Judy DiCristofaro is the assistant controller and Curator of Writing Instruments at the Boston Athenæum. Judy was kind enough to send along some pictures, as well as a narrative regarding Athenæum’s association with the Blackwing 602.
What do a movie producer in Maine, an attorney in New South Wales, a woman on Rodeo Drive, a businessman in Orlando and a designer in Bethlehem NH all have in common? The all love Blackwing 602 pencils and have purchased them on eBay from the Boston Athenaeum.
The Blackwing 602 pencil has been out of production since 1998 when the machinery used to produce them failed and a decision was made at Eberhard Faber not to repair it. Boston Athenaeum Trustee Lionel Spiro owned a business that sold office supplies and purchased the last run of these beloved pencils for their faithful users among the Athenaeum membership. They were the pencil sold at the front desk.
These legendary pencils promise “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.” Collectors collect them. There is an American Pencil Collectors Society complete with an annual convention. More importantly, writers love to write with them and artists love to draw with them.
When we heard that these pencils had a following of devotees and were selling for up to $20 a pencil, I must have said “isn’t that interesting?” twice because the task of getting a pencil auction going fell to me. I set the Athenaeum up as an eBay seller in July 2004. On August 4, 2004 we sold two dozen pencils for $540. The pencils went to Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. I have shipped more pencils to New Jersey than any other state
The buyer left eBay feedback, “The fastest, most professional service I have had on the net, Thank you!” In the ebay world, feedback is important. It lets buyers know that other buyers have found you good to deal with. And of course, I liked the compliment. Probably all of the potential buyers who have contacted me are familiar with The Boston Athenaeum and write favorably of us.
In between fulfilling my accounting duties at the Athenaeum, I have listed pencils for sale on eBay as time allowed. I have had interesting correspondence from all over. The lawyer in New South Wales writes that he is going to sell the family silver to buy some more pencils. A man with an eBay “screen name” that is a variation of Alfred Hitchcock writes each time I list the pencils with questions and states a desire to buy all we own but has yet to purchase any. There is a self described starving artist in Chicago who calls regularly wondering if I’ve lowered the price yet.
I have listed them on eBay and had had them not sell. I have listed them a watched a bidding war in the final minutes of the auction. After the bidding war, eBay lets you make a “second chance offer” and the losing bidders are given an opportunity to make a purchase at the winning bid. Of course, this requires that you have additional items to sell.
As I tell my colleagues and friends tales of pencil sales I hear, “but they’re PENCILS!!!” They are, but they are sought after, the absolute favorite pencils of many. Most of my buyers tell me why these are the best pencil they’ve ever used and how sad they are that they are out of production.
As I sat writing about the Blackwing 602 pencils, I received notice that my latest listing on ebay of six dozen pencils sold for $720. And yes, I wrote the first draft of this with a Blackwing 602 pencil and it is a very fine pencil to write with indeed!
Curator of Writing Implements
Director of eBay Sales