The W.A. Shaeffer Pen Co., one of the "big four" in writing instrument production, was formed in 1913 by Walter A. Shaeffer, who had patented the lever filling fountain pen in 1908. However, it wasn't until after the success of the Wahl Eversharp metal pencil that the company thought it worthwhile to begin manufacturing mechanical pencils to go with its pens.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
1. The "Sharp-Point" - 1918-1921
Many of the earliest Sheaffer pencils didn't even say they were Sheaffers. These two are only marked "Sharp-Point." The ringtop model says Patent Applied For, while the side clip model has a patent date of November 5, 1918. That is a reference to patent number 1,284,156, granted to W. A. Sheaffer. View here.
I always thought it was just a coincidence that this pencil was patented the same day as the familiar Sheaffer bell-top pencils until I was reading old Sheaffer ads in preparation of writing this article!
2. Sheaffer metal "bell top" pencils, 1921-1925
These came in a wide variety of sizes, materials and patterns. Some are imprinted with "Lifetime," but others were not (even though Lifetime pens were introduced by the company in 1920). Many are printed with the original November 5, 1918 patent date and "Pat. Pend.", a reference to the bell top that was supposedly resistant to denting, applied for May 5, 1919 but not granted until September 22, 1925 as number 1,554,604. View here. Sheaffer's patent on the propel-repel-expel mechanism, filed in 1920 but not granted until July 3, 1928 as number 1,675,826. View here.
The company, which had started producing pencils long after it had perfected the art of making pens, was a bit cautious about them. A 1925 catalog begins, "The guarantee on the Sheaffer pencil is not a guarantee of implied perfection but is positive and definite....." In keeping with that, it wasn't until the late 1940s that a white dot (for their lifetime guarantee) appeared on a Sheaffer pencil.
Still, nearly a century later, it's hard to find one that doesn't work. Pretty good track record for something Sheaffer wasn't so sure about!
2a. Sheaffer Demonstrator
This piece, with the usual Sheaffer imprints on the cap, also has the word "Demonstrator" imprinted on the barrel and cutouts so that when the lead is advanced, you can see the mechanism working.
2b. Sheaffer metal ringtops
Here is a closer view of some Sheaffer ringtop pencils. In addition to smooth barrel designs normally encountered, the company produced a variety of beautiful and intricate designs.
3. Sheaffer Early Metal "Utility" Pencil.
Later in the 1930s, Sheaffer introduced utility pencils with exposed erasers. This piece is much larger, comparable to an oversize flattop, and has a "Lifetime" imprint.
4. Sheaffer flattops, 1925-1929
In 1925, Sheaffer was one of the leaders in producing writing instruments in vibrant colors, and the pencils were made to match them. Mechanically, these were identical to the earlier metal pencils, which from a durability standpoint is outstanding. Still, the colors were a little boring.
5. Sheaffer Balance (ball clip), 1930-1933
This was a revolutionary pencil, patented, which influenced the entire writing instrument industry and overnight made all flattops look clunky and old-fashioned. After this was introduced, most other manufacturers started streamlining their designs to keep up with Sheaffer.
This first generation of Balance pencils had a spherical ball on the end of the clip.
The pearl and black, jade and black colors were carried over from earlier models. Marine green and black, grey and black, and grey with red veins were produced later. The wild blue, black and white model was a special edition and is the hardest color to find. I believe it was only made in 1932.
6. Sheaffer Golf Pencils, 1930-1936
These were made during the early days of the Balance, as the shape and color would suggest. They are also known to exist in black, jade, and very rarely, in ebonized pearl (see next frame).
Since no striated celluloid examples are known, the company must have discontinued the golf pencil line around 1936.
7. Sheaffer Balance "flat ball", 1934-1935
For the 1934 model year, Sheaffer flattened the ball on the clip, hence the name. These are bandless, which indicates they matched pens which did not carry the white dot denoting Sheaffer's lifetime guarantee.
During this period, the striated plastics were introduced that would be used well into the 1940s (the rarest of which is the red/grey striated celluloid called "rose glow"). Also introduced during this time was the "ebonized pearl" (black with what looks like pieces of shell in it).
Sheaffer introduced the "Sheaffer Jr." line of lower priced writing instruments during this time. While Sheaffer Jr. pens were clearly different from the regular line, the same pencils accompanied both. Therefore, identical pencils often have either a Sheaffer or Sheaffer Jr. clip, with no apparent rhyme or reason. In fact, the three big pencils on the right are all marked Sheaffer Jr.!
