Monday, April 30, 2018

More Mixing and Matching

Eversharp Dollar Pencils have been a particular area of interest for me lately.   I ran down the evolution of these in “Vestigial Eversharps” back in 2015 (see “”), from the early hard rubber utility pencils:

Through the later, more streamlined ones:

In 1930 or 1931 – better documentary evidence is still waiting for us out there somewhere – Eversharp transitioned from the z-clip shown in that top example to the bolted-on clip, adding some new colors to the lineup in the process.  Then the company switched out the insides, from basically the same mechanism the company had been using on all of its pencils since Charles Keeran invented it in 1913 to the Equipoised mechanism, which was a little longer and has that extra metal ring at the top (compare the second and third examples from the top in that last picture).

There were some different variations in colors withhin these variants, and I’ve been having a lot of fun tracking down all the different colors.  Sometimes surprises come up, like when this yellow example popped up online:

It was missing the clip, but what caught my eye was where the clip was: those two holes are an indication that this one had a bolted-on clip, when all of the yellow examples I had seen before were of the earlier z-clip variety, like these:

Eversharp didn’t do anything to make sure those bolts wouldn’t unscrew themselves, so these clips frequently go missing – which is why I keep a supply of the common cream-colored bumblebee examples on hand for parts.  In fact, when they are reasonable, I always pick them up, and at the same time I put in a healthy bid on the yellow example, another common one showed up as a “buy it now” for $14.99.   I picked it up solely for the clip and the bolt securing it, just so I could make the swap without diminishing my supply of clips on hand.

The opening bid on the yellow example was 99 cents plus shipping.  I won’t tell you the embarrassing bid that I put in on it, thinking someone else might notice another unusual Eversharp variant which is so easy to repair.  What’s more embarrassing is that nobody did, so I paid 99 cents for the rare pencil and $15 for the clip to go on it.

In the meantime, I decided to root around to see if there were any more bolt-on clip Eversharps out there to add to my parts bins, and I saw this one.

It had made the rounds in the online auctions a few times, never getting the opening bid of $20.  I’d let it slide a few times, since that great limeade bumblebee color is really scarce, and I already had one in the Equipoised-mechanism model . . . I picked it up for just a couple bucks in a flea market junk box.  What I didn’t have was one with the earlier mechanism like the red example at top in this next picture:

I knew they existed, because Joe has one - in fact, I fixed it for him and photographed it a while back (see and

So I decided to spring for that second Equipoised model to convert it into the earlier model, throwing in the $20 opening bid on what must have been its fourth or fifth time around the horn. Then. . . what the hell . . . I was bid up to $30 by the time it closed.   Sigh . . . at least I was expecting something goofy like that to happen and had bid more, and besides -- between this one and my 99 cent wonder, at least I only paid $15.50 apiece (ok, not counting the extra $15 for the clip) and that isn’t so bad.

Here’s how I converted it.  Remember, you can’t convert an earlier model to take the later Equipoised mechanism - you can only go the other way.  To remove the Equipoised mechanism, remember that the tips are reverse threaded.  When you’ve got the tip off, press the end of the mechanism on a flat surface and the whole works will pop out:

I could have shined up that cap, but I”ve got so many common cream bumblebee pencils missing clips now that it was easier to just pull a clean one out of my parts bins.  As for the earlier works, I had another Eversharp missing its clip in the parts drawer – and yes, that’s the same works inside and the top is the same as what’s under the caps on all of these:

The earlier tips have standard threading.  Remove the tip and pull the whole works out by the mechanism - I never had to pull the mechanism out of the threaded tube for the entire transplant:

Simply push the threaded tube, mechanism and all, into the new barrel and screw the tip back in place.  Earlier mechanisms fit much more tightly into the later Equipoised examples, but don’t worry - it will fit so don’t be afraid to push hard and show it who’s boss:

Dang, that clip looks nasty, and you might wonder why I didn’t do a transplant on this one.  Before I do, I’ll try to give it a buff – these are solid steel, so you can push pretty hard and unless the surface rust has pitted the surface, they usually clean up pretty nicely.  Such was the case here:

So with a clip transplant and a mechanism transplant – ok two mechanism transplants – I’ve added three examples to the Dollar Pencil array:

Ok, I know I know . . . I said I’ve been careful not to mix and match things in ways that I haven’t confirmed originally were made . . . but dammit, I love that lapis and I really wanted one.  I couldn’t resist the urge to “make” one of these, so sue me.   Maybe I’ll attach a warning tag to it so future generations know this is a Leadhead’s special.

And when you see the whole spread, you’ll understand that if this is wrong, I don’t want to be right . . .

