Vintage Sheaffer pens
Vintage Sheaffer pens are collectible pens manufactured by the American company Sheaffer.
Sheaffer was established in Iowa in 1912 by Walter A. Sheaffer, who had designed and patented a new lever-fill pen mechanism in 1908. This new mechanism proved popular, and was adapted in a variety of ways by other pen companies keen to avoid the patent issues. But Sheaffer found success despite the comptetition from other manufacturers and by 1925 the company had around 25% of the American market.
This success was due in large part to the introduction in 1924 of pens made from an early form of plastic called Radite. A large number of pens on the market were made from hard rubber which could only be produced in black and red. Radite enabled Sheaffer to produce pens in a wide range of colours and swirling patterns which caught the public's imagination.
The company also introduced a white dot mark on several pens with which they offered a 'lifetime guarantee'. This white dot went on to become a company trademark on all its pens, and featured heavily in their advertising from the 1930s onwards.
The company also developed the Touchdown ink-filling mechanism in the 1950s, replacing the lever-fill system which had become outdated, and found huge success during the 1960s when they capitalised on the invention of the ink cartridge by producing cheap models for the school markets.
In 2001 the company was taken over by the French ballpoint pen manufacturer BIC, and the factory in Fort Madison, Iowa was closed down when production was moved overseas. The company continues to produce high-end pens under the Sheaffer brand name.
Sheaffer pens are the most widely available on the collectors market, particularly in the United States. The rarest models include the first Sheaffer Balance models made between 1929 and 1930, and any Radite pens that have retained their strong colours. This early form of plastic was discoloured by the gasses released slowly from the ink sacks, and examples with little or no discolouration are extremely rare.
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