For most of its history, Sheaffer has had a flirtation with small pens suitable for pocket or purse. I just purchased the most recent of these, the Agio Compact, which was introduced in 2004 and seems to be out of production at the present, perhaps forever. Although I don’t have every one of Sheaffer’s small pens, I do have some representative models across the years.
My oldest small Sheaffer is also the first fountain pen I found “in the wild,” a BCHR ringtop from around 1920. Intended to be worn on a ribbon around a lady’s neck or perhaps on a chain in a man’s vest pocket. it measures just four inches long and is a standard lever filler fitted with a flexible gold nib marked Sheaffer’S 2 Self Filling.
There were some small pens produced in the era between that pen and the introduction of the Balance line, but I don’t have an example to show.
Soon after the Balance line debuted late in 1928, revolutionizing pen design with its streamlined shape, a petit Balance was added to the lineup and produced until about 1934. It was made in both Lifetime and non-Lifetime versions, with the former measuring 4 1/8 inches and the latter, four inches. Despite their tiny proportions they fit my hand nicely when the cap is posted. These are lever fillers as well, complete with a tiny lever.
During the dark days of the Great Depression, Sheaffer and most other pen manufacturers contracted their product lines in an effort to stay in business. The petit Balance fell by the wayside.
In 1940, Sheaffer introduced a pen like no Sheaffer ever seen before – or since for that matter – the first Tuckaway. Marketed as a purse or pocket pen, it was a little gold bullet, and a precursor to the long/short pens favored by the Japanese 30 or more years later. In the first year, gold-filled and solid 14K gold models were offered with lever filling systems and in the second year, Vacuum-Fill models were added. This was the first Sheaffer pen since 1910 to have threads for secure posting of the cap. Posting was really necessary because the pen is only 3 5/8 inches long unposted, but becomes a usable 5 1/8 inches when posted.
The first Tuckaway was not well-received in the market and in 1942, when Sheaffer introduced its conical Triumph nib, the Tuckaway received a compete re-do to use that nib. My example of this second generation Tucky is green striated celluloid with the very wide gold-filled cap band that characterized most of Sheaffer’s wartime production.
in 1945, the Tucky lost the wide cap band and gained a very short clip that Sheaffer called a “clasp.” This version also gained a little length, growing from the previous 4 1/4 inches to 4 1/2 inches. My example is a red striated celluloid pen.
The last version of the Tuckaway seems to have lasted just one year: 1949. It used the new Touchdown filing system that replaced the old Vacuum-Fill and was no longer celluloid, but injection molded plastic in solid colors. It grew a little more, to 4 5/8 inches, so was the longest of the Tuckaway models. Mine is hunter green with a silver cap with gold trim.
Sheaffer abandoned the short pen market until 1961, when a little brother to the new Imperial appeared. Variously called Compact, Compact Cartridge, and Compact Cartridge Imperial by collectors, it was Sheaffer’s first cartridge filling pen. Early versions, such as the one in the pictures below, even had see-through Ink Vue windows in the barrel to allow the user to see when the ink was about gone. This pen, at 4 11/16 inches, was longer than any of the Tuckaways and really only differed from somewhat later cartridge filing Sheaffers in the length of the barrel. It was made in a variety of colors and with stainless steel or gold-filled nib, clip, and cap band. Production only lasted a couple of years.
Once again, there was no small Sheaffer pen, until the arrival of the Agio Compact in 2004. So far as I can tell, this pen differs from the full sized Agio only in the length of the barrel. At just four inches, it is back to the size of the very first short Sheaffers. My example is finished in Matte Cranberry and is a very nice writer.
Below are two comparison pictures of the pens discussed above. Left to right, they are: 1920 BCHR ringtop, petit Balance, Tuckaway I, Tuckaway II, Tuckaway III, Tuckaway IV, Compact Cartridge, and Agio Compact.
Click on either image to enlarge.