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Shopping For A First Pelikan


tomgartin

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The Atlanta Pen Show is two weeks away and in addition to ending my death grip by learning the forefinger-up method, I've spent the last month monitoring sales of Pelikan 140s of various stripes.

 

I've got a budget of $140 (could stretch to $160) and want a daily writer. I want a pen with a medium or broad nib, wet flow, a smooth piston, and a striped barrel (for ink view). Most importantly, I want one in good enough condition so I don't have to have it serviced for at least a couple years, but I have come looking for advice.

 

:notworthy1: Oh, wise bird-men (and bird-women) of the board, please answer me these questions three:

(1) What should I look for when testing vintage Pelikans, besides nib feel and brassing?

(2) If the selection is poor, how do I resist instant gratification and wait for a better one to come along?

(3) If you were me, would you be looking at 140s or another breed of bird?

- - -

 

Currently trying to sell a Pelikan M400 White Tortoise. PM if you're interested. :)

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Not a striped, not a vintage, but the first step in the scale. the great Pelikan 150, a war tank in Isellpens, try it.

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My one piece of advice is this: handle different sized Pelikan pens before you buy. I have small hands, but find the m600 more comfortable than the m400. That's the lovely opportunity you have at a pen show.

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(1) What should I look for when testing vintage Pelikans, besides nib feel and brassing?

(2) If the selection is poor, how do I resist instant gratification and wait for a better one to come along?

(3) If you were me, would you be looking at 140s or another breed of bird?

 

The 140 is a great pen and would make a very good first Pelikan. The two examples I have are very nice writers indeed. To answer your questions...

 

1) There is only so much you can do with on site testing of vintage pens. Beyond the visual inspection, the two main areas you could run into trouble are the nib collar and the piston seal. Some of the older collars were made of polystyrene which ages badly and can crack. Sometimes this can lead to ink leaking. Other times it just means you can't unscrew the nib. As the nibs are fragile, it's not something I would inspect for at a show. The other area is the piston seal which can fail after so many years. This will result in poor ink uptake or more often, ink leaking out from the piston knob. You can stress test it with a water fill but, again, not something I would do at a show. Those are the 2 things I would look for after purchasing a vintage Pelikan.

 

2) It's hard to resist instant gratification but know that the wait will be worth it. Still, there are other great Pelikans which could be a good first pen so if you stumble on a good price, you may want to bite. Always keep your options open.

 

3) If vintage is what you're looking for, the 140 is definitely a good choice. A 400NN would be another that I would happily recommend.

 

Whatever you end up with, good luck and happy hunting.

PELIKAN - Too many birds in the flock to count. My pen chest has proven to be a most fertile breeding ground.

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THE PELIKAN'S PERCH - A growing reference site for all things Pelikan

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My one piece of advice is this: handle different sized Pelikan pens before you buy. I have small hands, but find the m600 more comfortable than the m400. That's the lovely opportunity you have at a pen show.

 

I could not agree more with this advice. I have average sized hands for someone who is over six feet tall (i.e. I tend to buy "large" gloves, and they are usually just right--or maybe a whisker too long in the fingers), and I find my hand cramps up quite easily when I'm using my 140 (not the case with my other Pelikans). The 140 is a sleek pen, but may not be for all who want to use it for more than 30 minutes at a stretch....

Pelikan 600 M • Pelikan 600 F • 1950s Pelikan 400 M flex

1950s Pelikan 400 OBB Pelikan 200 Binder 0.9mm Cursive Italic •

Pelikan 200 Binder 1.1mm Music • 1950s Pelikan 140 OBB

1950s Soennecken 309 OBB

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Thanks!

 

I'm currently using a Kaweco Sport for most of my writing and haven't found the size to be a problem. Changing my grip really helped with that too.

 

How hard is it to replace the nib collar and the pistol seal? Is it something I could do on my own, or does it require a specialist?

- - -

 

Currently trying to sell a Pelikan M400 White Tortoise. PM if you're interested. :)

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I suggest you seek out Rick Propas if he is at the Atlanta Pen show. He will likely have what you are looking for, at the price you want, he is a studied expert on Pelikans, and the pen will be have been put in good working order. I found him to be quite accommodating, even changing the nib to match what I wanted, and making certain it wrote well when I purchased my first vintage

Pelikan.

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I second the advice about Rick Propas. My hands are not large but I generally use my 600 and 800 size pens. Try many at the show, you may decide to save more money for a larger pen, or at least put one in your sights for the future.

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I third the advice about Rick Propas. I not only have purchased a pen from him (M805) but he has given me advice that proved very helpful even though it lost him an immediate sale. Quality service and counsel.

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To answer your questions:

 

(1) What should I look for when testing vintage Pelikans, besides nib feel and brassing?

 

At a pen show start by asking if the pen has been reconditioned. I assume that most vendors will want to sell pens that they are confident are in good working order, OR they'll disclose that they have only recently acquired the pen and can not say much about it. If it has been reconditioned that might include checking the internals for cracks or wear, inspection/replacement of the piston seal, disassembly/cleaning of the nib/feed/collar, etc. If all that has been done you can't get much better assurance that the pen should serve you well for a long time, of course, if you buy a pen that is 60 or 70 years old nothing is guaranteed.

