Friday, November 20, 2015

Obsession as a Lifestyle Choice

John Muir probably rolled over in his grave.

A pencil company chasing the notoriety of the Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602 pencil is releasing series pencils in the same format with different paint schemes and differing graphite qualities. The latest of these is the Palomino Blackwing 211 – the John Muir version.

Problem number one with this is – this is a nice pencil. Smooth graphite, not too soft. Plain cedar-colored wood barrel with brown eraser. Fetching. Catchy. Cool.

Problem number two is – this pencil is a limited release, so it doesn’t matter how fine it is, it will soon be gone. Like the much fabled and loved original Eberhard Faber 602.

I’ve chased discontinued pencils and have paid a great deal for them on eBay. The original 602, Mongol, IBM Electrographic, Van Dyke 601. Mostly following up on Steinbeck fervor.

Me and John. What's not to love?

And I’ve sold a few, including my all time favorite, the Black Velvet.

But these are old pencils. Like they said in Jurassic Park. They're dinosaurs. They had their time, and that time is over.


This new bunch is planned obsolescence which strikes me as mean. To dangle a fresh, worthy product in front of a consumer base historically proven to be susceptible to obsession, may be lucrative, but it seems cold-hearted.

The 211 is already on eBay for twice the original price and supplies are dwindling.

I bought a few, at the premium price, just to try because – well, I’m a fan of Muir, and apparently, also a pencil fanatic, but this latest turn has me seeking a cure.

As Steinbeck said himself,

“For years I have looked for the perfect pencil. I have found very good ones but never the perfect one. And all the time it was not the pencils but me.”

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