A pen with that name would have to meet the very highest standards. It would have to represent the very best work of the pen company that offers it.What does the word “masterpiece” bring to mind? If we turn to a dictionary, we are told it is “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship,” and “an artist’s or craftsman’s best piece of work.”
Sheaffer has used the name Masterpiece for its top of the line pens many times over the company’s history, starting at least as early as 1938. Sheaffer offered solid gold pens as early as 1921, but they are not consistently catalogued every year. The name usually is given to a writing instrument with a 14 or 18 karat gold cap and barrel and with solid gold appointments, such as the clip or lever. The first use of the Masterpiece name I have identified is found in the 1938 Sheaffer catalog, used for the lever-filled Masterpiece Autograph Lifetime. The catalog describes it as “the masterpiece of all matched pen and pencil sets, the finest it is possible to build from precious gold.” The cap, barrel, clip, lever, pencil tip and pen nib are all made from 14 karat gold. The Masterpiece Autograph Lifetime fountain pen sold for $80.00 and the matching pencil for $45.00 and were available in a smooth finish as well as a lined linear chased cap and barrel with each having a wide radial chased feature about midway.
Sheaffer offered an expanded Masterpiece line in the 1940 catalog, including a smaller Lady Masterpiece, a Tuckaway Masterpiece, and a Crest Masterpiece, with14 karat gold cap with black plastic barrel. The Crest Masterpiece was offered in both full and Lady size. All Masterpiece pens and pencils were offered with the chased pattern shown in the 1938 catalog. An even more elaborate Honor Masterpiece, having a special engraved insignia feature on the cap, was also introduced, being offered in 14 karat gold full size, Lady, and Crest versions as well as a new platinum version. This expanded Masterpiece offering continued, including plain versions, through the 1941 catalog.
Sheaffer Triumph Masterpiece fountain pen nib detail
On January 1, 1942, Sheaffer introduced the Triumph Lifetime line to its dealers and first advertised the line publicly in Life Magazine on July 27, featuring the new and innovative conical Triumph “Sheath-Point” nib. Sheaffer spent a lot of advertising capital promoting the new nib as stronger than any other offering because of its tubular construction, that it worked better at many altitudes because of its superior, larger capacity “Flo-Rite” feed, and superior because the Triumph nib unit was assembled and adjusted in a factory sealed unit to protect against leakage. Sheaffer offered the Triumph with sixteen nib grades, including four flexible and one music.
Sheaffer Triumph Masterpiece fountain pen and matching pencil
The Triumph line was very different in look from the previous Balance pen lines, more pointed at the ends, but still having a tapered shape. Interestingly, the Masterpiece Triumph pen and pencil have a very strong resemblance to the previous Masterpiece model, and the pen also was only offered as a lever-filler. I have not been able to find any full Sheaffer catalogs from 1942 through 1945, so I can only state from other Sheaffer documents that Sheaffer did offer both Masterpiece and Crest Masterpiece Triumph pens. I have not seen any documentation indicating an available Triumph Honor Masterpiece or any Triumph Masterpiece Tuckaway pen. It’s not clear what the Triumph Masterpiece sold for, but sometime between the 1941 and 1945 Sheaffer Masterpiece pen list prices rose from $80.00 to $100.00.
Identification guide and features:
There is very limited original documentation specific to the Sheaffer Triumph Masterpiece pen and pencil. Most of the reference material points to the time before and after the pen was offered, with a couple of direct Sheaffer documents confirming the pen existed in the Triumph line from at least 1942.
- 14 karat gold cap, barrel, clip, and lever. All except lever are hallmarked 14K.
- Linear chasing on the cap and barrel with a 3/8 inch radial linear chased feature on each
- Cap has a 7/16 plain band at the cap lip for engraving
- Screw on cap
- Lever-fill mechanism
- 14 karat gold nib
- Visualated section
- Sixteen available nib grades
- Back side of cap lip stamped with “SHEAFFER”S” over “MADE IN U.S.A.”
- 5 1/2 inches long capped, 6 1/8 inches long with the cap posted on the end of the barrel
- Matching pencil offered
There is nothing quite like a solid gold pen and the Sheaffer Triumph Masterpiece certainly lives up to its name in the visual department. The fit and finish is excellent, even though this is a nearly seventy year old pen. The chasing pattern is especially nice, having longitudinal lines extending out to the cap and barrel ends in a stepped pattern giving an Art Deco look. The radial engraving on the cap and barrel adds visual interest almost like bands wrapped around the cap and barrel. Together with the blank cap end cartouche, there are three bands down the length of the pen, giving the engraving visual balance.
The pen is average size for a c1942 pen at 5 1/2 inches long and being metal, it is a little heftier than most plastic pens from that era. Post the pen with care, as you would not want to scuff the gold barrel end with the cap lip. The pen feels fine in my hand unposted, and is plenty long to write with comfortably that way.
- The clip is a bit tight and will be tough to secure in any pocket with thick fabric. It’s certainly OK for starched shirts and a suit, of course. One thing to note: gold is soft and the clips on these pens have a tendency to dig into the cap, creating a natural looking indentation. It does not by any means look like a defect, but it has been pointed out to me by Daniel Kirchheimer that the caps originally are flat where the clip meets it.Sheaffer Masterpiece pens from any era do not come up for sale often. The price of gold alone will introduce crazy into the price of these pens, even though the total gold content is really not that great. Metal pens are subject to dings and scratches, so finding a really pristine example will likely also add to a handsome price. If you really want a 14 karat gold daily user, look for a restored, but lightly dinged up Masterpiece and save some money. The bottom line is any well restored Sheaffer Masterpiece pen will bring great Sheaffer writing quality in a package that is some serious pocket bling.