PenInHand - Musings on the Hobby
by Jim Mamoulides, December 14, 2005
The White Dot Sheaffer Sovereign TM Touchdown in Pastel Blue
One thing that is proven repeatedly in the pen collecting world is there is always something new to learn. I seem to have this experience frequently, often in the form of friendly emails and calls from collectors telling me that something in an article on PenHero.com is incorrect, needs augmentation, or lacks some important new detail. This inevitably leads me on a hunt for corroborating proofs, new data, and sometimes even a new pen!
Let this instance be known as the "Case of the new TM". I certainly thought I had been thorough in my research on the Sheaffer Thin Model (TM) Touchdown pens, including gathering Sheaffer catalogs, repair manuals, advertisements, and company publications. I examined many example pens, inside and out, and wrote what I thought would cover that line. It turns out that I didn't have all the details, and despite all the work, it turns out there is a TM model that had completely escaped my scrutiny.
Sheaffer Snorkel Sovereign in Buckskin Tan
Andy Evans contacted me with a fantastic new discovery: a new pen that looks like a regular TM Sovereign barrel with a cap swap from the Snorkel Sovereign. The new pen's cap has the same repeating line / wavy line / line pattern found on the Snorkel model's polished stainless steel cap. The difference is what caught our eyes: the Snorkel model cap does not have a White Dot! This is a new species of TM!
A White Dot TM Touchdown Nobody Expected!
Sheaffer introduced the Thin Model Touchdown pens in 1950 as slender, stylish replacements for the fatter Touchdown pens. The line ran through 1952, when the Snorkel appeared, essentially a longer TM Touchdown with the Rube Goldberg complex Snorkels filling system.
What's especially interesting about this newly found Thin Model Sovereign is though it has a very similar look to the Snorkel Sovereign, there are key differences that make it an interestingly different model and with a different positioning in the Sheaffer line. The new pen has two key differences from both the Snorkel Sovereign and the known TM Sovereign.
First, there's the cap. The known and more common TM Sovereign is a non-White Dot pen with a plastic cap. The Snorkel Sovereign has a polished stainless steel cap with an engraved repeating line / wavy line / line design, a gold plated clip stamped "SHEAFFER'S", and no White Dot. The new TM Sovereign has the same engraved polished stainless steel cap as the Snorkel Sovereign, but sports a plain gold plated clip and a White Dot at the cap top. This is not a Frankenpen.
Sheaffer TM Sovereign pen and pencil set in Persian Blue
Second, the color isn't right. When I got the new pen from Andy Evans, I immediately compared it with a Persian Blue TM Sovereign I had in my own collection. It's a very good thing Andy sent me a blue one because the new pen is decidedly lighter than the plastic cap TM I have. The plastic cap TM Sovereign is the darker Persian Blue that is seen on the earlier large Sheaffer Touchdown pens and other Sheaffer TM models. The new pen is the lighter Pastel Blue seen on the later Snorkel pens. This probably puts the date of production late in the TM timeframe.
Dare We Say Transitional?
Andy Evans has found other examples of the new pen in three colors, Pastel Blue, Burgundy, and Green. The fact that numbers of examples are being noticed by collector friends now looking for them gives an indication that this may not be a short run or prototype model. Some observations lead me to believe that the new TM Sovereign is a late production version of the TM Sovereign that appeared before the Snorkel line was introduced. I think the key to this is the color of the plastic barrel. Pastel Blue is one of the basic Snorkel colors and would have been a later addition to the TM line. I haven't seen any other TM models in Pastel Blue yet, but this makes me wonder if they may exist.
Sheaffer TM Sovereign - both versions: (Left to Right) Persian Blue and Pastel Blue
Why the White Dot version of the later Snorkel Sovereign cap design? I believe this was done to draw a stronger distinction between the TM Sovereign and the TM Statesman. Initially, these two pens were virtually identical, with the exception of the White Dot on the Statesman model. Sheaffer may have introduced the engraved stainless steel cap to better differentiate between the two models and to "upgrade" the Sovereign to White Dot status. This upgrade would make sense as the Sovereign design is clearly TM, while the more downscale Craftsman and Admiral models hark back more to the chunky fat Touchdown look. Now all "true" TM pens would be White Dot pens.
Detail of Sheaffer Sovereign caps (Left to Right): Snorkel, TM late, TM early
I believe the newly found TM Sovereign should be designated as the "late" version and the plastic cap version should be called the "early" version until more information can be found to establish production dates. I actually don't like the term "transitional," as I suspect this was an actual production model, and the Snorkel line itself is something of an improved / upgraded TM Touchdown, anyway.
It's always fun to find something new that makes you realize there's more things to discover out there in the field. Keep hunting!
Thanks to Andy Evans of Andy's Pens for supplying the information and photos of the metal cap Sheaffer Sovereign.
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