8. Sheaffer Balance "flat ball", with bands, 1934-1935.
Here's another group of the flat ball clip pencils, all with a thin center band. The band means that they accompanied pens bearing Sheaffer's white dot, signifying a lifetime guarantee. This explains why none are marked "Sheaffer Jr."
9. Sheaffer Balance, "rigid radius clip," 1936-1940.
I got the term for this clip from Glen Bowen's book, "Collectible Fountain Pens," and although I don't know the origins of the term, that's a good a description as I've heard. In general, short clips want on small pencils, and long clips went on large ones.
Of course, that explains everything but the small rose glow example with the big clip shown here.
By this time, all of the colors produced were the striated celluloids.
9a. The Sheaffer "Skyboy"
Here's a rare one to watch out for. In 1940, Sheaffer introduced a line of pens called the "Skyboy," which was supposedly better able to withstand the atmospheric pressures of airline travel.
It is doubtful that there was any real mechanical difference between Skyboy pens and the regular Sheaffer line.
It is certain that the only difference in the pencils was the word "Skyboy" imprinted on the clip.
|9b. Here's a closeup of the Skyboy clip. The series was continued into 1941 on the military clip Sheaffers shown in Frame 11 below.|
10. Some of the pencils from the 1935-1940 era had extra wide "jeweler's bands" that could be customized with initials or other personalization. Sheaffer called these "Autograph" pencils (not to be confused with the later "Autograph," denoting 14k trim), and the company would even customize the band with a facsimile of the customer's signature!
My thanks to Guy Yasko, who sent me a picture of an Autograph pencil and confirmed that the company engraved facsimile signatures on pencils as well as on the pens.
11. Sheaffer Balance "military clip," 1941.
The military clip nickname comes from for the fact that since the clip went all the way over the top of the pencil, it would clip into your shirt pocket deeply, without the end sticking out, so it would be acceptable to have in your pocket when in uniform.
The two examples on the left have "Sheaffer's" imprinted on the clip. The rest do not. If anyone knows why, I'll be happy to update this page with an answer.
Note that there are two red examples. The slightly larger one is also distinguishable by the placement of the cap band approximately 1/8" higher.
12. Sheaffer Triumph pencils, 1942-1945
How is it that in years marked by wartime rationing of metals, Sheaffer produced just about the biggest bands seen on any pencil?
Could it be that Sheaffer survived the war years manufacturing military goods pursuant to military contracts? Or would that just be cynical?
Note that while there is a break in the lines on the center bands on the gold filled examples (presumably to leave a space for engraving), the grey and silver plate trim example on the top has lines that span the entire band.
13. Sheaffer pencils, 1944-1948
These were the last of the striated celluloid Sheaffers. Beginning in 1948, pencils were made from injection molded plastic in solid colors.
Matt McColm helped me identify these. He says that, from left, the narrower bands matched the "Statesman;" the medium and wide bands matched the "Valiant," and the wire-edge "bead band" pencils matched the "Sovereign," "Admiral" and "Craftsman" pens.
Note that one of the brown Valiants lacks the ribbing normally found on the lower barrels. Also note that the green bead-band pencils came in both nickel plated and gold filled trim.
13a. Sheaffer utility hybrid
Sheaffer experimented with adding an exposed eraser to their existing product line. Here is an extremely rare Statesman fitted with an exposed eraser; note also that the nose is a cutaway "demonstrator."
14. Sheaffer Triumph "Crest" pencils.
Sheaffer produced a limited number of its popular Triumph line with solid gold filled caps, calling them "Crest" models. The one on the left dates from 1943; on the right, from 1945.
The company also produced "Autograph" pencils, with a wide 14k cap band, and a "Masterpiece" line, with a solid 14k cap.
The moral of the story is, don't throw one of these in your bargain box until you've looked at it under a loupe!
|15. Here are 1948 and later versions of the Sheaffer pencils. From left, the wire bead "Craftsman," "Admiral" and "Soverign," the narrow band "Statesman," the medium and wide band band "Valiant," and a super wide one.|
|16. 1948 and later Sentinel (two tone caps) and Crest pencils.|
|17. Sheaffer introduced TM or "Thin Model" pens in 1950, and pencils to match were introduced in 1952. These accompanied many pens in the Sheaffer line, including the Snorkel. The one on the right appears to be a "Cadet" or student issue.|
18. Sheaffer "Tuckaways", 1942-1954.
These were a popular addition to all the Sheaffer lines during this time, offered as ladies' purse pens. Early models on the left date from 1942 and do not have clips. In the center are two clipless Triumph Crest models. Sometime around 1948 or 1949, Sheaffer changed the mechanism slightly, and the size of the tip was reduced (note that none of the striped ones shown have small tips).
