Evolution of the Sheaffer Inlaid Nib 1959-Present
by Jim Mamoulides, December 31, 2001
Thanks to Frank Dubiel
Sheaffer has innovated nib design repeatedly in its history. Two nibs stand out as Sheaffer hallmarks: The wrap around Triumph nib and the inlaid nib. Sheaffer introduced the inlaid nib in 1959 with the release of the Pen For Men, or PFM. Like the Triumph nib, which found its way to many successor pens, the inlaid nib, in different forms, found its way onto five Sheaffer lines from 1959 to the present.
The inlaid nib has undergone several shape changes over the last nearly 40 years, so this pictorial shows some of the many variants. Starting with the PFM, we will have a look at the inlaid nib as it has evolved over the years.
Pen For Men 1959-c1968
Sheaffer PFM 1959-c1968
The inlaid nib appeared on the Pen For Men, or PFM, in two versions. On the PFM I and II the nib was made of a palladium silver alloy, a silver colored nib and is either hallmarked PdAg (for Palladium Silver) or carries no hallmark. All other models of the PFM were fitted with 14 karat gold nibs hallmarked 14K. The basic design and proportion of the nib is consistent across all models with the only variation being the presence or absence of a diamond shaped tab, usually marked "USA", at the peak of the nib in the section.
Sheaffer Lifetime and Imperial Touchdown 1963-1970
Sheaffer introduced the Imperial pen in 1961, a pen that strongly followed the design of the Pen For Men in a smaller, lower cost pen, and without the complex Snorkel filling system. In 1963 Sheaffer reintroduced the Lifetime warranty, which it had discontinued in 1947, and, on Imperial pens carrying this warranty, began stamping the front of the clip with the Lifetime name. These pens also carried the famous White Dot at the top of the clip, which had long lost its lifetime association. Sheaffer referred to these Imperials as "Lifetime" pens in advertising. Imperials came in a host of variations at many price points over the life of the line, including Touchdown versions from about 1961 through the mid 1970s, and cartridge and converter models available throughout.
Some Imperial variants were actually not called Imperials, including the 500 / 800 / 1000 "Dolphin" cartridge and Touchdown pens and the short and stubby "Comp-I" and "Comp-II" pens, some of these having unique ink-view window slits in the barrel.
From the beginning there were Imperial models fitted with inlaid nibs very much as in the PFM, generally hallmarked 14K and USA on the tip in the section. Some Imperials were fitted with a shortened version of the Triumph nib, and one model had a semi-inlaid nib also found on some cartridge pens, so a slender PFM-like pen having an inlaid nib does not by itself identify the pen as an Imperial.
Late 1960s Sheaffer Imperial With "V" Cutout Inlaid Nib c1965-1970
With Cap From Sheaffer 800 c1962-1964
The Imperial line stands out as the single line with variations in the design of the inlaid nib. Some models nearly from the first carried a smaller nib with a triangular cut-out instead of the longer diamond cut-out. These nibs were made from about 1965 to the mid 1970s and appeared on inexpensive cartridge and Touchdown pens as well as top gold filled models.
Sheaffer 500 "Dolphin" Touchdown c1962-1964
A most interesting Imperial variation is the "Dolphin" type. Although not actually catalogued or advertised as an Imperial, it shares many of design features with it's Imperial and Lifetime siblings. In fact, the actual model names are quite mundane: 500, 800, or 1000, based on trim. Many collectors refer to these pens as "Dolphin" or "Porpoise" Imperials because of combination of the bottlenose section and the obvious Imperial similarities. The pen does not have a true inlaid nib, however. The nib is quite flat, cutting straight into the front of the section. On the top face of the section is an inlaid "V" shaped piece that mimics the look of the inlaid nib, presumably with less complicated manufacture. This pen came in both cartridge and Touchdown models.
Sheaffer Imperial Cartridge c1970-1975
A shorter variation of the diamond cutout nib can be also be found, this one on an all stainless cartridge model. This nib may have appeared in the late 1960s, but appears on several Imperial models well into the 1970s.
Sheaffer Triumph Imperial c1995-1998
The Triumph Imperial was introduced in 1995 as a more premium line to the all plastic cartridge Imperials being made into the 1990s. These pens featured the larger inlaid nib, similar to the Lifetime, with a long straight tab. Nibs were stainless steel, and depending on the model, either plain or gold electroplated.
Sheaffer Targa 1976-c1998
Sheaffer introduced the Targa, an all-new design, in 1976. The pen included many new design features and tied these to the Sheaffer name with the inlaid nib. Most Targas were fitted with a 14 karat nib, except for the lowest priced all-stainless models which were also offered with stainless steel nibs.
Legacy and Classic Pens CP4 1995-Present
Sheaffer Legacy and CP4 1995-Present
The Legacy is an all metal pen made in the style and size of the PFM. The Legacy uses a modified Touchdown filler that can use cartridges, rather than a Snorkel. The nib is very similar to the PFM nib without the tab and is 18 karat gold, with palladium plating on some models. The CP4 is a limited edition sterling silver Legacy I with special engraving work done by Classic Pens.
Sheaffer Intrigue 2000-Present
Like the PFM and the Targa, the Intrigue is an entirely new pen design that uses the inlaid nib as a connection to Sheaffer design and history. The nib is 18 karat gold, with palladium plating on some models. The cutout is teardrop shaped.
Thanks to Frank Dubiel for his help with additional detailed information on the Imperial Line.