Friday, August 31, 2012

First Blood

This was the first thing that caught my eye at the DC show:

Ah, that first purchase at the pen show, when it seems nobody has anything smaller than a twenty, and this was only five bucks. People could have been selling Lincolns for six bucks all day long and done pretty well, I’d imagine.

This wasn’t quite what I’d remembered of the Trupoint, which usually turns up in a lizardskin sort of pattern, like that seen on page 158 of The Catalogue:

But I’d forgotten about that top example. This one has the same clip:

And as I was racking my brain for where I had seen this clip before, I remembered the article I wrote here just a few weeks ago on August 5, in which I had compared the clip on the "Federal" to that on the "Moderne." Well, the "Federal" may have been close:

But the Trupoint is a dead ringer!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Like Bread and Butter

Pen shows and cigars go together. It’s a tough call even to decide which is more fun – the action in the show room or the time spent talking and catching up over a few cigars in whatever area the guys decide to light up their cigars. In fact, it’s so much of a tradition that even at the Ohio show, a dozen or so guys will be huddled outside in the November wind, sitting on metal chairs that your tongue would probably stick to (not that anyone has been triple dog-dared to do so), puffing away furiously over some good conversation and a nip of scotch.

It’s probably no coincidence that the quintessential junk box at a pen show is a cigar box. Any box could hold the junk, but we usually have an empty cigar box or two on hand when the time comes to clean house.
So when Janet and I stopped in Barnesville on our way to DC, it was no surprise that this non-pen, but definitely pen-related item caught my eye:

This Fuente Fuente Opus X box was once filled with Rare Special Reserve 1992 cigars. No, they weren’t made in 1992, but that’s when the seeds for the wrapper were planted. In the early 1990s, the Opus X was THE cigar to buy – if you could find them.

I still remember the only Opus X I ever splurged on – to celebrate finishing the bar exam (coincidentally, in 1992). At twenty five bucks a stick, it had to be a truly special event for a poor law student to indulge in one of these! And it was . . . soooooooo worth it . . .

And what made this box worth the $30 price tag, at least to me?

It still had two of them inside! Although they will go into my humidor for some reconditioning time, to undo the damage done by who-knows-how-long sitting in an antique mall, I’ll never smoke these!

However, since we were on our way to DC, my excitement over this find was quickly overshadowed. Of course, on arrival, Janet and I dumped our bags in the room and I made a beeline for "the pit," an area outside the hotel where all the cigar smokers congregate, where I ran into Joe Nemecek. Since we were puffing away together, Joe said that he had something to show me that he knew I’d appreciate.

Well, of course I would, I’m thinking. I can appreciate nearly everything Joe has to show off. But what I wasn’t expecting was an advertising poster, approximately a foot wide by two feet long, that fits in so perfectly with this story:

Looks like the connection between cigars and writing instruments is even more traditional than I’d thought! Although early Eversharp advertising material tended to be a little inaccurate in the details (the imprint on the pencil says simply "Eversharp"), the one word "Eversharp" (adopted in 1917-1918) and the shorter tip on the pencil (1917-1924) narrows the dates of production for this poster to within just a few years.

It was difficult to resist the temptation to beg, plead and whine about this one . . . Joe wanted to keep this piece and I respected that. But, after we did all of our other business for the weekend, when I arrived at my table on Sunday the poster was on my table, and now it’s hanging proudly in my mechanical pencil "museum." And I’ve got to admit, the advice on the poster is sound:

Says Janet, when I asked her to take this picture: "Seriously? You put that shirt on just for this? (click) OK, there’s your picture, now go hang that shirt back up. I just ironed it!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Here’s one that comes up so infrequently that it doesn’t show up in The Catalogue:

This one, owned by Frank Tedesco, is a John C. Wahl "120," complete with the original box, which I saw and photographed at the Triangle Pen Show in Raliegh. I’ve been looking for one of these for a few years – the last one I saw was at an auction at the Ohio Pen Show, and Joe Nemecek took it home for around a hundred bucks. Frank’s is still owned by Frank, because he paid several times that amount for his.

