An Interview with Christian Ott
If you are on Instagram and are not following "pelikaniac" (link) then you're missing out! Christian has one of the best collection of vintage Pelikans I have ever seen! He collects other German brands too, and this article focuses on his curation of Montblanc pens.
A super-rare Waterman-style safety made by Montblanc in the 1920s
A rare version of the Montblanc No. 744 - this one is in silver
When did you start collecting fountain pens and what sparked off the interest in the first place?
When my grandmother died in 1990 I inherited my first fountain pen - a Pelikan 100N grey from about 1950 with a wonderful OB 14 ct nib. But only in 1997 I really started collecting fountain pens, that’s when I met my wonderful friend Osman Sümer at our local pen show in Munich. After that meeting everything began and never stopped until today - I bought almost everything on my way that seemed interesting to me.
The Pelikan 100N in grey that started it all!
You are a prolific collector of a few popular vintage pen brands. What interested you in MBs in particular, what do you find unique about vintage MB designs?
To tell the truth I mainly collected Pelikan and Soenneckens by heart and the MB’s that I found sometimes went into my collection and other times to Osman to exchange them to Pelikans. In MBs, I like especially the wideness of different models and filling systems and colours as well as overlays. The number of collectable Pelikans from 1929 to 1960 is quite limited, there are maybe about 200 different pens - MB that also existed already 25 years earlier has about 5000 different pens (a collector friend told me that once). The star on the top of the older MBs attracts more than any other logo in the pen world!
The largest of the original Meisterstück collection from the late 1920s - A No. 45 safety. This one has the rare serpent clip too!
You had mentioned to me that your MB collection has been pared down dramatically over the years to make room for pens of other brands that you are more interested in. But can you tell us a little about the MBs that you have kept with you and why you didn’t let them go as yet?
As mentioned before some MBs may have gone to Osman but I always tried to keep also special ones. I tried to complete first the 142-149 series of the 1950’s. Later on the 132-139 series. I found coloured lower models like 333 1⁄2 in Hungary and find them quite attractive. Also the PL series is always a welcome addition to a collection. I tried to keep the bigger models like 246 and let go the 242 and 244 etc.
No. 246 & 272 pencil set
From top to bottom: No. 246, No. 432 stylo, No. 234 1/2, and No. 124PL
No. 246 in grey (top) and brown/tiger eye (bottom)
Celluloid No. 149 "silver rings" from the 1950s.
Colourful Montblanc No. 3331/2 and 3341/2
Did you/do you have a grail MB that you were never able to add to your collection?
Modern Montblancs look and perform very differently from the vintage ones. How do you feel about the changes?
I don't care at all about modern Montblancs and hardly know about their performance. I used to write some months with a vintage MB #6 safety - I found the suspension of the nib really wonderful and completely different to modern systems.
Montblanc No. 6 safety filler, with the rare serpent clip.
Tell us a little about the other pen brands that you have been collecting and why they have caught your attention?
My first love was clear after the good experiences I made writing with my Pelikan. Then came the Soenneckens - first also in Hungary, later on, I picked them out of eBay and from the German pen shows. They have also a large variety of models and colours. After that, I realized that the old Osmias look pretty cool and have also that attractive style of the logo like MB.
Osmia Lord in green (top), 300 Supra Luxus (middle), Extra (bottom)
Sonnecken 24 (top), 915 (middle), and Seneca (bottom)
A unique Pelikan No. 300 (top), Toledo 100N (middle), 1929 Ur-Pelikan (bottom)
If you were asked to part with your entire collection (all brands together) except for a few select pens then which would those few pens be, and why?
I would keep the ones that I could not find easily on the pen shows or markets again. The blue Pelikan 101 short capt top that I got from Mr. Dittmer (over 70 years working for Pelikan) once would as well be among as my Astoria #10 - the pen with the hugest nib I have.
The largest Astoria - the No. 10 (known by collectors to be rarer than the Montblanc No. 12)
Pelikan blue No. 101 with short cap top
Are you chasing any grail pens at present for your non-MB collection? What makes them so special?
One of my favourite pens to get in the future is a Soennecken silver safety with girlande that I really adore - it is pictured on the front side of the new Soennecken book of Mr. Wallrafen.
Stefan Wallrafen's book on Sonnecken (link)
What tips would you give budding vintage pen collectors based on your profound experience?
Try to concentrate on one or two brands and try to find vintage pens. It keeps you moving and walking on the streets, flea markets and pen shows. For sure there are attractive modern pens as well as limited editions but they are available almost everywhere. But trying to find certain vintage pens is much more interesting and fun. Imagine if you find a non-perfect vintage MB pen with for example broken nib or cap. You have to go around, email and talk to a lot of people - this is fun not work. And you know a lot of cool and interesting new people that can be friends later on. The base of building up a collection is always outside and not the internet - visiting pen shows you find lots of interesting pens that you may never see elsewhere. There you can touch the pens, check them, sometimes write with them and you will go or fly home from the pen show with happiness in your luggage and mind.
One of the first Montblanc Pix repeater pencils introduced in c. 1933, rated by Collectible Stars I as 11 out of 12 in rarity.