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Pelikan Pens – With So Many Choices Where Do I Start?

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German pen manufacturer Pelikan is well-known for making high-end writing instruments. Founded in 1832 in Hanover, Germany by chemist Carl Hornemann, the company started as a color and ink factory. It wasn’t until they began making high-end fountain pens in 1929 that the company really took off. Today they manufacture multiple lines and types of fountain pens, rollerball pens, ballpoint pens, and even mechanical pencils. However, for those not familiar with the Pelikan brand, it can be overwhelming to try to find the right pen with so many options.

What do the different model numbers mean?

Pelikan uses a combination of a letter followed by a series of numbers to identify each pen in their collection. Understanding what each of these stands for goes a long way towards finding the right pen.


The letter at the beginning tells you what type of pen or pencil it is. Many of these letters are derived from German words and can be difficult to decipher on your own. Here is a rundown of the letters used and what they stand for.

M – The letter “M” is indicative of a piston-filling fountain pen. This filling system is patented and is unique to Pelikan.


P – The letter “P” refers to the German words “Patronen-füller,” meaning “cartridge filling.” These pens use a cartridge or converter for ink storage.

R – The only straightforward letter in the bunch, “R” stands for rollerball pens.


K – “Kugelchreiber,” the German word describing a ballpoint or rollerball pen is used for ballpoint pens.

D – The letter “D” denotes a mechanical pencil or “Druckbleistift,” as they are known in German.



The numbers that follow the letter describe two more characteristics of the Pelikan pen. The first number indicates the size of the pen relative to others in the same line. For example, a pen label M200 is smaller than a pen that is an M600. However, be careful in comparing numbers if you are looking at pens in different collections. The numbers are not standardized and do not refer to a specific shaft width or length. In general, though, it safe to say that smaller numbers are associated with pens with shorter, thinner shafts, making them a better choice if you have petite hands. Collectors with large hands will be more comfortable with a higher number pen.

The remaining numbers indicate other properties of the pen itself, such as the materials used in the pen’s trim. Any pen with “-00” is gold plated, while “-05” signifies that the pen is chromium or palladium plated. Other number variations indicate additional decorative features such as striping on the shaft, but these numbers are less common.

Why are some Pelikan pens so expensive?

At first glance, many Pelikan fountain pens look similar, but they are vastly different prices. This seeming discrepancy is especially noticeable when comparing the Classic line and the Souveran line. Both series are piston filled fountain pens. So, why the big price difference? These two pen lines have very different nibs.

Pelikan Classic pens have stainless steel nibs, while the Souveran line has gold nibs. If you are used to a fountain pen with a stainless nib, it may not be worth the added expense to buy one with a gold nib. However, gold nibs have their benefits. Gold is a soft metal, and nibs made from gold give a softer feel and tend to be smoother and more responsive to hand pressure changes when writing. Depending on the pen, Souveran nibs can be up to 18 karat gold.


How does the Pelikan piston filling system work?

Pelikan’s patented piston-filling system makes their fountain pens easy to fill and easy to maintain. It does require bottled ink, but you won’t need to keep dipping your nib as you work. Here’s why: One benefit of filling your own pen is that it allows you to vary the ink’s color and style in your pen. You are not limited to the cartridges available for your pen. This filling system also allows for a higher ink capacity than a traditional cartridge or converter pen, giving you more writing time between fills. To keep the piston working well, the pen should be cleaned and flushed between fillings. If the piston becomes sticky, use 100% silicone grease to help it move more freely.

Are Pelikan pens collectible?

Yes, there are Pelikan pens worth buying and keeping. Every few years, Pelikan releases special edition pens in their Classic and Souveran lines. These pens are limited in availability but not necessarily number. However, if there is a special edition pen that catches your eye, better not wait too long to snatch it up. The most recent Classic series special edition pen was released in 2020. Featuring a sparkling Moonstone color shaft, this pen coordinates with the Edelstein “Ink of the Year” of the same name, Moonstone.

Pelikan limited edition Souveran pens are top of the line. Individually numbered and manufactured in small quantities, these pens are sure to be eye-catchers. For example, there were only 388 of the M800 Raden Royal Gold manufactured. Handcrafted by Japanese artisans, these pens feature elaborate gold designs on the shaft. The pen’s functional parts are the same as a comparable M800, but the artwork is remarkable.


If you love writing with pens or collecting fine pens, Pelikan pens are likely on your radar. It is worth your time to understand the technology and the materials behind these precision writing implements before you jump in with both feet and buy one. Pelikan offers a pen to fit every budget and writer, from the vintage to the classic to the ultra-collectible Souveran line.

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  • Cool post on Pelikans! Somewhere on the Pelikan site is a list showing the dimensions of each of the main lines of Pelikan pens; that really helps when trying to figure out which fountain pen might work best for you. (I love my green M400, which I bought long enough ago that it was made in West Germany. . . .)

    Nath Dresser on

  • I am from Singapore. I am 71 years of age now and I am a book lover. I became a pen collector (not the expensive range) by accident. When I was in school during the mid-50s, my English literature teacher encouraged all his students to use only German-made fountain pens. In those days, Rotax piston filler was the most durable and affordable pen. I still have two of those I had used. My late father first introduced me to the Pelikan series in the late 1960s. Pelikan is among the best and durable pens.

    Mohamed Jaffar on

  • Great article and full of useful information. Would love to see you do the same for other brands. Thanks.

    TJ ZIdaroff on

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