“It was a fateful moment for me when I met Terry Mawhorter as the Don Scott Antique Show in 1999. I had stopped by his booth liking for a green "Majestic" pencil to match the brown one I had found, and my budget was one dollar.
Terry patiently helped me sort though his junk box looking for one, then asked – just as patiently – if I would like to see something "a little more special". He pulled an oversize Wahl Eversharp Doric I in Kashmir Green from his showcase and handed it to me. Of course, I fell in love with it and bought it. Of course, I paid an awful lot more than a buck for it. Of course, I started wondering what else might be out there.
And of course, I started finding and buying more… lots more. Whenever I would find a box of pens and pencils and there were one or two I liked in it, I'd buy the box.
Eventually, I had enough leftovers to start exhibiting at pen shows. My collection grew from a shoebox, to a bigger box, to a small cabinet, to a printer's cabinet. Unlike many collectors, I've never parted with my "beginner" finds (my brown Majestic and Kashmir Doric are both still in my possession and in this book), so as my collection grew, it became increasingly difficult to stay organized and remember what I had.
I tried making up a "want list", but I'd go to a pen show and find 50 things, not one of which was on my list (only because I had no idea they existed). I switched over to a list of what I already had so I wouldn't buy any more duplicates, but the subtle variations that interest me were too difficult to itemize on a black and white list.
So, I bought a cheap digital camera and started taking pictures of what I had, printing them off, and taking them to shows in a binder. That worked for a while, but I was having to reshoot pictures after every show, and the binder was getting heavier and heavier to carry around.
In 2008, when I hired a web designer to create an internet website for my law practice, I had an idea. "Exactly how many pictures can I post on here" ? I asked, trying to sound as innocent as I could. As many as I want ? Aha!
Free of space (and weight) constrains, I photographed everything and posted all the pictures on the internet, so I could see what I had from my mobile phone. I called it the "Mechanical Pencils Museum". Eventually it became more than a picture gallery, as I added notes and other information about the different brands. By the spring of 2010 I had more then 250 different pages indexed and thousands of pencils to display. The project continues to evolve, and I am frequently adding updates concerning new discoveries and additional information.
These days, I spend close to an hour a day answering questions and emails, sometimes from experiences collectors, but other times from people who stumbled across my website looking for information about a pencil they found in grandpa's desk. The most common I hear is "what is worth" ?.
I decided to take a break from updating the Mechanical Pencil Museum in August 2011, and I began to distill the information I had complied on the website into book form. I reshot nearly all of the pictures, including nearly all of those first few primitive pictures originally posted in 2008-2009, and rewrote all the articles.
And, I have added a price guide.
My goal was to create the most comprehensive book I could about the American mechanical pencil, but it is simply impossible to write "THE" definitive book on the subject; there's too much out there that I have yet to learn and discover. This is, however, everything I know about the subject as of August, 2011, and to my knowledge it is the first time anyone's tried to compile a comprehensive guide to the American mechanical pencil. It is neither perfect nor complete, but I think it's a great start and I hope it will provide novices, dealers and experienced collectors alike something they can use and enjoy.
Tomorrow, of course, I'm likely to discover a beat up pencil in a flea market junk box that proves something I've said in this book is totally and absolutely…. Wrong.
I like that"
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