Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Art of the Metal Sheaffer

Normally, I don’t chase after early metal Sheaffer pencils.  With a couple hundred metal Eversharps laying about, I realize how stupid it sounds to say that most of them look alike to me, but it’s true – for whatever reason, a metal Sheaffer really has to stand out of the crowd to get my attention.

Twice at the DC show, metal Sheaffer pencils stood out of the crowd and really, really got my attention:

The sterling silver example is unusually long for a ringtop – that’s part of its charm to me.  And the pencil’s outstanding state of preservation is another attention-grabber.  But what struck me about this one even more is the quality of the engraving, which is more elaborate even than what you’ll find on a full jacketed sterling engraved Eversharp:

The gold filled example has a slightly greenish hue to it.  At first, I thought it might be green gold filled; however, the cap (which has the same coloring) indicates only that it is gold filled:

With this one, what got my attention was the clip.  Note that this one has the clip normally found on the Sheaffer Balance pencils introduced in 1929, as opposed to the earlier clips typically found on Sheaffer flattop pencils.  Here are the two styles of clips compared:

One of the first articles I wrote here at the blog concerned a similar find – a Sheaffer “Titan” flattop with a flat ball clip.  I’d commented then on how unlikely it was that the clips could have been swapped out, since it is so difficult to get inside the pencils to remove a clip.  That’s with the large flattops – it’s doubly difficult with the smaller metal pencils!

Sheaffer itself contributed to making its metal pencils passe after the mid-1920s, when Sheaffer introduced pens and pencils in brightly colored “radite” (Sheaffer’s name for celluloid).  But Sheaffer didn’t stop production of them overnight  Metal pencils are advertised in Sheaffer’s 1930 catalog, alongside both flattop and Balance pens and pencils.  However, the clips shown on the pencils in the 1930 catalog had the earlier, more bluntly rounded tops (this is from the Pen Collector’s of America’s website):

Metal pencils last appear in Sheaffer’s catalogs in 1935 – as a $1.00 utility pencil.

But by 1935, there’s no indication in the catalog that metal pencils were offered in any engine-turned patterns, or that they were available in anything other than Sheaffer’s “silni” (silver-nickel) finish.  And even in this drawing, the pencils are shown with what appear to be round balls and the more blunt-top clips.  The following year, Sheaffer introduced pens and pencils with the even more streamlined rigid radius clips, and the last metal pencils were phased out in favor of a new utility line, the plastic Fineline and “working togs” pencils that were the ancestors of the “pearlie” line.  

My pencil was probably made shortly before the sunset of the metal pencil as a luxury item.  I’d date my pencil to sometime between 1932 and 1934 – after the introduction of the more streamlined round ball clips, but before the company discontinued gold filled and patterned barrels.


Martha said...

Beautiful finds, esp. the sterling one!

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