 

The one thing you can, and should check is how the nib glides over paper. If you can dip test the pen and write a few strokes with it that should say a lot about whether this will become your soul mate, and in my opinion performance on paper forgives MANY cosmetic blemishes such as brassing and scratches. It's good to have a beautiful pen, it is GREAT to have a wonderfully expressive writer. Too flexy will be a problem, too stiff, the same, scratchy will bother you forever. If you like the pen but not the nib you might ask about the possibility of a nib swap on the spot. Then too, as mentioned, if you've never held one of these, this is a great learning opportunity for you. Also, check how well the cap stays tight when screwed on; a loose cap WILL come off in your pocket or bag (don't ask me how I know this), and you don't want one that your are constantly having to 'snug' up.

(2) If the selection is poor, how do I resist instant gratification and wait for a better one to come along?

If the selection is poor, look around. In your price range there are a number of nice Pels for you to consider. I have several older M200's and M400's that might not be considered vintage which are great writers that I was able to score in that price range. Try them out, one of them may be the best deal you are ever going to get, and as mentioned sooner or later the 'right' 140 will come along. If you think you are going to your grave with just one Pelikan, well, I'm just saying there may be one or two more in your future. I have an old 120 that has been writing for years, it was my first, (purchased new in the late 1960',s) but not my last Pelikan.

 

(3) If you were me, would you be looking at 140s or another breed of bird?

Auctions, pen shows, and flea markets are situational, unlike a B&M store. If you went to a car show with $1,000 in your pocket looking for a user VW Bug and there were none, would you pss on a classic Porsche offered for $500? Probably a poor analogy but my point is it is good to know what you are looking for, but don't be blind to other opportunities which may present. I would bet that someday you will have a tortoise Pelikan 400, and you never know, that day may be sooner than you think. Probably half the pens I've bought were pens which, on that day I was not intending to buy, thinking more along the lines of 'some day'. The other half I waited, hunted searched doggedly until the right pen at the right price presented.

I am no expert so consider the source, I've only been back at this a few years. I am anxious to see the pics of what you turn up.

 

(2) If the selection is poor, how do I resist instant gratification and wait for a better one to come along?

(3) If you were me, would you be looking at 140s or another breed of bird?

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Thanks for the advice. I've contacted Rick Propas, who will not be at the Atlanta Pen Show and will not be available for some time after the show. The quality of his reputation makes waiting until June seem worth my while, but I will certainly be open to other opportunities at the show itself since I have so few opportunities to see new (to me) pens in person.

 

Anyone bringing Pelikans to the ATL show: please feel free to give me a heads-up as I'd love to meet you there.

- - -

 

Currently trying to sell a Pelikan M400 White Tortoise. PM if you're interested. :)

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The medium-small 140 posts long....as long as a posted 400. It is semi-flex, the place to start.

The Problem...is it is easy to get a 'flexi'/maxi-semi-flex in the '50-s 400's when you might not be ready for it.

I always suggest spending three months with a semi-flex before moving up to a 'flexi'. Semi-flex can be written with by the Ham Fisted. It allows you to develop a lighter hand naturally.

'Flexi' requires a lighter semi-ham-fisted hand...... :blush:

 

Medium-small pens like the 140 were quite popular in Germany in the '50-60's. Geha's top of the line 760 was medium-small as is the Kaweco Dia. Those are perfect pens for a shirt pocket...and they all post long.

 

I suggest just trusting Rick to send you a good pen. I have a very nice black 140 OF from him.

I also have a good green stripped OB 140 too; horse traded at a flea market. That was my first of those 'fabled' semi-flex nibs I'd heard of....as soon as I pressed that nib to my thumbnail :puddle: ...I suddenly knew what every one was talking about.

You won't need a 'minty' one, and although mine have no brassing....brassing does not matter to the writing. If brassing bothers you, you can take it down to the brass, and polish it very two or three months back to a 'gold' gleam.

I may have been extremely lucky with all my old Pelikans, not a one has a brassing problem.

Others can advise you more on that.

 

The 140 balances well, and is as long posted as a posted 400.....The good thing is if you don't like it...which I doubt...., you can get rid of it for the same price.

 

Get it in regular semi-flex....the next semi-flex perhaps in '50's-60's Oblique. :puddle: :drool: Don't waste your money on an German or any Oblique younger than that.

In reference to P. T. Barnum; to advise for free is foolish, ........busybodies are ill liked by both factions.

 

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 

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The medium-small 140 posts long....as long as a posted 400. It is semi-flex, the place to start.

The Problem...is it is easy to get a 'flexi'/maxi-semi-flex in the '50-s 400's when you might not be ready for it.

I always suggest spending three months with a semi-flex before moving up to a 'flexi'. Semi-flex can be written with by the Ham Fisted. It allows you to develop a lighter hand naturally.

