Sheaffer Pens

Sheaffer was one of the iconic American pen companies, founded and long headquartered in Fort Madison, Iowa. Sheaffer invented the lever filler that was dominant during the golden era of fountain pens and produced significant pens like the Balance, the Touchdown, and the PFM.

Sheaffer History

Sheaffer was one of the great fountain pen companies back in the old days and has always had a penchant for technological innovation in fountain pens.

Early Sheaffer

Sheaffer was founded by Walter A. Sheaffer (a jeweler) and his partners in 1912 to make pens built with his patented lever-fill design. The lever fill system proved to be popular and was eventually adopted by most of the major manufacturers in various slightly different forms designed to exploit loopholes in Sheaffer's patent.

In the early years, the styling of Sheaffer pens was similar to most other manufacturers. That's because there isn't all that much you can do with black hard rubber.

In the 1920s, Sheaffer introduced lifetime warranties in the appropriately named Lifetime pens. They were far more expensive than competing pens (and Sheaffer's own non-Lifetime pens) but proved to be popular anyway.

Radite and Balance

In 1924, Sheaffer introduced pens made from "Radite" (an early modern plastic), also known as celluloid or cellulose nitrate. Unlike hard rubber, which can only be produced in drab black or red, Radite can be made in many colorful colors in wild swirling patterns. Compared to hard rubber pens, they were stunning.

For modern collectors, one unfortunate and unanticipated flaw in Radite was that the gases that were slowly released by rubber ink sacs discolored the beautiful plastic from the inside. Most surviving examples of Sheaffer Radite pens are discolored to varying degrees as a result. Jade Green pens with no discoloration fetch significant prices at auction.

Among the many pens made with this new substance, the most significant in the Sheaffer line was the Balance, introduced in 1929. Prior pens were usually cylindrical in shape with squared off ends. The Balance was more torpedo-shaped, with rounded tapered ends and was marketed as a more ergonomic pen. Numerous variants on this shape were used and modern collecting nomenclature usually refers to them all as Balances.

New Filling Mechanisms

After World War II, Sheaffer introduced a new filling mechanism. The Touchdown mechanism used air pressure from a plunger tube to compress the ink sac; when the plunger reaches the end, pressure is released through tiny holes and the sac reinflates. This was vacuum filling done right; the Touchdown mechanism is longer lasting and much easier to repair than other vacuum fill mechanisms.

Numerous pens would use the Touchdown mechanism from 1949-1963, including the innumerable variants on the original Touchdown and Thin Model. The Touchdown mechanism would continue in production into the 1990s, ending with the Touchdown converter mechanism in the Sheaffer Legacy.

An important variant in the Touchdown design is the Snorkel design, which was a Touchdown mechanism with an additional retractable ink tube. Rotating the end cap extended a needle-like tube which would be dipped in ink, keeping the rest of the pen clean. The Snorkel was introduced around 1955 and at that time replaced most of the Thin Model lineup.

During the 1960s cartridges took over the fountain pen world. Although Sheaffer did not invent the cartridge, they made zillions of inexpensive cartridge pens for the school market, variants of which are still in production today.

The Inlaid Nib

The inlaid nib is a hallmark of Sheaffer design and has been in more or less continuous use since the introduction of the PFM. The inlaid nib has been used in several pen lines, grouped here loosely in chronological order:

  • PFM (1959-1968)
  • Imperial (1961-70s)
  • Compact I and Compact II (1960-1964)
  • "Dolphin" 500/800/1000 (1962-1964)
  • Triumph 330/44x series
  • Targa (1976-1995)
  • Triumph Imperial (1995-1998)
  • Legacy (1995-1998) and Legacy 2 (1999-2003)
  • Legacy Heritage (2004-2006)
  • Intrigue (2000-2005)
  • Valor (2006-current)

The inlaid nib is a distinctive Sheaffer design; no other manufacturer has used it in the same way or on nearly as many pens.

