Blindly looking through a cardboard box Continue reading
I like to visit garage sales, and estate sales, and thrift stores, and a bunch of other sales. There are many things I like about these places/events, but one of my favorite is finding interesting things I never even knew existed, especially if I can use or display them in an interesting way.
I found one such set of things at an estate sale. I was generally looking around. There was a lot of stuff, but most of it I wasn’t interested in, though that’s sometimes a good thing because it makes me pay attention to find what I want. I was looking in the glassware, which is something I don’t usually do, and I saw a set of glasses with city names on them, and interesting graphics. I liked a few in particular, but I hate to split a set, so I bought them all.
The glasses themselves were interesting, but I couldn’t figure out the theme. I soon started looking for them online. I can’t help but look for stories in what I buy. I can sometimes accept that a Chinese deck of cards has no story, but not glasses like these, even though in this case I could find no information. This is a problem I typically run into (and one I ran into more recently in reverse when I tried to find Chinese chess sets). I just don’t use the right words in my searches. And the glasses (or most items really) provided no information as to what they were.
In these cases I usually resort to Google image search and try to identify what I have visually. I finally came across a helpful blog post (Link) discovered they were Libbey Cities of the World series glasses, the tumbler version of sets that included “Old Fashioned” and goblet versions. But I was intrigued. I don’t like finding out a partial story, and the set of glasses I kept seeing had Havana in it, but my set has Nassau. I did more digging and discovered that the “theme” of the glasses was the world’s fair, but that’s pretty loose, and I ended up digging back through 50’s back issues of the Libbey catalogue (fortunately available online from the company) to find when they came out. I found out the year they came out (I’ve forgotten now: great article, Austin!) and that they did indeed originally have Havana on all three sets of glassware.
Eventually, after more digging, and even more (I’m bad at using the internet, so things like this take me a long time) I found that the glass sets waned in popularity late in the 50’s and early 60’s. The non-tumbler versions were discontinued and when the Cuban revolution happened, and Havana was bad press, they replaced the city (with a comparable one). So my set is a “complete” set of the rarer version of a fairly rare set of glassware (really only rare because glasses tend to break). I’ve seen a couple photos of “complete” collections of the early lines, but they don’t have Nassau, and that makes me feel quite special. To have a really complete set of 8, you need 9, but that would make display a little awkward.
So, from one purchase I had an afternoon’s worth of fun sorting through the internet, and I had a fairly unique set of glasses, and now I have an article. I do plan on using the glasses, though not heavily, or at parties like I read online some people did (I couldn’t stand it if they got broken, especially by someone who isn’t me). Not that I won’t let people use them, glasses are meant to be used, just not these ones at parties. And they’ll make a great conversation piece. Hopefully I don’t hear too many opinions about the Cuban revolution because of them. I’d also love to get the full set with Havana, and the other two styles at some point. I guess I’ll just have to keep my eyes peeled. I might even write a little update.
When I’m collecting fountain pens, there is a certain type of fountain pen that I think is interesting. And that is the obscure pen. While it’s nice to find a well-known good pen (I’ve found several Parkers and Crosses) and some rare pens (see those Parkers), there are several pens that I’ve found through my collecting that I can’t find any information on beyond that the pen exists.
This used to be the case with many Chinese pens, like Hero and Jinhao brand, but recently those pens and facts about them have become more well known. But there are still a great many pens with an unknown history behind them. Some are even obscurely being produced today. Like the Camel (camali)1968 pen which was “discovered” by my brother in our Aunt’s possession. A lot of internet hunting later I found the pen on eBay from a seller that apparently had loads of them, so I bought 10 for what would be the price of a decent western pen. Later, I even found a green one floating around from the same seller. But now there are none there.
Beyond the examples my brother and I have, I haven’t seen or really heard of this pen (there is a thread on the fountain pen network that was posted around the same time as I was looking for the pens that doesn’t contain any more information, just that they are indeed pens for sale). The pen has no backstory, and unknown manufacturer, and is only available some of the time, and for that reason it fascinates me. I love it.
Another pen like this that I just found recently is a Marksman pen (there is a modern brand called Marksman, they are not the same) The pen simply says Marksman and Korea (which I assume is the country it was made in). The nib says nothing, but it does have an archer stamped into it. It appears to be a fine, and maybe even an extra-fine, but again, I have nothing to go on. There is a thread on this type of pen (apparently there were a few more models) but again, it just shows that the pens exist, and no one at the moment seems to know where they came from (other than Korea) and what happened to them. From the thread I learned one thing: that I am lucky my pen still has a center ring that can easily come off when taking the pen apart to refill it, as the other pen I saw that was similar to mine didn’t have this part.
Both of these pens have no manufacturer that I know of (well, I can’t figure out if the names are the manufacturer or the model), no history that can be easily found, are found intermittently, and are both surprisingly good writers.
To some people this lack of detail may be infuriating, and others just might not care, but for me it makes me want to dive deeper into pens, to find out more about what these pens are and where they came from. These little mysteries don’t so much bug me as they make me want to move forward, because if someone does know everything about these pens that there is to know, they aren’t telling anyone right now, and finding the answers will still be just as rewarding.