Thank You.

Dear Readers,

If this is your first visit here, please be sure to visit this page, which is the summary of my research about the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602.

Not long after I started this blog, California Cedar’s first Palomino Blackwing* began making its way into the world, and I was excited like a lot of people and very supportive: I gave them some early photos of mine for free, which were used for some international PR, and loaned them some items to be photographed for their website. However, that initial excitement dwindled into ambivalence after some early misrepresentations were uncovered, but the benefit of the doubt persisted. Though not long after, that ambivalence eventually turned into disappointment—I, as well as others in the pencil community, noticed that the advertising campaign for the Palomino Blackwing was at times wildly inaccurate (if not purposely suggestive), and my site and its contents were in some ways becoming an involuntary partner to that enterprise. I finally began posting about these things along with other blogs in order to bring attention to what was going on. My intention was, and remains, to document as accurately as possible the interesting true story of the Blackwing, and to that end it was hard to understand the choices that CalCedar kept making.

For better or for worse it seems that this blog happens to be the only one of its kind vis-à-vis the history of the Blackwing 602 pencil. The blog itself is about two years old, but it represents about four years of work and countless hours spent researching, photographing, collecting, trading, and writing—all done just for doing’s sake; a labor of love. But because this blog has content unique to the Internet, it means that it gets the attention of those who would like to use that content. Most have done so rather innocently (personal blogs, sharing photos, etc.) which is fine by me, and some have been responsible enough to send queries or notifications, but others—including some for-profit companies—have been less honorable and have infringed upon my copyrighted work. But my complaint isn’t simply about scholarship and attribution, and it’s not at all about money. Rather it’s a combination of the appropriated work, plus how it has at times been folded into California Cedar’s questionable PR campaign, which in turn has distorted the Blackwing’s story, that has spoiled things (see this page for details). Everyone wants to be recognized for their work, but this is less about my wanting credit than it is about me wishing they would just do their own work and leave mine alone—just like how you’d want the person sitting next to you to stop copying from your test paper.

Knowing that a company—one with vast financial resources—was watching my every post (the CEO of the company has subscribed to this blog) slowly began draining my enthusiasm: it’s difficult to explain just what it’s like to work hard for each new and unique Blackwing-related “find” and to put the work into posting about it, only to realize it’s likely just to be taken or copied in some way (and sometimes even inaccurately to boot). And it puts me in a unique position: as a consumer, I share the opinion of those who think CalCedar’s marketing has been inaccurate and questionable at times, but I have no control over that. The best I can do for the Blackwing is to publish my own work and let people decide for themselves. But, when on top of everything else it’s my own work that is being copied—especially when it’s coming from a company that claims to be continuing the “legacy” of the Blackwing—that’s a bridge too far. My interest remains unabated, but I don’t want to continue this blog if it means being a source of reference for CalCedar’s designs—the Blackwing, and the work I’ve put into documenting it, mean too much to me.


I want to say how grateful I am to everyone who has visited here, supported this site, and contributed to the conversation. It’s remarkable how this immeasurably obscure thing—a pencil—could bring together so many kind and like-minded people from all over the world. I’ve enjoyed hearing from you and more importantly, learning from you.

I’m going to leave the site up and the comments open, and I will be cleaning-up and updating older posts as well as continue to edit and expand the “No Ordinary Pencil” essay, but I do not plan on posting any new Blackwing content. There’s always a chance there might be a new post, but if there is it will likely be about current events. I would have preferred to keep sharing my ongoing research about the Blackwing 602, to say the very least, but not everyone is playing fair—I hope you understand.

For anyone who thinks this is about pencils, it’s not—they’re just pencils. It’s about caring for something very deeply.

Thanks for all of your support, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.

All the Best,

Famous Blackwing Users: Eberhard Faber


Of all the people associated with the genuine Blackwing 602, one name rises to the top of the list: Eberhard Faber. I recently had the privilege of paying Mr. Faber a visit at his home in Pennsylvania, and while there were very few pencils on the shelves, there were three 1/2 gross boxes of Blackwings.