The names for these tracked pretty closely the names of the regular sized pencils, except the wire-bead model was called the "Lady."
To my knowledge, no TM Tuckaways were produced.
19. Univer, Vacuum-fil and Sheaffer, Jr.
In the 1930s, Sheaffer produced these pencils under each of these names, and in colors not found in the regular line. They were intended as a lower priced line, so I suspect they were made in the mid- to late- 1930s, after the ball clip had been removed from the regular Sheaffer line.
There appears to be no rhyme or reason as to which name would appear on these clips.
By the way, "Vacuum-Fil" referred to the filling system on the companion fountain pens. What, did you think they sucked up the lead?
20. Sheaffer Juniors, mid-to late 1930s.
Another reason to think these were produced after this color was discontinued from the Sheaffer regular line in 1934. The top three, one ball clip and two flat ball clip, advance the lead by twisting the nose cone (the top is an eraser cap). The fourth and fifth examples are regular middle joint, twist models.
I've not seen the color on the third example on any other Sheaffers.
21. WASP pencils, late 1930s- 1940s
WASP was an acronym for W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company (get it?), and a name by which they offered lower priced lines to the public. As far as the pencils went, they are every bit as good as the regular line.
The models on the far left have been dubbed "howling souls," not a name used by the company. From left, utility pencils in green and grey stamped "WASP Vacuum-Fil Pen Co., Inc.", a green model stamped "The Clipper WASP Pen Co., Inc.", a grey model stamped simply "WASP Pen Co., Inc.", a grey example, identical to the Sheaffer Juniors in the previous picture except for the nose and black top, stamped "WASP Vacuum-Fil Pen Co," and the same pencil in a bluish-grey tinsel pattern.
Next is a grey example in the "lizard skin" pattern stamped "WASP Vacuum-Fil Pen Co."
The Black example is more closely related to regular Sheaffer pencils, with "Vacuum Fil" on the clip and "WASP Vacuum-Fil Pen Co." stamped on the barrel.
The five on the right have been nicknamed "circuit board" Wasps. All are stamped "The Clipper WASP Pen Co., Inc."
22. WASP Crispline and utility pencils.
The first two on the left are stamped "Crispline" pencils and were more cheaply made than the Clipper series. The second two are stamped simply "WASP Pen Co., Inc." (note the similarity to the third from left in the previous photo).
The models on the right are cousins of the popular Fineline Utility pencils produced by Sheaffer through the 1970s, but I believe these are older. The one on the far right, a direct ancestor of the Sheaffer "Pearlies," was a real find. More on that coming up next....
23. Sheaffer Fineline pencils
Around 1938, Sheaffer introduced a new line of pencils, called the "Fineline" because they used a much thinner lead than the regular pencils. Some of the earliest models, shown on the left, closely resembled Sheaffer's regular line.
But the company also introduced the middle joint twist pencil that would later become very popular as an advertising pencil. They referred to this as their "Utility Pencil."
These are some of the odd, early examples. Three use what must have been leftover flat ball clips, which the company had discontinued in 1935. The gold-filled example would fit in well alongside the finest Crest pencils the company was offering at the time.
And the two on the right? They aren't twist pencils. They are repeaters!
23a. Sheaffer Utility Ballpoint
According to Dan Reppert, Sheaffer was reportedly contacted by the Navy late during World War II to come up with a pen that was, well, waterproof. Although he said he'd never seen confirmation of what they produced, he thinks this is what Sheaffer came up with.
Although it looks like a utility pencil, it is fitted with a ballpoint mechanism similar to the Stratoliners introduced in 1948. The top, molded into a telephone dialer, has a threaded post that screws into the top.
For those who would say "Frankenpen," note the imprint below the clip, not found on any utility pencils. Further, the barrel is one piece.
If this is what Dan Reppert thinks it is, that means that while Eversharp and Reynolds were having their dramatic showdown over the new ballpoint, those two were fighting over something Sheaffer had quietly been doing already for two years or more!
24. More early Finelines from the 1940s, with cheap electroplated caps. Note that there were rounded caps and more pointed caps.
The mechanisms were as rock solid as anything Sheaffer produced, but these just had a "cheap" feel to them.
25. Sheaffer "Pearlie" Utility Pencils
The nickname is the best I've heard for these. Most of these were advertising pencils, but the printing can be removed (so don't pay too much for an unmarked example). These are so plentiful that they have become practically invisible, but before you knock the humble Pearlie, ask yourself two questions:
(1) have you ever seen a broken one?
(2) how many pencils were produced for 30 or more years virtually unchanged?
