A couple of years ago, a collector posted a picture of his finds on one of the online discussion forums. One of the pencils jumped right off the screen at me, grabbed me by the throat, and insisted that I type a backchannel message just to say "If you ever decide to let that one go . . ."
As I expected, he knew as well as I did what a special piece that was. He thanked me for the compliment and said he’d keep me in mind if he ever decided to sell it. Months went by . . . then a couple years . . . and finally last spring he proved true to his word, sending me an email to indicate he had enjoyed owning it long enough, so this one made its way back home:
That Coke-bottle lower barrel is a dead giveaway, and even though the clip says simply "Parker," I knew with confidence that home for this one was right here in central Ohio:
"Parker Pen / Made For / The Zaner-Bloser Co. / Columbus, Ohio." I’ve posted a few articles here about The Zaner-Bloser Co., which held design patents for the ergonomic form this pencil takes – but the Parker-made pencils are something of a grail find for any mechanical pencil collector. I’ve got just one other example, in Parker’s "modern" blue and white (nicknamed "true blue" by collectors):
It’s interesting to compare the differences. Note that the nose cone on the new one is longer and lacks the typical Parker crimping, suggesting a later and cheaper production. Also, while the true blue example has a rounded hard rubber top button to secure the clip, the grey one has a squared off one more like the typical depression-style offerings from Parker. The somewhat lesser attention to detail is also seen on the imprint:
Note that the earlier true blue has "Parker Pencil" rather than pen, and the imprint runs in the opposite direction.
But even though this one is a little bit later, that color is just amazing - a vibrant, deep, go-on-for-days grey pearl that just looks like it glows from the inside out. Yet as great as it is, this plastic did appear on other Parker products - here’s the new Parker Zaner-Bloser shown with a pair of Parkette "Zephyr" lower-quality pieces made by the company during the late 1930s and early 1940s:
The Zephyrs also came in brown – I thought I had one somewhere, but I can’t lay my hands on it. Note that the grey is similar to a Zephyr, but a little lighter and with a slight greenish cast. Different lot of the same plastic? Maybe - quality control wouldn’t have been as strict on Parker’s lower tier productions.
Even though this is a cheaper version of the Parker Zaner-Bloser pencil, it is a significant and previously undocumented find, proving that Zaner-Bloser’s association with Parker lasted a few years longer than previously thought.