Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Bloody Disaster

When I was in college training to become a journalist, a wise professor of mine once told me that a good journalist doesn't tell you what to think, but what to think about.   Therefore, I was pleased that the article I wrote on the military clip Sheaffer pencil a few weeks ago generated so much discussion about military clip Sheaffers in the online community.

The discussion turned up a small piece of information that leads me back to the subject. 

To recap, Sheaffer offered five models of pens with the military clip: the Skyboy, Valiant, Vigilant, Defender and Commandant.  The Skyboy was accompanied by a pencil also marked "Skyboy" on the clip, and the Commandant pen, the lowest-priced model in the lineup, was accompanied by a pencil marked "Sheaffer's" on the clip.  As for the Valiant, Vigilant and Defender, the same pencil appears to have accompanied all three.

In the course of researching that article, I learned that while Sheaffer military clips were catalogued by the company in black, red and brown; during the discussion of the article that followed, I learned that green examples such as my Valiant/Vigilant/Defender pencil pictured in The Catalogue, while uncatalogued, also turn up from time to time.   That led me to wonder whether the Skyboy and Commandant pencils could also be found in green. 

Historically, I've been an accidental Sheaffer collector.  Most of the examples I've acquired over the years have come to me in a group or boxful of items, and almost always it was some other item that induced me to make the purchase.   However, since I have always appreciated the quality in a Sheaffer pencil, the Sheaffers that have come into my possession generally "check in, but they don't check out."  Unless I've had another example that was identical to a new one arriving by box or by lot, I'd keep it rather than trading it away. 

This was the first time, I actually went out and searched for a Sheaffer pencil, and within just a couple days, I'd tracked down my green Commandant:


Yeah, I'll track down a black one one of these days, too.  Baby steps... baby steps...  the interesting part of the Commandant story came as I was photographing this trio and noticed something:


I've had that red one for years, but, this was the first time I'd noticed a white dot on the red example.  I even went back and looked at the picture on page 139 of The Catalogue, and it shows up there, too.  From everything I knew about these, (1) the Commandants didn't have white dots (in fact, none of the military clip pencils did) and (2) that's a weird place for a white dot. 

Suddenly, the green Commandant wasn't my story anymore.  I zoomed in for a closer shot of the red one:


By this point, I was beginning to get excited, but since I'm not a Sheaffer devotee, I thought I'd better run my new discovery past someone else.  I emailed Matt McColm and asked him what he thought of a Sheaffer Commandant pencil with a white dot.  His answer surprised me:

"Make sure it's not paint," he said. 

So, as I was sitting down to write this article, I picked up my red Commandant and tested the white dot with a thumbnail.  Drum roll . . . yeah, it was paint.    Thanks Matt -- that really would have been a bloody disaster.

One last point on the military clip Sheaffers.  I had mentioned how Daniel Kirchheimer had taken a liking to one of my Sheaffer military clip pencils: the red one with the slightly higher cap band.    Before I shipped it to him, I took a couple last photographs of it to illustrate its interesting features:


I asked Daniel what made him single this pencil out, and he indicated that a few Sheaffer military clip pens were slightly longer than normal, and he believes thse pencils were mady to accompany those longer pens.

But in addition to being a "Sheaffer of unusual size," this pencil was interesting in another respect.  While it isn't in working condition, in this case it can be forgiven, because there's a good reason why it doesn't work:


After the United States became involved in World War Two, the U.S. Government in 1942 imposed strict limitations on the amount of metals used in the production of consumer goods.  Daniel's pencil is fitted with an unusual mechanism made largely from plastic rather than steel.  While Sheaffer pencil mechanisms are generally bulletproof, this plastic example clearly wasn't. 

But this little guy did contribute just a bit to America's war effort during the darkest hours of the conflict. 

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