Eberhard Faber retail display case, ca. 1930.
From The Pencil by Henry Petroski:
“One of the problems faced by pencil makers and dealers was handling the enormous variety of pencil styles necessary to match the competition. No dealer could display them all, and no manufacturer could advertise them all. It was Eberhard Faber’s plan to standardize the demand for pencils so that dealers could meet 90 percent of it through the pencil assortment in a newly designed counter cabinet.” (p. 290-291).
This is the only thing I can connect to this display, but I can’t say for certain. I haven’t seen this cabinet anywhere else, either in catalogs or just online in general. But if anyone has some further information on this item, or perhaps maybe even a catalog image/reference to share, please let me know.
Each shelf has an item’s catalog number and price, and this is the first period item I’ve seen with examples of retail prices. The space on the far left is longer than the others, and the label indicates that it was for the Microtomic 601—which was a longer pencil owing to its extended ferrule. But look at the price: 40¢! For the 1930s that must have been pretty steep, especially since it was the Great Depression—it seems almost too hard to believe. Though I think this display predates the Blackwing (1934), imagine what its price might have been if the Microtomic was 40¢. Even in the 1980s and 1990s it was between 50¢ and 75¢. (See comments for more about the currency.)
I can’t say how long this display was in use, but even if we allowed for 20 years, 40¢ for an eraser-tipped Microtomic seems like a lot. Up to the 1960s you could still buy 3 Eberhard Faber eraser-tipped Mongols for 49¢.
It would be an interesting project to find samples of all the pencils and erasers listed and complete the case.
Addendum: Using an online “inflation calculator”, 40¢ in 1930 dollars is roughly equivalent to $5.39 today, which raises some interesting questions about the actual time period and currency those prices reflect.