Wednesday, April 11, 2018

No Pshaws for Personalizations Here

It’s a hot button for some collectors . . . personalization.  Some will look at a perfectly good pen or pencil that happens to have something engraved on it and turn up their nose, pinkies extended whilst taking another sip of tea and averting their patrician eyes from the offending sight.  “Peasant!  Remove that brute from my presence at once . . . “

I exaggerate.  The point is that some folks don’t want anything to do with a writing instrument if it has anything printed or stamped on it other than a manufacturer’s imprint (by the way, if you fall in that category and were offended, my apologies . . . I figured you’d long since left the room after that train pencil piece from a few weeks back). 

Insisting that a writing instrument bear no evidence of its past is like marrying a 50-year-old expecting him or her to be a virgin.  You can deny that these things have a past and that they are “all yours” if it makes you enjoy them more, but after a century or so in circulation, it’s foolish to believe these things haven’t been through a lot of hands.

And a lot of times the experiences they have been through explains a lot about what they are.

From a historical perspective, a pencil with an imprint is for me an opportunity to better nail down what was made when.  Take this example, which I picked up from Judd Perlson at the Baltimore show:


It’s one of the early Dur-O-Lite pencils with those great bolted-on clips, from the days shortly after the schism between Autopoint’s stakeholders in 1925 over Bakelite’s acquisition of a controlling interest in Autopoint, leading several of the firm’s principals to form Dur-O-Lite in 1926.

The very earliest Dur-O-Lites have a shorter nose that fits flush against the end of the barrel rather than overlapping it.  Here’s one I recently picked up from Chris Egolf to show you for comparison:


By the way, note the green gold filled trim, slightly greenish by comparison to the more yellowish gold you normally see – that’s another carryover from Autopoint, which used that plating on its higher-end models.

My theory that these short-nose models were the very first Dur-O-Lite models was proven by 1927 imprints found on two examples – see https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/11/dawn-of-dur-o-lite.html and https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/11/asked-and-answered.html.   Still unanswered, though, is the question of how long that shortened tip remained in production before being replaced with the more robust, longer tips.

Complicating the analysis are several factors: first, the company was a new startup, so there are bound to be significantly fewer early models – that means there’s a smaller pool of evidence to draw from.  Additionally, the redesign was a definite improvement; both the stronger nose and the addition of threading to the upper ferrule to better secure it meant that later models were less likely to break or lose parts and be discarded.

The example I received from Judd helps to significantly narrow that window of production:


This one bears a commemorative date of November 22, 1928; meaning that certainly by late 1928, the earliest Dur-O-Lite design had been abandoned:


It will likely take similarly imprinted examples to answer other questions I have regarding these bolted-clip Dur-O-Lites.  I wonder whether the straight (utility) tops and the crown tops were produced simultaneously, or whether there was a chronological progression. 


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