PALMER CUSTOM CUES COMPANY
Maker of pool cues from 1964 to 1994 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The Palmer Custom Cues Company was founded in 1964, by Eugene Balner and his son, Peter, after ending a partnership with Frank Paradise the same year. Balner had escaped from Hungary with his wife and children in 1956, during the country´s communist revolution. A wood turner in Hungary, he was soon working in the United States at a company that made pool cues.
By 1961, Eugene Balner was a partner with Frank Paradise. Three years later, Balner was making cues right across the street. The name "Palmer" was inspired by Arnold Palmer, one of the most recognized names in sports at the time. Eugene felt the name Balner was not recognizable enough to be appropriate for the new company. Eventually, Eugene was more widely known as Gene Palmer.
The first Palmer catalog was introduced in 1965, and featured eleven cues and two cases. All of the cues were available with either a nickel silver or brass joint. The Paradise influence was obvious on these cues, especially on the ones with the Palmer name under clear plastic windows in the butt sleeves. Another feature influenced by Paradise was the availability of screw-off ferrules. None of the cues had bumpers, as Balner believed these to be features of lesser quality cues, and ten of the eleven had points.
The first line of cues proved to be very successful, and within a few years a new catalog was introduced. The second Palmer catalog featured thirteen new cues with letters for model designations ranging from Model A to Model M. The most visible change in these cues was that the butt caps were twice as long, but they still were without bumpers. The new cues also used a thicker joint that seated more securely, and Irish linen was being used more for the wrap. The most sought after cue from this line is the Model J, which has an ebony forearm and four maple points. Some of the blanks for this model were made by Gus Szamboti or Burton Spain, specifically for Palmer. This cue can give a collector the opportunity to own and appreciate the quality of a Gus Szamboti splice. The Model M was the most expensive and elaborate cue from this line. With winding veneers running down an ebony forearm, inlaid with mother-of-pearl dots and notched diamonds, this cue is one of the most recognizable production cues ever made.
Although these were production cues, Balner was able to make each one to the specifications of the individual customer. The company became so proficient at this that by the early seventies they were making approximately 200 cues per week.
In January of 1972, Eugene Balner passed away. His widow, Ilona, and son, Peter, were left to lead the company during its most productive years. At this time, the company´s only serious competitor in cue manufacturing was Viking, in Wisconsin, but by the early 1970s, several new companies such as McDermott, Meucci, Joss, and Adam were entering the market.
The next Palmer catalog met the competition with twenty new cues, now with bumpers and most with stainless steel joints. On these cues, less plastic was used, while exotic hardwoods were becoming more prevalent. The first eight-point cue was introduced and cues with blanks by Gus Szamboti were still available. Most of these blanks had bird´s-eye maple forearms, four ebony points, and black, orange, chartreuse, and maple veneers.
For Christmas of 1975, Palmer made 100 cues with Szamboti blanks that had black, red, blue, and white veneers to commemorate the upcoming bicentennial. The points on the Szamboti blank cues are much sharper and a little longer than on other Palmers, sometimes coming within 2 1/4 in. of the joint collar.
During the late 1970s and the 1980s, Palmer expanded its line of billiard supplies and increased its foreign markets. The company stopped making cues in 1994. Today, Peter Balner is CEO of the Palmer Video chain, which he started out of the Palmer billiard showroom in 1981.
Collectors are now acquiring Palmer cues, especially the ones from the first two catalogs. The early models with inlay work on the shafts seem to be the most popular. Many Palmer cues will have the original customer´s name under a clear plastic window in the butt sleeve. Palmer cues made for famous players such as Minnesota Fats are prized pieces in any collection, and are hard to evaluate because of their historical significance. In 1998, Peter Balner bought a percentage of CueSport, a cue manufacturing company in Sheffield, Massechusetts. There is talk of reintroducing the Palmer name with an all new line of American-made cues.
If you have questions about a Palmer cue that is in need of repair, contact Paul Rubino, listed in the Trademark Index.
Note: Palmer´s first and second catalogs are shown in color in the 2nd Edition Blue Book of Pool Cues.
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