Sheaffer Today

In 1997, Sheaffer was acquited by Bic (yes, that Bic, the maker of disposable ballpoints). Bic began moving operations overseas. In 2008, the historic plant in Fort Madison was finally shut down (it was originally scheduled for closure in 2006, but a skeleton crew remained for the next couple of years; rumor has it that there were difficulties in outsourcing production of the inlaid nibs for the Valor), and with it the last of the big pen companies ceased to be American.

We expect that Bic will keep the Sheaffer name around for luxury pens, and hope that Sheaffer keeps the same standards of quality and innovation that have distinguished it in the past.

Collecting Sheaffer

In the United States, Sheaffer is one of the easiest brands to collect. Sheaffer pens are extremely common and can be found everywhere. A quick glance at eBay and other online auction sites often shows more Sheaffer pens available than all the other major brand names put together. Doing a search is a bit trickier as nobody can actually spell Sheaffer correctly (Scheffer, Schaefer, Shaeffer, etc). This is made all the more puzzling by the fact that Sheaffer is usually printed right on the pen itself.

However, the extremely wide availability of Sheaffer pens makes most of them far less collectible. The most collectible pens are the 1929-30s vintage Balance (especially colors that are harder to find in good condition, like Jade or Pearl or the notoriously rare Blue and Black), the 1950s PFM (Pen For Men), and their very early and limited production models.

This lack of "collectibility" and stratospheric prices can actually be an advantage for a collector on a smaller budget. A Snorkel or Imperial can usually be had for well less than most modern fine pens. The lower end Touchdown and cartridge pens can be found quite inexpensively as well. If you intend to actively use your collection and use it hard, Sheaffer is a terrific choice.

Sheaffer Pen Gallery

Sheaffer Self-Filler?, gold fill

Sheaffer Self-Filler?, c.1918-1924, 14k Sheaffer #3 nib, gold-fill (or plate) over brass, lever fill

I think this is an old Seaffer Self-Filler, as the shape and engraving are more or less right, but this pen contains no Sheaffer markings except for the nib. The pen is in rather rough shape, with worn plating or gold fill, a couple of dents, and a missing lever, but it is also nearly a century old.

Sheaffer Balance 5-30, Jade Celluloid

Sheaffer Balance 5-30 (Jade Celluloid) 1930-1932, 14k gold nib, celluloid, lever fill

The most classic color for the Sheaffer Balance is the Jade color. Unfortunately this vintage celluloid discolors easily from the gases emitted by the rubber ink sacs; this causes permanent chemical discoloration that adds brown/black (looks like rotting lettuce when mixed with the jade color) to affected areas. This example is quite rare in that the color has survived almost entirely intact without discoloration, which makes it worth many times more than a normal Jade Balance. The pen itself is the 5-30 version of the Balance (non white-dot) and can be dated to 1930-1932 by the "long hump and ball" clip design.

WASP Addipoint, green

WASP Addipoint 1934-1939, steel #233 (flex medium) nib, plastic, lever fill

During the Depression, Sheaffer made budget pens under the WASP name (which stands for W. A. Sheaffer Pen), allowing them to market to the lower end without diluting the high end brand name, which was busy producing expensive Lifetime Balance pens.

Sheaffer Balance Jr. 275 with replacement nib, green striated

Sheaffer Balance Jr 275 circa 1930s, non-original Weidlich #2 14k gold nib, celluloid, vacuum plunger

The Junior Balance pens were smaller versions of the Balance, usually marketed as ladies pens or vest pocket pens. This example was apparently repaired using a non-original nib.

Sheaffer Balance, Marine Green

Sheaffer Balance 1933-1934, 14k Sheaffer FeatherTouch #5 nib, celluloid, lever fill

This example has a clip that is the last of the ball-clip Balances (before the transition to the flat ball in 1935). The color is the very pretty Marine Green, and this particular example is in spectacular condition with no plate wear.

Sheaffer Balance (350), brown striated

Sheaffer Balance 350 circa 1935-early 1940s, 14k Sheaffer #3 nib, celluloid, lever fill

A typical non White Dot Sheaffer of the late Thirties or early Forties. Some like this have a transparent ink window in the section.

