What Price Pencil?

As recently as not long ago, I wrote about pencils and pens. I reiterated a promise to myself that I would not spend my money on expensive writing tools.

Well, so much for THAT noise coming out of my talker. Behold, my three-pack of Blackwing pencils. (Photo above.)

In “Me and Things” I wrote,

Pencils, too. I am probably the ideal Blackwing 602 customer, but I like money more. A 12-pack of the pencil—oh! Look at those gorgeous creations to our right!—will set a customer back approximately $21 either online or in person at Barner Books in New Paltz. (Full disclosure: I have nothing to disclose and no business interests with Barner Books other than it is one of my favorite bookshops.) That is a lot of money for a mere dozen pencils, eight of which I might very well ignore for the length of forever because of my personal writing tool superstition. Thus, even though I have held a Blackwing 602 only one time so far in my life, and I indeed drooled over its swift action on the page, I have not purchased a set and I tell myself that it is because these Blackwings are knockoffs made by a company that bought the naming rights and these are not the classic pencils themselves.

This was not a lie, as I meant it when I wrote it and I had not been in the above-named bookshop in a couple of years. It was as true as daylight waking a rooster. But upon walking through the shop’s doors last Friday evening, a package of three Blackwings leapt into my hands. Okay, that right there is a lie. Upon walking through the shop’s doors, I made a beeline for the Blackwing display that memory told me would still be in place. Seven dollars and fifty cents later, I have three extra-special pencils. They are so special I am typing with them. (That is a fib, also.)

Are they special? Yes. As the three-pack is a variety sampler to whet one’s appetite for the possibility of investing a large sum in a 21-pack of one or the other type of pencil, the packaging itself explains: the “602” (the gray one, which is the one I have sharpened) is “firm and smooth,” the “Pearl” (white) is “balanced,” and the one at the bottom, the unnamed black one (the classic Blackwing) is “soft and smooth.” I have a straight face while typing this, but I also acknowledge that this language could be employed to describe anything from golf clubs to bullets to wines.

I am also aware, as I wrote last week, that there is a Blackwing pencil controversy, in that these are not made by the original company nor with precisely the identical materials. The brand name, “Blackwing,” is for writers something akin to what “Ferrari” is for drivers, so the company that bought the name did a lot (but not everything) to replicate the product. I still have not held an original Blackwing pencil in my undeserving hands. A 12-pack of original Eberhard Faber Blackwings in their original packaging is available on eBay today for $599. (Economy shipping, though!)

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This first appeared last fall.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 22 asks us to reflect on the word, “Price.”

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