It’s not often I get my hands on a high-quality Italian pen and I think I only got this one because no-one else knew what it was when it was listed on eBay. I watched it for several days, expecting the price to take off but it never did and mine was the first and only bid.
The Penco name was adopted by the Rossi Brothers in 1952 after a couple of decades as FRV. It was a period in which English or English sounding names went down well in Europe. This pen was their much-advertised No 53. The resemblance to a Triumph-nibbed Sheaffer is obvious and clearly no accident. It’s a copy but it’s also something more; the Rossi brothers admired the Sheaffer Balance and had the confidence to believe that they could produce something even better. The 53 is the result. The filling system with which this pen was fitted when first issued was quite complicated and bore some resemblance to Parker’s Vacumatic. Between 1953 and 1954 the first version was replaced by the 35B which had a version of the Touchdown filler. That’s the pen I have here. All in all, this was beginning to look very like an infringement of Sheaffer’s patents and legal action was threatened. In response, the pen was fitted with a piston filling system, but this was not enough for Sheaffer and in the face of expensive legal proceedings the Rossi Brothers withdrew the pen and, indeed, the company didn’t survive much longer.
So how do you classify this pen? Given the build quality it’s far from being a cheap knock-off. There was no suggestion that this pen was a Sheaffer, so it isn’t a forgery. It is, in a sense, an homage and there can be no doubt that it’s a copy, too. So what’s the difference between this pen and all the – for instance – Duofold copies that appeared under a variety of names in the twenties and thirties? Not much, one might say, except that perhaps the concept of the Duofold was less unique and identifiable than that of the Sheaffer Balance 1000. Also, Sheaffer was renowned for being hair-trigger litigious.
It’s a curiosity for the use of three filling systems in the short period of its production. It’s also notable as the height of cheek, but it’s also a superbly well-made pen.
Thanks to Abrate G. (2004) Article 416, Pentrace.