Saturday, March 31, 2012

Zaners on Parade

I should be more dedicated to collecting Zaner-Bloser pencils.  They hail from Columbus, Ohio, my hometown, and they are goofy, which usually puts things squarely in my crosshairs.

But on the other hand, Zaner-Bloser was a one-trick pony when it came to making pencils.  There's one ultra-rare, ultra-desirable variant - the ones made by Parker blending the Parker Streamline Duofold with Zaner's unusual shape - that I haven't been able to track down, mostly because they cost hundreds of dollars when they surface.  I have a picture of Joe Nemecek's example pictured in The Catalogue.  

All the rest are along the same lines.  But lately, I have been finding some interesting variations. 

The examples in this first bunch all have painted wood barrels:


Later examples had plastic barrels and were probably made by David Kahn, Inc. (the manufacturer of Wearever):


And a few months ago, I ran across a ballpoint pen and pencil set, but with a twist:


Double ended and a checking pencil!

Friday, March 30, 2012

If only all "Student Pencils" were this nice!

When Carter comes to mind, this is usually what I'm thinking of:


These are the "coraltex" pencils.  Later "pearltex" pencils were every bit as elegant.  But the company also made "student" or utility pencils - here's one shown with a couple of earlier Carter's pencils (the utility pencil is the one on the bottom):


Pencils such as this typically had lesser quality trim and exposed erasers.  Conklin and Wahl did the same sort of thing. 

A while ago at an online auction I found a variation on the Carter utility pencil that really caught my eye:


I'd put this in the "student pencil" category due to the nickel plated (rather than gold filled) trim.


Also, the plastic used is much lighter and thinner than the coraltex or pearltex Carters, although the color is very attractive and I've never seen it on a Carter before. 

Unlike the typical "student pencil," today's example does not have an exposed eraser.  The cover isn't like anything else I've seen on a Carter:


Of course, the first thing I had to do when it arrived was to take it apart, where I found another interesting surprise.  The mechanism is also unique to this example (hence the "Patent Applied For" on the barrel, I should think):


The tip is secured to the pencil solely by friction around that larger protruding rod.   I haven't yet been able to track down the patent, and it could be that one was never issued on the application.  But whether or not the Patent Office thought it was unique, I sure do!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Award for "Least Inspiring Patent" Goes To . . .

One of the early Eagle's pictured on page 45 of The Catalogue is the No. 831 "Spear," a short, simple pencil that comes in black enamel over brass.  Since the book was published, I've run across a couple other variations:


The top one I was really excited to find, since it is the only one I've seen that has a patent date on it, instead of the typical "Eagle Pencil Co. New York":


Yes, I know that the highlighting isn't very good.  Remember that there's not a real imprint on these, just a very light stamp in the enamel paint. 

A few weeks ago I posted an article about Eagle's "banner year" of 1909, when the company received two patents on the venerable "Torpedo" series of pencils.  Unfortunately, the patents turned out to be a letdown, with one being for a rather bland design and the other being for a simple spring floor in the spare lead compartment. 

The Spear shares many of the same mechanical features as the Torpedo, and here's a patent date from a year earlier -- could this be the real patent for the workings behind these pencils? 

Sadly, no.  And if the Torpedo patents were a letdown, the Spear patents are a real snoozer.   Yes, there's two of them, both issued on September 22, 1908:

But wait -- if Harry Heymann's design patent doesn't inspire shock and awe, Claes Boman's elaboration is even better:

Oooh.  Round with a little rib.  And round with a little rib and a little smaller end.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lovejoy's Requiem

At the Scott Antique Market last month, I was browsing around a table when I found this in a box with a sign that read "$1 each":


It was a pretty slow show, and this was about the only dollar I spent during that visit, but it was a pretty good one.  This is a Dur-O-Lite, and one of the neat things about it is the advertising on the side:


But the advertising, neat as it is, wasn't what attracted me to this one.   Here's a closer view of the clip - look familiar?


A closer look at what's imprinted above the clip shows why I was quicker than a jackrabbit pulling a dollar bill out of my pocket:


Patent number 2,358,091 -- Lovejoy's patent, originally assigned to Moore but also licensed by Eversharp (see yesterday's post).   The Lovejoy patent, issued in 1944, still had five years left on it when Moore collapsed in 1956.  Eversharp's writing division was sold to Parker in 1957, and Parker didn't continue any of Eversharp's products. 

