PenHero 365: Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition

by Jim Mamoulides, February 4, 2010

Sheaffer Balance
Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition fountain pen cap and nib detail

Revivals of early iconic pen designs was frequent in the 1980s and 1990s, especially since many pen manufacturers were arriving at significant anniversaries for their companies. Sheaffer made trips to the past going as far back as the 1969 Guys and Dolls pens that echoed 1920s flat top pens (later being renamed NoNonsense) and the 1970 Nostalgia, a precious metal overlay pen designed to recreate the look of early 1910s and 1920s overlays. The 1985 Connaisseur was also a nod to early flat top pens. In 1989, Sheaffer reached back only to the 1950s released the Crest, clearly inspired by the Sheaffer Snorkel, one of Sheaffer's most notable and collectible pen lines.

In 1987, Sheaffer revived what many collectors believe to be the company's most iconic design, the Sheaffer Balance. When Sheaffer introduced the Balance in 1929, it changed pen design forever. The dramatic cigar shaped pen was a radical departure from the cylindrical pens every pen maker was offering up to that point. The initial offering was the 6,000 piece 1997 Balance Limited Edition, accompanied by a very exclusive 100 piece 1997 Balance Limited Edition Demonstrator. Sheaffer launched the regular production cartridge / converter Balance II in 1998. The line consisted of three solid color resin pens with 14 karat gold nibs and gold plated trim, in Hunter Green, Navy Blue and Black, and four marbled acrylic resin pens with two-tone platinum masked 18 karat gold nibs and gold plated trim, in Jade Green, Crimson Glow, Amber Glow and Cobalt Glow.

Sheaffer Balance
Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition fountain pen closed

In 1999, Sheaffer introduced the first of several special edition Balance II pens, these being unnumbered limited production pens with special materials and packaging. The first in the series was the Aspen Special Edition, offered in a special and vivid pearlized blue, gold and brown marbled resin. As with the regular Balance II line, the Aspen Special Editoin was offered as a fountain pen (MSRP $200.00), rollerball pen (MSRP $130.00), and ballpoint pen (MSRP $95.00). The fountain pen was offered in an oversize paperboard box with a special labeled Sheaffer inkwell type ink bottle and sold at a premium price over the regular marbled acrylic fountain pens, which retailed for $175.00. The Aspen Special Edition shared the same 18 karat gold nib unit, in grades of extra fine, fine, medium, and broad.

Sheaffer Balance
Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition fountain pen open, on top of presentation box

The Balance II pens are a composite of design elements from the run of Sheaffer Balance pens from 1929 through 1941. They are as large as the oversize Balance pens from that period. Only the Jade Green acrylic resin, Black resin, and Limited Edition acrylic resin resemble any of the original celluloids used on the early Balance line. The Balance IIs section is short, like the first version of the Balance from 1929 through 1930. The Feathertouch nib is similar to the nibs introduced on the Balance line in 1931. The flat ball clip is similar to the clips used on the Balance in 1934 and 1935, with the Sheaffer's name stamped on the top. The two large and raised cap bands on the acrylic resin pens are a new touch, where the solid resin pens have a more traditional wide single band.

I bought a complete three pen Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition set as one of my first fine pen purchases. I have kept it and it's one of my favorite pen sets. The color is so vivid and deep, especially in bright light. My only beef with the line is the clip is very tight, so it only really sits well in thin material pockets. This is not a flannel shirt pen.

Sheaffer Balance
Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition fountain pen open

This Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition is a large size, yet lighter weight pen, weighing 0.7 ounce and being 5 7/8 inches long with the cap on and a long 6 3/8 inches with the cap posted on the end of the barrel. Posting the cap has hazards, as some owners discovered, finding that hard posting led to chips and cracks in the cap lip. I post mine, but very carefully. As with the original Balance pen from the 1930s, these pens don't post very deeply, so vigorous writing may cause the cap to come loose. If I'm in a place where my writing could lead to the cap falling on the floor or a hard surface, I don't post this pen. The good news is that the barrel is plenty long to be comfortable writing unposted.

The Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition is a standard cartridge converter pen. I wish Sheaffer had taken the plunge and made them lever fill pens, but I understand that the business is to make pens that sell to the general public, not just the narrower collector market. I prefer to bottle fill, using the piston converter with the section dipped in the ink and twisting the knob, watching the ink rise in the converter, and wiping the section and nib. Cartridges work fine, but a Balance should be bottle filled, in my opinion!

Sheaffer Balance
Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition fountain pen open showing piston converter

My Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition came with a slightly springy and wet writing 18 karat gold medium nib. Some early customers reported skippy nibs, which was corrected during the run. This one starts well and writes until it is empty. I like the look and feel of the pen and using it makes me imagine what it must have been like to use a brand new Balance in the 1930s.

I think the Sheaffer Balance II is a great modern collectible. Sheaffer made fourteen different versions of this pen, and most should be avialble to collectors. The really hard one to find will be the clear demonstrator Limited Edition. I personally find the Aspen Special Edition to be my daily user favorite.

Selected References

"Design Features: The Clips of Sheaffer’s Balance," Richard Binder, Copyright © 2010, website

Fountain Pen Hospital Annual 1999, Copyright © 1999, Fountain Pen Hospital, New York, NY, USA

Fountain Pen Hospital Annual 2000, Copyright © 2000, Fountain Pen Hospital, New York, NY, USA

Fountain Pens of the World, Andreas Lambrou, Copyright © 1995, Zwemmer, London, England

"Profile: Sheaffer’s Balance," Richard Binder, Copyright © 2010, website

"," Gary Ellison, Copyright © 2006-07, website

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