Pelikan 120

About This Pen

This update’s Featured Pen is the Pelikan 120.  The example shown here is mine, purchased durng the early 1970s.  The 120s have been issued three times during Pelikan’s history:  from 1955-65, 1973-77, and 2016-17.

Trying to describe a pen model within Pelikan’s long and involved history is not easily done, so this is just a short digest. Pelikan was one of the first fountain pen manufacturers, having opened as an artists’ supply house in the 1880s. Their 4001 ink, still in use today, dates to 1898. Their first true fountain pen, the 100, emerged in 1929, and it carried the first piston-filling system, which is largely unchanged today. The 100 and 100N were, and still are, wonderful pens that in their day were considered very nice but not luxe. The early 1950s brought the 400 Stresemann with its classic green striped barrel (named for a dignified men’s woolen suit which was named for a foreign minister who wore the suit). The 400 was the forerunner of all the forthcoming styles.

The first generation 120 was an all new model, a response to market trends that called for a less expensive line and to new demand from Japan. The Pelikan pens had always been considered fine pens, and they were never inexpensive. With demand falling in most areas in the 1950s, numerous pen manufacturers developed school pens, both to attract young writers and to put a good name on a cheaper line. Pelikan’s answers to these needs were the 120 and 140.

The 120’s first version, issued in 1955, was a very nice student pen, similar to those produced by competitors Sonnecken and Geha. It was the lower end of their production, which at that time featured the 400Ns, 500Ns and 600Ns, very fine celluloid pens with gold nibs. The 120 had the Pelikan look, but it was made of resin, with a solid green barrel and a plated steel nib. The 120 had been discontinued by 1965, but in 1973, facing foreign demand, Pelikan brought it back under manufacturing license to Merz & Krell, who had made pens for Pelikan previously. The “M&K” 120 was slightly different, not-interchangeable with the original, but the differences were not apparent unless the two are seen together.  The second generation was produced and sold worldwide from 1973-77, and is readily available today. They are not expensive to purchase, but try to get a first generation pen, because the plastic in the second generation models is known to be quite brittle. The third generation, part of a new series of models that appeared in 2016, is a different design that looks similar to the original 140, but less to the 120.

I first bought mine at Conkey’s Pen Shop in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1970, my first week of college. It’s a fun fact that Conkeys stood almost exactly where Anderson Pens’ shop is today. I wish I remember what I paid for it!  It was a great pen, that at some point disintegrated and I replaced it with a M&K 120, the pen pictured here.

This pen is in the Europe, Britain, Asia collection.