Montblanc is the company pen lovers love to hate.
I'll get around to writing some.
Serial Numbers and Pix
Montblanc introduced serial numbers in 1991 in some sort of attempt to counter the replica/counterfeit market. This has not been particularly effective. In general, all Montblancs made after 1991 should have a serial number, but remember that there are still a considerable number of used pens that date from before that, so lack of a serial number may mean only that it is an older pen. The font of the serial number has changed at least once; the early ons (such as my 1991 MB146) is block-lettered, while current ones use a font that resembles the computer-readable numbers in a personal check. I am not sure when the switch occurred.
To make matters more complicated, Montblanc does reuse serial numbers (they are issued randomly with no discernable pattern), so two pens with the same serial number could still be genuine. It is likely that they would be different models and separated by many years in time, though. I am told they do not keep any database of serial numbers except for the limited edition pens.
Around 1997, Montblanc introduced the "Pix" mark as a further anti-counterfeiting feature. Often you will find this on the cap band as well as a much less obvious place: the underside of the clip. However, the presence or absence of this mark does not mean the pen is fake/real; many modern counterfeits dutifully include the Pix mark as well, including on the underside of the clip (for the higher-quality fakes). I think the clip underside one is the more common one; putting Pix on the cap band is a more recent thing (some time in the 2000s; I've heard 2006 quoted).
Evolution of Design Features
Montblanc Meisterstuck 149
Around 1991 they switched from 14k nibs to 18k nibs exclusively.
The cap band on very early (first-year?) 149s is different. Rather than 3 gold bands, the center band is gold while the two smaller side bands are sterling silver. Pens with these bands come from very early production and are extremely valuable to collectors. Other earlier cap bands would say Masterpiece (US and UK) or Chef d'Oeuvre (French) instead of Meisterstuck; these were made for the export market and thus had Meisterstuck translated into the appropriate languages.
Another feature of early 149s is that the trim ring at the filler knob end is an actual ring and protrudes very slightly. On current 149s, this band is completely flush against the side. This change occurred by 1972. The piston filler itself comes in at least three variants: a white metal housing (1952-late 1950s), an all-plastic mechanism (late 1950s-1990), and a brass housing (1990-current).
The barrel has undergone one significant design change that is not very visible externally. Prior to 1985, the entire barrel was a single piece of plastic. After 1985, the barrel was made in two pieces: the barrel up to and including the ink window, and then the section with the nib that joins up where the ink window ends.
Barry Gabay has the following list of known 149 nib variants with approximate dates. The 2-tone has a platinum-plated center and gold edge, while the 3-tone is gold-platinum-gold. The cut-out tail present in some pens is a notch in the nib that mates against the feed and prevents it from moving or rotating. This feature cannot be seen without disassembling the nib and feed.
- 14C, 3 tone, tapered shoulders (1952-1959)
- 14C, 3 tone, broad shoulders (1960-1972)
- 18C, 3 tone, broad shoulders (1952-1959 European market)
- 14C, 2 tone, narrow shoulders (1972-1985)
- 14C, 2 tone, flexible nib (1960s-1970s)
- 14K, 2 tone, broad shoulders (1985-1988)
- 14K, 2 tone, broad shoulders, cut-out tail (1988-1990)
- 14K, 2 tone, narrow shoulders (1985-1988)
- 14K, 2 tone, narrow shoulders, cut-out tail (1988-1990)
- 18K, 2 tone, broad shoulders (1991-1994)
- 18k, 3 tone, broad shoulders, used on Hemingway and later 149s (1995-1999)
- 18K, 3 tone, narrow shoulders, cut-out tail (1999-current)
The early 149s (1950s vintage) are slightly smaller than the current size and have the model number heat-stamped on the filler cone. The celluloid pens have a celluloid star that yellows with age; any 149 with a slightly yellowed star is a pretty old one.
Montblanc Meisterstuck 146
The ink window switched from solid transparent blue to thin clear stripes in the late 1970s.
The two-tone nib (still current) was introduced in 1993-1994. Older pens will have a single-tone nib. There are at least two variants of the two-tone nib: broad shoulders and narrow shoulders. It is very difficult to tell them apart except side-by-side.
Most will be marked GERMANY on the clip, except for a period in the 1980s to about 1991 when they were marked W-GERMANY.
