When I received last month my 1929 OS Sheaffer Balance Black Pearl, I noticed it resembled a great deal with my 1999 Sheaffer Balance II Aspen. They both remind me of big events in history. The 1929 OS dates from the Wall Street Crash period. Fortunes were lost there. Seventy years later the 1999 saw the light. And who in that period was not anxious to get struck by the Y2K bug. Although the pens differ seventy years in age, it hardly shows. Both pens are stunners and are attractive at first glance. The black and pearl color of the 1929 OS is showing the pearl on certain spots. That is just a little more catchy then the burgundy/orange/blue marbling of the 1999 which true colors show the best in direct sunlight or strong light situations. So, the 1929 OS has gained a nose length ahead in the markings
1929 OS Balance (5 )
1999 Balance II (4)
Design. The Sheaffer Balance was the first streamlined pen of Sheaffer’s way back in the 20s. Coming from a period where the flattop and ornamental pens ruled, the streamlined shape was a major break true. And even today the torpedo shape is to be found in many pens. The Balance II, being the reissue of the old balance, does not have a similar design impact.
The caps. The 1929 OS shape is just a little more blut in the cap and nose end. In the closed position, the early balance is just a tad longer than the newer pen. However, in the posted position, the later version is a longer. The clips are both of the humped ball clip type. The early clip is longer, so that the full ball reaches over the single cap band, whilst the later version is just a half ball and doesn’t reach the upper cap band. Both clips have an inscription in the clip saying “Sheaffer’S” The hump in the oldest clip is also more significant. Furthermore, the older clip is placed lower on the cap. This means that if you stick the pen in your shirt pocket, the 1929 OS shows more pen out of your pocket. That brings me to the white dot. The 1929 dot is flush with the surface and the 1999 dot seems to be applied on top of the cap surface. Both caps are screw caps. Both unscrew within a single turn. I tried if the caps were interchangeable, they were not. The 1999 cap is a little longer than the 1929, but the 1929 has a little larger diameter. You can see from the pictures that the early version has a single cap band and the Aspen sports a double cap band.
The barrels/grip sections. The pen barrels are pretty much similar. The OS barrel is just a little more beefy, and its grip section is just a little shorter but has a larger diameter when compared to its later relative. The 1999 Aspen has like all Balance II models a more slender grip section. A cosmetic feature of the old pen is the three line barrel inscription. “W.A. SHEAFFER PEN CO., FORT MADISON. IOWA. U.S.A., PAT D – PAT. PENDING”. The newer balance does not have an inscription. Both pens have a high gloss finish and gold metal accents. The new balance has under and on top of the section a small gold band. Both pens have a substantial weight to it. The old OS is heavier than the new balance.
................................................1929 OS Bal.......... 1999 Bal II
Length posted:...........................160 mm....................164 mm
Length capped:..........................148 mm....................146 mm
Length uncapped:.......................129 mm....................126 mm
Barrel length:............................105 mm.....................105 mm
Barrel diameter at threads:.........12.5 mm....................11.8 mm
Barrel diameter at middle:..........13 mm.......................12.5 mm
Now to the ratings. The designs are very similar. But the old style clips makes more impression to me than the newer, sleeker, less humped one. Also, the slender section of the 1999 balance suits me less than the old OS Balance.
1929 OS Balance (5 )
1999 Balance II (4.5)
The Nibs and feeds.
The business ends of the pens. The gold medium nib on the 1929 OS is not the original nib, but a replacement, correct for the period. It was swapped with the original, serial numbered fine nib because I preferred the medium nib. This nib is rigid. The two tone feathertouch nib of the Balance II is a medium nib and shows some flex. The 1999 nib in combination with the modern feed did not perform too well when I received it. The pen skipped every now and then and was a slow starter. This changed when I run a thin sheet of mylar between feed and nib. The old OS is equipped with a flat feed, working flawless. The OS nib is just a bit larger with 23 mm compared to the 21 mm of the newer balance. Both nibs have heart shaped vent hole.
1929 OS Balance (4)
1999 Balance II (5)
Filling systems, ink, use and comfort
The modern balance can be use with cartridges or with a converter. The old balance is equipped with a lever filling system and has quite a long lever. Both systems are easy to use and filling is not a hard job. I am not fond of cartridges, so I use the twist type converter.
The old celluloid is sensitive for discoloring. It is therefore fitted with a silicone sack. This also means that I do not fill it with high saturated inks. Now there is a difference as I am not afraid to put in those types of ink into the modern balance. The newer balance is more versatile in its ink range. On the other hand, I have the feeling that the old Sheaffer performs a little better on modern, smooth papers. Posting of the cap on the barrel end is not always reliable. Every now and then the caps come lose from the seating. That is a minus for both and you have to stop writing and adjust the balance again prior to continuing writing. Speaking of balance, there is a bit of difference in the use. I always use the modern balance in the capped position. Writing with the old balance makes me doubt. I like it when the cap is posted but then I hold at higher up the barrel, not at the grip. I do that because of the balance of the pen. Using the OS unposted is good for endurance. The pen writes without any pressure and without getting tired in the hand. I use Waterman South Sea Blue in the vintage Sheaffer. This ink provides a nice flow. I take the balance II also higher up the barrel and not at the grip. But for a different reason: I find the grip to slender. I tried the Noodler’s Baystate Blue in the modern Sheaffer and that is a great combination. Nice flow and a very nice result indeed. No clogging, no skipping ( anymore). Both pens are typical wet writers and that’s what I like. I carry both pens almost daily and use them regular. For signing papers I often use the modern one and for taking notes I use the older balance.
1929 OS Balance (4)
1999 Balance II (5)
Cost and Value
This is difficult to compare. The price for the old Sheaffer is approx twice the price I paid for the Balance II. The reason for it is in the excellent condition and its good color. I bought the 1929 OS from Sarj here at the FPN this year as part of a set ( Thanks again Sarj) and the Balance II was bought back in 1999. I think that the prices paid for both pens represent their value. I have no expectation how the value will be in 30 years or so, when the Aspen becomes a classic. I have no fear that the 1929 OS will decrease in value. In contrary, it may increase in value. In terms of joy, both pens please me in their own way.
1929 OS Balance (5)
1999 Balance II (4)
In the bottom line both pens end up with the same total in points. Although they are clearly family and at first glance they are look alikes in different colors, they actually differ in details. The nearly 80 year old OS is impressive and it has to be kept safe and needs TLC to preserve its fine condition. The modern balance can be taken anywhere and feels replaceable if it should get damaged. It is a matter of taste if you prefer the old grandeur or the modern versatile pen. To me, regardless of the outcome of this review, they have each similar value: I like them both.
Edited by ruud2904, 02 March 2008 - 17:12.