These pencils represent an interesting footnote in history. John C. Wahl is one and the same as the founder of the Wahl Adding Machine Company, which later scooped up Charles Keeran’s Eversharp and got into the writing business overnight. Although John was the founder of the company, he wasn’t in charge. Not by a longshot. According to Syd Saperstien, he was vice president, with a phone line extension at the company and the title of "Experimental Engineer," but he had a lot of time to putter around and invent things on the side. Not much is known about his separate company or this pencil, but it appears that John C. Wahl applied for his patent for this pencil on June 9, 1939, and he was issued patent number 2,210,845 on August 6, 1940:

A few weeks ago, another example surfaced in an online auction. It was included with two other pieces – a Sheaffer ballpoint and pencil set in that victorian-style design – so I spoke with a Sheaffer collector to confirm I could sell the set to him to defray at least part of the cost. I bid heavy, then I sat and anxiously awaited the close of the auction.

The final price for the three pieces? Twenty six bucks and change. The picture was fuzzy, so I wasn’t out of the woods yet, but I was pleasantly surprised when the package arrived:

The clip almost looks like it belongs on a Sheaffer Stratoliner ballpoint:

The imprint is at the top on the back side of the barrel:

I believe it was called the "120" because of the size of the lead, which is about .120" in diameter:

So since there’s been a few of these popping up here and there, why the title of this article? Well, in The Catalogue, I used the word "unique" for the price occasionally to describe an item for which I haven’t seen enough sales to formulate an opinion as to what it is worth. The John C. Wahl is a little different, in that I’ve seen a few sales . . .

But I still have no idea what it’s worth. Apparently, somewhere between hundreds of dollars and twenty six bucks, give or take a little -- less the cost of a couple of Sheaffers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dixon Redux

As I was shooting photographs of Joe’s Victorian collection, one piece he had caught my eye:

Look familiar? This is one of those Dixon or Mergott pencils I was writing about a few weeks ago, and this one, unlike the stubby ones in those articles, more closely matches the design shown in the design patent drawing:
On closer examination, Joe’s example is an advertising piece, stamped on the nose with the name of a linen supplier.

As fate would have it, when I got home from the DC show, I had a nice little pile of packages from online auction purchases made in the week leading up to the show. One of them was a whole mess o’ pencils, and one of them was precisely what I had hoped it would be from the fuzzy picture online:

Mine has "Dixon" stamped on the nose:

And the patent date is stamped on the end cap, which can be unscrewed to reveal a compartment for spare leads:

So there they are, the two Dixons – the long and the short of it, so to speak!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Score One For Joe

Joe Nemecek brought this one along to our photo shoot in DC, and I’m really glad he did:

This is a Parker Bridge Pencil, not to be confused with the bridge set from a couple weeks ago.

I’ve had a few pictures of these on my hard drive for awhile and I’ve been meaning to write an article about this, but I haven’t because (a) the pictures I had were pretty fuzzy ones downloaded from ebay, and (b) although I got the guy’s permission to use his pictures, I’ve lost his email! It did work out well, because now I was able to get some nicer pictures of this and really present it the way it should be.

The pencil itself isn’t anything unusual, except for the goofy shape. Who needs a telephone dialer when you’re playing cards, anyway? Is this the version of bridge where you get to phone a friend before you decide how to bid?

On the one side the pencil is formally identified as a Parker Bridge Pencil:

And of course, Joe’s is fully equipped with its original price sticker . . .

All right, Joe . . . you’ve got a nice pencil there. Mark yourself down for a point!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Not a Pencil

A few weeks ago, Janet and I were getting pretty stir crazy. After the big storm here in Ohio, we’d spent weeks cleaning up our three-acre property, which used to be heavily wooded. Nothing like a few weeks with a chain saw in hand to make you want to get out of Dodge for a bit!

Janet, ever the planner, explored our options for a trip to Northeast Ohio and suggested we hit the AAA Antique Mall in Ravenna, Ohio, and since that was the furthest one out, we decided to make that our first stop. And what a stop it was! This place went on and on (and on) and I found . . . well, as far as pencils went, one lousy pencil marked "Red Dot" on the clip (like the one on page 124 of The Catalogue); I was thinking the clip might be a little bit different, but it wasn’t. No story there!

But I didn’t get skunked, even if the pencil pickings were slim. Here’s something I found:

This is one of the "Models of Yesteryear" series of Matchbox cars, representing a 1910 Renault AG:

As a kid, Matchbox cars were a frequent sight around my house (and closet, and under the bed, as well as underfoot); only once in awhile would I be lucky enough to score one of the larger (1:38 scale) Models of Yesteryear, which were much more detailed than the ones that spent summers in the sandbox. This particular example is from near the end of the line, after Lesney Products filed for bankruptcy in 1982, so it isn’t as highly prized by collectors as those from the original series.