Sunday, April 29, 2018

I Spoke Too Soon

When I arrived home from the Baltimore Show, I’d already uploaded several articles to run on autopilot, one of which showed off an all-metal Guild pencil made by Mabie Todd (see

Unfortunately, after I got back from the show, I was too busy catching up after a few days out of the office to get things photographed.  If that Guild article had run a little later, I would have included this one:

Marc Shiman, Mabie Todd maven, had this stockbroker pencil in his pocket at Baltimore.  He asked me what I thought about it and after we talked for a bit, I was surprised that he was willing to part with it.  He didn’t tell me about the box – later in the show he swung by and casually dropped it off at my table, much to my delight. 

I might regret posting this as an update right now, because at the Baltimore show Joe Nemecek turned up the metal Guild ringtop, identical to the one shown in David Moak’s Mabie in America and also shown in my previous article here.  I didn’t take my good camera equipment with me to Baltimore, so any cell phone picture I would have taken of it wouldn’t have been any better or told you any more than what I did before. 

I imagine come November, Joe will have his pencil in tow and we’ll get a group shot of all three of these.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Sacrificial Bids

There was an amazing series of online auctions of weird Sheaffer pencils recently . . . the last of them to close was for a real gem, and I knew who my likely competition would be.  A bit of strategy was in order.

Since several of the lots leading up to the grand finale were along the same lines, I decided to put in some moderately low bids on the earlier lots – low enough to lose at a reasonable price, hoping to lure my competition into a false sense of security as I lost one after another that I wasn’t really serious about parting with the cash it would take to win the big one at the end. 

It was purely a head game. Did it work?  Well, I won the finale . . . and wondering how much more I would have had to pay if I didn’t is another case of If Dog Rabbit (if that phrase confuses you, try

And, unintentionally, I won three of these items with sacrificially low bids:

In all fairness, I probably would have bid on these even if they weren’t pawns in a larger game, and without my eye on the prize I probably would have bid more than I did.  All three are Sheaffer Balance pencils with wide jewelers’ bands – none too common.  The top one was in a size and color I didn’t have; the same went for the lower one, although what the seller thought was a deep scratch circling the lower barrel turned out to be a crack (this material for some reason is the most prone to deterioration).  As shown, it wears a fresh barrel from my parts bins in much better condition.

The middle example, though, has a curious detail in which I was keenly interested to have a closer look, even though it is identical to one already in my collection:

The seller had noted that the clip is a little bit odd – faceted and drawn to a point, like an Eversharp Coronet clip.  You can see it in this picture.  Was this some weird Sheaffer experiment?  On closer examination, I doubt it:

It looks more like someone has taken the time to file the sides of the clip down - you can see where the gold fill has been cut through, and you can even see tiny holes on the sides where the metal forming the ball of the clip has been folded over and formed.

The vintage of this Sheaffer is consistent with the Eversharp Coronet – maybe some random jeweler or owner thought it would be cool to see how it would look with more of a Coronetty look.

But note the initials on the band . . . L.P.S., with a more stylized “S” that looks a lot like the same letter as it is presented in the Sheaffer logo.  Was there someone in the Sheaffer family with those initials?

It’s fantasy and a longshot.  But kind of fun to think about.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Enjoy Them While They Last

I feel like I rented this one rather than buying it, because it doesn’t have much time left:

This is another one of those Parker Streamline Duofold pencils in experimental colors - a few of these have been trickling out in recent years.  In my collection it joins one other example which isn’t as bad, but which has voids in the plastic:

Nearly all of these have fatal flaws in their plastics.  My new one is nearly gone on the lower section, with the damaged plastic dangling around the mechanism.  The upper section also has several serious cracks, but there’s a Parker Duofold imprint plain as day to verify the authenticity of these things:

The nicest example – not to mention the one in the craziest plastic – belongs to Eric Magnuson and was featured here some time ago (see  Eric has since picked up another one, which was interesting in a couple respects:

Third from bottom is the wild one from my previous article.  It’s that bottom example that is new to Eric.  Like the others, a portion of the lower barrel has disintegrated.

The upper barrel is largely intact, but you can see where it is delaminating between two bands just next to the words “Parker Duofold”:

David Nishimura theorizes that as Parker was experimenting with different colors, the company turned barrels out of celluloid before it was properly cured – after all, they just wanted to see what the finished product would look like, without regard for how well the plastic would hold up.  The theory makes sense. 

What’s fascinating about Eric’s new example is that the stacked alternating bands theme was later employed on the Parker Vacumatic a couple years later, but in much narrower bands. 

I’ve known about this development for years, because Parker took out a design patent for the wider band design – on a Duofold Streamline pen.  I included the patent in American Writing Instrument Patents Volume 2: 1911-1945, and even illustrated it alongside the later Vacumatic design patents on page 288.  Here’s design patent 87,792, issued to Russell C. Parker on an application filed March 2, 1932:

I’ve never seen a physical example.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Few WASP Variants to Report

A few of Jerome Lobner’s auctions recently yielded some pencils that filled in gaps in my collection of WASP pencils - that’s WASP as in “W.A. Sheaffer Pen,” a subbrand marketed by the company during the 1930s which included some really interesting features not found on the company’s regular lines.  Here’s two of them:

Let’s start with that silvery glittery one, a material Sheaffer referred to as “Lahn.” 

