Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Became of Dollarpoint . . . Revealed

At the DC Show, two of the pencils that came out of the hoard I purchased on Friday were these:


These are Artpoint pencils made by the Dollarpoint Pencil Corporation of Los Angeles, and it’s unusual to find them in finishes such as these:


Both look gold . . ish, but on close examination, one is a bright gold plate while the other has more of a bronze finish, with the recesses filled with what looks like black paint.

I wrote about the Dollarpoint Pencil Corporation here in a five-part series after I stumbled across the design patents and a couple names odd enough to unlock the company’s early history (the first in the series posted two years ago at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/10/artfully-to-point.html).  Missing from that series, unfortunately, was the end of the story – although I was able to find out what became of the characters behind the company after it folded, all I knew about Dollarpoint’s demise was that I could find no reference to the company after 1924.  I had found a short notice in Western Advertising that J.E. Roach & Co., the sole selling agent or manufacturer of the company’s pencils (depending on which news report you read) had retained the advertising firm of Smith and Ferris to launch a national advertising campaign, but then the trail went cold after January, 1922.

Since I was really itching to show you a couple new Artpoints – more than just a “here’s a couple more pretty colors” sort of piece – I went back and rechecked my research to see if I could find any new details.

I did.  When I wrote those articles two years ago, it was just before I subscribed to newspapers.com (mostly for the Bloomington Pantagraph, which gave me some valuable insight into the early history of Charles Keeran and his Ever Sharp).  Beginning in September, 1921, Dollarpoint placed enormous advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, starting with this one on September 11, 1921, soliciting sales representatives:


This advertisement is curious in a couple respects: note that only the lower-priced Dollarpoint pencils are advertised – even though the floral detailing shown on the pencils is clearly from the higher priced Artpoint line, the nose cones are clearly marked “Dollarpoint.”   Note also that J.E. Roach & Co. is identified only as “national distributors” in this advertisement – unsurprising, since the focus of the advertisement is to attract sales representatives rather than to advertise the product itself, even though J.E. Roach had been incorporated as a “manufacturer” in May, 1921 and the company by December was identified in various accounts as the manufacturer, rather than just the distributor.

On November 6, 1921, the Dollarpoint Pencil Company’s new advertising agents went to work in the Times with this fantastic half-page advertisement for the new pencils, “right out of our own Los Angeles”:


Note that again, there’s no mention of the Artpoint line, notwithstanding the fact that the Artpoint had been announced in the stationers press a year earlier. Also, Dollarpoint Pencil Corporation and J.E. Roach & Co. are listed side by side, with Dollarpoint being identified as the manufacturer and Roach as the “national distributors.”

The new advertisement must have been a stretch for the fledgling company, as it wasn’t followed up with more advertising for the Christmas, 1921 season.  For the following year, there were a few more modest Christmas advertisements for 1922, including these:



Note that in the latter advertisement, the Sun Drug Company provides the most detailed listing of Dollarpoint’s products.  The lower priced Dollarpoint pencils were offered in nickel plate, while the more detailed Artpoints were offered in triple silver, “statuary bronze” (that must be what my bronzish looking one is), gold plate and “green gold.”  Obviously since the last two were the same price, the green gold is filled or plated, not solid gold:   as heavy as Artpoints are, a solid green gold piece would be something!  

In January, 1923 the company ran this nice ad for “a wonderful product of a wonderful state”:


In June, 1923, the company engaged in another campaign, including these two advertisements:



In a brazen attempt to take on the Eversharp and Autopoint on their home turf, Dollar Point placed a large advertisement in The Chicago Tribune on June 5, 1923, identifying “M. Mundell” in care of the Warner Hotel at the corner of Cottage Grove Avenue and 33rd Street as the point of contact for those interested in becoming dealers


Note the oblique swipe at Autopoint, which had adopted “The Better Pencil” as its slogan: although the Artpoint is touted as “The Non-Plug Pencil,” this advertisement begins with “The better metal pencil has come to town!”

The Dollar Point Pencil Corporation overextended itself in its bid to take over the pencil world.  Cracks were beginning to show at the end of June, when in this June 30 advertisement the top end prices for Artpoint pencils was reduced from $3.50 to $3.00:


On July 24, the Los Angeles Times reported that an earlier report (one which, unfortunately, I have been unable to find) suggesting that Dollar Point was bankrupt was false – one of Dollar Point’s creditors has executed on the firms assets at the factory, but this account reports that the attachment was released:


Although this report indicates that the company planned to “expand its operations with the aid of additional working capital,” it appears that the writing was on the wall for Dollar Point.  In October, 1923, the company published want ads in papers all across the company offering to sell territorial distribution rights.  This one appeared in the Baltimore Sun:


Note that these advertisements contain the only reference I have found to an “Artpoint Pencil Company,” suggesting that there may have been some corporate as well as financial restructuring.  At any rate, the bid to expand failed.  In late 1924, it appears that The Los Angeles Times took a significant portion of the company’s remaining stock as payment for the generously-sized advertisements the paper had been running for the company.  Advertisements such as this one began to run in November, 1921, offering a free Artpoint pencil to anyone who sold a subscription to the paper. Note that the pencils are said to retail for $1.50, half off the already reduced prices advertised in mid-1923:


The Times must have inherited a substantial supply of Artpoints, since advertisements continued to offer free Artpoints as a prize for securing new subscribers as late as this one, from the May 1, 1932 issue:


The January 5, 1925 edition of the Santa Ana Register contains a discount advertisement for Artpoint pencils, marked down to prices ranging from 39 cents to 99 cents – and to add insult to injury, the pencil pictured isn’t even an Artpoint: it’s a Sheaffer Sharp Point (note the “bowler clip”):


It was over for the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation.  On February 8, 1925, it was announced that all the remaining assets of the company would be sold at auction on February 12, 1925.  The firm was still located at the 16th Street address, clarifying that the company’s plans to build an enlarged factory never materialized.  “The entire plant, equipment, etc. will be offered as a whole and in the event that a satisfactory bid is not received will be sold by the piece or in lots to suit those present.”


On February 12, I think there was a satisfactory bid, and I think that bid was from agents of what would become the Western Pencil Company.  More on that tomorrow . . .

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