And understandable so. When you are looking for the very best in vintage fountain pens, why should you consider Sheaffer ink pens and why the Targa?
Pens may well turn out to be one of the greatest inventions in the history of writing, but for many years they were literally a mess to use. They were difficult to fill, and hard to keep clean. Pen clogging and ink blotting on paper were often the result.
Sheaffer ink pens survived investment banks and multinationals
But in 1912 William A. Sheaffer patented his design for a new type of pen and with his life savings, established the W.A. Sheaffer Company. Originally operating out of the back of his jewelry store, the company produced lever-operated fountain pens. The company incorporated in 1913, and Sheaffer ink pens were soon synonymous with luxury writing instruments. By 1930, Sheaffer ink pens were being advertised as ones that “filled instantly from any inkwell with one touch” and ones that “cleaned automatically while filling”. As time passed, Sheaffer ink pens upgraded from inkwell filled to ink cartridge devices, and the company included other high quality writing implements such as mechanical pencils and ball point pens.
Though it retained the W.A. Sheaffer moniker, the company has changed hands on several occasions since its inception. It was purchased in the 1990s by a Swiss investment bank, sold to the French company famous for producing Bic products, then passed on the famous A.T. Cross pen company early in the 21st century. After operating since its inception in Fort Madison, Iowa (U.S.A.), the W.A. Sheaffer Company plant and offices were relocated to Asia and Slovakia in 2008.
The W.A. Sheaffer Company continues to specialize in top-of-the-line fountain pens. Some of its better known Sheaffer pens include the Touchdown which was a top-filling pneumatic fountain pen, the Snorkel, which featured an extended (and less messy) nib, and a fat-bodied Pen For Men which featured a special inlaid nib, a design which is used in all Sheaffer pens today.
The Targa, one of the best selling of the Sheaffer ink pens
But one of the best known and certainly best selling of all the Sheaffer ink pens was the company’s Targa Fountain Pen.
Sheaffer began producing this pen in 1976, and the model continued in production for more than 20 years. Buyers could choose from among 80 different finishes for this one model, which came in two sizes, “classic” (which was regarded as a men’s pen) and “slim” (a women’s pen). Finish types ranged from chrome metal to actual gold and sterling silver finishes, to plate wood. The pen was distinctive for its modern, almost Art Nouveau appearance.
It was originally scheduled to be sold under the name “Genesis” to celebrate the fact that it was something new in the pen world. But marketers, fearing that the name could be controversial in some overseas markets, called for a last minute name change. The new name paid tribute to the Targa Florio, an Italian vehicle endurance road race. The W.A. Sheaffer Company stopped manufacturing Targa pens in 1999, and today this pen is increasingly sought after as a vintage collectable writing instrument. Until the Targa line was discontinued in the late 20th century, the company continually came out with new models under the Targa name.
Although the Targa is not yet as sought after as some other vintage pens, it is growing in appreciation. Today, Targas can bring between $75-$100 and its nib alone is worth $50 in all but the most damaged pen.
Sheaffer ink pens and Piet Mondriaan
Many vintage fountain pens have famous writers associated with them as devoted users. None of them have been identified as a Targa fan per se, although Walt Disney was a big Sheaffer fan, and had one of the pens (a “Balance” model) found among his belongings after his death. Ironically, the celebrity most associated with Targa today was a painter. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian in 1994, W.A. Sheaffer came out with a new Targa model, the Mondrian Targa Limited Edition.
Produced in a finish of primary blue (Mondrian’s signature color), only 500 of these pens were produced. The company produced a similar number of ball point pens, also under the Mondrian Edition name. The pens were sold in a gift book, embossed with Mondrian’s signature, as were the pens themselves.
Perhaps such a set is waiting to be discovered by a future famous author, yet to discover the pleasures of this stylish pen.
You can find more information, reviews and the price of this great specimen of Sheaffer ink pens, here.