Monday, June 29, 2015

Easy as 1-2-3? I don't think so.

Jon Rosenbaum passed away recently.  Many will remember his friendly, smiling face and unassuming demeanor, as he sat at his table behind a sign that said in bold letters simply, “I Buy Old Pens.”  Funny how a sign like that sticks in your mind amongst a sea of enthusiasts at a pen show, 100 percent of whom . . . buy old pens.    Most important, what I will remember about Jon is that he was a heluva nice guy.  Second, I’ll now remember him for something I didn’t know about him while he was alive.

Jon was a pencil collector.

I had admired pencils on Jon’s table before at shows and bought a few of them, but I did not know they were a passion for him until I was contacted by one of his friends, who Jon’s family asked to help liquidate his collection (name withheld until I get an OK to include it here).   Would I be interested?  Of course I would.  And along came four pictures of cases of pencils, each of which had monstrously nice things.  The problem was that I had many of them.

But there was one pencil in there . . . one that I honed in on immediately, fuzzy picture notwithstanding.  When I called him back, I told him if I only bought one of Jon’s pencils, it would be that one.  We agreed to get together at this year’s Chicago Show, and of course, I bought more than just that one – more on the other ones later.  Today I’ll tell you about the one:


Single-banded Sheaffer Balance pencils are the norm.  Double-banded examples, like the ones I’ve shown here, are an occasion for whoopin and hollerin.  These ultra-rare triple banded examples?  I’ve only seen one other pencil, in ebonized pearl.  That makes these about the most rare of the Sheaffer pencils – even more rare than the ebonized pearl golf pencil (I know where four of those are).

And yet, when I showed it proudly to a friend right after I acquired it, he wondered why Sheaffer made a one-piece band with black painted rings, just like so many of the lower-quality pencils that flooded the market during the 1940s and later.  Once piece?  No, it’s three, I said, and we went back and forth over the issue, looking as closely as we could in a dark ballroom with a loupe.   Now, under more controlled lighting and with a good lens, it’s clear that we were both right.  Yes, it’s clearly three bands – you can see the bits of red and grey in between them:




And yes, the spaces between them were once painted black.