Prints & Cards
Skyline Yellow Cab Special Edition 1995
Revival Of The Fittest
The 1990s was a time of revival for many classic pen designs, and some fallen pen companies were brought back to life by collectors, hoping to restore the flag of their favorite brands. The decade saw the return of the Conklin Pen Company, Conway Stewart, and the new Eversharp pen company. All of these brands have a loyal following, and each effort attempted to recreate the best elements of the old designs, with a modern flair and modern methods.
It should have been no surprise that the largest selling pen of the 1940s, the Eversharp Skyline, would be one of the pens recreated. The pen, designed by famous industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, author of many modern streamline designs, was introduced in 1941, and was an immediate hit. The design incorporated many then cutting edge streamline elements with a straightforward and proven lever-fill and open nib system, rather than the more radical designs that would be introduced by Parker and Sheaffer.
The hugely successful Skyline was followed by the much unloved Fifth Avenue, an attempt at a hooded nibbed pen, and the disastrous CA ballpoint, a pen that sold in vast numbers, only to be returned in nearly equal numbers due to poor performance. The failure of the CA ballpoint and the crippling losses from the returns sucked all the success of the Skyline out of the company, which languished as a second tier player until Parker bought the pen business in 1957.
Skylines were so popular that they are easy for collectors to find, come in a vast array of colors and trim, and are relatively inexpensive to collect and restore. An ideal collector's pen.
The New And Updated Classic
The new Eversharp pen company was established in the mid 1990s, launching a new Skyline that was widely available by 1995. The new pen retained the classic Skyline look, from cap to barrel, with a new scrolled nib and a unique barrel-end access cartridge / converter system.
The original Skylines were made from a palette of early solid colored plastics, striped celluloids, and / or metal overlays, including gold fill, sterling silver, and solid precious metals. Many vintage examples may have plastic parts that are brittle and showing shrinkage. Experienced collectors are wary of this when having these pens restored, as mishandling can lead to a cracked or broken pen.
The new Skyline series pens mimic the look of the original using solid color modern polished resins and on certain models, plated metal cap overlays.
The standard model pens recall the classic 1940s Skyline design. They were available as fountain pens and rollerball pens. Many of the original Skyline designs were recreated (all 1995 prices):
black resin barrel and cap
Solid black resin barrel / gold
electroplate cap overlay
Solid black resin barrel / silver plate cap overlay
Solid burgundy resin barrel / gold
electroplate cap overlay
The demonstrator models were made in clear resins where the operation of the filling system could be seen. These models were not available as rollerball pens.
resin barrel and cap
Sapphire blue clear resin barrel and cap derby
/ chrome plate cap overlay
Ruby red clear resin barrel and cap derby / gold
electroplate cap overlay
All This And World War II
In addition to the regular and demonstrator models, the new Eversharp pen company created an homage to pilots who served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, many of which used Skyline pens. It is a fitting limited edition that falls within the production time of the Skyline pen. Only 300 complete sets of fountain and rollerballs pens were made, using extruded aluminum from World War II aircraft. This material was formed into the pen blanks by sand casting.
The resulting Skyline Army Air Corps World War II Limited Edition is a unique Skyline model, complete with an artist rendition World War II airplane, with a stand and base made from the extruded aluminum of actual WWII aircraft. The set is packaged in a military style aluminum presentation case along with a replica edition numbered "dog tag."
Cast aluminum barrel and
Probably the most unusual new Skyline variant is the Yellow Cab Special Edition, released in 1995. An homage to the Ford Taxicab, complete with the same yellow with black checkerboard markings. This design wraps around the cap lip, along with "YELLOW CAB" in block letters. The edition was packaged in a special bright yellow presentation box with a die-cast metal and plastic model of the Ford Taxicab that inspired the pen.
The Yellow Cab Special Edition was offered both as fountain pen and rollerball pen with the same packaging and the toy cab. The pen was fitted with same very smooth, fancy scrolled 14 karat gold nib as the standard model pens. The gold plated clip has the Eversharp double check symbol. The unusual converter system is accessed by unscrewing the base of the barrel, rather than the section. The converter itself is an off the shelf piston type, but the pen can also be used with Parker cartridges. Interestingly, the rollerball uses Montblanc refills. The instructions and warranty sheet are designed to mimic the ones include with the vintage pens from the 1940s.
Identification guide and features:
I have a fair number of Eversharp Skylines from the 1940s, so I entered this review with some conscious bias. I've seen them advertised, posted on eBay and pen web sites. I admired the obvious attention to detail that the original pen was getting in the new version, but how would real life hold up to pictures? What would I think of a cartridge / converter version of the Skyline? Would the modern nib hold true to the very smooth nibs of the original?
I was offered the Yellow Cab in this article as a consignment sale item, which quickly sold after I posted it. Because the pen was mint, I only dip tested it, but can offer some comments from actual use by the new owner later on in the review.
This Yellow Cab came fitted with a very smooth, but stiff medium nib. The nib has a broader face than the vintage pen and the design work is scrolled and fancy, more in line with modern offerings than the banner and plain type found on vintage models. The feed is also a modern type. There was no attempt to recreate the original Skyline nib and feed.
The pen is mid to large in size, about 5 1/4 inches long capped and 5 5/8 inches posted, but its deceptively so, due to the strong taper in the barrel and how deeply the cap posts. The design works very well posted, as the vintage pen does. The all plastic construction puts this pen on the lighter weight side.
The yellow color is going to be a love it or hate it thing. It's a very bold yellow, and the screen printing gives it a toy like quality, a very disarming presentation. The fit and finish are excellent. The clip has no spring, so it probably won't clip well to a flannel shirt or a coat pocket, and the pen will ride quite low in the pocket, as the original design was intended to pass 1940 military standards that pens must sit low enough for a breast pocket to be buttoned. No pocket jewelry allowed!
The converter system is not intuitive. Most pens come open at the section, but this one opens at the base of the barrel. The blind cap has a threaded metal insert that ensures that this is a smooth job. With the barrel open, the top of the piston converter is readily accessible, but this design made me want a real piston system installed, instead of this gimmick.
Dipped, the nib proved quite smooth and even writing, though not quite as butter smooth as the vintage Skyline nibs. A very nice writer, nonetheless, and the feed held almost half a page of writing. A report from the purchaser informed me that the feed was starved of ink, and the pen would stop writing quickly after the pen was filled. This example may have a feed channel defect that I was unable to detect, as I did not fill it.
Overall, I found the pen, in spite of this example's toy theme, to be a worthy update to the original. I would have liked to try some of the other versions, and will look to that in a future review.
Though this and other new Skyline examples sold new in the US $250.00 retail price range, the line has been discontinued for several years and new pens will occasionally show up deeply discounted, if you give it a persistent search. At US $100.00 or less, the pen is a nice bargain. With the problem feed experience by the new owner of this pen, (who kept it, by the way) make sure you deal with someone who will either test the pen for you or will take it back if you are not pleased.
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Last Update 8/23/04