Over this last weekend, Saturday morning started as usual with a cup of coffee and a quick check of the online auctions, where I placed bids on two pencils that were closing later on in the day. Then I was off to the Ohio State Fairgrounds for January’s Don Scott Antique Show..
The January show is usually a pretty sedate affair, with the frenzy of the huge November and December shows behind and drab weather. A lot of what you see is the same stuff that was there in the previous two months – actually, it’s mostly the stuff that didn’t sell. Still, I enjoy going – it’s something to do, and I still find a few neat things.
This time, I got something a whole lot better.
It started when I was delighted to see a couple Victorians in a showcase:
When I asked for a closer look, the guy pulled the black hard rubber one out to show me first. With a loupe, I took a good look at the imprint:
"Kurtz & Monaghan NY" reading one way, and "Goodyear’s Pat. May 6 ‘51" reading the other. Kurtz & Monaghan was the partnership which was succeeded by a much more well known one, Edward Todd & Co., in 1871. I was really interested in this piece for two reasons. The relatively mundane reason was that I thought it would look really nice next to another Kurtz & Monaghan I had picked up a few months earlier, in red hard rubber: Spoiler alert: it does look good:
But what struck me even more was the coincidence of finding two Kurtz & Monaghan pencils, which don’t come along very often, in the same day.
That’s right. Two. The other was the one I bid on over coffee just a couple hours earlier. Now what are the odds of that?
On close examination,, this Kurtz had issues - it looks great opened up as it is here, but it won’t close all the way. No worries, I thought. This one would display well, and if the price is reasonable, I wouldn’t mind having two - assuming I win the one online, I thought, I’ll have a good one for the collection and a nice display example for whichever of my pencil buddies might like it.
Then the guy shows me the other one:
It’s a really interesting piece I had only seen once before – part dropper, part leadholder. Push the button and the leadholder drops down into place:
Under magnification, I saw the "ALCO" hallmark in an oval, which indicates this one is an Aikin Lambert:
I put down my loupe and looked at this guy squarely in the eye. The only other one of these I’d ever seen before was – you guessed it, just a few hours earlier, when I placed my only other early morning online bid.
"Are these listed on ebay?" I asked pointedly. He stammered around a bit, said he had been listing some stuff lately, but he claimed he didn’t think these were online. He asked what I would be willing to offer. I told him. He said he needed to call and "check" to see if he had listed them. Come back in a little while, he said.
As I was walking away, I decided to check my ebay account on my smart phone. There, closing in a little more than an hour, was the Aikin Lambert – complete with the same initials engraved on it. And there was the Kurtz & Monaghan, described as being in great condition with no mention of any problems. "The pictures are the best description," the listing said. My bid on the Kurtz was much higher than an example in this condition should bring.
This guy only had 20 or so active listings, five of which were pencils. Nobody needed to "check" to see what they were auctioning. He knew exactly what he was doing: stalling until the auction ended to see what the high bid would be, fishing for live offers at the antique show in the meantime. If he got a better offer than the high bid on ebay, the winner would receive a request to cancel the auction because their item would conveniently have become "lost."
I got mad.
I turned around and went right back. I had the opportunity to say to this guy what every one of us who has been jerked around by a lousy seller like this one and, on behalf of all of us, I said it:
"You are from Cincinnati, Ohio and your ebay username is [ ]. My name is Jon Veley and I have not only seen these items online, I am your high bidder. If I win the Kurtz at the price I’ve bid, you’re getting it back because you haven’t disclosed the problems with it."
His face went white. He asked me what I would offer for them.
I told him. It was half what I’d bid online.
He took it.