Friday, November 28, 2014

A Sin Pencil Update

Note:  this article updates one I posted a few weeks ago at

Figures . . . all I had to do was say I’d never seen one of these, and they come out of the woodwork. I recently posted about "sin pencils" that include dice, compass, stanhope, put/take game, cigar cutter and reversible pencil/dip pen:

And here they come:

These turned up on the items for sale page on a gambling memorabilia site. Although the seller touted one as being of the rare "left hand" variety (meaning the lettering on the put/take piece isn’t upside down when you hold the pencil in your left hand), the put/take spinner is threaded the same on both ends – that means if you want a left hand or right hand pencil, just reverse the direction of the spinner.

Also, don’t get hung up on where the clip is on these two new examples: these are accommodation clips which can be placed wherever you like. Unfortunately the purple one is missing the cigar cutter:

But the wild-colored example is all there:

These two confirmed two things I said in the previous article: first, while most of the nibs on these are unmarked, the purple example confirmed my initial suspicions concerning the origins of these:

"Made in Germany." And the wild example confirmed that the stanhopes originally contained pictures that are not religious, but which are otherwise . . . inspiring:

The Spors connection is still possible – Spors imported all sorts of novelties from both Germany and Japan. Spors catalogs turn up every so often, but they are still proprietary rather than archival: I mean, they haven’t worked themselves into libraries and are still closely guarded and held for resale. Unless I pony up a good chunk of change to start buying them it will be awhile before I can verify whether Spors advertised them and in what years. I did, however, learn that even if Spors brought some of these into the country, he wasn’t the only one:

This page, from a 1933 catalog for N. Shure, a novelty distributor in Chicago, shows a nearly identical pencil. What I have called (and used as) a cigar cutter is described in this ad as a cigarette holder – maybe it was intended to serve in either function, and maybe I just found a great way to misuse a tool.

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