It was my first ever Philadelphia Pen Show last month. And it was the first ever pen auction for the Philadelphia Pen Show. As I looked at the items to be auctioned off at the auction preview, there was only one thing that interested me. I was going to be at the auction anyway, because I’d been asked to help out behind the table – but this one item was the only reason I got a bidder’s number.
This story is not about that item. Well, mostly not, anyway. The item I had my eye on was a red hard rubber Parker Vest Pocket pencil, which I wanted to complete the Parker Bridge Set I bought from Joe Nemecek last summer. So I didn’t want to go too crazy early on in the auction.
But then something else that was red came up for auction, that I hadn’t paid much attention to during the preshow:
This is a Conklin Endura pencil in red hard rubber, and it’s the oversized pencil - measuring a beefy 5 3/8 inches in length and fully 3/8 of an inch in diameter. The reason I didn’t pay any attention to it was that if someone had the matching pen - which in good condition will fetch much more than $500.00, I wouldn’t be willing to spend what it would take to bring it home.
I was talking with Michael McNeil about this a few weeks ago - he believes that a pencil that has a matching pen "should" bring roughly 1/3 the price of the pen. In The Catalogue, I call it "matching pen syndrome" in the section of the book that deals with how to determine the value of a partiular pencil.
But when the pencil was offered, I was amazed to hear crickets chirping in the audience. Apparently no one on hand had the matching pen for this one, and as cheap as the bids were I just had to bid $25 because I couldn’t bear to see it go for so little and not bring it home. And $25 (plus a 10 percent buyers’ premium) was all it took that day.
Which of course, brings "McNeil’s Corrolary" into sharp focus when it comes to the value of such things: someone out there has to have the matching pen first.
There may have been one other reason that this didn’t bring the $150 or so that I was expecting: the top is much brighter than the barrel of the pencil. But as rare as these things are, that doesn’t bother me too much - besides, I can use a cloth impregnated with buffing compound to polish it to a little darker color, if I’m ever so inclined. What struck me when I handled my pig in a poke for the first time – after I’d already bought it – was that the original gold leaf that was in the imprints when it left the factory are still present:
When the Parker Vest Pocket finally rolled around, I was the high bidder but didn’t feel like pumping in the extra cash it would have taken to meet the reserve price. So the Conklin, and another serendipitous purchase I’ll get to here at some point, were the only things I brought home from the first (annual, I hope) Philadelphia Pen Show Auction.
And, with a tip in the hat to George "Red Hard Rubber King" Kovalenko, I have to admit that I’m not the least bit disappointed that this is what ended up coming home with me:
I’m beginning to "see red," and just like Kovalenko, in a good way!