Sunday, March 19, 2006

Old Eversharp Pencils

My interest in, and collection of, mechanical pencils is generally orientated to contemporary times, rather than to vintage or antique pencils. But I certainly don’t ignore the past, and I do have some older pencils.

For a pen manufacturer, quite a lot has been written about the US Wahl Eversharp company - their origin, rise and fall, the Japanese connection and relationship with the modern Sharp Corporation. It’s an interesting tale with a few different versions, and its fair share of fact and fiction.
Whatever the stories, Wahl Eversharp were a major player in the pen / pencil market of the early and mid 20th century, so I guess its not too surprising that I have a few of their pencils. So here’s a little bit on my small collection of Eversharps. I apologise for my limited photographic ability - for the pencils with engraved decoration on their body, I have rough sketched the pattern beside it, so that you can get some idea of what it looks like in real life.

Small Gold Ringtop

First off is this small plain gold filled ringtop Wahl Eversharp pencil. It is a twist top screw / slider mechanism, i.e. you twist the top around and the mechanism pushes the lead out the tip. Thats one way - the lead doesn't go back in. (I’ll write a bit more about this in a future posting on Mechanisms). Gold filled is a terminology not really used today – basically it just means a layer of gold over a base metal. Today we would probably just say gold plated and not really distinguish between the various means of getting that layer of gold onto the base metal. Ringtop pencils seem to have been fairly common as there are lots of models made by many manufacturers. I guess people picked up pencils and walked off with them in the old days just like today, so tying your gold pencil down was the smart thing to do! I have no idea when this pencil is from, I imagine sometime from the 1920’s to 40’s.

Three Gold Pencils

Next are these three gold filled Eversharps of English manufacture. The Wahl identity does not seem to have been used in the UK, and they just used Eversharp branding. These three are all the same model, just different body decoration. They basically have the same twist top mechanism as the ringtop. Note the very small pocket clips.

These three were sold to me as “New Old Stock”, a local stationers sample set from the 1950’s. This is the instruction sheet that comes with these English pencils. I like the line down the bottom, “Wartime packaging substituted as a temporary measure”. Completely different war, but it always reminds me of my grandmother and her childhood memories of the Zeppelins over London in World War 1, before she emigrated to NZ. But back to the war in question, World War 2 ended in 1945, but its easy to forget how long the economic effects lasted. For instance food rationing didn’t end in the UK until 3 July 1954 when meat and bacon again became freely available. Imagine that for nearly 15 years people in England couldn’t just go to the shops and buy a nice steak or some pork chops whenever they wanted. No Sunday morning fry-up for 15 years! New Zealand is way out at the end of the supply chain so its probably not unusual to find wartime restriction stock still in circulation in the 1950’s. I believe these pencils sold for 51 NZ shillings in the 1950’s. This was about half the average weekly wage back then, so they weren’t cheap. In comparison with todays incomes that would mean they would now retail in New Zealand for something like US$275. On the price scale I use for my reviews that easily puts them into the “stratospheric” range. I haven’t done any research, but I imagine that in 1950’s New Zealand there was strict import licensing control and customs tariffs on luxury items like these pencils.

Sterling Silver Pencil

Last up is this sterling silver Eversharp, again of English manufacture. Unlike the others it has a modern style push top ratchet mechanism. Also it is solid silver, not silver plated. It was sold to me as a “1940’s” pencil. Now I’m certainly no expert but I read the hallmarks as being 1955 London Assay office, close to the end of the Wahl Eversharp company history.


Kiwi-d said...

I forgot to mention that the line drawings by each pencil are a quick sketch of the pattern engraved into the body of that pencil.

Anonymous said...

hi, I've got 2 eversharp pencils as well. just wondering whether they use 1.1mm or 0.9mm leads?

Anonymous said...

Dave I have a Gold filled Eversharp twist top the very top of the pencil is some form of plastic and bears the Number 3061C I am just trying to get a date of production, oh and made in USA in quite an ornate box, All the Best Paul

Anonymous said...

I recently received one marked Eversharp, 3015W & $2.50
I believe this was the model/tag
Las Plumas