Monday, September 30, 2013

Like a Ninja

Collectors of pens and pencils all know the excitement of finding truly quality pieces at general antique shows.  Usually, when a dealer says “yes, I have some pencils,” what they offer up might be a couple rusty Scriptos or a bag of wooden golf pencils – all of which must have tasted delicious to whoever was chewing on them.

Last Saturday at the Springfield (Ohio) Extravaganza, imagine my surprise to find a dealer with a Conklin Nozac pen, an Eversharp Skyline pen in silver moire and a few other goodies at his outdoor booth.  The pens were in great shape, but the dealer knew what he had and wanted what I would consider to be the high end of reasonable (as my friend Rob Bader likes to say, “That is a fair price -- I’m looking for an unfair price”).

We went back and forth for a few minutes – he didn’t want to take much less because he’d just put them out, I didn’t want to pay so much . . . hem, haw, hem, haw . . . finally, I started looking around the rest of his booth to find a couple other things to throw in that might make a deal make some sense.  With the addition of three other bits of what he considered junk, we struck a deal.

No, I’m not posting pictures here of the Skyline or the Nozac, for two reasons.  First, they are pens.  Second, you’ve seen those before.  The real headline of the deal turned out to be one of the bits of junk I persuaded the guy to include in the deal:

What attracted me to this one was that goofy dip pen nib, which obviously has absolutely nothing to do with the holder it’s been stuck in.  I’ve got a disorganized mess of dip pen nibs I’ll go through someday, but I was confident that among them I didn’t have a “Jordonian No. 6 Oblique Pen”:

I know, I know . . . it’s a pen, so I shouldn’t be posting pictures of this, either.  But I had to show you this one (ok, I wanted to show you this one) because it explains why I hadn’t paid much attention to the “holder” into which it was wedged.

This one went into my pocket along with all the other treasures I was finding that day.  After we got home, I started sorting through all the neat stuff I’d found and when I came to this one, as I was pulling the nib out to clean it up, I noticed something:

That crescent-shaped slot is where the dip pen nib is inserted, but I hadn’t noticed that round hole in the middle.  Usually, that’s an indication that this isn’t just a dip pen holder, but a pen and pencil combination.   After fiddling around with it a bit, I found that turning the wooden upper portion of the holder advanced a pencil mechanism:

It’s missing the nozzle.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to find one someday, because the tiny imprint on the side reveals that this one would be worth investing a bit of money in to restore:

“Hicks Pat Sept 13 1864.”  It’s not every day you find a pencil made by William S. Hicks sneaking into your collection!

Finding the patent proved easy, even with the patent search engines acting up these days.  During the Civil War there weren’t nearly as many patents issued, and on September 13, 1864 there were only 137 of them.  One of them was number 44,261, issued to Richard Ryne and assigned, of course, to William S. Hicks:

Ryne's name associated with Hicks was no surprise -- he also patented the Hicks reversible pen and pencil combo I wrote about here just last week.   A read of Ryne’s patent reveals that Ryne was trying to solve the problem of making a full-sized writing instrument that wasn’t so topheavy – that’s why rather than having an all metal barrel, Ryne devised a way to affix a wooden upper barrel to lighten the load up top.

Ryne’s design makes this pen/pencil combo look more like an ordinary dip pen, like so many others made during the nineteenth century.   In fact, it blends in so well with the nameless crowd that I nearly let it slip through my fingers and into the no-man’s land that is my junker box.  

There’s no more sneakin’ around for this one now – it’s got a good home, next to my other Hicks pencils, awaiting a nozzle and a Hicks dip pen nib.


David Nishimura said...

Not to rain on any parades, but you have your work cut out for you finding a spare nozzle. It's a bit like finding spare Mandarin Duofold caps, or Chilton Wingflow nibs.

Mark Bergner said...

I just discovered we have the exact same Hicks holder (although mine omits the name Hicks in the writing). I'm very much a novice in this area and thought I was buying a Mabie Todd pen on ebay. A user in a pen group pointed out to me that I had a Mabie Todd nib fitted into a Hicks holder.

Have you been able to find out anything else about your holder? I see some holders that are solid gold and perhaps more recent that are designated as Hicks holders...