Saturday, August 15, 2009

She Came, She Saw, She Ebayed


You might not call it by the name "propelling pencil" or "mechanical pencil" but you're sure to have seen them. They've been around since Victorian times - those pencils where, as you use the lead, more is pushed forward by a slider or a switch or a turny knob. Saves you having to sharpen them. When I was a kid there was a phase of your auntie from Mississauga sending you one for Christmas. They were made of plastic and had three nibs - red, green and blue - that you could choose between with the shove of a switch. Until you accidentally pushed two at once, the thing jammed, and you couldn't even use it to write your thank you letters on Boxing Day. So much promise, so little delivery. (So like presents from aunties generally, in my sad experience. If you have an auntie who gives
good presents, cherish her - she's not the norm!)

You can't really see it very well from the seller's picture but THIS is a beautiful silver propelling pencil from 1876, with a screw top to push the lead forward, and a gorgeous swirling pattern incised all over - AND IT'S MINE! The feisty main character in The Slightly Jones Mysteries has just such a mechanical pencil - the Victorians loved gadgets almost as much as my boys - and I had idly thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to get hold of one myself?" A thought followed immediately by "I expect they're REALLY expensive!"

Normally, they are.

And then I braved Ebay! I dipped my toes more than once, but the dealers aren't stupid, and my cautious bids kept getting blown out of the water by people who knew exactly how much profit there would be for them through their bijou antique shop markup. (Yes, there are people out there who collect pencils ...) And then I got my lucky break. The seller put the closing time at 8pm on a Sunday evening, and most of the dealers must have been out having a life somewhere, because there were only 7 bids all told - and I got it for £10.! YAHOO! (As in YIPPEE, not as in computer search thing.)

My Victorian pencil still has working Victorian lead in it, but I won't be using it to write thank you letters or anything else. I just like to look at it. It'll be good as a prop for school events too, of course, but I won't be putting it down as an allowable expense come income tax time. Really, I just bought it for me.

Cheers, Joan.


At 1:07 PM, Blogger Joan Lennon said...

This is to thank Glen for his recent comment on an earlier post - "Can You Use the Word Legerdemain in a Sentence?" - Wed. Feb.13 2008, to be exact! If you'd like to see what it was, you'll have to scroll down some!



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