Prints & Cards
Early Sheaffer Crest 1937-1950
by Jim Mamoulides 12/27/01 - Updated 8/18/02
Thanks to Kurt Montgomery
The Open Nib Sheaffer Crest 1937-1941
The Sheaffer model later known as the Crest first appeared in the 1937 catalog, though not with the Crest name. It was the first Sheaffer pen with a metal cap and plastic body, and was a precursor to later metal cap / plastic body pens such as the Parker 51. This model was intended as a high line model, initially offered with a gold filled cap and either a black or golden brown striated body or a sterling silver cap and a gray pearl body, selling for US $13.75 for the pen and US $6.00 for the matching pencil. The first models had plain clips, tapered at the top with a flat ball end. The cap threads were at the end of a visulated section. Nibs were palladium masked 14 karat gold open style nibs.
Sheaffer touted the new pen as having a cap that fit flush to the body, whether capped or posted, and that the cap was superior to previous metal capped pens as it was all metal, as opposed to a metal overlay.
Advertisements as early as 1940 show the Crest name in use for the metal capped pen. It was offered additionally as a Crest Masterpiece model with either a chased or plain 14 karat solid gold cap for US $35.00 and an Crest Honor Masterpiece model with a special Honor insignia engraving for US $42.50. Matching pencils were US $25.00 and US $32.50, respectively. The sterling cap pen appears by then to have been dropped. The standard Crest was offered in both visulated lever fill and Vacuum fill in both black and golden brown striated barrels and the price was unchanged. Smaller Lady Crest models were available in each place in the range.
The Crest line in this style was made until at least 1942, when the Triumph nib was introduced and Sheaffer radically redesigned their lines.
Triumph Nib Sheaffer Crest c1942-1948
When the Triumph line was introduced in 1942 the Crest models followed suit with many of the design improvements. A significant change was the move of the cap threads from the end of the section nearest the nib to a metal ring near the back of the section, a design that was more reliable. The new Crest had the traditional open nib replaced by the new Triumph wrap around nib. By 1943 the peaked cap gave way to a more rounded design, which style carried forward in all subsequent Crest models through 1959.
The Triumph style Crest 1500 model designation was also the price, US $15.00. A handsome sum for a pen in the mid 1940s. The matching pencil was US $6.00.
This 1500 has the white dot (Sheaffer's trademarked symbol of Lifetime quality) on the end of the pen barrel. In earlier pens, such as the "Flat-Top" of the 1920s (a name not used by Sheaffer), the white dot appeared on the center of the flat top of the cap. On the Balance pens that followed, the white dot moved to a spot above the top of the clip. During the late 1930s and 1940s, Sheaffer moved the white dot variously to the bottom of the barrel, the middle of the barrel, the top of the cap, and below the clip. Finally, in the late 1940s, the white dot moved back to the top of the clip, either on the clip or above it, where it is found today.
Vacuum-fill mechanism open. An efficient, one stroke filler. The barrel is translucent, so ink level can be easily seen. Sheaffer made many other Triumph vacuum-fillers and lever fillers in the 1940s. Generally, Triumph nib pens were called "Triumphs" during the 1940s.
Matching model 600 pencil. A new feature introduced can be seen in this model. The tip is an elongated tube, rather than ending in a cone. This innovation reduces lead breakage due to the writing force being applied across more of the lead instead of an edge of a cone. As pencils were very much in use in the 1940s, this was a big selling feature. It can be seen on mechanical pencils even today. Another feature of note is the ribbed end near the point, much like on the section of the Triumph pens, this feature increased grip on the plastic.
Sheaffer Crest Deluxe c1947-1948
In the late 1940s Sheaffer was introduced improvements to the Triumph line of pens that affected the Crest model. The striated colored plastics were giving way to injection molded solid color plastics. Crest models were offered as lever fillers or Vacuum-Fillers.