Sheaffer Balance Jr, ebonized pearl

Sheaffer Balance Jr 275 1934-1939, 14k Sheaffer #3 nib, celluloid, lever fill

Here is a properly marked Balance Jr in chrome trim in the beautiful ebonized pearl pattern. This pattern, which looks like abalone shells embedded in black resin, was used from 1934-1939.

Sheaffer Balance 350, ebonized pearl

Sheaffer Balance 350 1934-1939, 14k Sheaffer #3 nib, celluloid, lever fill

Here's another ebonized pearl pen, this time in the standard thin size with gold trim. This particular example is stunning in person, with no trim wear whatsoever.

Sheaffer Balance (Junior size), red striated

Sheaffer Balance 350 1936-1939, 14k Sheaffer #3 nib, celluloid, vacuum plunger

Plenty of Balances were made using the vacuum plunger filling mechanism. This example is in the Junior size although it is not marked as such. The carmine red and rose glow colors (it can be tricky to tell them apart when discoloration is present) were used from 1936-1939.

Sheaffer Balance (350), green stripe

Sheaffer Balance 350 circa 1937-1945, 14k Sheaffer #33 nib, celluloid, lever fill

This pen is admittedly odd, as it is much too large for a Junior and noticeably smaller than the standard size at 5 inches even. However, we know that Sheaffer was not terribly careful or consistent with nomenclature during the entire Balance time period (eventually, their entire line came to be known as Balance) and even the 350 imprint signifies price, not model number. The green stripe pattern, however, is quite common among Balances of the 1930s era.

Sheaffer Balance (standard length thin model), black and

Sheaffer Balance (standard length thin model) 1932-1934, 14k gold #3 nib, celluloid, lever filler

The standard full-length Balance (about 5 1/2 inches long) came in three widths: thin, standard, and oversize. This one shows typical discoloration; notice the difference between the cap, which has the original black and pearl color, and the barrel, which has darkened to a more black and amber color. This discoloration is caused by a chemical interaction between vintage celluloid and the gases emitted by rubber sacs; it cannot be cleaned off and is permanent. Celluloid pens with minimal discoloration command vastly higher prices as a result.

Sheaffer Balance, green striated with chrome trim

Sheaffer Balance (full length) 275 1934-1940s, 14k gold #3 nib, celluloid, lever filler

Note that this pen is the same standard length thin model as the others around it, but it is a 275 instead of a 350. The numbers are prices, not model numbers. This one has a Sheaffer's Jr clip but is most definitely not in the Junior size.

Sheaffer Balance (standard thin), black

Sheaffer Balance (standard thin model) 350 1936-1940s, 14k gold #3 nib, celluloid, lever filler

Here's another Balance in the same size but with the more ho-hum black and gold trim. This one features a White Dot.

Sheaffer Balance 350 Craftsman, green

Sheaffer Balance 350 Craftsman late 1930s or early 1940s, 14k Sheaffer #33 nib, celluloid, lever filler

Around the mid-1930s Sheaffer started using names for some of the various flavors of the Balance that they were selling. The Craftsman would be whatever the lowest-end full length pen was. Many examples have a wire band, like this one, and that is how collectors usually identify them. Strangely, this one is in a smaller (but not quite Junior) size; I do not know why or if this changes the classification.

Sheaffer Sovereign II, green striated

Sheaffer Sovereign II c.1942-1948?, 14k two tone Triumph nib, celluloid, lever filler

The conical Triumph nib was introduced in 1942. The older original form shown here (as opposed to the later ones on the touchdown TM pens) is much fatter and bears the Lifetime mark. The Sovereign II has a celluloid cap and barrel with a thin "wire" cap band (not to be confused with the Craftsman, which also has a wire band). The more elaborate Crest has a gold-filled cap. These pens came in both lever and vacuum plunger versions; I believe the lever is the less common of the two.

Sheaffer Valiant Thin Model, black

Sheaffer Valiant Touchdown Thin Model 1950-1952, 14k gold two tone Triumph nib, plastic, Touchdown filler

After the introduction of the Snorkel in 1952, most of the higher end TM pens were converted to the Snorkel system. The Touchdown continued on only in lower end pens.

