I remember a few years ago a prominent member of our pen community asked me, "Why don't you collect something that's worth something?"  When I answered, "Because I enjoy the things I collect," the answer sailed over his head and he walked away.  Apparently without a lively debate concerning the comparative values of his pens to my pencils (which he knew he would win), we didn't have much to talk about.

More recently, my wife (who is obviously a very patient woman) asked me "Why do you enjoy them?"   Now THAT was a tough one to answer, and I couldn't come up with just one, so here they are.

"Because I'm not done."  I've always had a collector's mentality.  I can acquire an object and enjoy it thoroughly, whether it be a book, a clock, a stapler or a motorcycle.  But if I find out that the object came in different versions, colors or styles, I'll pick up others if they become available, because they just look like they belong together.  Call me "Rain Man," but it bugs me a little bit not to have everything in its place, so if I have four out of the five, in my mind it's just not right that I don't have the fifth and I'm on the hunt for it.   Once I've got all of the variations of something, the fire inside me burns itself out and I get on with my life.   After more than 10 years of collecting mechanical pencils, I know I still haven't scratched the surface of what's out there, so there's more to hunt.

"Because I love a good story."  The people who made these pencils are as amazing as the pencils themselves.   Whether you're marveling at the accomplishments of Charles Keeran as an inventor, pitying the sad case of Joseph Starr or learning something from the spectacular rise and equally spectacular fall of Wahl Eversharp, mechanical pencils reflect as much as anything else the triumphs, failures and struggles of humanity.

"Because they are beautiful."  Sometimes, and more often now that I've built the "wall 'o' pencils," I just enjoy strolling back and forth and enjoying the colors and styles that were produced.  And unlike pens, many of which discolored over time with exposure to ink, the colors are mostly as vibrant as the day they were made.

"Because I'm a huge fan of Rube Goldberg."  If I handed you a stick of lead and said, "Think up 10 ways you could push this lead out of a tube," it would probably take you a while.  The fact is that inventors have concocted hundreds, if not thousands of ways to answer that question.  People dediciated their lives to this simple problem.

"Because I appreciate a good tool."  How many everyday objects can you think of that may have sat in a drawer for 90 years, that still function just as well as the day they were made?  Not many.  Pencils, unlike vintage pens, are maintenance free, with most of them lasting not just a lifetime, but several lifetimes.

But here's probably the real reason:

"Because I'm not done."  I've always had a collector's mentality.  I can acquire an object and enjoy it thoroughly, whether it be a book, a clock, a stapler or a motorcycle.  But if I find out that the object came in different versions, colors or styles, I'll pick up others if they become available, because they just look like they belong together.  Call me "Rain Man," but it bugs me a little bit not to have everything in its place, so if I have four out of the five, in my mind it's just not right that I don't have the fifth and I'm on the hunt for it.   Once I've got all of the variations of something, the fire inside me burns itself out and I get on with my life.   After more than 10 years of collecting mechanical pencils, I know I still haven't scratched the surface of what's out there, so there's more to hunt.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

  
 

 

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
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