So what became of Moore's unexpired patent rights?  Now we know.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Less Moore

Here's a picture of the Moore clutch pencil box set, from page 103 of The Catalogue, and Eversharp's adaptation of the same design to the Skyline form, from page 76:


The gold filled examples, and one of the Eversharp plastic ones I have, are marked with patent number 2,358,091, which was issued to Charles K. Lovejoy on January 22, 1944 and assigned to The Moore Pen Company. 

The connection between the two wasn't easy to establish, before I'd found the metal Eversharp that was a dead ringer for the Moore.  On the plastic pencils, the last number of the patent is omitted, so it reads "235809."   Was it truly a mistake, or was Eversharp less than thrilled announcing to the world that it had licensed Moore's design?  I don't have an answer to that, but I am skeptical that it was an accident. 

I digress.  This article isn't about Eversharp.

At the Ohio Show last November, I dropped by the Pendemonium booth and found that Lovejoy's design was also adapted to a demi sized pencil:


This is the first demi I've found, which makes me wonder - did Eversharp make one, too?

Monday, March 26, 2012

One for the Most "Secure" Stockbroker

Stockbroker's pencils are a special breed.  Unlike the giant Eagle pencils, which were a ridiculously large novelty pencil, Stockbroker's pencils are ridiculously large expressions of many power.   They are nearly as unwieldly in the hand, and the lead is bigger than found anywhere else.  Some, like the Mabie Todd example I blogged about recently, are cast out of a brick of 14 karat gold. 

In short (no pun intended), stockbroker's pencils signify loud and clear, that the owner is overcompensating for something.

Which brings us to today's find, which Joe Nemecek turned up at the Baltimore show and allowed me to photograph:


A ringtop stockbroker's pencil.  It fits well in the hand, not like a gold-filled tree trunk, but it uses the same enormous lead, so it functions exactly the same as its larger counterparts.

This example is marked "Victor":


"Victor" appears in The Catalogue at page 160.  All the ones I've seen are demi-sized side clip pencils, in plastics reminiscent of Chicago Conklins, with the same middle-upper barrel joint found on Waterman pencils of the late 1930s.   This is the first time I've seen a Victor stockbroker pencil, but given the others I've seen, I'm not surprised by its small size.

I can just imagine someone pulling this out of his pocket and being taunted by his colleagues for not having a "macho" enough writing instrument on hand.  I can also imagine its owner responding:

"It's not what you write with, it's what you write with it."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joe Beat Me Out This Time

Back on December 9, I provided closer views of the enamel-over-brass checking pencils made by Wahl Eversharp from 1922 until around 1929:


Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to track down a blue one.  However, at the Baltimore show, Joe Nemecek was showing off his loot to me on Sunday, and here's one of his finds:


Note that the trim on this example is gold filled rather than nickel plate.  Joe's pencil is also enamel over brass, and the paint is just flawless.  But wait a tick -- that tip doesn't look like a checking pencil:


Joe's is a standard Eversharp pencil, not a checking pencil.  First one I've seen -- great find, Joe!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Filling Out The Transitional Family

On March 1, I introduced a pair of Wahl Eversharp pencils that appear to be the "missing link" between Eversharp's flattop era and the Equipoised.  Of these, one had a side clip and the other had a "military clip" mounted high on the cap. 

At the Baltimore show, I tracked down a ringtop:


So now we know there was a complete family of this interesting series, with all three styles of tops:

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Marvelusk Pencil

After spending all day Saturday at the Baltimore show, Janet and I decided to get an early start heading back to Ohio, so that we could enjoy the sights and stop off at some interesting places on the way.  One of the ones we made a point to see this time was the Hancock Antique Mall in Maryland.

Hancock lies right off of Route 68 where it dead ends into Route 70.   We pass by it every year on our way to and from the DC Supershow in August, and every time we see the billboard by the side of the highway, we think that we should stop next time -- because it seems that every time we pass that billboard it's either close to or after closing time. 