Sheaffer Triumph Tuckaway, black/stainless

Sheaffer Triumph Tuckaway 14k gold two-tone Triumph nib, plastic/stainless, Touchdown

The Tuckaways were smaller vest pocket or ladies pens, easily recognizable by the shorter length and stubby clip.

Sheaffer Valiant Snorkel, black

Sheaffer Valiant Snorkel 1952-1959, 14k gold two-tone shorthand Triumph nib, plastic, Snorkel

The Sheaffer Snorkel filling mechanism is one of the most elaborate filling mechanisms ever invented, and also one of the most entertaining to demonstrate. Turn the knob on the back to extend a needle from the center of the feed as well as release the plunger. It operates like an ordinary Touchdown filler except that only the tip of the needle (as opposed to the entire nib and feed up to the section) is in ink, eliminating the need to wipe the nib, feed, and section after filling.

The Valiant (14k gold two-tone Triumph nib with plastic cap, barrel, and white dot) is one of the archetypical Snorkel pens. Sheaffer made tons of these in various colors. The two marks on the section (barely visible in the picture) indicate that this is a Gregg shorthand nib.

Sheaffer Admiral Snorkel, black

Sheaffer Admiral Snorkel 1952-1959, 14k gold open M2 nib, plastic, Snorkel fill

The Admiral Snorkel was one of their lower end Snorkel pens, with no White Dot but with a 14k gold nib. This is your typical non White Dot pen with an open nib; many can be easily found today.

Sheaffer Craftsman G1, black

Sheaffer Craftsman 1953-1963?, steel G1 Gregg Shorthand nib, plastic/metal, Touchdown fill

Sheaffer made a number of pens fitted with officially approved Gregg Shorthand nibs. In practice, they are not substantially different from normal nibs.

The Craftsman and Cadet Tip-Dip Touchdown pens were revamped designs based on the Admiral introduced after the Snorkel and replaced the old TD Craftsman design. The Tip-Dip nib and feed only required the nib to be immersed to the breather hole instead of all the way to the section, making it much cleaner to fill, although not as clean as a Snorkel. They are pretty much the same pen (the Cadet has a plastic cap while the Craftsman has a chrome cap) and being low-end budget pens, use only steel nibs.

Sheaffer Skripsert Deluxe, black/chrome GT

Sheaffer Skripsert Deluxe c.1958-1963, 14k gold? nib, plastic/steel, carteidge/converter

According to Richard Binder, this should be a Skripsert Deluxe, the "men's" counterpart to the Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. The ones with gold trim ought to have 14k gold nibs, although this one is not marked as such. Assuming it was contemporary with the Lady Skripsert, it would have been made sometime during or after 1958, but not after 1963, as this example still uses the old Sheaffer logo. Sheaffer did not seem to be too careful with applying the Skripsert name (I suspect they have applied it at some point to most of their cartridge-only pens during the 60s); this one has the short Triumph nib rather than the inset nib seen in some other Skripserts.

Sheaffer, unknown hooded nib cartridge pen, black

Sheaffer unknown cartridge pen circa 1955-1964, steel nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

I honestly do not know what this is and am surprised to find that Sheaffer made it. The body form vaguely resembles an inset-nib Skripsert but the milled cap band edge is unlike anything Sheaffer has made. The most peculiar feature is the semi-hooded nib; underneath the plastic shell is what I believe to be a standard cartridge pen nib (of the 304/305 variety), complete with the same engravings, which are mostly hidden. The plastic is also much softer than any other Sheaffer. The pen must have been made sometime between the introduction of the Sheaffer cartridge in 1955 and the end of the "Sheaffer'S" logo imprint in 1964.

Sheaffer Lady Sheaffer I

Sheaffer Lady Sheaffer I 1958-1963, steel nib, metal, cartridge/converter

The Lady Sheaffer line, introduced in 1958 (or 1959?) consisted of round-ended clipless purse pens. The different finishes, of which there were many, were identified by roman numerals. The Lady Sheaffer I was the chrome with wavy gold lines and a red section. These came with a short Triumph nib, but that would change as time went on.

