Profile: Sheaffer’s PFM

(This page revised November 17, 2014)

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PFM Advertisement, 1959 Magnifying glass
This 1959 PFM adver­tise­ment appeared on the back cover of National Geographic Magazine and features the Inlaid Nib and Sheaffer’s famous spring-loaded clip.

Manufacturer logoThe Pen For Men: When Sheaffer introduced its bold new PFM with great fanfare in 1959, little did the company know that it had just created the pen that might be regarded as the “last hurrah” of the Fountain Pen Era, the time when the fountain pen ruled as the standard writing instrument. The ballpoint pen, invented in the 1930s and introduced in the United States in 1945, was rapidly asserting the dominance that inevitably arises from increased convenience.

NibThe PFM relied on the best of Sheaffer’s technology. It used the complicated but elegant and amazingly reliable Snorkel filling system, which had proven itself since 1952. And it introduced Sheaffer’s next step after the “TRIUMPH” point, the attractive streamlined Inlaid Nib™ (U.S. Patent Nº D188,265 for the nib and Nº D188,266 for the nib and barrel assembly), which has never since been out of production and today flaunts its beauty and function on pens such as the Valor (introduced February 2006).

In retrospect, the PFM is regarded as one of the great classics; but it was not well received. By the end of 1963 the range of models had been reduced to only two (III and V), and Sheaffer withdrew the pen entirely in 1968. The PFM’s bold design spawned a series of similar pens, shaped like it but narrower in cross section, called the Imperial. Some Imperials are Touchdown fillers, and others use the nominally more convenient cartridge/converter system. The Imperial models were discontinued in the 1970s, only to reappear in 1995 as the Triumph Imperial series. Sheaffer also recognized the growing resurgence of demand for more expensive fountain pens, and in 1995 issued the Legacy, a modern pen that looked virtually identical to a PFM. In 2001 the slightly revised Legacy II succeeded the Legacy, and in 2003 the Legacy Heritage series replaced the Legacy II.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
This illustration shows a burgundy PFM I, a black
PFM II, and a black PFM III. The PFM I is the only PFM
that does not bear Sheaffer’s trademark White Dot.

The PFM appeared in a variety of models; there were at least six (possibly nine) variations, offering an exciting choice of refined and elegant materials; even the PFM II, with its monochrome white-metal nib and cap, has a rich look — especially in black. All of the PFMs are essentially the same size, about 53/8" long capped and 55/8" posted.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
This illustration shows a green PFM IV and a blue PFM V. These
two models feature a gold-plated tassie at the end of the blind cap.

PFM Models and Features
Model Barrel Cap Band Nib White Dot Clip Blind-Cap
Tassie

PFM I Plastic, choice of colors Plastic, choice of colors Chrome plated PdAg Chrome plated
PFM II Plastic, choice of colors Brushed stainless steel PdAg Chrome plated
PFM III Plastic, choice of colors Plastic, choice of colors Gold filled 14K Gold filled
PFM IV Plastic, choice of colors Polished stainless steel Gold filled 14K Gold filled
PFM V Plastic, choice of colors Gold filled 14K Gold filled
PFM VI Gold filled Gold filled 14K Gold filled
PFM VII Plastic, choice of colors 14K gold 14K 14K gold
PFM Masterpiece 9K gold 9K gold 14K 14K gold
PFM Autograph Plastic, black Plastic, black 14K gold 14K 14K gold

Mystery Piece: the Masterpiece

The PFM Masterpiece is listed in Fountain Pens and Pencils, The Golden age of Writing Instruments, by George Fischler and Stuart Schneider, but it does not appear in any Sheaffer catalog. Although many collectors have expressed reservations about its existence, there is now no doubt that the PFM Masterpiece was (and is) real.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The PFM Masterpiece was a special edition of 100 solid 9K gold pens made on commission for Sheaffer’s U.K. division by S. J. Rose & Sons, a manufacturing jeweler located in Birmingham, England. It appears that most of these pens had a Barleycorn finish as illustrated here, but at least one was made with a smooth body and cap. (I have seen photographs of this pen, which bears all the correct hallmarks.) Because all 100 pens were pre-sold, they were not imprinted with Sheaffer’s usual body and cap markings.

A “Refined” Color Palette

When the PFM was introduced, both the technological limitations of the injection molding process and the fashion of the era dictated up-to-date solid colors. The age of pearl-like and striated plastic pens was over with a vengeance. Moreover, colors suitable for such a decidedly masculine pen must be strong and businesslike to complement the “power suit” that had become such a prominent fixture in corporate boardrooms. Thus, the PFM appeared in a choice of five very restrained colors; there would be no pink or pastel blue PFMs! The gray color was even shorter lived; it was not listed among the original colors, and it appears to have been available for only one year.


The Colors of the PFM
Color Name

Black Black
Blue Blue
Green Green
Burgundy Burgundy
Gray Gray

Notes:
  1. The PFM VI and VII are not known to have appeared in Sheaffer’s catalogs, but they are listed in Fountain Pens and Pencils, The Golden age of Writing Instruments, by George Fischler and Stuart Schneider. No specimens of these models are known to exist.

  2. The PFM Masterpiece photographed for this article was lent by the owner of the pen. Information about the PFM Masterpiece came from Andreas Lambrou, who obtained it in a personal conversation with Raymond Bailey, Sheaffer’s U.K. technical and marketing manager at the time the PFM was in production.


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