(This page published August 1, 2011)
|This elegant Wahl-Eversharp advertisement in the December 12, 1936, issue of The Saturday Evening Post features a special gift set (gold-filled fountain pen and repeater pencil) priced at $15.00.|
Pocket jewelry to the max. As the country climbed out of the Great Depression, pen makers sought new ways to place their wares firmly in the public eye (and pocket). In 1936, the Wahl Company apparently saw luxury on the horizon, and for Christmas that year the company created a new model line wrapped in precious metal. Advertising for the new model boldly proclaimed “GOLD IS BACK!”
Unlike the Equi-Poised and the Doric, which were still very successful but were by then seven and five years old, respectively, the new pen seems to have borne no name — until about 1939, when Wahl’s marketing people put together a special version of the line for sale only through jewelers. In the advertising that it aimed at jewelers and in its packaging for the jewelry-shop line, the company dubbed the line Coronet, and that is the name by which collectors today know these pens.
Whether Coronet or no-name, the pen was as bold as the “GOLD IS BACK!” claim, and it lasted in Wahl’s line into 1941. Based on a pencil design done for Eversharp by famed stylist Alfonso Iannelli (U.S. Patent No D103,402 for the body and U.S. Patent No D104,687 for the clip), it embodied the pinnacle of Art Deco styling — probably better than any other pen before or since — as echoes of the iconic Chrysler Building abound in its straight lines, angles, and geometric cutouts through which peeks “Pyralin trim” in marbled Dubonnet Red (pictured below) or black.
The Coronet appeared as a gold-filled all-metal pen, and in versions with a gold-filled or rhodium-plated cap and a celluloid barrel in Black or Green Shell; and there was a full line of matching repeater pencils. The lineup for the versions sold to jewelers was slightly different from that for ordinary retailers, and jewelers actually paid a slight price premium. (The gold-filled pens retailed at $10.00 to the general market, but in jewelry shops they were priced at $12.50.) Shown here is a Green Shell “Half Coronet,” as modern collectors often call the version with a celluloid barrel:
Note the distinctly less dramatic decoration on the Half Coronet (U.S. Patent No D103,403, also by Iannelli): the “windows” through which the celluloid trim is visible are square and fewer in number than their triangular counterparts on the all-metal pen. This differentiation carried through to the companion pencils as well. The jewelers’ all-metal pen is also less highly decorated than the regular retail version; it has the row of interleaved equilateral triangular cutouts at the cap crown, but it lacks the dramatic row of elongated triangles immediately above the clip.
The Coronet featured Wahl’s Safety Ink Shut-Off, and all of the models in the jewelers’ line came with the Self-Fitting Point, which was adjustable in steps from very firm to very flexible. All Coronets were lever fillers; Wahl referred to the system as a “lever-vac filling mechanism” and asserted that it held “an amazing amount of ink.”
|This photo was produced by Iannelli Studios for Wahl.|
Departing from the custom of the time, Wahl made the Coronet in only one size. All-metal pens are approximately 5" long capped and 5" posted, and pens with celluloid barrels are the same length capped but post at about 6".
The Bad News
Coronets are rare these days, and they are correspondingly expensive. At least part of their rarity, at least insofar as the all-metal pens are concerned, is that their construction is slightly different from that of ordinary pens; the section and the clear portion of the barrel are a single piece that must be removed from the barrel when the pen needs resacking. Attempting to separate the section from the threaded part will break the pen, and doubtless no small number of Coronets have died in this manner. There seems always to be an exception, however, and the exception to this rule is a small number of pens made probably in 1938–1939, in which the section is fitted into the barrel in the usual manner. This ambiguity adds to the potential for disaster.
The most likely, and most noticeable, defect on all-metal Coronets is a posting ring that can be very severely disfiguring if the pen has seen a lot of use.
The Half Coronet, on the other hand, has less problem with a posting ring because its celluloid barrel gives slightly as the pen is posted. Also, the Half Coronet is built in the usual manner, with the section separate from the barrel and easily removable for repair.
Further aggravating the Coronet’s problem of survival is the tendency of the celluloid trim in the cap and at the front end of the barrel to crystallize. Pens with Dubonnet Red marbled trim are more desirable than those with black; but because the Dubonnet Red material is much more frangible than the black, Dubonnet Red-trimmed pens are rarer and (consequently) more costly.
Being a metal pen, the Coronet lacked a color palette as such. The Half Coronet, whose barrel was celluloid, on the other hand, sneaked through with a limited two-color palette.
|Colors of the Half Coronet|
The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information. My thanks to Wojciech J. Osetkowsky, who provided some of the information and photos used in this article.