Sheaffer Compact Cartridge II, black

Sheaffer Compact Cartridge II 1960, 14k gold inlaid nib, plastic, cartridge only

The short stubby Imperial-like pen with the cool ink windows is a Compact Cartridge pen. Although it is the same length as a normal Imperial IV when posted, it is much smaller capped as the barrel is barely long enough to contain a cartridge. Note that not all Compact Cartridge pens have the ink windows; this was only a feature for the first year or so of production. They came in two variants; the II shown here is the gold nib version, while the I had a steel nib. Either can be found with or without ink windows.

Sheaffer Imperial I, green

Sheaffer Imperial I circa 1961-1966, GP steel or unmarked gold nib, plastic, Touchdown

The Imperial I is technically a part of the Imperial line, but lacks the inlaid nib normally associated with it. This is a much lower-end pen and (to my knowledge) is the only Touchdown pen that completely lacks the metal sleeve - all the Touchdown parts are plastic.

Sheaffer 500 Dolphin, gray

Sheaffer 500 "Dolphin Imperial" circa 1960s, steel inset nib, plastic/steel, cartridge/converter

The "Dolphin" pens superficially resemble the Imperial line, but have an inset nib instead of an inlaid nib. The "V" is decorative and is meant to resemble the inlaid nib of its more upscale counterpart. The 500 is the base version of the line and has a conventional steel nib.

Sheaffer 500 Dolphin, green

Sheaffer 500 "Dolphin Imperial" circa 1960s, steel inset nib, plastic/steel, Touchdown

The Sheaffer 500 also came in Touchdown versions, as shown here.

Sheaffer 800 Dolphin, black

Sheaffer 800 "Dolphin Imperial" 1962-1964, 14k gold nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

The Sheaffer 800 is the middle of the "Dolphin" line. It features an unhallmarked 14k gold nib instead of the steel nib in lower models.

Sheaffer Lifetime Imperial IV, black Sheaffer Lifetime Imperial IV, burgundy

Sheaffer Lifetime Imperial IV circa 1964, 14k gold inlaid nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

The Imperial series is a thinner version of the commercially unsuccessful PFM and remained in production for decades. For the year 1963-1964, in celebration of Sheaffer's 50th anniversary, many pen lines were renamed "Lifetime" and came with lifetime guarantees. Aside from the Lifetime markings, they are identical to the models on which they were based.

The Imperial line, sold under various names through the decades, was one of Sheaffer's longest-running lines and comes in a wide array of colors and fittings.

Sheaffer Lifetime Imperial VI, black

Sheaffer Lifetime Imperial VI circa 1964, 14k gold inlaid nib, plastic/steel, cartridge/converter

The Imperial VI is an Imperial IV with a stainless steel cap. These are much less common than the iconic Imperial IV.

Sheaffer, unknown cartridge model

Sheaffer Skripsert? circa 1960, plated steel (?) nib, plastic/metal, cartridge/converter

Variants of this pen were sold by Sheaffer in low-end gift sets. It's not an Imperial I (cap is wrong) and it's not a basic Skripsert, although it looks like a dressed-up Skripsert with a gold-plated cap. I do not know if Sheaffer calls it a Skripsert anyway or if it goes under a different name. If anyone has additional supporting documentation, please let me know.

Sheaffer Cartridge 304, black/chrome

Sheaffer Cartridge 304 circa 1960s, steel nib, plastic/metal, cartridge/converter

The 304 is a typical college student fountain pen in the 1960s, before ballpoints conclusively took over. Vintage student pens can be easily found today, although their value has not grown by any appreciable amount. Some variant of the "cheap cartridge pen" has been in production at Sheaffer from introduction until a couple years after the Bic takeover.

