Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Quicker Picker Upper

Janet said she had never seen me as bummed to see a pen show end as I was at the end of the DC show this year, and she was right. I thought about it for a while, and I think I figured out why: it was the first time I’ve seen the show actually end. In years past, when I arrive things are already underway and when I leave, I’m one of the first ones to go on Sunday afternoon so that I can get home Sunday night.

This year, Janet and I decided to spend the night on Sunday and leave on Monday morning. It was the first time ever I’ve passed where the ink testing area is set up and not seen tables full of ink bottles with a few people hunched over the table. It was the first time I’ve seen the ballroom without my friends and tables full of pens and pencils in it.

I’ve never seen the Sheraton Premiere look empty and – well – lonely.

So even though we had a nice day to take our time and enjoy a few stops on the way home, I was a little melancholy. When we stopped off in Frederick, Maryland, we had a pretty good time rummaging around a few antique stores, but I just couldn’t get into it. After three days of being surrounded by literally anything a pencil collector could want, now it was all I could do to turn up a ballpoint that some dealer wants eight bucks for!

By the time we made Hagerstown, where we found "Memory Lane Antiques and Collectibles" right off of Route 70, it was beginning to feel like there was nothing to do but sit around and wait for the next pen show to roll around before there would be something interesting to look at again. But as I wandered up and down aisles of NASCAR and Harley Davdison "collectibles" (yeah, I suppose you can collect stuff made in China last week, if that’s what you really want to do), something did catch my eye:


It looks better than it did when I pulled it out from among the ballpoints in a coffee mug with "World’s Best Lover" written on the side of it, and it was well worth the couple bucks I spent for it. This is one of the rare Sheaffer balance pencils with the exposed eraser:


There’s one pictured on page 140 of The Catalogue in green. For the price, I’ve listed the value as "unique," which doesn’t mean it’s worth meeelyuns of dollars, just that they don’t come up often enough for me to have any idea what they "should" go for. Here they are shown together:


The new one is also fitted with "Statesman" trim. The most obvious difference between the two is that the brown example has a ribbed lower barrel, while on the green one, the lower barrel is completely smooth:


Under the cap, both are fitted with the same eraser "bumper" found on the Fineline pearlies. The screw can be adjusted to advance the eraser as it’s consumed. Note that the brown one has what appears to be an earlier plastic collar:


And the imprints on the two are different, as well. The "300" indicates that the brown example carried a $3.00 price tag when new:


Finding this little guy really lifted my spirits. It wasn’t the thrill of acquiring another toy, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy owning this one.  I think it’s a matter of rediscovering the thrill of the hunt for vintage writing instruments.  As enjoyable as the DC show was, after being surrounded by tens of thousands of writing instruments for three days, it's easy to forget how hard these are to find.

And how much fun it is when you do!

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