But I didn’t buy this one for the trip down memory lane, nor for its investment grade quality. There was another reason this was a "gotta have" item for this pencil collector:

Saturday, August 25, 2012


You won’t find the Alexander Products Corporation of Bloomington, Illinois anywhere in The Catalogue. I knew the brand was out there, but I just didn’t see fit to include it because all I had seen out there were cheap, giveaway advertising pencils.

So when Joe Nemecek called me before the DC show to ask if I’d be interested in buying a fully stocked card of Alexander pencils if he brought them to the show, I agreed but I was skeptical. I think Joe could hear it in my voice, and since he has had the same general experience with Alexanders, he reassured me. "You’ll like these," he said. "They’re stylish."

When I saw them, I had to agree with him:

Now there’s a lady that looks like she loooves these pencils, doesn’t she? A google search turned up a blog article from my fellow blogger Kiwi Dave at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils. Back in 2007, he posted an entry featuring an advertisement for these very pencils, called the "Alexander the Great Pencil" which appeared in the September 6, 1946 edition of Colliers’ Weekly:

These might predate that advertisement, because that catchy name is completely absent from this display card. They are all metal pencils with anodized blue, red and black barrels:

They are nose drive pencils, with cool ribbed nose sections:

Here’s a closeup of the clips – pardon the dust, but given that the paper labels are extremely fragile, I’ve not attempted to clean them at all:

According to the price labels, these were simply referred to as the "Model 100" and sold for a dollar apiece.

For 1946, these were really ahead of their time – without the display card and the Collier’s ad, I would have guessed them to be at least ten years younger than they are!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Discovery Thanks to an Old Book

When I saw Lee Chait at the Triangle Pen Show in Raleigh, Lee had a problem. Actually, he had several hundred pages of problems. Lee had a pile of old books on pens on his table that he really didn’t feel like hauling home with him. Most were from the early 1990s – not antique, but not filled with the state-of-the-art information that research by the pen community, coupled with the power of the internet, have added to the knowledge pool over the last two decades.

Still, I love reading the old books written in the days before authors thought they knew everything, when all they could do is take a stab at putting out there everything they knew. And besides, often times people put stuff out there in those early books, whether it be a picture or a bit of information, that we have collectively forgotten about.

Needless to say, as the show wore on and Sunday packup loomed, Lee’s price got better and better, until it reached the point of irresistability, and I bought the whole stack. I’ve had at least one of those books by my side ever since then, poring over one thing or another.

One of the books I got from Lee – a classic by most standards, is Fischler and Schneider’s Fountain Pens and Pencils: the Golden Age of Writing Instruments from 1990. There’s a lot of great information in that book, and it’s loaded with pictures, including a fantastic picture at the end of the owners of Fountain Pen Hospital, complete with Miami Vice hair and dressed in scrubs, preparing to do "surgery" on a few pens laying in a surgical tray!

I’ve been lazily thumbing through that book, casually admiring all of the ultra-rare pens that just seem to have disappeared over the last few years, wondering what it must have been like to go to an antiques show or flea market and actually see some of them once in a while.

And then I saw something in an online auction that rang a bell somewhere in my head. I went back to Fischler and Schneider, looked more closely at one of their pictures, and I wondered . . . could it be?

The lot contained about ten pencils, most of which were your common dollar-bin fare. Towards the bottom of the picture was a coral Carter’s pencil, but the tip looked a little messed up. The seller didn’t seem to know beans about pencils, other than what he or she could read on the clips, but one of the names in the description was "Waterman" and that name certainly didn’t fit anything else in the group. So I bid, and I think I now owe Lee Chait a drink, or maybe something from Lord & Taylor, because if it hadn’t been for that old book he sold me, I wouldn’t have known what this is:

If you’re thinking "that looks like a Patrician," you’re on the right track. Fischler and Schneider have the matching pen for this pictured on page 73 of their book, and they refer to it as a "transitional Patrician," made in 1928 during the days when Waterman realized they needed to revamp their product line, but before they had completely settled on what the Patrician would look like.

They indicated that only a handful of these transitional pens had surfaced, and all of them were in jade, just like this one. But they didn’t say anything about a matching pencil!