This time,  however, we were driving past at around noon, so we decided to make a stop of it.    The Hancock exit is an overly complicated affair, and were it not for Janet's GPS, I'm sure I would have stopped more than once to get my bearings and ask for directions.   A few twists and turns later, and we found the large, grey metal building in which the mall is housed.  It even includes a pizza parlor, a couple of professional offices and a flea market, too. 

Well, the flea market and the antique mall were in the same space, with the fleas on one end and the antiques on the other.  The dividing line wasn't as sharp as you'd expect; however, as you worked from the antiques end closer and closer to the spectacle that is a flea market, the goods on display tended to degenerate from antiques to garage sale to, well, fleas.

On that border between the two, in a showcase full mostly of model trains, was this:


This is another in the "giant" Eagle Automatic series, and in my experience one of the hardest to find.  Finding one complete with the box was especially nice:

Particularly helpful for collectors is the bottom of the box, which provides Eagle's model number for the "Popeye Pencil:"

This one was even complete with instructions:


So what makes this pencil "marvelusk?"


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Prettiest Eversharp Clip

Today I'm introducing another neat find from the Baltimore show, but before I introduce it I need to back up a few steps to show you why it's so neat. 

Here's a pair of Eversharp "Pacemakers" in blue, and an anodized black aluminum "white star guarantee" pencil from around 1940:


The top pencil is typical for a Pacemaker, with a Coronet clip.  The "White Star" pencils (the star denoted another Eversharp guarantee of quality) had that long, elegant clip with ribs.  Occasionally, a Pacemaker will turn up with this clip, but from what I've seen only on the blue ones.  Here's a closeup of the clips:

Another interesting pencil made by Wahl Eversharp in the late 1930s are what I have called the "hybrid repeater pencils" pictured on page 70 of The Catalogue.  I call them hybrids because they share elements of both Pacemakers and the later Skylines.  Lively online debates have failed to turn up any official name for these pencils, shown here alongside the Pacemaker:

.
Unlike the Pacemakers, which did not have the gold seal denoting a lifetime guarantee, these hybrids were offered either with or without gold seals.  I've found hybrids only in maroon and black (at one point, I thought I'd found a navy blue one, but I think it's just a black one that's faded).   To my knowledge, that three-facet clip appears on no other Wahl product.

And, until the Baltimore show this year, I thought that all of these hybrids had that three-faceted clip.  Here's what turned up at the show, shown below the hybrid in the preceding picture:


So the mysterious hybrids also sport the "white star" clip.  While I noted in the Catalogue that the hybrids themselves aren't overly rare, a hybrid hybrid, with Skyline, Pacemaker and White Star characteristics certainly is!


And that White star clip gets my vote for the prettiest clip Eversharp ever made!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just a Wee Bit Different

At the Baltimore show, Paul Erano had this little gem on his table:


What made this pencil stand out to me was the location of the trim bands.  Here is the same pencil shown alongside its closest relatives:


Note that earlier examples such as the one at top have a straight barrel with an elongated metal nose cone - these match examples pictured in Wahl Eversharp's1925 catalog.  The lower example, with a barrel that tapers down to the tip and two trim bands closer to the nose, is typical for those introduced in 1926 and transitioning into the "new Eversharps" (what I call the "tempoint" line) in 1927. 

The imprint suggests a manufacture date of around 1926-1927, with the elevated word "Wahl" next to the spiky Eversharp. In fact, the imprint is identical to the other two examples (the new one is on the right):


The top on the new addition, shown here at right, is a bit different from what is normally found on these pencils:

 
So what of those quirky rings in the middle of the barrel?  Wahl's mottled hard rubber pencils (the company called them "rosewood") are unique among the Tempoint line, in that these were the only ones that are commonly found both with or without trim rings.  But this is the first time I've seen one with the trim rings up at the center of the barrel -- surprising, really, that the idea didn't catch on, since the center rings would have been a better match for the fountain pens. 

Since Cliff Harrington was in attendance at the show, I asked him what he thought of it.  "Eversharp made some weird stuff," he said.

I can't think of a better way to put it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Had to "Point" This Out

At page 46 of The Catalogue, I've shown a group of four Eagle "Hard Rubber and plastic 'Pointers.'"  While some are marked simply "Eagle Pencil Co.," some are unmarked entirely, and none bear the name "Pointer" nor bear the Pointer's patent date of February 7, 1922.   In short, I was sure these are Pointers, but I couldn't prove it.

