How much is an original Blackwing 602 worth?
The value (and demand) of this vintage pencil has never been higher.
What determines the cash value of something is basic economics: An object’s value is equal to the highest amount someone is willing to pay for it. Not a penny more, and not a penny less. This principle is true with real estate, used cars, and just about anything else — including pencils.
In the case of the original Blackwing 602, the reason they can be so expensive is because supply is low and demand is high. Mr. Faber ended production of the pencils at his New York City factory decades ago, and the pencil’s popularity has steadily grown ever since. It’s the perfect storm for rising prices.
I started seriously collecting pencils after discovering eBay 20+ years ago. At that time I was more interested in pencils like the Eagle Black Warrior, and it wasn’t until years later that I made my first major investment in vintage Blackwings. I recall spending around $2,000 for a full gross, which worked out to be about $175 per dozen. Today, a box of early-model Blackwing 602s could easily sell on eBay for triple that price. That is, if anyone was willing to sell them.
Why are Blackwing pencils so popular?
High quality and enjoyable-to-use are two of the reasons. The original Blackwing has a silky smooth, yet durable lead that’s perfect for everyday pencil users — whether jotting notes for that next big novel or sketching a frame-worthy portrait. Eberhard Faber coined the slogan “Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed” and had it printed on the side of his pencils for good reason. But if you’ve ever held one, you’ll know that the distinctly-shaped ferrule with adjustable eraser adds not only an interesting look. The heavier-than-average ferrule causes the pencil to feel more substantial in your hand, similar to a weighted chess piece. The difference is subtle, but it just feels balanced and really nice to hold.
And then there’s Steinbeck
American John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize-winning author of numerous classics including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, is famous for more than his literary skills and vivid imagination. Among pencil enthusiasts, the name “Steinbeck” will forever be tied to the Blackwing 602. As famously quoted in the 1969 Paris Review, Steinbeck said: “I have found a new kind of pencil — the best I ever had … They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper.”
California-based Palomino capitalized on this demand brilliantly when they re-introduced the Blackwing name in 2010. They’ve since produced dozens of different Blackwing models which have become popular with artists, writers, pencil nerds, and everyday users alike. In fact, I sell more modern-era Blackwing Volumes than any other pencil in my online store.
Dollars in the details
Brand name aside, the quality and condition of an individual pencil can of course impact its value. A Blackwing 602 with crisp and easy-to-read gold print along its barrel will be worth more than one with faded and hard-to-read markings. Other subtle variations will tell you how rare a particular Blackwing pencil is. Take the ferrule, for example. The oldest and rarest Blackwing pencils have a black metal ferrule with a gold or yellow painted band. More common, but still quite valuable, are those with gold metal ferrules and black painted bands. Those without paint on the ferrules were made most recently, and are generally the least valuable.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is the Eberhard Faber logo. Some newer models were stamped with an “EF” logo, but most collectors want the older (and much cooler) diamond star logo.
If you’re in the market for a vintage Blackwing pencil and you want to spend the most money possible, look for a black ferrule, yellow painted band, crisp and clear gold print, and a diamond star logo. Unsharpened, of course.
The bottom line
Within the past couple of years I have personally sold vintage Blackwing pencils for $70–75 each, and today their value continues to climb. Just the other day I saw a single Eberhard Faber Blackwing that sold on eBay for $95. If that seems high, just wait another year or two!
Oh, and about those vintage Eberhard-Faber Blackwings I was recently selling for $75? Sorry … they’re sold out.