Monday, October 8, 2012

Following In Someone's Footsteps

An online seller going by the name of "vintagestuffrox" listed this group of pencils in an auction a few weeks ago:

The seller didn’t appear to know very much about pencils, and this bunch obviously hadn’t been cared for very well. When I received them, all were very grimy and each had a stripe of blue paint on one side – not intentionally painted, but it appeared that they had laid next to each other in a garage or in some other dirty place where paint had been spilled. That was ok with me – the seller had disclosed the condition of them in the listing. I knew to expect it, and it isn’t anything a little simichrome won’t take right off. Besides, there is more to this than meets the eye.

This group of pencils sounded an alarm bell with me, that whoever had amassed this grouping knew exactly what they were doing. Check out these Dur-O-Lites:

The sparkly gold barrel example is really rare, and most people wouldn’t recognize it as a Dur-O-Lite (the name is imprinted underneath the cap). And the other one? That’s another example of the "Dur-O-Matic" I wrote about recently, and what’s more, it’s a salesman’s sample:

But that’s not the most interesting part. Out of this small group of pencils, check out these four:

There’s an early Presto (with a metal cap, most unusual), a later Presto (all the ones I’ve ever seen are black), and two different examples of the Everfeed.

Does this sound like a familiar grouping? Check out the article I wrote on December 31 ("My Find of the Year"), in which I thought I had discovered how these four pencils were related and tied to the Gilfred Corporation.

There’s not one mainstream pencil in this bunch – no Parkettes, no Sheaffers, no Eversharps – the closest thing to "common" here is that Esterbrook. These are cult brands and, as a devout pencil cultist, I was convinced there was no way that all these pencils found their way into some guy’s garage by accident.

It turns out I was right. When I asked Tanya Hile- that’s "vintagestuffrox" - where all these pencils came from, she said that her brother bought an entire collection, but she wouldn’t elaborate further, even when I told her about this blog and how I wanted to write about this collector and give him credit for what he had done.

If someone just got tired of collecting and dumped everything he had on Tanya’s brother, to be sold off online in lots with opening bids of $5.99, I suppose that’s one thing. But given the condition of these, it looks more like every collector’s worst nightmare – dying and having a collection that took a lifetime to put together fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t know beans about what you’ve accomplished and only wants to turn a quick buck.

I wish I could say better about Tanya, but unfortunately she’s writing this story at this point, not me. In the weeks that followed, she listed lot after lot of weird, insanely wonderful pencils, in between sales of record albums or overstocked tennis shoes. One wood pencil I purchased from her arrived in a plain manila envelope, wrapped only in a little bit of bubble wrap, and it was of course shattered beyond repair. Yes, she refunded my payment, but the pencil is now lost to history and to me that’s unforgivable.

Joe Nemecek, Michael Little and I were all tearing out our hair and emptying our wallets, and between the three of us, we still didn’t bring even half of what she listed home. What we did manage to get was amazing, and all this week (and into the next) I’m going to be introducing several pencils from this collection that none of us knew existed.

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