Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Most Expensive Pencil I Ever Saw

No, I didn’t buy it.  Let’s just get that out of the way right up front.  I don’t even know what the price is.

On page 16 of The Catalogue I included some pointers on how to use the price guide the book includes.  Of course, the cautionary text has largely been ignored (every so often I receive an email from someone with a pencil I listed as “unique” and assumes that means their pencil is worth meeeeelyuns of dollars).

But another part of what I wrote hasn’t been ignored – the part in which I described “pen to match syndrome”:  when an otherwise ordinary pencil is accompanied by a highly collectible pen, the pencil will command a premium just because collectors who own the high-dollar pens want to put sets together.

So what happens when there’s a stratospherically spectacular pen out there and a matching pencil turns up?  Say, for example, one of the fabled Parker “snake” pens from the 1910s?

You could stop me right there.  “Parker didn’t make pencils in the 1910s,” you could say, and you would be right.  Parker’s first pencils were the “Lucky Lock” pencils introduced in 1922.  But . . . remember that Parker had the silver work on the company’s snake pens done by George W. Heath & Co.  And Heath not only made Parker snake pens, they made these:

The pencil is owned by Parker fanatic Stephen Mandell, who made me leave a kidney as collateral for him to allow me to take the pencil up to my room to shoot these photographs. This pencil shares the identical pattern to the Parker snake pen, complete with the same green eyes:

This is a “magic pencil,” a genre of Victorian pencils (or I suppose in this case Edwardian) which open by pulling on the top, which causes the writing point to extend in the opposite direction:

And, on the rear extension, the hallmark which establishes that the same hands that fashioned this pencil were the same hands that made one of pendom’s other most significant writing instruments:

Were these offered as sets?  Not that I’m aware of, but I’d welcome evidence to the contrary.  I suppose it doesn’t matter – if you’re the sort to drop the kind of change it takes to get a Parker snake pen, you’re going to want this one sitting next to it.

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