Since 1997, when I received a Pelikan 800 for my 50th birthday, Pelikans have been the main focus of my collecting.
To the left is an image of a handful of my earliest pens. These are my favorites--the first model of the Pelikan and the early (pre-1933) 100s. They can be differentiated from the later pens by the bakelite bodies, the straight sections and captops, the broader, "beakier" clips and the hearthole nib vents.
In 1931 the bodies began to be of yellow tinted celluloid. Often these early pens have interestingly patterned barrel bands (Binde, in German) Eight out of ten days I carry some sort of early 100 as my daily writer.
The earliest Pelikans, before 1931, had no model number. Only later, with the introduction of the white gold 110, were the regular production pens assigned the number 100. These early pens form the heart of my collection, especially the less common black models. I am also pleased to own several remarkable 100s, including the 110, 112, as well as models in tortoise, lizard, red, blue, gold and jade. I have also recently acquired 101 models in all green and all coral, the latter in regular and short captop. I also have a good collection of 100N models, including a 100N Toledo, wonderful 100N tortoise with a luscious BB nib and a rare 100N Magnum "Emegê" and many 400 era pens as well as modern pens.
As a car guy, I think of Pelikans as the BMW to MontBlanc's Mercedes--lighter, smaller, more maneuverable and sportier, and offering more consistent quality.
However, the early Pelikans can be touchy and delicate. The nibs need to be set right (I was always rebuilding the Solex PDSI on my BMW 2002) and I have put in a lot of work ensuring that any early Pelikan you get from me is set just right. And they need maintenance (major service every 8000 miles for the 2002). There's some debate about this, but I suggest keeping the pre-1942 pens with cork seals wet all the time. Still, nothing writes like an early 100, just as my recently acquired Z3M has spoiled me for other cars, no matter how nice. Still I admire Mercedes just as I admire some Montblancs. My 139 and silver band 149 are favorites.
Both the 100N and the 400 series are good solid workhorses; use them, forget them. They'll go forever, especially the 400s, and they offer the same sort of expressive, flexible obliques as the earlier, MB nibbed pens.
The modern Pelikans are great pens, rugged good writers with just enough feel for the road, or paper. But they do not offer the flexibility or shading that you get with a vintage nib. The exceptions are those modern Pelikan nibs customized by John Mottishaw, a fine gentleman and wonderful craftsman. My favorite modern 800 nib, which now resides on the tortoise 800, is a 14 K OM made for me by John. I also heartily recommend to you Richard Binder who has recently retipped an early hearthole nib that is now one of my favorites.
My only complaint about the modern pens is that despite their larger size, these pens hold less ink than the earlier pens.
As we go along, I hope to add more information and links for Pelikans. If you seek more information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.