These have the earlier riveted Waterman clip, complete with the Waterman globe, and the beginnings of the more tapered profile that would be more pronounced on the Patrician:

The top, while slightly tapered, is flat and plain on the top, but the imprint on the barrel matches the later Patricians, rather than the earlier Ripples:

David Nishimura posted a nice article and picture of the pen at his website ( He quotes the Fischler and Schneider reference I’d seen, but suggests that "proto-Patrician" might be a more accurate nomiker for these, if they came before the Patricians rather than being a transition between two Patrician models. I tend to agree, but there’s no question that these are a wonderful example of Waterman’s transition from the stodgy flattops to the more graceful Patricians.

Here’s a shot of four Waterman pencils, from the top, a flattop black hard rubber pencil from 1927 or 1928, today’s proto-Patrician, a bandless Patrician from 1929 or 1930 (referred to as a "first year" Patrician), and the later banded Patrician:

There’s no question in my mind that if I hadn’t just read Fischler and Schneider’s book, this one would have slipped right past me . . .I wouldn’t even have known to look for David’s article, and I wouldn’t be telling you today that a proto-Patrician pencil ever existed. So, even though twenty years later my sentiments may be a little late, I’ve just got to tell Fischler and Schneider now . . .

Thank you!

Editor's note:  In David Nishimura's article, he presents evidence suggesting that the "proto-Patrician" is actually a "closeout Patrician" made from leftover parts at the end of the Patrician's production run.  At the time this article was originally published, I wasn't convinced, but I have since received new information that proves David is correct.  See my later article on this subject, "With Apologies to Mr. Nishimura," published on February 8, 2013.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And Another Thing . . .

Saturday at the DC show I was still basking in the glow of my Carey find. I’m sure I was driving everybody crazy showing it off to anyone that looked remotely interested – and to several people who didn’t look the least bit interested. I could have gone home happy right there, but then I would have missed what happened next.

My father, Roger Veley, and Jim Stauffer stopped by my table with the news that Roger had found another Heath clip pencil they wanted me to see, so off I went, this time remembering to take my loupe with me.

They led me to Jim Carpenito’s table and showed it to me. My father had already made him an offer on it, but I must have looked pretty excited about it, because he stepped aside and I brought it home. Here’s it is, posed next to the Carey:

This one is the size of a regular Eversharp pencil, but like the Carey it is a leadholder. Here’s a closeup of the clips:

But this one was made for Heath’s own account, marked only "GHW Co." and "Pat. App. For."

While I was at Jim’s table, I noticed he also had a container of spare leads. I thought that having extra leads to fit these was a good idea, so I would have bought it regardless . . .

but when I saw what was imprinted on the side, it went from "nice to have" to "must have" in a couple seconds flat!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Easy to Miss

Early metal pencils are hard to collect, because at first glance they all look alike. Unlike brightly colored plastic or hard rubber pencils, they are all either gold or silver, and most share the same basic shape.
But as I was trolling around the DC show early on during Friday’s preshow, I stopped to spend a little quality time with one dealer’s display of metal pencils. They may all look alike at first, but this one practically jumped out of the box and into my hands, where it has remained ever since:

From yesterday’s article, you should instantly recognize the distinctive Heath clip:

But what had my hands shaking while I examined this one was its unusual size. Here it is, posed next to a Heath clip Eversharp:

I didn’t have my loupe with me, so I wasn’t sure yet exactly what I had – I only knew that I absolutely had to have it. I picked it out along with a few other ones and asked how much he wanted for them, but asking was just a formality. There was no haggling.

After I picked this one up I made a bee line back to my table to get my loupe and see exactly what I’d found. I knew it probably wasn’t an Eversharp, because it is a leadholder. Turning the knob one revolution or so releases the lead, and turning it back clamps it in place:

Under a loupe, I could just make out what was written above the clip:

The lettering is pretty faint, and it’s difficult to see even in this photograph, but the name engraved on the barrel is . . . Carey.

Now that’s really something! Carey Fountain Pen Company was located first in Boston, then in New York, from around 1908 until around 1915 or so. They are a very high quality, very highly desirable brand among pen collectors. The company made some stunning metal overlays, among the best you can find anywhere. I never knew that the company made pencils to accompany their pens, and from talking to others at the DC show, no one else did, either!

Or did they make them after all? When the crown is unscrewed to release the lead, I noticed some tiny lettering inside:

GWH Co., for the George W. Heath Co. So if Heath made Carey’s pencils, I’ve got to wonder . . . did Heath also make the overlays for their pens?