Monday, February 2, 2015

The Mother Lode

For the Philadelphia Show this year, I decided not to take anything along to set up. I decided I didn’t want to hassle with a table, so that I could relax, enjoy the show, and focus on taking pictures and gathering information for the next issue of the Pennant.

‘Twas a good thing I came without baggage. In what was perhaps a once-a-decade opportunity, first thing Friday morning a collector who said she had amassed a collection of some 2,500 pencils over 27 years had brought along the whole bunch – she had decided to let them all go. We negotiated briefly, and I wrote the check to buy the whole thing. Fortunately, Bert Oser had a table to spare, so I was able to rent one and spread things out a bit for sorting:


It was truly the ultimate pig-in-a-poke buy. I just scratched the surface of each of the containers, saw interesting things, and hoped that all the stuff underneath was as good as what I was seeing on top. All day on Friday, I sat at that table with a loupe in hand sorting through the bunch to determine which items I would keep and which could be left out on the table and perhaps sold to recoup part of the investment. John Hall remarked it was the longest he ever saw me stay in one place at a show, and by the end of the day I couldn’t see more than a couple feet for a few hours and I was actually sick of looking at pencils.

Yeah. Me. Sick of looking at pencils on the first day of a show. There was that much stuff.

The deal was fantastic for both myself and the seller. Disposing of an entire collection is arduous, and she was free of the whole thing in the first fifteen minutes of the show. As for me, yes: the stuff underneath was as good as what I had seen on the tops. It turned out to be my largest single addition to my collection ever, with some three hundred pieces checking in:


There’s about six month’s worth of articles in these two boxes, and you’ll be seeing a lot of them over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are two of my favorites that came out of the haul:


The gold filled example is unmarked, but is without question a Heath leadholder. David Nishimura recently posted a fantastic article on these at his blog (see http://www.vintagepensblog.blogspot.com/2013/12/who-designed-eversharp-pencil.html), in which he illustrates how the outward appearance of the Eversharp pencil was due to Heath’s influence, which had already been making leadholders like these for a couple years when the company began making Ever Sharp pencils under contract for Charles Keeran in 1913.

This example is very well preserved, and the metal work on it is simply breathtaking:


And befittingly, the other pencil shown in that first picture is an early Ever Sharp (1915 or 1916), bearing the clip patented by Heath (giving these the collector name "Heath clip Ever Sharp"):


The pencil itself didn’t offer up any further revelations, other than the pattern – it’s one I neither had nor ever knew existed:


It’s almost a checkerboard, but with a space between every other row of rectangles. Early Ever Sharp pencils were made in patterns that were never reproduced after Wahl took over production of them, this being one of them.

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