Personal effects, Sept. 30

Published 8:27 am Monday, October 2, 2017


Question: Jerry, I enjoy your articles every week, thank you. I’ve decided that after years of collecting I’m going to start breaking up some of my collections. Not all of them. I’ve collected these pencils for years. Most of these date to the early 1900s. What I’ve sent to you are only some of my collection. 

These are gold filled and sterling. I do have some in solid gold, but those I’ll be keeping. They are made by various manufacturers. All are in excellent working condition. What can I expect to sell these for? Thanks for your time.

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Answer: What a great collection. I love these pencils. We say mechanical pencils but the English call them propelling pencils. Basically, it’s a pencil with a replaceable and mechanically extending solid pigment core called lead or more properly graphite, housed in a casing of some type. 

Some times, they are called automatic, drafting, technical and clutch pencils. The earliest extant example of a mechanical pencil was found aboard the wreckage of the HMS Pandora, which sank in 1791.

You’re right, the pencils that you have date to the 1890s to the early 1900s. This seems to be the golden era of the mechanical pencil. In regard to the makers, there are literally dozens and dozens of manufacturers. Many long since gone.

In addition, you’ll find, as I’m sure that you already have, there were different thicknesses, hardness and colors of “lead”, types of cases and manufacturers that were available. 

Most of what you’ve shown me were for the gentleman to tuck into their vest pockets or hang from their watch chains, or ladies to have in their handbags or hanging from the chains of a chatelaine. 

There are just as many mechanical pencils that were for the desk tops. But yours are cool because they are small and so interesting. Value — this is a tricky one. A lot is going to depend on the maker. A pencil by Cartier and one by Eversharp will have extremely different values. I think in the retail venue you’ll find pencils like yours priced from $25 – $50 each. It’s just going to be dependent upon maker and the case. Also bear in mind, that a fair market value will be about half that value. What a great collection. Thank you for sharing it with us.