Sheaffer Stylist, brushed steel

Sheaffer Stylist brushed steel 1966-early 1970s, gold-plated steel nib, brushed steel over plastic, cartridge/converter

The Parker 180 is far from the first pen with a double-sided nib. Early Sheaffer Stylist pens like this one had a similar feature before the Stylist line was switched to the small Triumph point. These formed part of the lower end of Sheaffer's lineup n the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Sheaffer Imperial Sovereign, 12k gold fill
with engraved lines

Sheaffer Imperial Sovereign? late 1960s-1970s, 14k gold inlaid nib, 12k gold fill over brass, cartridge/converter

This pen still has the long diamond form of the inlaid nib, which places it between the late 1960s (after the Textron acquisition) and the mid 1970s (when the nib form changed). I think they were still called Imperials at this time and that the Sovereign model is the gold-filled version. This is a very nice and luxurious pen.

Sheaffer Imperial 506, chrome with engraved lines

Sheaffer Imperial 506? 1970s, steel inlaid nib, chrome over brass, cartridge/converter

I would have thought this was a 440-series, but the nib is the slightly older short diamond version of the inlaid nib and the sticker on the cap explicitly says Sheaffer 506. I'm not sure if 506 is the model name or if should be called the Imperial 506 or what; my documentation on this period is pretty sketchy.

Sheaffer Imperial 444X, brushed stainless

Sheaffer Imperial 444X circa 1975, 14k gold inlaid nib, brushed stainless over brass, cartridge/converter

Later model Imperials used a "U" shaped cutout in the inlaid nib instead of the more traditional "long diamond" shape.

Sheaffer Imperial 444 chrome, brushed stainless

Sheaffer Imperial 444? circa 1975, steel inlaid nib, brushed stainless over brass, cartridge.converter

A lower-end 1970s-vintage Imperial, with a steel nib and chrome trim. This one has the "small diamond" cutout.

Sheaffer Imperial, black stainless

Sheaffer Imperial ? circa mid 1970s, steel nib, plastic/steel, cartridge/converter

Another typical Sheaffer Imperial. The Sheaffer (as opposed to Sheaffer'S) indicates that it was made after the company was sold.

Sheaffer Imperial Calligraphy Pen, black

Sheaffer Imperial ? Calligraphy circa 1974, steel italic nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

Apparently Sheaffer made calligraphy versions of the Imperial before it was replaced by the Targa. I believe this to be an earlier 1970s vintage Imperial rather than a Triumph Imperial because the barrel is engraved and the clip length is shorter.

Sheaffer Lady Sheaffer, brushed steel

Sheaffer Lady Sheaffer 1970s, steel nib, brushed steel, cartridge/converter

By the 1970s, the Lady Sheaffer line had a more angular 70s-look (the body is quite similar to the Sheaffer Stylist), had picked up the Stylpoint type nib formerly used in Skripserts, and gained a clip. The "Lady" part of the design was in frilly and ornate cap bands.

Sheaffer Targa Slim 14k, matte black

Sheaffer Targa Slim Matte Black 1982-1994, 14k gold inlaid nib, lacquer over brass, cartridge/converter

The Targa Slim was a slender version of the Targa marketed primarily as a ladies purse pen. Unlike almost all Sheaffer pens, it uses a different slim cartridge and converter, both of which are increasingly difficult to find. The higher end Targa Slim pens carry gold nibs and are quite elegant, if extremely slender, pens.

Sheaffer Targa Slim, stainless steel

Sheaffer Targa Slim stainless 1982-1994, stainless steel nib, stainless steel, cartridge/converter

This is an all-stainless slim Targa, marketed as a lower end ladies purse pen or a nicer student pen.

Sheaffer Targa Slim, Regency Stripe

Sheaffer Targa Slim Regency Stripe 1985-1993, 14k gold nib, gold and enamel over brass, cartridge/converter

This is one of the fancier finishes, the Regency Stripe (catalog code 675s), with gold and enamel.

Sheaffer TRZ Model 60, Matte Black

Sheaffer TRZ Model 60 1981-1989, gold-plated steel nib, epoxy (?) over brass, cartridge/converter

A sort of predecessor/contemporary of the Fashion series and looking much the same, the TRZ was originally introduced as a ballpoint, with the fountain pen version along for the ride.

