Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Anywhere Else, It Would Take a Sharp Eye

I was pretty rusty when I restarted this blog after a two-month break. It was the same as if I’d taken a couple months off from working out at the gym every day – things just felt a little stiff, and before I really got back into my groove the words just weren’t coming as easily as they did.

So on one of my first nights getting back into the swing of things, I found myself staring at the blank computer screen while Janet watched reruns of Drop Dead Diva. And I actually caught myself watching Drop Dead Diva. OK, I thought to myself. When I’d rather do that than do this, it’s time to take an honest break. So I opened up my browser and headed over to the online auctions to see what was going on.

I searched for "pencils" and set the results to "ending soonest," and with six minutes to go, there was a hard-to-find Gordon with a telephone dialer. What luck! I threw in a bid and watched the counter click down to zero and . . .more on that one later. How’s that for a teaser?

Our story begins moments later, after that auction ended and I returned to my search results. Believe it or not, this was the very next auction listed, with only three minutes left:

The title of the auction was "Vintage Conklin Green/Black Marbled Mechanical Pencil." Now I’ll be the first to admit that there’s some unscrupulous online sellers who slap words like "Conklin" in front of any ordinary pencil because Conklin’s a good name and they might get more from it. Usually, when you send these guys the question of what the imprint reads exactly, you’ll get a response that starts off with "Its unmarked but it’s just like Conklins I’ve seen in books" and ends with "Be sure to check my other auctions because I’m listing other Conklins daily."

And leaves you feeling like you need to take a shower.

However, with only three minutes left, there wasn’t any time for that banter. I was either going to pull the trigger or miss out. Obviously I pulled the trigger – but I wasn’t worried. I knew it was in fact exactly what the seller said it was:

I’ve grouped these in with "Other Conklins 1924-1928" on page 34 of The Catalogue; the other two I’ve found are on the right in frame 8. Here are the three together:

It’s a shame about the clip on that bottom example, but one of these days I’ll find a clip for it. In addition to these colors, there’s a  black one – Joe Nemecek called dibs on that one a little while ago and took it home. Joe's also got one in bronze and black.  These look a lot more like something that National or Ritepoint might have made, mostly because these lack Conklin’s distinctive clip, referred to as the "Mooney clip" after the name of its inventor.

To my knowledge, Conklin (of Toledo) did not outsource production of any of its pencils, marching to the beat of its own drum until the company was sold to Starr and moved to Chicago at the close of the 1930s. Other than the vague similarity of the green hard rubber example to the color found on some Enduras of the same vintage, there’s really nothing that makes these stand out as being made by Conklin.

Nothing, that is, unless a sharp online seller thinks to put "Conklin" in the title of his auction . . . and you believe him!

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