Up until recently, I had no idea that people collected pencils. But in the May 23, 2011 issue of Fortune, a curious story caught my eye. The story, titled “Eraser Heads”, is about the controversy brewing around an entrepreneur who wants to recreate a legendary pencil. A pencil so good that many called it “the best pencil ever made”.
The name of the pencil is the Blackwing 602, and it was made by the Eberhard Faber company until the late 1990s. Why so revered? At least part of the explanation is it used a very soft lead, making it easier to write with, an important consideration for professional writers and artists.
Controversy over a pencil
The best pencil ever made is a big claim, and a big reputation looming over the person who is trying to recreate it. Charles Berolzheimer II, a pencil manufacturer, recently announced he was going to recreate the legendary writing implement. But his announcement included details which quickly drove the pencil enthusiast community to protest. Berolzheimer was going to improve the best pencil ever made.
The Fortune story goes into detail about the proposed changes, and it’s an interesting read. But one thing was clear. Pencil collectors did not want their beloved Blackwing 602 to be changed. Their voices were heard. Berolzheimer recently posted an update letting customers know they’d been heard and several key elements of the original Blackwing 602 were to be brought back.
Pencil web sites
Yes, there are web sites dedicated to pencil collectors and fans. The Pencil Pages site celebrated its 15th anniversary in January 2011, and has explanations of what the numbers on a pencil mean, why a carpenter’s pencil is the shape it is (it’s so it doesn’t roll away), and a dizzying number of links to pencil importers and makers, as well as other enthusiast sites.
The American Pencil Collectors Society has this site beat in terms of longevity, however. The APCS was formed in 1958 by 191 charter members, and has conventions every two years. Members get their own membership number which can be passed down to family members, and can be printed on custom pencils (along with the member’s name and address) for trading.
Pencil Revolution has reviews of pencils, antique sharpeners, articles of interest to pencil collectors (“Graphite Dust: On the Avoidance Thereof”), and is worth looking at just for the gorgeous photography.
For a humble writing implement that costs a few cents, I never knew how passionate people can get about pencils.
Taylor III, A. (2011, May 23). Eraser heads. Fortune, 163(7), 101-104.