Sheaffer Fashion II, red

Sheaffer Fashion II 1983-mid90s?, gold plated steel nib, lacquer over brass, cartridge/converter

The Fashion was a line of slender pens, possibly marketed towards women, that was pretty common from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. There are two variants; the Fashion I uses slim cartridges like the Targa Slim (with which it is often confused, at least until you see the nib), while the Fashion II is slightly wider and takes standard Sheaffer cartridges.

Sheaffer Cartridge, purple Sheaffer Cartridge, blue Sheaffer Cartridge, gray Sheaffer Cartridge, green Sheaffer Cartridge, red

Sheaffer Cartridge circa 1990s, steel nib, plastic/metal, cartridge/converter

This is a 1990s version of the Sheaffer Cartridge pen, sold in hang cards in drugstores and university bookstores nationwide at very low prices. It is intended as an inexpensive student pen that you can afford to abuse or lose, and while the finishing isn't spectacular, it writes well enough for the job. Unfortunately, these great introductory fountain pens are no longer being made, as Sheaffer discontinued production on this line a couple years after the Bic takeover.

Sheaffer Triumph Imperial, ivory white

Sheaffer Triumph Imperial 1998, steel inlaid nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

The Triumph Imperial line was introduced in the mid 1990s as a revival of the older inlaid nib Imperials, but using a steel nib (possibly plated) instead of a gold nib. They were priced competitively as entry level fine pens. The ivory white finish was produced, as far as I know, only in 1998. This particular example has a cap that posts deeper than it should, so a proper pen would be a bit longer.

Sheaffer Triumph Imperial, green CT

Sheaffer Triumph Imperial 1995-1996, steel inlaid nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

The plastic/chrome colors for the Triumph Imperial were produced for a short time. This is the baseline version of the Triumph Imperial line; fancier ones had gold trim. The plastic/chrome would be dropped in 1997. This example shows the true size of the pen; the white/ivory one posts funny and is shorter than it should be.

Sheaffer NoNonsense Calligraphy, red-orange

Sheaffer NoNonsense Calligraphy circa 1980s-1990s, steel italic nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

Sheaffer has produced inexpensive calligraphy pen sets for years, usually using some variation of their flat-top plastic school pens (Viewpoint, NoNonsense, etc). This is perhaps the most commonly available calligraphy fountain pen in the US. The NoNonsense is the opaque barrel version (except for the NoNonsense Jellies, which is transparent neon).

Sheaffer Vintage, black GT

Sheaffer Vintage 1980s-1990s, gold-plated steel nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

The Vintage is a slightly fancier variant of the NoNonsense. They came in solid colors, marbled colors, and engraved patterns reminiscent of black chased hard rubber. They have gold-plated furniture and nibs and a gold-plated disc set in the cap top. All the parts interchange with the screw-cap NoNonsense; the only difference is the fancier trim.

For an even more upscale interpretation of the NoNonsense, see the Sheaffer Connaisseur.

Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy, gray Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy, blue

Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy circa 1990s, steel italic nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

Otherwise identical to the NoNonsense, the Viewpoint is the transparent version.

Sheaffer Prelude, matte black Sheaffer Prelude, green Sheaffer Prelude, metallic blue with palladium plate

Sheaffer Prelude circa late 1990s, two tone gold-plated steel nib (old style), lacquer over brass, cartridge/converter

The Prelude has been Sheaffer's premier affordable "nice pen" since the Targa was discontinued. Introduced in 1997 and still in production, it is a very heavy pen with a traditional open nib. Other variants in the Prelude line include the MPI, a combination ballpoint and highlighter. The three pictured above are have old-style nibs with the Sheaffer name engraved, in matte black, forest green, and metallic blue with a palladium-plated cap.

I had heard but cannot verify (via FPN) that the Prelude was designed by some of the same folks responsible for the Parker Sonnet; if so, they certainly seem to have gone just as nuts in creating an insane number of finishes. A comprehensive list of Prelude finishes would be quite long, and include such wacky ones as Rainbow PVD and Metallic Petrol.

