I was not in much of a buying mood when I arrived at the Baltimore Show, because I knew the online auctions in which I was bidding would likely bust my spending budget for the weekend.
I was right.
These are Sheaffer Balance pencils with extremely rare cap bands, both coming from Jerome Lobner’s auctions (and likely from the Edd Dawson collection about which I’ve written here before). They are “grail” finds, prized additions to any pencil collection.
But being rare Sheaffers, they are also a passion of David Isaacson, who wrote an article for The Pennant about them back in 2012 (he’s posted the article over on his website, vacumania.com – the link as of this writing is http://vacumania.com/paul/cap_banditryA.html). Since David excitedly posts updates whenever he finds a new example, I knew from his online history he didn’t appear to have either one of these.
Unfortunately, David and I don’t talk -- a sad remnant of a feud that hasn’t made sense for years – so all I knew was that there was no way these two were going to slip under his radar. If I really wanted to bring them back to the museum it was going to take some commitment.
The grey pearl one closed Thursday night, a few hours after John and I arrived in Baltimore, with a final price pushed over $300.00. Yeah, that really dampened my enthusiasm for spending much at the show, because the rose glow example is rarer still and that auction would close after I got home. As that second auction ended, at a lofty price I won’t reveal in the unlikely event my wife ever follows my blog, David commented online that he “fired a ‘no lose’ bid on this wee pencil.”
So did I.
There’s not much I can tell you about these that David hasn’t already said, but I do have some observations to offer that he doesn’t appear to have addressed.
David describes double-banded Sheaffers as an “absolute rarity” which precludes a discussion of relative rarity among the different colors, but I would agree with his assessment that in the earlier ball-clip era, these are most commonly found in marine green:
Note that the underlying celluloid shows through between the bands. The ringtop is pretty special; I don’t see where David mentions it, but I did see one black ringtop pen in a photograph he posted of his spread back in 2014. I wrote about mine at https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/11/girls-just-want-to-have-fun.html.
In 2010, Roger Wooten, Daniel Kirchheimer and David discussed the sole documentary evidence of the “double deco band,” on a desk pen only, which appeared in the October 8, 1931 issue of Sheaffer’s Retailer’s Review – targeted for sales to jewelers.
The grey pearl example from Jerome’s recent auction joins another example in my collection from what David refers to as the “1934-1935 flat-ball clip era":
I have two things to add with respect to these. First, contrary to what David suggests in his article, note that not all of these had smooth clip indicative of Sheaffer’s higher-end offerings at the time – my ebonized pearl example has a Sheaffer’s imprint on the clip.
Note also that while the ebonized pearl clearly shows through in between the bands as with the earlier ball-clip examples, the grey pearl example has the area between them painted black. I haven’t seen any discussion of this anomaly from David or any other source for that matter – although I did note the same thing about my grey pearl triple band pencil when I wrote about it some time ago (see https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/06/easy-as-1-2-3-i-don’t-think-so.html).
Here’s a closeup showing the celluloid on the triple band peeking through a worn area of paint:
Which brings me to the triple bands Sheaffers.
David describes them as “more scarce” than the “absolute rarity” of the double banded Sheaffers, and he estimates production as running from 1934 to 1937. His article shows pens in black, grey pearl (with red veins), ebonized pearl and striated brown – and a pencil in ebonized pearl. Both his pens with this treatment (one in black and the other in striated brown) have the rigid radius clip and he notes in his article that he’s seen “just one pen” in striated plastic. I haven’t seen him update that statement so I assume it’s still the case. When he posted about this auction on facebook, he did say that it was the first Rose Glow he had seen with a triple band.
Rose Glow is another passion of David’s - he posted an impressive spread of 30 different variants of pens and pencils over on fpgeeks.com, with a notation that an oversized Rose Glow pen is considered “the king of the series.” (See https://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread.php/6952-An-Intro-to-Collecting-Sheaffer-(Photos!)-by-David-Isaacson?p=83898&viewfull=1#post83898).
That post was another reason I knew the level of commitment required to bring a triple band Rose Glow pencil home and assume the role of its caretaker for a time. In the end, caretakers are all we become – we don’t really own these things when we preserve them for future generations. I just paid for the privilege of keeping it for a while.
In the meantime, of course I’ll oblige David should he want to borrow my Rose Glow in order to update his family photos, both of triple bands and of Rose Glows. It would be nice to gather his triple band in ebonized pearl together with my two pencils for a family photo of those, too.
That would truly be a “no lose” proposition.