We spoke a great deal on the phone and in person about the origin of this pencil, and to what degree it was directly advertised by the company:

“The original Blackwing was introduced in 1934. The lead was a formula that my father developed [Eberhard L. Faber, 1893-1945]. He was a chemist, and in fact he developed most of our lead formulations at the time. The Blackwing, I think, was the first wax-impregnated lead, which is one of the things that gave it its smoothness. It was popular among people who did crossword puzzles because it wrote well on newsprint.”

I was curious to learn how the company viewed this pencil, because compared with the campaigns for the MongolVan Dyke, and the Microtomic I have come across comparatively little in terms of advertising:

“There was an advertising campaign in the New Yorker Magazine [1965], and my mother was responsible for that—she was at that time in charge of public relations. That [ad] reawakened a certain amount of interest in the Blackwing, but it always had its fans, who would not use anything else.”

I learned more in an afternoon than the past several years of research. Now, the work begins to write it all down and fill-in the rest of the story.

Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Faber for their hospitality and generosity.


Blackwing by Eberhard Faber



Two of Nine

pixar©2007 Walt Disney Studios

From the documentary The Pixar Story, two of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” (L-R: Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas) discuss the golden age of hand-drawn animation. The pencil on the table just to the right of center looks to be a Blackwing 602:

pixar2©2007 Walt Disney Studios

A Bewitching Blackwing

You don’t have to be a witch to enjoy an Eberhard Faber Blackwing:


I wonder if it doubles as a wand:


It seems though that Darren #2 has less discriminating tastes when it comes to pencils:


Thanks to blog reader Mike for the tip!

Black(wing) Friday


What Price Blackwing?


The question I’m most frequently asked through this site is “What are my Blackwings worth?” My usual response is “I have no idea”, though I sometimes qualify that with what the current ‘going rate’ seems to be. But like any collectible item, a genuine Blackwing pencil is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

I follow eBay auctions from time to time, taking note of interesting examples as well as extremes in auction prices. But blog reader Natale has been collecting Blackwing auction data for the last two years, and has generously permitted me to post the results.†

Two-year prices in eBay/Etsy auctions for each Blackwing subtype, with the total number sold for each sample:


  • BW1 – BW12 are the Blackwing subtypes as they appear in
  • BW7ii is a variant of BW7 with a scalloped ferrule.
  • Etsy represents a residual source, representing something like 2-3 % of the total. A couple of Blackwings come from
  • The total number sold in 2012-2013 was 415 pc. and in 2013-2014 was 457 (the total is higher than the sum for each time span, because a number of pencils sold were not categorized owing to the low resolution or the low quality of pictures in some auctions).
  • The largest number of Blackwings sold in a single auction is twenty one in Mar. 2013.‡
  • The highest price realized is $975 for eighteen BW7 in Aug. 2014; the second price realized is $819 for eleven BW4 in Sep. 2014, and the third price is $570 for nineteen BW6 in Jan. 2013.
  • The single highest price is $106 for a (sharpened) BW3 in Jul. 2014. The second highest price is $100 for an unsharpened BW1 sold from in May 2014.
  • The lowest price per pencil is as low as $6.33, paid for twelve BW8 in Feb. 2014 ($76).
  • With the exception of BW7ii and BW8 (which seem to be outliers), the frequency analysis show a real Gaussian distribution among the subtypes sold each year, the peak being BW9 in 2012-13 and BW7 the following year (this is not surprising, being that they are the most recent types).
  • Price analysis does not show any pattern except for a scattered increase in some cases.
  • Prices are rounded e.g. from 21.51 to 22.50 = 22 . Prices are in US $.


† The author of this data is based in Europe, and as anyone who has searched international eBay sites knows, search results can often be omitted for any number of reasons. To that end there may be intermittent auctions that were not included, but this survey is by far the most detailed of its kind.
‡ There was an auction in July of 2013 for a half-gross (72) of Blackwing pencils listed at $2,500 with the “Make Offer” option available. The auction concluded successfully but the final amount is not known.

Special thanks to Natale for sharing this interesting research.



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