Friday, February 16, 2018

They Didn't Make Just One

Just a few days ago, I wrote about the strangest Sheaffer I’d ever seen – a Skyboy with a barrel that screwed directly onto a specially modified mechanism, eliminating the need for a separate metal tip (see posted on January 27).

Since that pencil lacks Sheaffer’s shop markings or any other provenance to suggest it was a prototype pencil, I thought – and still think – it actually went into production, albeit for an extremely short period of time.  And if it was a production piece, that means they didn’t make just one:

Shortly after that last article ran, my friend Matt McColm emailed me with a link to another of Jerome Lobner’s auctions, with a Sheaffer Crest pencil that had that same weird end treatment.  The auction had ended with nobody bidding on it –- this was shortly before I gave up my campaign for Congress and had enough time to cruise through online auctions again.

“Maybe he still has it,” Matt suggested, so I emailed Jerome, who did have it and was only too happy to sell it to me, shipping it along with the next batch of things I purchased through his online auctions.  I asked if he knew anything more about them or had any more, but Jerome says he’s only seen these two examples and has no other information about them.  That leaves me to my own devices to see what there is to learn about them.

And when it comes to the Sheaffer Crest, there’s a lot to learn.

For starters, these two pencils are essentially identical on the lower half and mechanism.  The caps interchange, as they do between most Sheaffer models of the period.  That raises the question whether the cap might have been switched at some point over the last 75 years: on the plus side, I know Jerome wouldn’t have done that and his source, likely Edd Dawson (see acquired a lot of weird stuff from Sheaffer as a prominent stationer.  On the down side, though, nobody can say for sure.

Back on the plus side, Sheaffer Crest pencils are inherently goofy animals.  Here’s the new one alongside my three other legitimate Sheaffer Crests:

Unlike Sheaffer pens of the period, which had manufacturer’s imprints on the barrels, Sheaffer pencils had imprints on the caps.  Since Crest caps are not marked “Sheaffer” anywhere, that meant on the Crest pencils, Sheaffer relocated the imprint to the lower barrel:

So when I tell you these are my three other “legitimate” Sheaffer Crests, I’ve left out the green one because on closer examination, there’s no Sheaffer imprint on the lower barrel.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it is an ordinary Sheaffer Balance pencil onto which someone has stuck a Crest cap.  Probably.  Maybe.  Ok, there’s nothing I can show you about that’s different other than it’s green and the cap is a little banged up.

On this new example, there’s no Sheaffer imprint on the lower barrel, either:

Because of the source, and the fact that the lower barrel on this thing is so utterly weird for a Sheaffer, I’m inclined to give this one a pass for now as a legitimate production piece, until such time as further documentation either confirms or refutes whether these tipless Sheaffer pencils were made for both Skyboy and Crest lines.  Since the caps on both are otherwise stock, if it ever turns out that one or both of these has a wrong cap, switching it out for something correct according to Hoyle will be easy enough.

There’s another reason I’m giving this one a temporary pass: while I’ll call my other three Crests legitimate, a look under the hood reveals that there’s no such thing as “normal” in this series, since no two of the ones I’ve found are alike:

The top example I’ve never been able to explain.  It’s the only one I’ve seen with a plastic mechanism with grooves for spare lead storage on the outside of the mechanism, rather than inside:

And while the other two share gold-plated mechanisms consistent with the Crest’s status as a higher-end model for Sheaffer, note that one of these has a bushing on the mechanism and a thin cap, while the other has the usual mechanism (except for color) and a thicker cap wall::

So yes, a tipless Sheaffer Crest pencil with no Sheaffer markings is unusual . . . but not outside the realm of possibility.

No comments: