasing your pen. That means, if you happen to get the last of a particular pen, and it only came in medium, you could send it to Chartpak to get the nib exchanged. Alternatively, if you gave the pen a good try and decided you prefer a different size, you can swap it for a size that better suits your writing style.

The nibs are easily interchangeable. They unscrew counter-clockwise from the barrel, allowing you access to thoroughly clean the feed and barrel. This is especially useful when you have a demonstrator that may have a stubborn spot of ink that won't completely wash out. We also stock additional Pelikan nibs at Goldspot Pens so you could have the option of changing nibs out depending on your handwriting preferences at the moment.

Pelikan's Range of Piston-Filling Fountain Pens

The majority of Pelikan's success in the past 50+ years has been due to their perfected piston-filling mechanism. Most of their fountain pens utilize this system. However, not all pens are created equal. A piston-filling Pelikan starts around $165 (retail) and can go as high as in the $1,000s for a limited editions. Yes, you read that right. Thousands.

So, what's the difference that can potentially cost you hundreds of dollars? Let's explore.

First off, we're going to be talking a lot about the different model numbers like the Classic M200, Souveran M405, Souveran M600, etc. Here is a quick primer on the model numbers:

The last digit is usually either a 0 (zero) or a 5. The zero is indicative of gold trims. Five is silver trim. The Souveran models are separated by size from a 30x (smallest) to the 1000 (largest) size. 

Speaking of size, let's show a side-by-side comparison of the different Pelikan Souveran models to serve as a basis of our understanding for the different model numbers.

Guide to Pelikans Modern Piston Fill Fountain Pens

The style of the Classic and Souveran line are quite close. The Classic 200 collection measurements:

Length open with cap posted: 5.9 in (149mm)
Length closed: 5in (126mm)
Diameter: 0.5in (12mm)
Weight: 0.5oz (14gr)

As you may have noticed by doing a quick comparison, the Classic 200 model is closest in size to the Souveran M400 / M405 model. However, the Souveran model commands an extra $200 more. The main reason is the most important part of the pen - the nib.

Pelikan Souveran Stresemann

The Souveran collection is fitted with gold nibs. The M300, M400 / 405 and M600 models use 14kt gold nibs. These nibs are delicately crafted with a beautiful graphic and provide a smoother, more responsive writing experience. Don't get me wrong, the stainless steel nibs on the Classic 200 model are great everyday writers. In fact, if you've never written with a gold nib and are looking for a Pelikan, I would recommend to buy the 200 / 205 with a steel nib first, then you can fully appreciate the subtle difference in writing with a gold nib.

The Souveran M800 / 805 and M1000 are fitted with 18kt gold nibs, which include more gold content (75% pure gold versus the 58.5% pure gold in the 14kt nibs). The higher gold content provides more softness. Again, an experienced hand would be able to feel the difference, so this may be an option explored at a later time. 

Pelikan Classic 200 Smoky Quartz Fountain Pen

For the past 3 years, Pelikan has debuted a new pen from their Classic 200 / 205 as a demonstrator model to match the special edition Edelstein "ink of the year." The most recent release is the Smoky Quartz for 2017. These special editions are not numbered, but are limited in their availability. In our experience, the pens are usually available for up to 1-2 years after their initial launch. Germany regularly releases other special editions in the higher-end Souveran lines, which have roughly the same market shelf life. 

How long these pens usually last are determined by the desirability of the material and the overall design. So, if one comes out that catches your eye, you may want to jump on it sooner than later. If you miss out, you may still be able to source pens that are sold on eBay from a reputable seller, but you should be advised that any Pelikan pens purchased outside of the USA are considered to be "gray market" pieces and are not applicable for warranty service or nib exchange privileges.

In the last 5 years, Pelikan has truly outdone themselves with the scores of beautiful finishes on their premium writing collection. Ranging from precious resins to swirling, hand-turned acrylics, urushi lacquer, abalone shell, sterling silver, gold, and stripes of cellulose acetate, the pen manufacturer continues to impress with a growing body of artistic work. 

Pelikan Souveran 800 Raden Royal Gold Limited Edition Fountain Pen

That brings us to their top of the top end - the Limited Editions. Unlike the Special Editions, these Pelikan pens are individually numbered in fairly small quantities. Take the M800 Raden Royal Gold, for example. This design is limited to 388 pieces world-wide and was hand-crafted by a Japanese artisan. Each piece is truly a work of art that most people would keep as a collector's item on display rather than write with. For those that would write with it, the pen has the same mechanics and nib as the Souveran 800, so the writing experience would be at the same level of excellence, but with a luxury style that is unparalleled.

Each year, Pelikan continues to push their design achievements farther while keeping true to their heritage. Taking a page from the history books, Germany has resurrected vintage styles of Pelikan pens that have been favorites among pen collectors for decades. Their most notable recent collections are the M101N and the M120

pelikan m120 historical collection

In closing, regardless of which Pelikan you invest in, you can expect a quality writing instrument that is fully backed by over 100 years of manufacturing expertise and warranty service that is one of the best in the business. If you are upgrading to a Pelikan as your first piston-fill fountain pen, we recommend to select one of the Classic M200 / M205 pens. If you've had experience with a gold nib before and have the budget to do so, move up to the gold nibs on the Souveran line, keeping in mind the size chart to find a pen you are most comfortable to write with. Always keep an eye out for special editions. If a Pelikan pen design comes along that speaks to your soul, then be prepared to jump on it before it disappears.