Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I Get a Pixie Stick

It’s a saying around our house . . . when you finish the job, you get a pixie stick.  The turn of phrase comes from my wife, who remembers from her days in elementary school if you finished all the food on your plate at lunch, they would give you a pixie stick (those cardboard straws full of flavored sugar).

I’ve been trying not to add to my enormous file folder called “pencil pictures,” in which are housed all of the images I haven’t gotten around to posting here.  Instead, when I started things back up at the blog this time, I resolved to take a large batch of pictures and then not take any more until I had posted all of them.  In theory, that would keep me from taking pictures I’d probably never post.

These are the last two shots standing between me and sugary goodness:

This tin of leads showed up in an online auction, and I was doubly impressed.  First, I hadn’t seen a tin of Conklin leads like this one before.  Second, I thought there was a very practical reason for that:

I thought maybe John Wahl and the Wahl Company had a lock on making metal tins for pencil leads, by virtue of patent number 1,428,195 awarded to John C. Wahl and Peter G. Jacobson on September 5, 1922.   However, note that dovetailed system which is present on Wahl containers – that is the special feature which was patented, not the idea of a metal box itself.  Still, it must have been a sufficient deterrent to most, since square boxes like this are not usually seen.

And in fact, I ended up seeing more than just one.  After I paid handsomely for this one tin, the seller contacted me to let me know he had the rest of the box, and he asked if I wanted to make an offer on the whole bunch:

Why yes . . . yes I did, thank you very much.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For What It's . . . Worth

A few months ago, I posted an article concerning a large flattop pencil marked with a W in a square superimposed over a feather, the hallmark for the Worth Featherweight Pen Company (  It was only because I had just written that article that this one grabbed my attention online:

The clip is marked “Worth,” with a W circled by a wreath above the name:

I’m not prepared to say that this is the same Worth, but I do think this one also has it’s origins in New York.  Unlike the one shown in my earlier Worth article, I don’t believe Conklin had anything at all to do with this one.  If this one bears similarity to anything, it’s to some pencils marked Morrison and Eclipse.

And also to these

These two, marked “Premo” and “Deluxe,” were introduced here five years ago (see and, with the exception of a slightly different clip, they are the same as this “Worth,” pattern and all.

I’m noticing a pattern of names associated with value here . . . worth, premo, deluxe.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Don't Be Too Quick to Assume

A glance at thisone in a junk box might cause you to dismiss it as just another Quickpoint:

It’s a habit of mine to read the clips, even when I assume I know what’s there, or should be there.  If I had a penny for every Quickpoint clip I’ve read . . . well, let’s just say reading this one is what keeps me in the habit of reading:

“Newton Mfg. Co. Newton, Iowa.”   A search of newspapers reveals that the company was founded around 1908; the earliest references I could find to the firm were in a burst of advertisements for salesmen which appeared in papers across the midwest in mid-August of that year.  The Company remained in business until 2015, when it filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and was acquired in bankruptcy by HALO Branded Solutions.

This Newton dates to the late 1930s or rerly 1940s The Newton pencil raises a question which has led some in the advertising pencil collector’s circle to accuse me of heresy: I’ve never been fully confident that Quickpoint pencils were made by Quickpoint, and a pencil identical to a Quickpoint but bearing the name of another midwestern advertising specialty company indicates that either one was made by the other, or a third party made pencils for both.

Quickpoint is twenty years younger, founded in 1928 according to the company’s website.  Occam’s razor suggests that since Quickpoints are so common and distinctive, and this is the first Newton I’ve seen, that Quickpoint made its own stuff and for a time made a few pencils branded for Newton.  Yet Newton has “manufacturing” in its name, while Quickpoint does not, and Lipic and Ritepoint were in Quickpoint’s backyard . . .

Sunday, September 17, 2017

In All Fairness

I haven’t been terribly kind to the Camel brand historically.  Although collectors best remember the pens as high-quality pieces that “made their own ink,” when I wrote The Catalogue the only example I had was a Camel “Spaulding,” which appeared to be made by Eagle and wasn’t nearly as good.  Articles I’ve featured here have primarily documented Camel’s decline into cheap advertising pencils, later marked the Neark Pen Company, the Secretary Pen Company and (the horror of it) the Progressive Pen Company.  I’ve got a couple examples of the last of these I haven’t written about yet.

What can I say?  These companies are more interesting when they are failing than when they succeed.  Maybe that’s why Parker generally doesn’t interest me so much.

