BY DON FLUCKINGER • This year, the Boston pen show turned out pretty typical: I walked in thinking I’d limit my floor-combing to seeking just one part. I needed a gold-filled Crest ballpoint cap, with lines to make complete one pen I already had.
I came out of the Boston pen show with 18 pens and pencils, and no Crest cap.
Yet it was different this time. These weren’t just any pens. They were Wearevers. Formerly owned by Frank Dubiel. I probably overpaid for them (many veterans who just read this paragraph are probably guffawing to themselves, thinking I overpaid for them if I didn’t get them free).
|Frank was probably rolling in his grave witnessing his pens getting resold for something close to fair market value; Dubiel priced off-brand pens like other dealers priced Watermans.|
I’ve written about Frank Dubiel in this space before. He rightfully earned his “cranky Franky” moniker thanks to his temperamental displays at collector conclaves, as well as his seemingly constant screeds on Internet message boards. He died suddenly in December 2003 of a heart attack.
Those of us who hung out with him knew he had a kind side, a mentoring type who liked to share his knowledge and experience with collectors who sought it out beneath the crusty New England face he put on to the general public.
His Wearevers were, uh, reflective of the man: Rough around the edges. Some parts will need replacement, some cracks will need filling. If he were still around, I’d curse him (or whoever did it) for polishing some of the gold plate — or fake gold wash, technically, on some models — off of some nibs and trim.
Richard will love spending time on these babies; while some are simple restoration projects, others will be downright brutal. Nothing in Dubiel’s famous “Da Book” will make things any easier.
Yet, I feel a profound sense of stewardship to these junkers. Dubiel saw the intrinsic value of these pens when no one else did. He was writing about them online, although no one paid much attention (or if they did, thought “what a nut this guy is” while skimming over his articles).
I still believe (here’s the part where you call me nuts) that the pen-collecting world’s going to come around to Wearever Deluxe 100s, Deluxes, Pacemakers, Zeniths, and even the lowly Pennants. They’ll never be esteemed like the Hundred Year Pen or the Doric, but I’m certain they’ll be perceived at least as “highly” as the Sheaffer Admiral, Parker “21”-type pens, or even WASPs. Especially since, along with those models I just named, there were a few outliers to make things more interesting. This pen looks like a prototype. I hadn’t ever seen one like it before, and neither had Richard. It’s going to end up in Richard’s collection.
Frank would agree with me, I’m sure. He certainly did his part promoting them to the hobby.
The collector who bought them at the Saturday auction let me cherry-pick them Sunday morning. While that was going on he remarked that “Frank was probably rolling in his grave” witnessing his pens getting resold for something close to fair market value, a subtle reference to the fact that Dubiel liked to price trays loaded with off-brand pens the way other dealers priced trays full of Watermans.
We had a laugh, and then he said quite seriously that he was happy to have found one of the few Wearever collectors who could appreciate these much-maligned cheapo treasures. To maintain some kind of generational hobby continuity. If most any other dealer would say that to me I’d assume it sales tactic preying on my sentimental side and I’d fire back a sarcastic rejoinder, Dubiel style. But I knew this guy genuinely meant it.
I left most of Frank’s Wearevers behind. I have a lot of what I want in my collection already courtesy of New England’s junk shops and flea markets, but it was nice to fill some holes. It’s difficult to find Wearever pencils out there in the wild, and I did pick up a half dozen mates to pens I already had, and for that I was psyched.
In the end, I’m not into the Wearevers to build the definitive collection. I just want to create a nice set of working pens that write well, don’t leak, and won’t dry out. And, I’ve learned, I need pens that I can carry every day that can survive a trip through the washing machine, and if they don’t, no one’s going to cry too much about it.
Judging by the pens I saw at the Boston show, Frank was more of a completist type than I. But still, I know, he’d appreciate the fact that I consider these Wearevers worthy of using daily along side my Parkers, Sheaffers, Waterman’s, and Pelikans. And I’ll enjoy knowing that a small piece of one of my Wearever mentor’s collection lives on in my own.
Further Reading: Legacy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal History, by Linda Spence
Tired of reading other people’s hobby stories because yours is far more interesting — but you just don’t know where to start when putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)? Get a jump-start with this useful reference.
|Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site.|