Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen: Check Your Junk Boxes!

By the time you reach the end of this article, you’ll probably find yourself pawing through your junker box looking for something like this:

I found this one in an antique store on my way to the Michigan Pen Show a year ago. The price tag was a little heftier than I would have liked, but alongside that bad news was some potentially good news: even though the pencil is completely unmarked, the price tag attached to this one identified it as a Conklin. And I suspected that might have been right.

I had another example like this one years ago, and what had me suspecting these might be made by Conklin was its deep blue and bronze celluloid, a color collectors refer to as "Imperial blue" and fairly unique to Conklin. The pencil disappeared from my table in Washington DC – one of the few times I’ve been shoplifted at a show. But I’m not bitter ... mostly not, anyway.

Back to the current example, this one is found in bronze and black, another color combination well-known to Conklin collectors (although not as exclusive to the brand as Imperial blue). Here it is next to a Conklin Endura Symetrik pencil:

Endura Symetrik is Conklinese for "Endura with a rounded cap," and this one dates to 1930 or so, just after Sheaffer introduced its streamlined Balance line in 1929 and most other manufacturers (Conklin included) were looking for ways to make their flattop product lines less . . . square. Note that the color is identical, and the tips are pretty close, but not identical:

I’d mentioned that I picked up this golf pencil on my way to the Michigan Pen Show. When I arrived there, I noticed that Andy Rothman had a few Conklin "Ensemble" fountain pen/pencil combos on his table, so with his permission I compared what I had to the front end of his Ensemble:

Now that looks like an exact match. In fact, I swapped the front end from Andy’s Ensemble with the end of my pencil, and my pencil threads on like it was meant to be there:

I thought to myself, after I snapped these pictures a year ago, that it was going to be a very long time before I would get around to publishing this article. The physical evidence is pretty good, but I wanted to find something definitive – an advertisement or something – that would conclusively answer my question and would let me take "I think" out from in front of "it’s a Conklin."

Enter Alfonso Mur, who brought me the answer as if on cue. Alfonso recently published The Conklin Legacy, a hefty, 325-page volume full of pictures and illustrations. There, on page 177, was a page taken from Conklin’s 1930-1931 catalog illustrating the Conklin "Entente" set:

Look at that: it was available in pearl and black or "black and gold."


Michael Quitt said...

I'm going to go home and, as you suggest, "paw through" my pens for one of these.

I'm sorry that you someone stole your blue and bronze example at a show. It's sad that we have to be hawks at our tables to watch for thieves. That is one thing that bothers me to no end...also having had pens stolen.

BTW, I didn't see a link to your blog page regarding the Conklin Golf Pencils. If it were done in an earlier post, I somehow missed it. If, not, you may wish to post a link. I found it interesting and very worthwhile!!

BTW, I purchased Alfonso Mur's Conklin book which is packed with beautiful pictures and information.

Michael Quitt

John Hubbard said...

That Ensemble set is very clever, with many more variations than other convertible desk/pocket pen sets that I've seen.
Good sleuthing on the pencil!