As a collector it can be difficult to stay focussed in one specific collecting area without eventually coming across something that nudges you into making a slight detour before getting back on track. While the main focus of my collection is victorian era writing equipment (ie. pencils, pens, inkwells), I have on occasion succumbed to the lure of writing equipment from more recent times. The usual thought process involved goes along the lines of – “Hmmm, it’s not 19th century but it really looks interesting!”, or “Crap, I must be old ’cause I remember those, I think I’d like to have one!” This particular detour has to do with beer … and pencils.
During the 1940’s-1960’s the now ubiquitous ballpoint pen had not yet found its footing in society and the lowly mechanical pencil was still a very common portable writing instrument. Companies of the day resorted to a variety of advertising techniques to help raise brand awareness, one of which was to produce pencils that promoted their products in a way that was memorable, and quite often a little corny or tacky (in a clever, 50’s kind of way).
Here are a few beer related pencils from that period…
Carling’s Red Cap Ale – This is one of my favourites. The Carling’s Red Cap television ads were always pretty cool when I was a kid (here’s one of them). This “Red Cap” floater pencil has a tiny beer bottle and a tiny red hat that is intended to be a simple game of landing the hat on top of the bottle. The pencil was made by the Secretary Pen Co. of Union, New Jersey. The barrel is inscribed “Try Light & Mellow Carling’s Red Cap Ale”.
Ballantine’s Export Beer – Around the time when this pencil was made, Ballantine was the #3 selling beer in the U.S., and they were also the first company to become a television sponsor of the New York Yankees. As the American desire for lighter lagers gained ground, the Ballantine brand slowly disappeared. More recently, Pabst reintroduced a Ballantine IPA as their entry into the craft beer market. This floater pencil has a ring toss game in the upper chamber, consisting of a miniature bottle of Ballantine’s Export, along with 3 tiny red rings. The pencil was made by the Progressive Pen Co. (which was apparently the same company as Secretary Pen Co.). The barrel is inscribed “Wilsbach Distributors, 7th & Maclay Streets, Harrisburg, PA.”
Coors Beer – The Coors floater pencil was made by Ritepoint, and is a decade or two newer than the two above. The barrel is imprinted with the Coors logo, along with “Brewed with Pure Rocky Mountain Spring Water”. The miniature bottle of beer is actually filled with liquid.
Mid-20th century advertising pencils are fairly common and they are generally quite reasonably priced as a collectible. Although they don’t have the same level of appeal to me as the much earlier victorian pencils do, they still regularly find their way into my collection, as I’m sure will become evident in some future blogs.