I did run a piece on a really nice deco Camel here at the blog very early on - see  In all that time, I haven’t had the opportunity to pick up another nice one until this one came my way just recently:

It doesn’t have all the deco flair of the one I ran in that previous article . .. But neither does it have that certain flair of desperation which fascinates me:

I do note, just as I did in that last article, that this also has hints of something that might have been made by Eagle.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Memory Better Preserved

This one appeared on Facebook several months ago, so to many of you it isn’t news:

This little gem is unmarked, which usually puts me off a bit, but it has a feature I hadn’t seen before:

The slider button is a snake, complete with tiny glass eyes and a little turquoise button.  As big a fan as I am about snake clips, a snake slider was something I just couldn’t do without.

If it isn’t news, why run it here?  Two reasons: first, not everyone is on facebook, no matter how heretical that may be.  Second, facebook is like watching goldfish shoot through a firehose rather than in an aquarium.  Without remembering who posted something and when, going back to refer to a picture you saw on that site is an impossibility; and even if you do, it is a royal pain sifting back through a timeline or a group’s page to find something.

So here this one is, tucked neatly away at Leadhead’s under a new tag: “Unmarked Victorians of note.”  Should be easy enough to find now.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Kastar Mystery

Here’s a pair of objects I’ve been meaning to write about:

Both of these are marked “Kastar” on the clips:

I say “objects” because while the longer of the two is without doubt a pencil, the other . . . while it may look like a bullet pencil or something . . . isn’t.  That nose doesn’t come off.

When I found that shorter one and started thinking about what it might be if it weren’t a pencil, that got me to thinking about something unusual I find on every Kastar pencil I’ve ever seen:

On the back of the barrel, there’s an odd slot, like a coin filler slot on a fountain pen.  It made no sense to see one on a pencil, but when I saw one on something that wasn’t a pencil, my first thought was that maybe these are electrical testers, used to test for electrical current.  Although I didn’t find any evidence of a Kastar electrical tester being made in the 1920s or 1930s, when I estimate these were made, I did find an advertisement for a Kastar Tester in the September 14, 1973 issue of the Waco News Tribune, and it looks suspiciously like my pencil and its cousin:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Packing a Punch

While I was putting away things at the museum, I found a couple Edward Todds that are worth a closer look:

The gold example came out of a collection I picked up from Alan Hirsch last year.  It’s one of the more commonly encountered Edward Todd victorians, using the mechansim patented on December 12, 1871, which was itself a reworking of an earlier patent by Jacob Lownds (see for the full scoop on that one).  On close examination, though, two things set this one apart:

It’s 14k, and the imprint is double-stamped.

The sterling piece is a different story.  If it doesn’t quite look like a pencil, you’re right.  I picked it up because it had an Edward Todd hallmark and a weird patent date, two things that always grab my attention:

Pat. June 24, 1902.   The reference is to Edward Todd, Jr’s patent number 703,162 for a “cigar piercer”:

An Edward Todd hallmark on a cigar piercer illustrates one of the problems I faced in writing American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953.  If I didn’t limit the scope of the book to those trademarks which were filed specifically with respect to writing instrument, there wasn’t any way to limit the scope to marks relevant to our field.  I didn’t want to fill the book with  jewelers’ trademarks on the off chance that a jeweler might have stamped his name on a pen or a pencil.  The example I discuss in the book of a mark which wasn’t listed is Eisenstadt’s trademark within a carpenter’s square, filed under a wide variety of items – but not pens or pencils

Edward Todd’s distinctive hallmark is another such exanple.  There are six Edward Todd trademarks in the book, none of which covers this mark.  Finding that needle in a haystack would send me back to the patent indices, searching first for marks registered by Edward Todd, the individual, and if that didn’t work, under every category of goods the company made.

The exercise may well prove to be a wild goose chase, if Edward Todd never sought Federal protection for his hallmark.  And I think that might be the case.

The Appendix to American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953 includes the writing instrument-related sections of Trade-marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades, published in several editions.  The Edward Todd mark is not shown in that section, so it isn’t in the book – however, I did find Edward Todd’s hallmark in the section for “sterling silver”:

Note that the entry beneath the Todd mark for A.F. Towle & Son Co. Has an asterisk before it.  The legend for entries in Trade-Marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades indicates that an asterisk denotes those marks which were registered under the Federal system.  If that’s true, then no registration was filed for Edward Todd.

I learned in the course of researching my book that Trade-Marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades wasn’t always accurate in this respect, but it’s a fair indicator that the odds are against finding a mark if I plunged myself down that particular rabbit hole looking for one.