Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Since We're North of the Border . . .

David Isaacson wrote a nice article for the Pennant (that’s the magazine you are missing if you aren’t a member of the PCA) a while back about Canadian Sheaffer Balances and the subtle ways in which they differed from their American cousins.

Sometimes, when articles on an obscure subject are published, dealers hop on the bandwagon and bring examples like what they’ve read about to the next show. Usually, when I’ve got an article like that one rattling around in my head, I may notice things along those lines that I wouldn’t have noticed before.

And of course, you can’t rule out the dumb luck that seems to bring things to my doorstep more often than not.

But lately, equal parts of availability, observation and dumb luck have brought a few Canadian Sheaffers home to live at the museum, and it’s worth pointing out what makes them just a little different from what you normally see around here.

First, here’s a set I decided to splurge on as a birthday present to myself – because it included one of those pesky pens, I wouldn’t ordinarily have paid this much for it, so I needed a better excuse than usual to spend the extra money:


What makes this one stand out immediately to a Sheaffer guy is the color of the trim – the grey striated plastic is "supposed" to have chrome plated trim, not gold filled as you see here. Were this an American set, it would be referred to as "reverse trim," since the trim is the reverse of what you’d expect to see.

(Note: A really advanced Sheaffer guy might also notice that the white dot on the pen is a little smaller and a little higher than you would find on an American pen. But since the pencils from this era didn’t ever have white dots and this is a pencil blog, that’s just an aside.)


This pencil also comes with the typical Canadian imprint, shown here alongside the nib from the pen:


Awhile ago I saw this one in an online auction and, being a relative newbie to Sheaffer nuances, I threw in a high bid and immediately emailed Matt McColm to see what I’d found:


What had me all stirred up was the round ball clip, which I hadn’t recalled seeing on a striated Sheaffer Balance before:


Matt emailed me back: "Looks like the seller’s located pretty close to the border," was his only comment. He was right - the seller, according to the online auction, was located in Washington state. Fortunately, no one else was as dumb as I was, so my bid was not matched by some other crackpot who knew just enough to be dangerous:


But in my opinion, the strangest thing Sheaffer did in Canada was to marry that big, bulky WASP clip onto some of their Balances.


For some reason, the quality of trim plating on these seems to be a little lower than on most Sheaffers, suggesting that these really were WASP clips (WASP, an acronym for W. A. Sheaffer Pen Co., was a lower priced line of Sheaffers). And mounting these on the graceful lines of the Balance is no less a travesty than sticking a bumper from a Buick Riviera onto a Corvette:

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