When shopping for vintage Blackwings, one of the types you’ll happen upon with some regularity are the “Boston Athenæum” pencils. But what are these odd Blackwings? Are they authentic? Desirable? Read on to find out more.
The Boston Athenaeum (often spelled “Athenæum”) is a library founded in 1807. The Athenaeum was founded as a private library and still exists today as a membership library, where people pay to join, as opposed to it being a municipal service, as most libraries in the US are.
As the pre-Palomino Blackwings were winding down, the Eberhard Faber sold part of one of the final production runs directly to the Athenaeum, so the library ended up with many of the last new Blackwing 602 pencils in existence.
The purchase of the Blackwings was orchestrated by Lionel Spiro, who in addition to being in the stationery business, was a trustee of the Athenaeum from 1987-2002. Spiro founded the stationery and architectural supplies firm Charrette in 1964 so was in a perfect position to get ahead of the demise of the Blackwing. Spiro sold Charrette’s to Berkshire Partners LLC. in 1997.
He set up the purchase and ultimately donated the pencils to the library after learning from an Eberhard Faber representative that the pencil was nearing the end of its production life.
The total number of pencils acquired by the Athenaeum isn’t 100% known, but it’s believed to be 25 gross (3600 pencils), according to interviews.
This run of the pencils were imprinted with “THE BOSTON ATHENAEUM” along with the address of the library (10 1/2 BEACON ST.”) as opposed to “Blackwing 602” or any corporate branding. This sort of white label service wasn’t common with the Blackwing, but it was something Sanford, the owner of Eberhard Faber, would do for clients from time to time.
This was all arranged in, or briefly before 1994. At the time the retail price of the Blackwing 602 was $0.70, or about 3x that of a more standard pencil from Eberhard Faber.
Image courtesy of Harvard