I live in a town small enough that when someone does something as odd as write a book on mechanical pencils, it's front page news. It's also small enough that when the front page of the local paper had my picture on it holding a copy of my new book, people were surprised that they didn't already know one of their neighbors had a stash of thousands of mechanical pencils.
My in-laws have a family friend named Jerry who has known my wife literally since the day she was born, and he's known me since I first started hanging around my wife. He and my father-in-law joined the local Elks lodge decades ago, and I see him regularly on Saturday nights when Janet and I go down for the weekly drawing -- usually at the same table, usually in the same chairs. When it's not the same table or the same chairs, that itself is a topic of conversation. It's a comfort thing, I suppose.
"I never knew you collected pencils," he said to me after the article appeared in the paper. "I've got some I'll bring down to you to see what you think."
That much I've heard from dozens of people since the book came out. Only a couple actually followed through and appeared on my doorstep, and Jerry was one of them. He had a pretty nice bunch of things, and I paid him well for them -- after all, if I didn't pay more than fair prices for the things he brought me, that would really be a topic of conversation on Saturday nights.
Here's one of the things he brought me:
It doesn't look like much at first -- but on closer inspection this one has some interesting details. At the nose, the barrel is tapered into a triangular section with little triangular marks on it:
On the clip is the name "Kontour":
But what really got my attention was the distinctive lettering around the upper barrel:
On a hunch, I ran a check in the Patent and Trademark Office's database to see if there was a trademark for "Kontour," and I hit paydirt. Here's Trademark Registration number 1,238,340 (serial number 73,382,975):
The trademark was renewed by a James R. Thomas of Syracuse, New York in 1990, but it appears the mark no longer has anything to do with pens (or pencils).
As of this writing, that's all I've been able to find about Mr. Kaplan's Pen Company. I missed bidding on a partially stocked storecard of Kontour ballpoints, but other than the neat colors, the card doesn't provide any more information than this:
I'll have to print off this article and take it down to the Elks with me next Saturday night!