'Flexi' requires a lighter semi-ham-fisted hand...... :blush:

 

Medium-small pens like the 140 were quite popular in Germany in the '50-60's. Geha's top of the line 760 was medium-small as is the Kaweco Dia. Those are perfect pens for a shirt pocket...and they all post long.

 

I suggest just trusting Rick to send you a good pen. I have a very nice black 140 OF from him.

I also have a good green stripped OB 140 too; horse traded at a flea market. That was my first of those 'fabled' semi-flex nibs I'd heard of....as soon as I pressed that nib to my thumbnail :puddle: ...I suddenly knew what every one was talking about.

You won't need a 'minty' one, and although mine have no brassing....brassing does not matter to the writing. If brassing bothers you, you can take it down to the brass, and polish it very two or three months back to a 'gold' gleam.

I may have been extremely lucky with all my old Pelikans, not a one has a brassing problem.

Others can advise you more on that.

 

The 140 balances well, and is as long posted as a posted 400.....The good thing is if you don't like it...which I doubt...., you can get rid of it for the same price.

 

Get it in regular semi-flex....the next semi-flex perhaps in '50's-60's Oblique. :puddle: :drool: Don't waste your money on an German or any Oblique younger than that.

 

You've sold me on the 140.

 

Polishing the brass shouldn't be a problem as long as I have the OK from one of our resident experts on vintage pens.

 

But now I have a dilemma: buy from Rick now (before he goes on vacation) but have nothing to spend at the pen show, or go to the show and wait to order from Rick until late June.

It's a 60 year old pen, it can wait a little longer.... or is it... It's a 60 year old pen, it's waited long enough?

- - -

 

Currently trying to sell a Pelikan M400 White Tortoise. PM if you're interested. :)

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There have been a lot of caveats thrown around, but one thing I've noticed about vintage Pelikans is that, given half a chance, they've held up a lot better than many, if not most, vintage pens. The 140s, from around the 1950s, can certainly be found in very good cosmetic condition, and with a decent seller, made sure that they are in good working condition. I picked up one straight off of eBay as a backup for slightly more expensive models (400NN, which are simply superb), and it is a total champ, and an EDC. Holds lots of ink and the nibs from that era can not be beat!

 

Sure, if you can wait for Rick, you'll have a great deal of confidence in the sale. Be sure to handle a bunch of them at the show so you get a feel for different models. Sometimes the right pen in your hand will free up a few more $$. It's usually worth it. :)

 

Have fun at the show, and take pics and report back!

"When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

~ Benjamin Franklin

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Sounds like you're sold on the 140, but you might want to start with a modern Pelikan--I was pleasantly surprised to find some people selling second-hand M600s for very near your price point--around $160 if I remember correctly--and they looked just like new. I would wait and see what your options are before jumping into vintage, personally, but that's just me. Vintage Pelikans are reliable, especially if you buy it from someone who has installed a new seal.

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Atlanta is not a big show so unless Rick is there, you are not likely to find much in the way of vintage Pelikans. There will be some folks with more modern Pels in the box. (Look for Joel Hamilton).

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Like everyone on this thread, I would say go for Rick Propas. He will back you up on his pens. Some months ago I had planned to buy my first Pelikan and after much thought and some research and reviews decided that it would be a vintage.

 

Then it was a toss up between the 140, the 400 and the 400NN. I liked the cigar shape of the 140 and the 400 NN to the 400 which was more flat ended. I chose the 400NN simply because it was a little larger and it was pitted as being a little more 'high end' in the late 60s. (the 140 was positioned a little higher than the historic german school pens, but behind the 400).

 

I went in for the green striped version because I thought it looked rather classic. And after some correspondence with Rick decided on what he suggested…..and boy! what a pen he sent me! The nib was so exquisite that this pen ranked straightaway among my top three pens ahead of my sailor realos and modern MBs.

 

Wish you a good one with your Pel acquisition!

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I guess contrary to everyone else I would say go and see what is at the pen show. It is always better to be able to put your hands on a pen and judge it for yourself.

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Atlanta was not a very big show, and there were just a handful of Pelikans. When I wandered around on Saturday, I could only count four Pelikan 140s. Two were solid color versions beyond my budget. One was "not for sale" (then why was it in a display case???). And one was in a closed display, but I couldn't manage to get the seller's attention even though I visited three times.

 

What I did find was a Parker 75 Cisele with a fine nib (marked "65"). It needed a good flush and some polish, but it's a very nice pen. I'm hoping to swap my fine nib for a medium.

 

Side note: I did get to pick up one of the Pelikan 140s, and found it to be a nice size, though a bit lightweight. I think the 75 is a good fit for me, and it's a pen I've admired since my entry into the FP world, but I'm sure there's still a Pelikan in my future somewhere.

 

Thanks, everyone, for all your input.

 

13804742833_9822b3fccf_b.jpg

Parker 75 Cisele (right) pictured next to a Parker 45 flighter I also found at the pen show.

- - -

 

Currently trying to sell a Pelikan M400 White Tortoise. PM if you're interested. :)

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