Pen Profiles and Essays
Wahl-Eversharp: King of
|It was eight years ago, Spring 2010.
Just home from a hectic night shift at the hospital up in Syracuse, I
perused my email before hitting bed. Spotted a subject line, “Old
Pen Collection Estate For Sale”. That caught my eye. I really like buying pen collections. I had no way though to know this would lead me to the King of the Flamingos.
It was a student who had emailed me. Apparently his Grandpa had salted away pens for decades, a casual sideline to his antiques restoration business. He’d owned no pen books, but had a couple vintage sales display cases and about 1000 pens. Yeah... 1000 pens. I wrote back noting I'd have to inspect the collection, one way or the other, in person or by mail. I suggested he send some photos at least to see if travel or shipping even had potential. I told him I worked in Syracuse but was based in Manhattan. Was he located anywhere near either city? He wrote back that he was a student at Syracuse University but that family and pens were to be found in Manhattan's east side. What are the odds?
Purchasing pen collections can be tricky. I knew I’d need to assess both the pens and owner expectations. Too few collections comprise superb 1920s-1940s Parkers, Sheaffers, Wahl-Eversharps, Watermans, Conklins, Chiltons and the like. Most accumulations turn out to be worn and even broken low-tier pens— Wearevers, Arnolds, Avons and similar— the sort that turns up in "discount" boxes at pen shows. And even collections composed of solid material sometimes have owners seeking full retail on each pen. Doesn’t work that way when selling large collections to dealers.
We planned to get together at the owner's brownstone about 40 blocks from my own place in the Upper West Side, and we discussed expectations. I understood the family might turn down my offer for the collection, but I needed at least a bit of compensation for sorting their 1000 pens and providing basic appraisal. At the very least I wanted option to buy one pen of my choice at reasonable cost. at the time of inital appraisal/assessment. They agreed.
We met. It was hot. There was no air conditioning. I spent six hours in humid 85 degree heat sorting 1000 mostly worn and often broken Wearevers, Arnolds, Avons and similar. Sigh. I clustered the pens in boxes based on quality, cachet, brand and value. A bit more than ten percent were “good” brands, though most of those were humble models/variants in at best so-so condition. Perhaps 50-70 decent (not spectacular) pens turned up, most in moderately worn condition. I calculated value.
There was some decent stuff in the hoard
The family eventually did accept my offer for the hoard, but on that day they noted they were not yet ready to commit. As we wrapped up the session, they noted having one last group of pens to explore, Grandpa’s “good stuff” stored in a 1920s Waterman’s sales case that had two sliding doors. We slid one door open. Not bad. A few nice Mabie-Todds, some large Moores, A couple “Big Red” Parker Duofolds. We slid open the other door and I spotted a quite worn Waterman Patrician (still a significant pen) and a couple Sheaffer Balances.
But, what I saw as the sliding door in the Waterman display case cleared the very last pen caused a double take, a skipped heart beat and then frank palpitations. The last pen was the largest celluloid Wahl-Eversharp “flat-top”, the Personal Point Gold Seal pen that collectors call the Deco Band. The color? Flamingo! I was stunned. My one-pen reward for the day’s work, I gleefully bought the King of the Flamingos and took it home with me. Happy David.
Wahl-Eversharp was a top tier pen maker during collectible pendom's Golden Age. As noted in my profile on this color (click here), Flamingo is a storied color in Wahl collecting. No other pen maker used it. Wahl did catalogue the color in 1932 for some slender streamlined (non Gold Seal) Equi-Poised models. The color is tough to find even for that series. But where it gets a bit crazy is with the Gold Seal Personal Point flat-top pens, a cluster that was catalogued and advertised by Wahl 1929-1930, but not in Flamingo. Off-catalogue Flamingo flat-tops do turn up, remarkably rare things. Why these were made-- what market niche they served-- could take a separate essay and won't be addressed here. All four flat-top Gold Seal sizes are known in Flamingo, though in the past twenty years literally just a few of each have turned up.
Factoring in the cachet of hefty size and dramatic trim, there can be no doubt that the oversized flat-top Flamingo-- the Decoband-- is the King of the Flamingos. It is at least high royalty in any Wahl context, perhaps the King of all Wahls, today outpricing solid gold Wahls and other anomalies and Wahl rarities. I've seen or know of perhaps four or five pens during my twenty years collecting.
By 2010 I'd been collecting twelve years, hunting Flamingos for perhaps seven or eight years. I had a modest focused or mini collection of Wahls in that color. I had harbored no hope of owning the oversized flat-top in that color. Finding the Flamingo Deco-Band at the very end of six hours sorting a thousand mostly low-end pens no doubt was one of the high points of my 20 years in our hobby. Great fountain pens still are out there. Keep your eyes open.
--Click for Wahl Flamingo pen profile--
This 2018 essay is based on my 2016 article for Pen World Magazine