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:
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.