The Crest, now called the Crest Deluxe, was offered in four solid colors: black, blue, green and burgundy. In 1949, the pen sold for US $17.50 with matching pencils for US $6.00, and capped Stratowriter ballpoints for US $12.50. There was a Ladies' Tuckaway version that was priced the same. A complete set went for US $36.00. By 1951, the pen sold for US $21.00, and had matching pencils, US $9.00 and capped ballpoints, US $15.00. There was also a Crest Masterpiece model in black only with a solid gold cap with a matching capped ballpoint, both selling for US $50.00. The matching pencil sold for US $25.00.
Sheaffer Crest Deluxe Touchdown c1949-1950
In 1949 Sheaffer introduced the Touchdown filler, a pneumatic fill system that used a sac, unlike the Vacuum-fill system, which filled the body of the pen. The pens retained the profile of the previous Triumph pens until Sheaffer introduced the Thin Model pens in 1952. The Touchdown models reintroduced the visulated section, a thin window just prior to the metal threads on the section.
Sheaffer Crest Models After 1950
Having been incorporated fully into the main lines, the Crest continued as the gold-filled and solid gold capped model with the Thin Model, or TM pen lines, first with the TM Touchdown pens from 1951-1952 and following with the TM Snorkel pens from 1952-1959. The only visual difference in these pens is length, with the Snorkel pen being about 1/4 inch longeris , due to the added length of the filling mechanism. Sheaffer revived the name for a new line of pens in 1992. Though these pens strongly resemble the TM Snorkel pens in size and style, not all were gold cap pens.
I have written with several vintage Crests and Triumph model pens from the 1940s, with extra fine, fine and medium nibs. This review will focus on the Crest 1500 model featured above.
In my experience, Triumph nibs from the 1940s, with few exceptions, are very smooth writers, but are very stiff. The lady Crest pens are smaller pens that their modern counterparts, being typically about 5 inches long capped and 5 5/8 inches posted. The larger, full size Crest pens run about 5 1/4" long capped and about 6 inches posted. The 1500 is a bit larger in diameter than Thin Model pens of the 1950s and the remade Crest of the 1990s.
As one would expect from Sheaffer, the pen is well balanced, whether the cap is posted or not. This is a much lighter pen than the modern brass bodied Crest pens with the cap being fairly lightweight, though all metal and the body made from a laminated plastic. In hand weight compares favorably with the later TM pens and Parker 51s, by comparison.
The cap finish is quite bright and durable, being gold plate, rather than current electroplate. Because the caps and section both have metal threads, the cap has a secure, positive grip. The clip is spring loaded, making it easy to slip onto many materials.
The laminated plastic barrel will remind you of the modern Pelikan laminates, a lot of character and yet still translucent enough to see the ink level. Great visual appeal. If I was going to criticize Sheaffer, it would be that this laminate seemed to be on every pen they made in the 1940s. Too much of a good thing, maybe. One can see a major change in the 1950s, where Sheaffer seemed to try every color in the rainbow in their pens!
The pen fills easily with a single downward stroke. My only complaint is that I've seen several examples that weep out a little ink around the point where the rod enters the barrel. No leaks occur during use, but it appears that these pens lose a little seal over time. Something to watch for.
Early Triumph nibs are stiff, to say the least. These can easily write through carbons and write upside down as well. Sheaffer made a selling point of the nib and feed on this pen, and all these features are apparent in use. Even the extra fine nib writes smooth and wet enough, starting well each time. As with modern and TM Triumphs I have used, these are not butter smooth nibs, but are very consistent writers.
There doesn't seem to be as much collecting excitement over early Crests and Triumphs in general, as with Parker 51s, and later Sheaffer TM pens. As a result, Crests, such as the example pen, can be had very reasonably, and Triumphs for even less. This is a good pen for those who want a stiff nib, and especially for those who want a good writing fine or extra fine. These are durable pens that if restored, should give excellent everyday use.
Of vintage Crests in general, the earlier pens are harder to find. Look out for stripped section threads and cap dings. If it's a Vacuum-Fill pen, either look for a correctly restored one or arrange to have it restored properly.
Thanks to Kurt Montgomery for Additional Information on the early Crest model - 2/25/02.
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