I’ve got nearly this exact pencil, but with a maddening little detail:

There’s the three colors, brown, green and silver; but note the clips.  The brown and green ones have a little decorative flourish on them, something I’ve nicknamed a “banjo clip” since it looks like strings on a banjo.  My silver example, however, has a plain clip that doens’t match the other two.  That’s been like having a pebble in my shoe.  This new example has a banjo clip:

So now the set exists in perfect harmony:

Not really. Although I should throw my plain clip silver lahn out the window and be done with it, now I’m going to hunt plain-clip examples in brown and green to complete the other set.  If any of these turn up in reverse trim I fear my head might explode.

As for the marine green example, at first glance I breezed on by assuming that I already had one of these, but when I thought about it some more, I remembered that isn’t quite true:

The one I was thinking of has a ball clip marked “Vacuum-Fil” as opposed to a flat clip, and note the different proportions and how the trim band is placed differently.  The green Vacuum-Fil has no imprint, while the black one is marked “WASP / Vacuum-Fil Pen Co. / Ft. Madison, IA USA”:

That’s the same imprint found on my new addition:

The profile of the new addition matches another WASP series perfectly:

Those two “lizard skin” examples appear on page 143 of The Catalogue, while the ebonized pearl example came my way some time later.  Two of them share the same imprint, with the ebonized pearl example being the odd man out:

After these two arrived and I’d already photographed them, I picked this one up too - also from Jerome:

I love that “electric green” color.  When it comes to these, I’ve noted two different styles of clips, on the copper-colored model in the same series (see

They come in both a flat clip as well as a more pronounced clip with the letter “W” artfully incorporated at the top:

The “W” clips show up on utility pencils in WASP advertisements from 1939 (see, but that was the only year in which I’ve found ads which show the WASP version of Sheaffer’s “working togs” line of utility pencils.  I would suspect that the flat clips are a little bit earler, and since Sheaffer didn’t introduce this incarnation of the working togs pencil until 1938, it could be that the flat clip examples are truly first-year models.

Exciting to think about, but it could also be that Sheaffer just used up old parts however they saw fit, whether before, after or at the same time as the W clips. 

I’m not sure, and maybe it doesn’t matter.  I just kind of like having both versions when I know there’s two of them out there, and I’ve had another one of these, which I acquired from the estate of the late Frank Tedesco:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Final Word . . Almost

In several articles over the years, I’ve gradually become more certain that the Rex Manufacturing Company got its start in the pencil business by making the Eclipse Never Dull metal pencils, like those shown on page 50 of The Catalogue.

Most recently, I found an example of an Eclipse which lacked the “Never Dull” name, which looked a lot more like Rex-marked pencil and made the conclusion that much more certain (see  In recent weeks, two finds have turned up which remove any doubt that the Eclipse Never Dull was in fact made by Rex.  The first was this one, which turned up at the Baltimore Show:

Scott Jones was actually the guy that turned it up.  He’s a reader of my blog as well as an artist who uses pencils in his drawing, and he stopped by my table to show this one to me.  I offered to buy it or trade him something else for it, and after he thought about it overnight, he came back the next day and we negotiated a trade that made both of us happy. 

Here’s the imprint:

This is the first time I’ve been able to find a pencil proving that the Rex Manufacturing Company actually used the Never-Dull name.  But there’s another possibility: it could be that Rex, like Eclipse and Albert Howard, had some third party manufacture these pencils for the company rather than actually making the pencils themselves.  That question, I believe was answered by this one:

This one is a dead ringer for one of my Eclipse Never-Dull pencils:

But this one has an imprint which is without question that of a manufacturer:

That settles it.  There’s no more speculation needed; Rex made the Eclipse Never-Dull.  That is my final answer.

Almost . . .

There’s one more thing I don’t know.  I don’t know whether Rex made these pencils for the Eclipse Fountain Pen & Pencil Corporation, or whether Rex initially used the name Eclipse as one of its own house brand names. 

There’s a good clue in American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, since it includes the trademark registration for Eclipse:

The Eclipse Fountain Pen and Pencil Corporation claimed to first use the name in block letters in May, 1919 – a date which fits nicely into this timeline, but note that the application was filed to protect the name until ten years later, in 1929. 

It would be nice if there were a trademark registration for either the Rex or Rex-hold marks showing that either of these names were used by Rex at the same time; unfortunately, in the course of researching federal trademarks I never found one.  Filing for a federal trademark is not mandatory, of course, and many companies used marks that were protected either under state law, or under the common law.  Many of these were gathered together in a publication put out by the Jewelers’ Circular titled Trade-marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades, and the 1922 edition lists the Rex-hold mark:

Eclipse may or may not have offered pencils along with the company’s pens right from the outset in 1919, and the first indications of the “Never Dull” pencil being on the market come in 1921.  With the Rex-hold mark being reported in 1922, I think it’s clear both marks were in use at the same time.