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June 2021: The 25th release in Blackwing’s Volumes series, the Blackwing 64 is a tribute to comic books and the minds that bring them to life. The pencil features a halftone design that’s a nod to the 64 color palette utilized in some of the earliest comics. Its firm graphite is perfect for sketching a new character concept or writing a list of their super powers.

Blackwing released this model on Black Friday 2019, and they limited production to just 12 boxes each of #01 to #159. I spent a year trading with folks all over the world to get these. Want one? Pick a number, any number!

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.

Nine Blackwing 602 Pencils
Top to bottom: Blackwings through the decades

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.

March 2021: The 24th release in Blackwing’s Volumes series, the Blackwing 223 is a tribute to Woody Guthrie and his immutable optimism. Each pencil features a design inspired by This Land’s “ribbon of highway”, “endless skyway” and “golden valley”. The pencils feature a black ferrule, black imprint, and balanced graphite.

December 2020: The 23rd release in Blackwing’s Volumes series, the Blackwing 6 celebrates independent businesses and their entrepreneurial spirit. Each boxed set from the factory comes with six neon red and six neon blue pencils inspired by the iconic neon “Open” sign. The pencils feature a black ferrule, black imprint, and soft graphite. The number six is a nod to the six Noble Gases which give neon lights their distinct colors.  NOTE:  I am offering them as a pair here.

August 2020: The 22nd release in Blackwing’s Volumes series, the Blackwing XIX is Palomino’s tribute to the 19th Amendment and the ongoing fight for voting rights in the world. It features a purple barrel and three-sided white and yellow imprint inspired by the suffrage flag, striped silver ferrule, and purple eraser. The firm graphite is perfect for writing a letter to your Representatives, or practicing for your mail-in ballot.

July 2020: Blackwing Eras are inspired by the earliest Eberhard Faber Blackwings ever produced. This pencil features a dark grey barrel, iconic dark grey ferrule with a gold stripe, red eraser, and extra-firm graphite. Want one? Two??

June 2020: The 21st release in Blackwing’s Volumes series, the Blackwing 3 is a tribute to Ravi Shankar on his 100th birthday. It features a matte turmeric finish accented with a pattern inspired by one of Ravi’s iconic sitars.  The pencils gold imprint and ferrule are a meditation on the light he brought into the world through his music and spirit. The graphite is extra-firm…just the way I like it!

March 2020: The 20th release in Blackwing’s Volumes series, the Blackwing 840 is a tribute to Duke Kahanamoku and the enlightened lifestyle he helped cultivate through surfing. It features a sea green barrel with a gold foil accent in the shape of the California coastline.  It also features a balanced graphite and a gold eraser clip.

Here we have the original Blackwing 602, celebrated worldwide as one of the finest pencils ever made. Eberhard Faber began producing these black stallions in the mid-1930s and continued through the late 90s (by then owned by Sanford). The 2nd from the top is the holy grail of the Blackwings with the sunburst neon painted yellow band. No doubt the rarest of all Blackwing pencils.

Why are Blackwing pencils so popular … and so expensive? Here’s a blog post about the rising value of the original Blackwing 602. And take a look at two other Blackwing 602 pencils made by Palomino and Faber-Castell.