Not too long ago the new Blackwing limited edition series called “Volumes” was announced. With this new series of limited edition pencils, a subscription service mimicking that of Field Notes was introduced. There are some obvious differences, which will be discussed later on, but for now, let’s just say, it’s not the same.In the subscription you receive a dozen of the quarterly limited edition pencils, a tubed “collector’s” pencil, and it’s all packaged in a nifty box with shredded paper, a sticker, and apparently, magic. This is a vastly different package than what you get if you order Volumes on it’s own. In that case your Volumes box is slipped into a pretty sleeve and placed into a manila bubble envelope. While the subscribers get ceremony, non-subscribers don’t.The cost of a subscription is $99 and $12 for shipping, for a total of $111 for a year. Buying a single box of the Volumes will cost $24.95 plus $4 shipping for a total of $28.95. The sub cost per pencil is $2.31 or $2.13 if you count the extra 4 collector’s tubed pencils. Non subs pay $2.41 per pencil, less if you can buy them from a retailer that offers free shipping.*I won’t go deep into my thoughts on the heavy handed marketing that is used with the Blackwings. I will say that I’m annoyed that I still have no idea how many of these sets were produced. That aspect of Field Notes is something that I appreciate. It is completely transparent. The number produced of each edition is printed on the inside back cover. The Blackwing marketing is highly reminiscent of Moleskine marketing, which I could really write about for hours, but won’t. You can just go here and read the pinned post for more info.Anyway, I decided to buy the first Volumes edition after seeing all the stellar pictures posted of it online. It is a really really pretty pencil. The starburst finish which starts as yellow at the tip, fades to red, and ends in black. The end is capped with the standard golden ferrule and filled with a standard black eraser. The paint is glossy and thick. It is glossy like the Pearl and the 602.**Anyway, after the pictures I saw online, I guess I expected something, more? Ripping open a bubble mailer isn’t as sexy as opening a carefully packed box. Having spent nearly $30 on 12 pencils, it felt a bit cheap. I won’t describe the sleeve or the box itself, as you can find other blogs that go on about the beauty of the sleeve and box. The pencils themselves are very pretty. In use they are no different than a Blackwing Pearl, which I have to say is my favorite of all the Blackwings. The kicker to me in all of this is that if I were to peel away the fancy new paint job, all I’d have in my hand is a Pearl. A very expensive Pearl.*** Of course there are other less expensive Pearl replacements- the MB Nano Dia B is only $1 per pencil and sports a pearlized finish although with some funky diamond shapes printed in lame pastel colors****. There are other blogs that really search out for Blackwing replacement pencil, and though I enjoy them, I’m not one to spend a lot of time researching this topic. I’m pretty happy with my Musgrave Test Scoring 100 or General’s Cedar Pointe #1.The fact is that with $30, I wish I’d picked up another box of Pearls, a few erasers, and maybe another sharpener instead of the 725.
*As of yet I don’t know of a retailer that offers them with free shipping.*
*I gently disagree with those who think that this finish is distinct from other models. The black MMX model is flat black but both the Pearl and 602 are both very glossy.
***The standard Pearl model can be bought in a store or online from a free shipping retailer for $1.83 per pencil. This is significantly cheaper than the Volumes which clock in at $2.31 or $2.13 (when shipping is factored in). Anywhere from 25 to 48 cents more expensive. That adds up over time if you burn through enough of them.
****Which I’ll go on record as yet again saying that I don’t mind.
As a disclaimer, I split my 725 purchase with 2 other people. So instead of spending $30 on 12 pencils, I spent $10 on 4. Which somehow doesn’t make me feel much better.