At the DC Show this August, I had the opportunity to purchase a collection of Victorian pencils from Alan Hirsch. Normally, when it comes to pen shows, I’m fond of saying that both my wife and I have more fun when she doesn’t accompany me, but this time I was glad she was on hand: the price tag was more than I would dare spend without participation from the finance committee, and a phone call describing what I was about to drop more than the cost of a cheap car on wasn’t nearly as effective as showing her a bifold of Victorian art in person.
“As long as we can pay the bills,” she said. Late into the evening hours I was sorting through the collection on the spare hotel bed, figuring out what I’d like to keep and how much I’d have invested in the stuff I was going to sell. Yep, I pronounced . . . we’ll be all right. I decided that roughly a third of the things in that collection were must-have keepers, another third were things I really have no interest in, and that last third . . . well, we’ll see how much I recoup before we set anything in stone.
Here’s something from the “must keep” pile:
It looks like an ordinary magic pencil, albeit a very pretty one . . .
. . . until you pull on the knob to see what’s inside:
In the cartouche on one side of this telescoping pencil is a patent date: August 9, 1892:
I’ve written about these before (see “I Was Hoping” posted on December 23, 2014 at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/12/i-was-hoping.html). The patent date is a reference to James B. Smith’s patent number 480,479, assigned to Edward Todd:
The example from that last article was missing the stirrup to which the ring was attached, but it had an Edward Todd hallmark on top of the pencil. This on has the stirrup, but the Edward Todd hallmark is absent. It does, however, have one other marking that is arguably even better:
Here’s another piece that nearly slipped into the “we’ll see” third of that Victorian collection, only because I don’t normally collect novelty figurals:
If you’re a member of the Pen Collectors of America and you’ve received your fall issue of the Pennant, you’ll recognize this one from the crossbar on the cover: a golf club seemed appropriate for a retiring editor’s last issue, even though I don’t play golf. Inside, of course, is a slider pencil:
The club face even has a tiny ball attached to it:
But the reason I thought at first I could live without this one is that I wasn’t expecting any markings on it and, in fact, I missed it on my first pass through the collection. While I was expecting a hallmark on today’s first pencil and didn’t get one, with the golf club figural I wasn’t expecting one and got a pleasant surprise: