Adjustable eraser pencils, past and present

Blackwings and other pencils with adjustable erasers are all the rage today. Here’s the backstory on this 100th anniversary of Eberhard Faber’s paradigm-shifting pencil patent.

Vintage-style pencils for the modern era

Within my pencil museum and gift shop I generally categorize “modern era” pencils as those manufactured within the past 20 years. And today, Palomino Blackwings are where it’s at. The company has produced more than two dozen different models since reviving the Blackwing name in 2010. At that time, the pencils were marked with “Palomino” and had a running horse. A few years later they switched to a mark with three trees. Eventually, they removed the Palomino branding altogether. Here are some of my favorites.

Blackwing Pencil Volumes 725
Blackwing Volumes 725 (June, 2015)
Blackwing Pencil Volumes 73
Blackwing Volumes 73 (June, 2017)
Blackwing 16.2 Pencil
Blackwing Volumes 16.2 (December, 2017)
Blackwing Pencil Volumes 33
Blackwing Volumes 33 1/3 (September, 2018)
Blackwing Pencil Volumes 811
Blackwing Volumes 811 (March, 2019)
Blackwing Pencil Volumes 155
Blackwing Volumes 155 (November, 2019)
Backwing Volumes 223
Blackwing Volumes 223 (March, 2021)

Let’s go back … way back

Today’s obsession with adjustable eraser pencils began with the genius of a man named Eberhard Faber, descendant of the German pencil dynasty known as A.W. Faber. In the early 1890s Eberhard began producing a pencil with a “clasp” eraser, although it looked distinctly different from the adjustable tip erasers we are familiar with today. The ferrule as we currently know it received a U.S. patent in 1921. At that time it was called a “clamp” eraser, and as you can see from the supremely rare Golden Glow (pictured below), the word “CLAMP” and “PAT. MAR, 29, 1921” are proudly stamped into the ferrule.

What follows are some of the oldest, rarest, and most sought-after adjustable eraser pencils produced by Eberhard Faber between 1921 and the 1960s.

Golden Glow pencil
Eberhard Faber Golden Glow
Van Dyke 601 Pencil
Eberhard Faber Van Dyke 601 F
Original Blackwing 602 Pencil
Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602
Microtomic Pencil
Eberhard Faber Van Dyke Microtomic HB
Colorbrite pencil with adjustable eraser
Eberhard Faber Colorbrite Blue

In addition to Eberhard Faber, there was at least one other vintage pencil brand that hopped on the adjustable eraser bandwagon. For a short period of time the American Pencil Company produced a line of its popular Venus drawing pencils with an adjustable clamp-style eraser, albeit with an ever-so-different looking ferrule.

Venus 5H Drawing Pencil
American Pencil Company’s Venus Drawing 5H

Popularity soaring

With the introduction of the Palomino Blackwing pencils for modern pencil enthusiasts, the popularity of all adjustable eraser pencils—old and new—has gone through the roof. People can’t seem to get enough of the vintage Blackwing 602, paying upwards of $95 per pencil on eBay (see my post about the climbing value of the original Blackwing 602). More recently, prices for adjustable eraser Microtomics have been off the charts. Anything in the B range or darker has become almost impossible to find, easily topping $20 per pencil. If you’re thinking about starting a pencil collection, get ‘em while you can because I don’t see an end to this madness anytime soon.

That’s not all, folks!

As of April 2021, I now have 69 pencils with adjustable erasers in my online collection. Of those, sixteen models are currently available for purchase.

Hat tip to Contrapuntalism and Pencil Talk for their excellent posts on the history of these iconic erasers.