I have had to tell myself this more times than I can count. I'll see something interesting, but the price is more than I want to pay (or the effort to weedle it away from its owner seems insurmountable), and all I can do is think to myself:
There's got to be more of these out there. They didn't make only one . . . they didn't make only one . . . they didn't make only one . . .
And then I click my heels together three times and I'm no longer frothing at the mouth. We're back in Kansas (or Ohio) now, Toto.
When Michael Little and I were discussing his Nichols Tri-point in Chicago, with the built-in magnifier (see my article on May 10), I had to do the same thing. It was a super cool find, so I made him an offer and he said no. So I asked him whether the offer was too low or whether he just wanted to keep it, and he said he wanted to keep it. So I needed to respect that.
Click. Click. Click. No, I wasn't wearing sparkly red shoes, but it did the trick anyway. And we moved on.
(Turns out Michael just needed a night to think about how much he'd spent during "Hobanpalooza" that day -- next day Michael's Tri-point was on its way back to Ohio.)
Still, the thought that there might be a few more of these Tri-point magnifier pencils out there yet to be discovered was a handy trick during those dark moments when I really wanted to bring it home but knew that it wasn't going to happen. And it would have been even easier to walk away had I thought things like this were out there:
There are two different clips on these: an early round ball Tripoint clip, and a plain flat ball clip as seen on some of the RCA Victor and other "monopoint" pencils Nichols also made:
The brown marbled example has the Nichols imprint with the U.S. and Canadian patent dates, dating it at the earliest to 1932. The black example has no imprint. The round ball hyphenated "Tri-point" clip was in use by 1937, and Nichols filed his patent application for the magnifying unit shown on these on July 24, 1939.
Putting all these things together, I think the brown one dates to right around 1937.
But what about the black one?
Both of these have another distinctive feature not found on any other Tri-points I've seen. The ferrules (tips) aren't made of metal:
On the brown example, the tip is made of black plastic and is permanently bonded to the barrel. The black one, however, has been turned out of a single piece of what appears to be black plastic. In fact, you can even see the machining on the tip, almost as if it had been sharpened like a wood pencil.
Based on my examination of these, it looks like the brown marbled one is probably an early production piece. The black one, however, with its unusual clip, no imprint and oddly primitive machining, looks like a one-off.
Which is why, when Bill offered me first dibs on the Nichols estate collection, all I could think was that after I received them and looked at them, for many of them I would know . . . they only made one.
Hang on, Toto!