All is Vanity

Whenever I think I’ve discovered a new species of pencil, I look it up on Bobby Truby’s amazing website: Brand Name Pencils. I’m usually hoping–somewhat guiltily–that I won’t find  the pencil listed there.

My current, arbitrary marker of pencil rarity is “If Bobby Truby doesn’t have it, it’s rare!” And if you’ve been on his site, you know what I mean. If you haven’t been on his site, do yourself a favor and check out Brand Name Pencils as soon as you finish reading this.

The site catalogs hundreds, maybe thousands, of pencils, organized by brand name, model name, model number, and sometimes, country of manufacture. Each pencil has a gorgeous scanned image. Many can be clicked for a closeup view. On the closeup view page, sometimes you’ll find “variants,” or interesting notes about the pencil.

The monk-like devotion and fastidiousness that must go into producing a site like this are truly awe-inspiring. And the variety of pencil names and colors and designs is just beautiful. I could scroll through a hundred miles of this…

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 3.09.06 PM

It’s very rare that I don’t find the pencil I’m looking for on Brand Name Pencils. In fact, it’s only happened once, with a “Sears” pencil.

Sears

I emailed Bobby about it and he explained that he doesn’t collect those. Sears isn’t a pencil manufacturer, so technically the Sears pencil is what’s known as a “vanity” pencil. A pencil manufacturer made the pencil, and then Sears just put their name on it, the same way a heating company or tomato grower’s union gets their name and number printed on a pencil.

I think it’s a neat specimen though. It’s the only pencil I’ve come across with a brown band around the ferrule, which gives the pencil a lovely, earthy look. And I’ve never seen a pencil with such precisely measured lead hardness...

Two point…six!?!?

Really?

[Grabs pencil. Writes thoughtfully, breathing audibly through nose.]

Hmmm…It does seem just a tad harder than a two point five…Well!

This also happens to be the only pencil in my collection with lead described in any other way than “hard” or “soft” The word “firm,” in all lowercase here, lends a certain quaintness to the proceedings.

And did you notice “Sears” has just the “S” capitalized? It’s so much nicer than the modern, all-caps, shouting version: SEARS!!!

(This little bit of trivia could probably help date the pencil.)

And what about “LEADBOND?” Now that’s a one-word poem.

If all this wasn’t enough, though it probably is, we finally have an answer to the age-old question:

“Now is that a real pencil or is that a Sears pencil?”

[Scratches goatee. Smiles mischievously. Plays 18-minute guitar solo.]

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