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Pelikan 100

Pelikan 100, green marbled celluloid, c1933

Making its debut in 1931, the little model 100 was Pelikan's first self-filling pen, and the German firm (which already had almost a century in the graphic arts supply trade behind it) got it right on the very first try. Unlike other latecomers to the fountain pen game, Pelikan didn't just opt to copy other people's pens; the model 100 was full of interesting novelties.

Its tiny length when capped may be hard to imagine from a photograph, but it measures just over 4-1/2"/115mm long. The secret here is the very long cap, which swallows up almost half the length of the pen. Remove and post the cap (which just barely clenches the end of the filler knob), and you have a pen that's amost 7"/175mm long, just a few millimeters shy of the length of the mighty Montblanc 149 in similar posted-cap configuration. The 100 retains its pencil-like girth, however, making it very lightweight and comfortable for those who prefer thinner pens.

The Pelikan was highly technically advanced for its era; it was made largely from celluloid (on this particular and very typical model, the derby is black hard rubber). Forward of the marbled central portion of the barrel, the plastic is a translucent green, providing a large ink-view window (a feature that would soon become de rigeur on Pelikan's German competitors' products). The 100 used a telescoping piston filler system invented by Hungarian Theodor Kovács, who seems to have been associated with the Croatian firm Penkala; just dip the pen in the inkwell, and twist the knob at the end of the pen out and back, and the cork-sealed piston draws in the ink. Thanks to the telscoping action, the piston filler is fairly compact and leaves plenty of room for ink. These piston fillers are very reliable, although the cork used on early models does become ineffective if allowed to dry out (in the 1950s, Pelikan and other makers would move to elastomeric piston seals).

Pelikans are justly famed for the smoothness and flexibility of their points, and even in this early model there's reason to boast (interestingly, Pelikan jobbed out their early gold point production to Montblanc, who had of course jobbed their early point production to the Americans). Although small, the 14k point in this pen feeds well and writes very smoothly with surprising flex.

The Pelikan came in a number of color and trim variations, and was updated once or twice over the course of its model run (the postwar 100N boasted a somewhat more streamlined shape). Although most of the examples you see today will have come by way of European collectors, many of these pens made their way to the U.S. much earlier than other continental pens; as Jonathan Steinberg notes in his book, fountain pens were one of the only classes of luxury goods that Jewish emigrés from the Third Reich were allowed to carry out of the country. During the second world war, many 100s got steel points; esthetically less desireable, perhaps, but historically correct. Pelikan made model 100s for at least one private label, the Taylorix office machinery firm (these usually have extra-firm manifolding points).

The Verdict

A very collectible pen that had been reasonably affordable compared to other German pens of this period (but everyone's found this out, and prices are moving up smartly). It's also an excellent writer and a serviceable pen for daily use. Plus, it won't weigh down your coat pocket. Most are green and black, like this one, but look out for unusual color variations (like coral or tortoise-shell). Unrestored 100s may require new cork seals, a job for an expert restorer.

Maker Pelikan (Gunther Wagner)
Origin Germany (Hamburg)
Production 1931-c1950
Type Piston fill
Point 14k M
Construction Black, transparent green, and marbled green celluloid, black hard rubber derby, gold fill trim.