Look at this wall of crap. I’ve been visiting these bags at least once a week, for about two years. It’s the only place I can semi-regularly find old pencils for sale. And it’s right next to the book section at my local SAVERS thrift store, which happens to be just a few minutes away from the music store where I work. So, this crap is vehehehry convenient.

During our recent move, I gathered up all my bags of old pencils from SAVERS. Some were “stashed” under the seats of my car. Others were “stowed” in bottom drawers of bureaus. They were cached in various spots around the apartment. Once they were all in one place, I was surprised by how much of it there was. I now confess, my collection of crap fills a jumbo milk crate…


What’s even weirder than accumulating all this stuff is the fact that I haven’t opened a single one of the bags.

Because whenever I get one, I imagine writing a lovely little paragraph about it. Each bag tells a story, or at least hints at one. Sometimes I think I get a feel for the person who used to own the pencils. I’m afraid to open the bags before I write their stories.

Take a look at this one. You can see an enormous, oversized ferrule on one of the pencils–which is a very rare find.


In the same bag as the big-ferrule pencil, we find a breathtaking pink Futura pencil, which is the pencil-collecter’s equivalent of finding vintage Corvette with no miles on it.

Still in the same bag, there are some old vanity pencils for a Heating Oil Company. At the time I bought this bag, Dover was twenty miles away. Now it’s my hometown, and I can get to 81 Broadway on foot in a few minutes. I think I should take a stroll over there sometime. Check things out. Maybe I’ll bring one of these pencils along. Who knows what kinds of adventures might ensue?

There are a few different designs for the same oil company. I wonder if this batch came from a loyal customer, or maybe from someone who worked there?


Here’s another bag. This one has a few specimens of a pencil I’ve never seen anywhere else: The Rippowam No. 2. Who thought this was a good name for a pencil, and why? How many of these are left on the planet earth?


And look at the odd, old font on this Dixon “Laddie.” Do they make jumbo pencils anymore? I remember using them in first grade, when we were Learning To Write. We drew giant upper- and lowercase H’s on enormous sheets of paper. We used big red pencils.


The pencils often come bundled with other items. I think I have four calculators mixed in with my collection. When I finally open all the bags, I’ll probably be donating lots of stuff back to SAVERS, where it will end up on the wall again. [Insert Elton John singing "The Circle of Crap"]


I remember seeing this bag of miscellaneous junk from about twenty yards away. When I noticed the nice, old, brown ,wooden ruler, I thought to myself, Bingo!


Sure enough, the bag with the old ruler contains a whole bunch of weird, wonderful, old pencils, including the jumbo-ferruled “Topper.”

Along for the ride are some crayons, markers, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, a crazy, green-haired figurine…


In the same bag, there’s a pencil that’s been converted into to a paintbrush. So frugal and resourceful!


I guess somebody dumped grandma’s junk drawer into a plastic bag and stuck a price tag on it. Then some schmoe on his lunch break bought it, saved it for a few years, and one day the schmoe finally blogged about it. And then–grandmother of all absurdities–someone read about it! 

Thanks for being someone. It’s gotta be a stretch to read about unopened bags of second hand crap. Let me tell you it’s a stretch to write about them too. I keep wondering, Am I wasting my time?

I think I’m incredibly stingy for not ripping these bags open, tossing all the pencils in a shoebox, and using them without a second thought. But maybe it’s just as stingy not to spend time worrying about the secret histories of bags of pencils. Maybe it’s even stingier to feel like I don’t have enough energy to “waste” on “trivial” things.


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