This picture shows the five variations of clips used: from left, the flat, broad "Sheaffer's" clip, the flat, broad "Fineline" clip, the humped "Sheaffer's" clip, the ribbed horizontal "Sheaffer's" clip, and the ribbed vertical "Sheaffer" clip.
26. Sheaffer "Pearlies," flat, broad "Sheaffer's" clip
There are seven variations on this pencil:
1. Ribbed lower barrel, pearl section stamped "Made in USA"
2. Ribbed lower barrel, pearl section stamped "Fineline W.A. Sheaffer Pen Co. Fort Madison, Iowa USA Made in USA"
3. Ribbed lower barrel, pearl section stamped "W.A. Sheaffer Co. Fort Madison, Iowa USA Made in USA"
4. Lower barrel half ribbed, pearl section stamped "W.A. Sheaffer Pen Co. Fort Madison, Iowa, USA Made in USA FE 150"
5. Same as 4, but the number at the end is 150W.
6. Lower barrel half ribbed, no imprint
7. Lower barrel half ribbed, lower barrel stamped "WA Sheaffer Pen Co. Fort Madison, Iowa USA Made in USA"
27. Sheaffer Pearlies, flat, broad "Fineline" clip
Nearly all are stamped on the lower barrel, "Made in USA by the Fineline Division W. A. Sheaffer Co." One example has FE stamped below that, and one spells out the word "Company."
28. Sheaffer Pearlies, humped "Sheaffer's" clip
There are three variations:
1. Stamped around the barrel "Sheaffers - Made in USA"
2. Stamped "W.A. Sheaffer Pen Co. Fort Madison, Iowa USA Made in USA"
3. Stamped "Made in USA by the Fineline Division WA Sheaffer Pen Co. FE"
29. Sheaffer Pearlies, ribbed horizontal "Sheaffer's" clip
There are two varieties:
1. Stamped "Sheaffer's - Made in USA" (stylized Sheaffer's logo)
2. Stamped "Sheaffer - Made in USA" in block print.
|30. And then there's this one, a custom color example made for the Euclid Equipment Co., in the same color as Euclid's excavating equipment. There's no imprint at all on this one, although it does have the Sheaffer name on the clip.|
31. Sheaffer Pearlies, ribbed vertical "Sheaffer" clip.
All but one of these have the "Sheaffer - Made In USA" imprint in block print. One has the "Sheaffer's - Made in USA" in stylized print.
Sheaffer also made student pencils patterned after the pearlies, but with a solid white upper section and nickel plated trim. These are very brittle and prone to cracking.
32. Sheaffer Fineline Utility pencils in solid colors.
All but one of these have the flat, broad Fineline clip. The example on the left is a flat, broad Sheaffer's clip.
33. Sheaffer Fineline Utility Pencils, thin model
Eventually the company produced a "TM" version of the Fineline pencil.
All these have Sheaffer's Clips. The first four are humped Sheaffer's clips, the next four are the ribbed horizontal Sheaffer's clip, and the last one is a ribbed vertical Sheaffer clip.
34. Sheaffer "square top" pencils.
These pencils were companions both to the Imperial and the PFM pens produced during the late 1950s and 1960s.
The example on the right still has a "PFM I" factory price marking.
|35. All but two of these have price stickers on the back side. Starting from the left, there's an "Imperial Silver" in sterling, a 630 in gold fill, a 620 in brushed stainless, the two without price stickers, and a group of seven model 440s in different colors.|
36. Sheaffer Stylist ("Hatchet Clip") and Targa pencils
The Stylists or "Hatchet clips" were made in fountain pens, ballpoitns and pencils. The shape of the clips, as you can see from the red set turned to the side, was derived from the ballpoint, on which the exaggerated tip of the clip presses into a button on the barrel to activate the pen. The design is a lot like an old John Holland "Hatchet filler." The lines of the pencil simply followed.
On the right is a Targa in stainless. I haven't seen many Targa pencils.
37. Sheaffer "Skripsert" pencils.
These were a companion to Sheaffer's "Skripsert" pens, named for the plastic cartridges of "Skrip" ink that were in"sert"ed into the pen. Get it?
The ones on the left closely resemble earlier models. Those on the right are a newer design, based on the same mechanism used by the company since the 1930s! Three have flat caps, three have a cap that is angled towards the front.
38. Later Sheaffer pencils
I don't know what these were called. They were sold with matching ballpoint pens.
At first, they appear to be identical, except in color, but.....
39. . . . in a random group of 12 pencils, there were no less than 5 different variations on the clip!
So it goes with Sheaffer -- whenever you think you've seen it all, you just haven't looked closely enough.