Jon Rosenbaum passed away recently. Many will remember his friendly, smiling face and unassuming demeanor, as he sat at his table behind a sign that said in bold letters simply, “I Buy Old Pens.” Funny how a sign like that sticks in your mind amongst a sea of enthusiasts at a pen show, 100 percent of whom . . . buy old pens. Most important, what I will remember about Jon is that he was a heluva nice guy. Second, I’ll now remember him for something I didn’t know about him while he was alive.
Jon was a pencil collector.
I had admired pencils on Jon’s table before at shows and bought a few of them, but I did not know they were a passion for him until I was contacted by one of his friends, who Jon’s family asked to help liquidate his collection (name withheld until I get an OK to include it here). Would I be interested? Of course I would. And along came four pictures of cases of pencils, each of which had monstrously nice things. The problem was that I had many of them.
But there was one pencil in there . . . one that I honed in on immediately, fuzzy picture notwithstanding. When I called him back, I told him if I only bought one of Jon’s pencils, it would be that one. We agreed to get together at this year’s Chicago Show, and of course, I bought more than just that one – more on the other ones later. Today I’ll tell you about the one:
Single-banded Sheaffer Balance pencils are the norm. Double-banded examples, like the ones I’ve shown here, are an occasion for whoopin and hollerin. These ultra-rare triple banded examples? I’ve only seen one other pencil, in ebonized pearl. That makes these about the most rare of the Sheaffer pencils – even more rare than the ebonized pearl golf pencil (I know where four of those are).
And yet, when I showed it proudly to a friend right after I acquired it, he wondered why Sheaffer made a one-piece band with black painted rings, just like so many of the lower-quality pencils that flooded the market during the 1940s and later. Once piece? No, it’s three, I said, and we went back and forth over the issue, looking as closely as we could in a dark ballroom with a loupe. Now, under more controlled lighting and with a good lens, it’s clear that we were both right. Yes, it’s clearly three bands – you can see the bits of red and grey in between them:
And yes, the spaces between them were once painted black.