Monday, April 30, 2012

Jim Rouse's Cross Collection

One of the first things Joe Nemecek said to me at the Ohio Show, last November, as I was unveiling The Catalogue, was that my book should have had more Cross.

He's right.   Since 99.9 percent of what's in the book are the things in my personal collection, and I only had two Cross pencils in my collection, I honestly forgot to include the maker until the last minute.  The A.T. Cross Company ended up taking a back seat, appearing on page 175 in the "Just a Couple More" section, which I wrote literally the day before the book went to press.

Everything I said in the book is absolutely true.  Cross is one of the oldest and most established manufacturers of pencils -- true.  Cross pencils are very high in quality and construction -- true.

And most collectors breeze right by them without a second thought, because in general most of the ones you see all look alike -- ok, you can send me all the hate mail you want, but you know it's true.

That's most of the ones you see.  I knew there were guys out there who had spent years accumulating examples of the brand that you don't see all the time and could teach me more about Cross in a couple hours than I would be able to learn in the next decade of picking through flea markets and pen shows.

Guys like Jim Rouse.  Jim was at the Ohio Show, but I had not made his acquaintance yet and even though Joe told me he had his entire Cross collection with him, I wasn't able to get away from my table long enough to spend some time with him.   

The Baltimore Show, however, was another story.  Joe introduced us on Saturday and I asked if I could bring back a camera to document his collection on Sunday morning.  Jim agreed, so early on Sunday morning, before most of the dealers were in the ballroom, My camera and I spent some quality time with Jim's portfolio of vintage Cross pencils:


Now I've already commented that my only criticism of the Baltimore Show was the quality of the lighting in the ballroom, but fortunately with an early morning sun streaming in the large gothic windows, I was able to get some pretty decent shots.

Yes, Jim does have a large number of the standard little Cross pencils you see all the time, in all manner of minute variations:


and these:


and he did have a few examples of the Cross Century:


but his Cross Centuries were nothing like anything I'd ever seen.  Check out these patterns -- he calls them "prototypes," and while that word tends to be overused in the collecting community, I believe him when it comes to these:


But most of what was there were wonderful Cross pieces I haven't seen before.  Rather than cram all of them into one article, I'm going to spend the next few days going through these in detail.

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