Wednesday, April 10, 2013

And Then There Were . . . 7 1/2?

Categorizing Sheaffer Pearl Center Pencils (Pearlies) is the kind of thing that can drive you a little bit batty. I devoted pages 144 to 146 in The Catalogue – probably more than anybody cared to know – and in the year or so since the book came out, I’ve done a couple articles here showing off other variations that have come to light since. As it stands, there are seven distinct variations on the Pearlie theme:


From left, these are the flat ball clip, the flat broad Sheaffer clip, the flat broad Fineline clip, the humped Sheaffer clip, the ribbed horizontal Sheaffer clip, the ribbed vertical Sheaffer clip, and . . . whatever that last thing is.

At around the time I was picking up all these Canadian Sheaffers, I saw this one in an online auction:


Since the seller did a terrible job describing this one, my imagination was left to run wild. Here’s a pearlie with a WASP clip – could this be the Canadian version of the pearlie? Or would the imprint reveal something more about the history of these?


I was so blinded by the possibilities that, unfortunately, I was missing the obvious. When the pencil arrived and I got a good look at it, I should have known what it was:


"Crispline WASP Pen Co. Inc. Ft. Madison, IA USA." I’d seen these before and even listed them in The Catalogue. Here’s the picture from page 143 – these Crisplines are the five on the right hand side of the picture.


I also keep seeing this green one at pen shows, most recently in Philadelphia:


In The Catalogue I refer to these as the "direct ancestor" to the pearlie, although now that I’ve seen the flat ball clip examples, I’m inclined to believe both these WASP Crisplines and the earliest pearlies were produced at around the same time.

I never included these Crisplines in my count of pearlie variants because all the Crisplines I’d seen were made from colorful pearlescent plastics rather than the flat colors used on the Pearl Center pencil lines. Even the example pictured in The Catalogue with the white pearl center has pearl grey instead of solid color ends. Crisplines are heavier, have upper gold filled trim rings and lack the ribbing usually found on the lower barrels, too. I guess I’ve always thought of these as the inspiration for the idea, rather than as the idea itself.

But now that I’ve found one with solid black ends and a white pearl center, I’m rethinking that position a little. If the WASP division had put this out at the same time the Sheaffer division was considering a similar idea, the Sheaffer guys didn’t have much more thinking to do that WASP hadn’t already done!

So while I’m still reluctant to call the Crispline utility pencil an eighth variant, I’ve got to give them credit for the assist. Maybe we’ll call it seven and a half?

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