This appears to be an effort by Pelikan to join the trend in the 1970s towards slender flat-ended pens (Parker had gotten an early start in 1963, Sheaffer had really gripped the concept in ’76, and Waterman made little else throughout the decade). While the current line of pens the company was producing had little wrong with them, they were a little dated in their styling.
There is nothing particularly exciting about the styling of the Signum, as it happens. About all the pen has going for it in the looks department is a lack of determined ugliness and a definite willingness to be part of the cylindrical crowd. In the history offered by the company on its own website, something is made of the fact that this is the first design Pelikan had introduced since the P1 which had not had some sort of mirror in the Pelikano. True, but in a pen company not necessarily something to brag about.
There are quite a number of variations for this pen, although the desire for orderly systems one usually finds in German companies is a little obscure in this model. Unlike the P4XX group that preceeded, or the New Classic crowd which would appear later with its P3XX model numbering, the Signums run from the basic P505 in brushed steel up to a very grand P670 with a “China-Laque” finish. Even the suggestion of a linear ranking these two numbers offer is thrown into question, as one sees gold points mounted on pens with a P5XX number, and steel points in P6XX.
While the bodies are not very exciting, and the model numbering is a little bit of a jumble, the performance is remarkable. I should caution that this is based on a single example, and I may have an anomaly on my hands, but if the Signum line are all as smooth and pleasant in the hand as mine, then the economic problems the company ran into while producing this model were not the fault of the production line. The point, despite the shape which suggests firmness, has a remarkable degree of spring to it; this does not do much for line variation, but it certainly makes for comfortable writing. It is also quite light, especially for a metal-bodied pen, so one will not tire in a long writing session.
The name, by the way, is the Latin word for “Sign.” This is the noun, rather than the verb, as in “sign of the times,” and one imagines that the clever people in the advertising department were trying to invoke either that phrase or, in the more learned buyers, “in hoc signo vinces.” Given the impending sale of the company, there is perhaps more of the former than the latter about this pen.
Production Run: 1978 – 1987.
Cost When New: In a 1985 pricelist, the 505 was DM19.50, and running up to DM86.- for the 560, which is the highest trim level shown in that list. That’s roughly $6.80 going up to $30.00 (for modern value, try this calculator). I’m not sure if this is still during the period of artificial devaluation of the DM; if it is, it might explain the relative bargain one is getting with these pens.
Size: 13.7 cm long capped, 15.3 cm posted, 12.5 cm uncapped.
Point: Depending on the sub-model, either steel or 14K.
Body: Steel or brass with a plated or lacquered finish.
Filler: Cartridge, capacity approx. 0.6 or 1.4 ml (international pattern). There is apparently a model-specific converter, too, but my example came without; the fairly standard converter found in the New Classic is slightly too long.
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