Prelude nibs generally come in the two-tone "old-style" nib shown here as well as a newer more modern design (with a big swooshing S) that got introduced around the time Bic got involved (it appears in the 2004 catalog and possibly earlier). Both are still in use.

Sheaffer Prelude, The Snow Pen

Sheaffer Prelude "Holiday Originals" The Snow Pen 1997, gold-plated steel nib, gold plate and lacquer over brass, cartridge/converter

Sheaffer started doing a "Holiday Originals" Special Edition of Christmas-themed pens annually; the first one is "The Snow Pen" released in 1997. The series comes in a fancy book-like case with Norman Rockwell style nostalgic paintings on the inside cover. They only made two of the series (the second being the "Holly Pen" built around a Triumph Imperial) before they seem to have lost interest.

Sheaffer Prelude, gunmetal GT

Sheaffer Prelude Gunmetal 1998?-2000?, gold-plated steel nib, metal plate over brass, cartridge/converter

Sometime after introduction of the Prelude, the Gunmetal and Copper metallic finishes were added (certainly by 1999). I think they were discontinued around the 2001-2002 timeframe, with the last iteration having wacky black PVD trim instead of gold plate.

Sheaffer Connaisseur, burgundy

Sheaffer Connaisseur circa 1980s, 18k gold nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

The Connaisseur was produced during Sheaffer's retro binge in the 1990s and is clearly patterned after a 1920s style Sheaffer flat-top.

Sheaffer/Levenger Red Sea

Sheaffer/Levenger Red Sea 2000, 18k gold nib, plastic, cartridge/converter

Based on the recently discontinued Connaisseur line, these were transparent Connaisseurs made by Sheaffer for Levenger (and featuring Levenger as well as Sheaffer on the cap band and nib). They came in a number of colors, named after bodies of water.

Sheaffer Balance II, Aspen Special Edition

Sheaffer Balance II Aspen SE 1999, 18k two-tone nib, resin, cartridge/converter

The Balance II is a remake of the original Balance, but with a modern cartridge mechanism instead of lever or vacuum filling. The Aspen has a beautiful brown-blue flaked design that is truly stunning in person. Note that there are actually two versions of the Aspen. The Aspen Special Edition, shown here, has gold-plated furniture and two cap bands. There is also a non special edition version made for Levenger that has silver furniture and a single cap band. The wonderful plastic is the same in both.

Sheaffer Javelin, brushed steel

Sheaffer Javelin 2000s, steel nib, steel and brass, cartridge/converter

The Javelin was introduced around 2000-2001 and is one of their nicer school pens. You can see that the nib is the same as the old-style Prelude nib, but without any gold plating.

Sheaffer Intrigue, Blue-on-Blue

Sheaffer Intrigue 2002-2004, 14k inlaid nib, lacquer/PVD over brass, cartridge/converter

The Intrigue continues Sheaffer's traditions of strange filling mechanisms. You could just load a cartridge into the rear-loading cartridge tray and be done with it. Or you can insert a special converter designed specifically for the pen that engages little teeth on a secondary knob in the back. This lets you operate the piston converter from the outside, as though the pen were a real piston filler, albeit without ink windows. This is probably the most mechanically complex filling mechanism since the Sheaffer Snorkel and it took even me a few tries before I completely understood how to swap the converter and carrtidges (the converter must be in the down and empty position or it cannot be removed or inserted).

The Intrigue did not last very long at retail, probably because users couldn't figure out how to use it and all the complexity is far more hassle than it is worth.

Sheaffer Legacy Heritage, Look of Leather

Sheaffer Legacy Heritage Look of Leather 2004-2005, 18k inlaid nib, lacquer over brass, cartridge/converter

The Legacy series (in its various incarnations) is a modern remake of the PFM, but over a metal base instead of plastic and using less exotic filling mechanisms. The "Look of Leather" finishes use some wacky lacquer process to achieve a leather-like finish. Quite nice in person.