Having just compiled the pens and writing equipment section of the new edition of the Miller's Collectables Price Guide (out next Spring), my love for Mordan's marvellous silver propelling pencils has been rekindled.
In 1822, Sampson Mordan patented the propelling pencil with fellow inventor John Hawkins. Mordan bought Hawkins out, and then sold half the rights to a wealthy stationer Gabriel Riddle in 1823. With Riddle's money, the ingenious and commerically minded Mordan was able to build his foundling company into the 19thC success story it was.
Marks matter, and can help with dating, especially when useful hallmarks aren't present. Pencils made from 1823-37, when Riddle and Mordan parted, usually bear an 'SM GR' hallmark and the words 'S.MORDAN & Cos PATENT'. From c1838 until the 1860s, the wording 'S.MORDAN & CO MAKERS & PATENTEES' was used, with 'S.MORDAN & CO MAKERS' dating from the 1850s-60s. After the 1860s, the standard 'S.MORDAN & CO' mark was used.
The silver pencil shown here has hallmarks for 1825, making it a very rare, very early surivor. As such its value will be around £200-300. And you can pretty much double that if it had been even earlier. Standard later examples from the late 19thC to early 20thC can be had for £30-80 or so, but look out for Mordan's late 19thC range of novelty shaped pencils. Forms included owls, pistols, champagne bottles and more, and values generally range from £200-800. Not a bad sum for something only inches in size!
Digital art at Alfies Antique Market
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