That is, until this little gem surfaced a couple weeks ago:


Note the distinctive ribbed nose and the shape that matches the larger side clip model pictured in The Catalogue.  The cap, unfortunately, has a split in it, but as thin as the material on it is, I doubt there are very many out there that don't have a split.   This example most closely matches the exampleon the left on page 46, whichis missing its cap entirely.

But most of all, note the imprint:


There's our answer.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Walpuski's "Ordinary Form of Pencil"

While I was researching the various patent dates found on early Eagle Stop Gauge pencils, I'd mentioned that the most difficult one to pin down was Charles Walpuski's patent from June 26, 1877.  It was tough to find because patent was for a formulation of lead, rather than for the pencil itself, so it wasn't indexed where you would expect to find it. 

Walpuski's idea was a pretty neat one:  if soluable dyes are mixed in with graphite and clay, a pencil using such lead writes normally on a dry surface.  Then, if you wanted to make a copy of what you'd written, all you needed to do was lay a moist piece of paper on the manuscript, which would cause the dyes to dissolve and transfer to the moist paper, which could then be pressed onto other sheets of paper to make copies. 

What is curious about Walpuski's patent is that while his patent has absolutely nothing to do with the pencil itself, he includes a drawing of one anyway.  In the text, he states, "The accompanying drawing represents one ordinary form of pencil in which my invention has been embodied."
In another one of those little coincidences, while I was writing the Stop Gauge article and that June 26, 1877 date was rattling around in my head, a pencil showed up on ebay that caught my attention.  The listing said that the pencil was imprinted with a patent date of June 25, 1877:


I thought it was strange that this pencil would look so much like the one pictured in Walpuski's patent and have a patent date just one day earlier, so I decided to throw in a bid and bring it home.  The pencil has a wood barrel painted with gold paint and it is remarkably well preserved:


And on the opposite side of the barrel, the patent information:


So it is June 26 -- this is Walpuski's "ordinary form of pencil" after all!  

Walpuski's patent was assigned to Joseph Reckendorfer, as were a host of other patents, all of which had one thing in common:  the Eagle Pencil Company.  A couple of Walpuski's other early patents were also assigned to Reckendorfer, but his last patent, from 1885, has no assignment on it (by that time, Eagle patents were being assigned directly to the Eagle Pencil Company). 

There aren't any markings on this "Sun Pocket Pencil" to indicate that it was made by Eagle, which would be unusual if in fact it were an Eagle product.   For now, I'm just going to have to index this under "Sun."

But I won't index it under "ordinary."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another One that Got Away: Mabie Todd Stockbroker

When I think about this pencil, I hope that it still exists:


A fellow brought this by my table at The Ohio Show knowing that I would appreciate it but probably wouldn't buy it, and he was right in both respects.  This is one of the large, impressive "stockbroker pencils" made by Mabie Todd & Co., and in addition to being large and impressive, it's heavy and it is solid 14k gold.


This piece was simply flawless.  There wasn't a trace of wear on it, not a dent nor a scratch.  It dates from the mid 1920s, I should think.


I took the time to take a few pictures of this one because it is not only rare and beautiful, it is an endangered species.  With the price of gold skyrocketing as it has in the last year, pieces like this -- even as pristine as this one is -- are being scrapped for their gold content.   Unfortunately, this piece is worth more right now as a hunk of gold than it is as a pencil. 

The fact is, collectors aren't usually willing to pay much of a premium for gold content.   We didn't even discuss a price for this pencil, but I would imagine at the time the gold value in this pencil was around $1,200.00, maybe more (you'd have to tear it apart and separate the gold parts from the steel to know for sure how much is there).   If I had forked over that kind of cash for it -- a foolish move unless we tore it apart and destroyed it -- I would have had to pass on a whole bunch of less expensive pencils that, frankly, I find just as interesting. 

I'm hoping that the guy that showed me this still has it.  If he sold it, it makes me sick to think that this might have been melted down.

If you need to own gold, sure, you can find a lot of it in pencils and often times the gold value is overlooked at pen shows.  But please, if you have solid gold pieces of history like this one, just stick it in your safety deposit box.

As a pencil.