Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Few More Words About Metal Conklins

I don’t remember where this one came from, but the pencils themselves are so memorable that I did recall having one when the Philly Pen Show auction rolled around (the only reason I passed):

There’s a number of ways to mark a pencil with an advertisement or the owner’s name - it can be imprinted into plastic, stamped into metal, or acid etched, to name just a few ways. What makes these Conklins interesting, and to my knowledge unique, is that to produce the advertising shown here, the barrel has been heavily machined everywhere except where the letters are:

"Barton Buyers Become Barton Boosters." Pretty neat.

However, thanks to the PCA’s online library, I can identify this style of engraving more specifically than just "pretty neat." By 1926, Conklin’s metal pencils were becoming passe in favor of new and brightly colored hard rubber and celluloid examples, but the company was still finding new ways to reinvent the series. Here’s the last page:

Conklin’s "Brocaded Pencils" were made by "weaving names and other wording into the chasing of the pencil." Although there’s no pricing, Conklin’s catalog indicates that the brocaded line was cheaper than either stamping or hand engraving, and the cost was "regulated by the quantity ordered."

While I'm on the subject of interesting engraving on Conklin metal pencils, here’s one with a  goofy twist that I can’t explain.  It came from Michael Little during our November swap-a-thon:

It looks like an otherwise ordinary metal ringtop pencil, but there’s something curious about the imprint, shown here at far right:

That crudely etched lettering is what caught my eye:

Someone has added the word "Plate" next to "Rolled Gold." According to the 1922 Conklin catalog, the model number on the pencil, Number 4BS, means 12-karat gold filled (that’s the "4"), basketweave pattern ("B") and short length ("S"). Interestingly, the 1923 and 1924 catalogs refers to the models in the "4" series as "yellow gold," not gold filled, and there’s no advertised gold filled pencils. The 1926 catalog refers to "yellow rolled gold" for the 4 series.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Conklin decided – whether out of a guilty conscience, bowing to customer complaints or perhaps governmental action against the company -- to add the word "plate" by hand to clarify the metal content of these pencils.

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