The cap band on older ones will usually be marked "Montblanc Meisterstuck No.146" but newer ones omit the model number; my 2009 says "Montblanc Meisterstuck Pix." I think this change occurred in the early 2000s.
I observe from my own collection that late-1980s and early-1990s pens are not quite the same as the current (2010) 146. The thread pitch on the cap threads changed sometime in the last decade or two and older caps will not screw on to newer pens and vice-versa.
Mont Blanc 221 1971-1979, 14k gold nib, plastic, cartridge/converter
The 221 comes from a long line of student pens and would eventually (after Montblanc goes all upscale during the 1980s) morph into the Classic and then the Generations. The 1970s vintage ones have semi-flexible nibs. Not to be confused with the similar 220, which has a more textured finish and a piston filler.
Mont Blanc 144 1980s, 14k gold nib, resin, cartridge/converter
This is the small pen from Mont Blanc's 1980s regular lineup. Around the 1990s they started calling it the Meisterstuck Classique and discontinued it sometime in the late 2000s (the fancier variants are still sold, but not the plain black). This example is marked W-Germany, which places it in the 1980s.
Mont Blanc 146 (single-tone nib, solid window) mid-1980s, 14k gold nib, resin, piston
The 146 (now called LeGrand) is the large-sized Meisterstuck, second only to the massive 149. The 1980s vintage models have a solid ink window and a single-tone gold nib with a fairly plain engraving.
Mont Blanc 146 (two-tone nib, solid window) 1991, 14k two-tone nib, resin, piston
The rather plain single-tone nib on the 146 was eventually replaced by the 2-tone nib in use today. This change occurred sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. This particular example can be dated to exactly 1991 as it is both marked W-Germany and has a serial number. I imagine the introduction of the slotted ink window must have come later.
Mont Blanc 149 (18k 2T nib) 1991-1994, 18k two-tone nib, resin, piston
The iconic 149 is the flagship of the Meisterstuck line and is the classic big black German pen. This example has a two-tone 18k nib (which dates it to the 1991-1994 time frame); current 149s have a 3-tone nib (gold, then silver, then gold in the center). The pen is massive (it dwarfs the 146, which is already considered large); the exposed part of the nib is nearly an inch long, the whole thing is over 6.5 inched posted, and is about as thick as a giant whiteboard marker. It's too fat for some of my pen storage trays and won't fit in some of my pen pouches. While it's a great pen, be wary using it in public lest people think you're "overcompensating" for something.
Mont Blanc "Hommage a Frederic Chopin" 145R late 1990s, 14k nib, resin, cartridge/converterThe Montblanc 145 Chopin is their mid-sized pen. It is a bit bigger than the 144 and uses cartridges or a converter, but is a screw cap instead of the 144's snap cap. The R designation indicates that it is in the (now discontinued) bordeaux color. The 145/Chopin is now known (somewhat misleadingly, as they have used the name before) as the Classique; the 144 that used to have the name is now out of production except for the fancy metal finishes.
Mont Blanc 146R late 1990s, 14k nib, resin, piston
The 146R is the same as the 146 except for the bordeaux (red) color. I think all of these only ever came with the two-tone nib as they were not introduced until after they had switched over.
Mont Blanc 149 75th Anniversary Special Edition 1999, 18k nib, piston, resin
For the 75th anniversary of the Meisterstuck line (introduced in 1924) Montblanc released the Special Edition versions of the Meisterstuck line. They are identical to the normal black with gold trim Meisterstuck except that the snowcap has a gold ring with "75 Years of Passion and Soul" engraved and a tiny diamond set in the "O" of "Passion." In addition, the fountain pens featured a very different nib engraving that says "75 Years Meisterstuck." Very nice and attractive pens all around, there is even a Limited Edition version that is the same thing except in Rose Gold.
Mont Blanc 146 LeGrand UNICEF "Signature for Good" Special Edition 2009, 14k two-tone gold nib, resin, piston
During 2009-2010 Montblanc launched the "Signature for Good" Special Edition to benefit UNICEF's child literacy efforts. You could get versions for the 145 and 146 sizes. They are identical to the regular Meisterstuck except that the snowcap has a gold wreath and a sapphire, representing UNICEF.