I acquired this Sheaffer Balance Petite several weeks ago. The combination of the humpbacked ball clip and the marine green celluloid dates this pen to 1930.
This pen was the result of a happy accident of bad eBay auction photos and poor reading comprehension on my part. Somehow I neglected the part of the listing where it said that the pen measured 4 1/16″ long. Or maybe I did see that part, but the fact that a 4-inch-long pen is really, really tiny escaped my comprehension. Anyway, the auction didn’t have many nibbles so I threw some dollars at it and won it for $28.
But imagine my surprise when I opened the package and found this little cutie!
I mean, just look at it.
Adorable! (From L to R: Lamy Vista, Sheaffer Balance Sovereign, Sheaffer Balance Petite, Pilot Elite, Pilot Metropolitan)
It makes my Pilot Elite pocket pen look big and that’s saying something.
The Lifetime nib is almost comically oversized compared to the rest of the pen. The visible part of it measures 3/4″ long.
The feed is of a style I’ve never seen before. It’s completely smooth and gives the pen an Art Deco look that’s pretty cool.
Overall, the pen is in good shape. It has very little wear, the trim is perfect, and the sac has been replaced recently. There’s some discoloration of the celluloid, but that’s very common in pens of this era. Thankfully, the discoloration doesn’t look as bad in the marine green pattern as it does in the lighter shaded jade celluloid. The imprint is clear and has an old-school patent number, another point for dating this pen to 1930.
For the curious, the patent covers the design of the rounded-end Sheaffer Balance.
The nib on this pen puts down the finest line of any pen I own. I’d call it an extra fine. It’s even finer than my Pilot Metro F.
In practical use, this elderly pen is quite cantankerous. It’s quick to leak ink if it’s not capped with the nib pointed up, or if it’s flicked or jostled too much. The extra fine point of the nib doesn’t lend itself to smooth writing, and the pen itself is so small that it’s not suitable for lengthy writing sessions even in my hands. Still, it’s an interesting pen with unique features that I’m happy to have in my collection.
I found my first wild pens today at a local flea market. One of the pens was a Parker 21, which I’ll write about later, but the other was a Sheaffer that I’d never seen before. (No surprise there—as a newbie, most pens are pens I’ve never seen before!)
As typical with wild pens, this one had been stored away inked, which had long since dried up inside the nib, feed, section, and cartridge. I took the pen apart and soaked the parts in some water mixed with a few drops of dishwashing soap. Blue ink bloomed in the water, full of promise.
In the meantime, I did some research and learned that this is a Sheaffer cartridge “school pen” V2, circa 1965. (Version 2 pens have conical ends on both the cap and barrel.)
After a nice long bath, I gave the Sheaffer a thorough cleaning using a bulb syringe until the water ran clear. I didn’t have any Sheaffer cartridges at hand so I cleaned the old one out and filled it with my favorite test ink, Pilot Blue Black.
Writing this with one of my very first wild pen finds! It’s a Sheaffer cartridge school pen circa 1965. The nib is not flexible at all, but it’s smooth and has just the right amount of feedback. Someone stored this pen away inked, which had dried all up in the section and feed. I gave it a good soak and cleaned it as best I could, and now it writes like this! Not bad for $4.
Here’s a closeup of the nib. I’m assuming it’s stainless steel.
The barrel also has some printing on it:
I’m the curious sort, so I typed that right into google and found a single hit: a 1964 yearbook from the University of Wyoming.
How this pen made its way from Laramie to the Mid-Willamette Valley, Oregon is left as an exercise for the reader.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: the most expensive pen I own is a Pilot Murex MR-500SS.
Why am I writing about a pen that routinely sells for over 200 USD on a blog called “The Economical Penster”? Because my feelings about this pen explain the way I judge other pens. It’s my gold standard.
The Murex was, and still is, my “holy grail” pen. It’s the only pen that’s made me break my “costs less than $20” rule. The first time I saw a Murex (yes, in that article) I knew I had to have one. Such sudden lust for a fountain pen came as a complete surprise. I’m a bad pen fancier, I admit it. The aesthetic aspect of fountain pens has never moved me much, and I consider fountain pens to be tools that give me pleasure specifically as writing instruments. The best ones allow me to put words on the page with a minimum of fuss.
The Pilot Murex puts words on the page, but it does so with a kind of timeless style rarely seen in fountain pens, a style I find immensely appealing.
The Murex is not the first pen featuring a nib integrated with the body. That honor belongs to the Parker T-1, which was originally produced in 1970. A year later, Pilot introduced the predecessor to the Murex: the MYU 701, a stainless steel fountain pen with an integrated nib, short barrel, and long cap.
Pilot redesigned the MYU in 1977. Its short barrel and long cap was replaced with more traditional proportions, and the “Murex” was born.
The clean lines of the Murex’s design are accompanied by minimal branding. The “MR PILOT” etched into the cap is the only visible logo.
The field of website design has the concept of “sticky eyeballs,” which means content that attracts attention and keeps it there. This can apply to physical objects as well. Apple iPhones. Ducati motorcycles. They grab the eye and refuse to let go, and the Murex is right there with them. It’s an attention grabber whenever I use it in public.
But lest the Murex be considered all show and no go, I should mention that it’s an excellent writer. The integrated nib does not flex, but it glides smoothly and is a reliable starter.
I purchased this pen on eBay as an uninked specimen, and it’s written flawlessly since I got it. Not bad for a pen only a few years older than I am.
The nib integrated into the section is my favorite part of the design. It’s incredibly comfortable, and the concentric rings engraved into the section provide just enough grip to keep the pen from slipping. Prefer your grip up close to the nib? Go right ahead. Like your grip further up? Knock yourself out. Someone would have to have a particularly unorthodox grip to find this section uncomfortable.
This particular Murex is engraved with “F” to indicate a fine nib, and “H677” for a manufacturing date of June, 1977 at Pilot’s Hiratsuka factory.
Pilot did not neglect a single detail on this pen, right down to the spring clip on the cap and the satisfying way the cap snaps onto the body. For an all-metal pen, the Murex does not feel heavy. It’s nicely balanced in the hand when unposted. For those who prefer the alternative, the cap posts deeply and securely, yet still remains in balance when writing.
So yeah, the Murex is a cool pen, but is it economical? Consider that it originally sold for 5000 yen in 1977, which was about 16 US dollars at the time, or 66 dollars in today’s money. That’s a reasonable price for a pen that looks this good and writes this well.
The Pilot Murex is an excellent pen with a simple, timeless design that pays attention to the little details but remains universally accessible. Dieter Rams would approve.
The Pilot Murex featured in this post is part of my personal collection, purchased with my own funds. My thoughts are my own.