Nothing creates value in a fetish item like scarcity, and when the item in question isn’t even being produced any more, then suddenly, you’ve got a $55 wood pencil (via the Blackwingpages.com site):
Introduced by the Eberhard Faber Company during the Great Depression, the Blackwing sold for 64 years until being quietly discontinued in 1998. But rather than being forgotten, among pencil aficionados they became the stuff of urban legend. Prior to being discontinued, when interviews of celebrated writers and musicians turned toward the subject of work habits the Blackwing was occasionally mentioned. But after they were taken off the market, once-plaintive discussions about pencils and paper began to sound more like wistful, impromptu eulogies.
Not surprisingly, Blackwing pencils that were still in the supply chain were bought-up and stockpiled. Soon after, they began turning up on eBay and in the classified ads of pencil-related message boards. Whether driven by the melodramatic accounts of its demise, inflated reports of its performance, or the lack of a fitting successor, devotees have willingly parted with upwards of $55 for a single pencil. Others have paid even more:
Naturally, every $365-a-box wood pencil has its own website, and I point would-be pencil fetishists towards the Blackwing Pages site, where you’ll find a great deal of information. I’d suggest it’s lovingly compiled and presented, but that probably goes without saying.
Note that I am not urging you to take up writing with a Blackwing. Most writers don’t need me to further screw up their lives by limiting their productive moments to the use of an extinct model of pencil.
And I’d like to point out that the Blackwing’s tagline “Half the pressure, twice the speed” is one of those taglines that applies far better in today’s hectic writing industry than it did when it was first conceived.
Most writers seem drawn to some kind of writing talisman — a writing tool they invest with an almost totemic power. My first good writing teacher sold every word she wrote with her “magic pen” (that she saved it for “special” articles probably helped).
If your particular superstition revolves around the Blackwing 602, then you better start charging your clients more because you’ll be spending more time scouring ebay for the original.
(And yes, because I love my Field Notes notebooks and still sometimes use wood pencils to write concepts, I just ordered a box.)
Interestingly, just around the mountain from my home lies the moldering remains of a Cal Cedar wood mill that closed in 2003 because wood pencil demand was eroding, and the company already had something on the order of a 100 year supply of pencil cedar (note that local rumors aren’t necessarily accurate, but a century does make for a dandy story).
Cal Cedar, it turns out, is the same company that revived the Blackwing 602.
And yes, that some of the wood from that cedar mill might make a return to its forest of origin in the form of an expensive fetish pencil helped “inform” my purchase decision.
I expect I’ll sell every concept I create with them.
Keep writing (with whatever comes to hand), Tom Chandler.