Graf von Faber-Castell


Fake! 6

This is a public service announcement. <Muzak playing in the background>

Many of our citizens have already been affected by a new type of fraud. The shameless fraudster don’t stop their relentless efforts to cheat us out of our well deserved stationery, working on schemes to exploit our deep desires for luxurious writing instruments.

The latest victim of the fraudsters is one of the staple pencils found in the office supply cabinet of bankers and dictators of small countries, the Graf von Faber-Castell Eine Cassette * hochfeiner Taschenbleistifte * Nr. II, versilbert.

Luckily, the forger behind this fake pencil that offers incredible resemblance to the original Graf von Faber-Castell made a tiny, but important mistake. This means that the fake pencil can be spotted without the need for carbon dating:
Unlike the real pencil, which is inscribed “Graf von Faber-Castell” the forger must have been a bit too much of a Tom Selleck fan and inscribed the cap ‘Magnum’. Open the picture in a new tab to compare the details. They also seem to have used a TiTi Kyung In T-Prime which had repeated appearances in this blog since 2009.

If you have any tips that could lead to the arrest of the forger please contact the Posh Stationery department of your local anti fraud organisation.


Just to spell it out to avoid misunderstandings: I can’t say this is a popular pencil (it’s not a popular Montblanc model) so I doubt anyone (other than myself for the photos in this blog post) would create a fake version.


The Confidant’s Secret

Today: a quick look at Baron Fig’s Confidant.

The Confidant and the Bleistiftverlängerer

Background

Like many people, I found out about Baron Fig’s 2013 Kickstarter from The Pen Addict podcast (it was episode 71). Back then the notebook didn’t have a name yet.

After the Kickstarter goal was reached the notebooks were sent out, got very good reviews and luckily Baron Fig kept making them post-Kickstarter and even created more products, becoming the Baron Fig company you see today.

Some of the early good reviews can be found at The Pen Addict (2014), Woodclinched (2014)The Well-Appointed Desk (2015) and even Cult of Mac (2014).

The European Perspective

I don’t think there’s is much I can add to the existing reviews in terms of new information, so instead I want to give you the European perspective on this notebook.

Importing and Shipping

The Baron Fig is difficult to get on this side of the pond. I haven’t found a shop selling it in the UK, but luckily shipping from the States is actually quite cheap. Postage for the $12 Confidant Pocket, for example, is only $2.95. This seems to be achieved by sending the notebooks through Germany (Field Notes send their notebooks through Sweden). The problem in the UK is that the moment you spend more than £15 you have to pay VAT1, which usually goes hand in hand with a hefty surcharge, how expensive depends on the carrier. When I was still living in Germany I was less often hit by these charges, but I don’t know whether this is still the case. The point here is that depending on which country you live in there might be unwanted extra charges if you order from the States.

The Count in Disguise

$12 (+$2.95) for a notebook, roughly A6 size2,3 is not cheap, but once you look at this notebook’s competitors the price seems quite reasonable.

The Confidant on previous cloth bound notebooks

Cloth bound notebooks sell for a premium. They’re somehow even more expensive than leather bound notebooks. The closest competitor for the Confidant is probably the Linen Bound Notebook from the late Count’s4 Graf von Faber-Castell5 series, which you can see in this previous blog post.

The GvFC notebook and the Confidant

In fact, they are so similar, the Confidant is basically a version of the linen bound GvFC notebook with rounded edges and perforated pages (that’s where the title of this blog post comes in). I’m not sure whether this is accidental or a result of Baron Fig’s Kickstarter approach of  ‘asking people all over the world what they like in a notebook’. The GvFC notebook has been around for a while6, so some of the people asked might have suggested features based on the GvFC item.

In terms of similarities: both, the Confidant and the GvFC notebook are cloth bound and probably7 use 100g/m2 paper. I have mentioned two of the differences already: the Confidant has rounded edges and perforated edges. Other differences are: the Confidant has more paper to choose from (dot grid, blank, ruled), the GvFC notebook has more colours to choose from (five different linen colours), the bookmark is different (width and colour) and most importantly: the price is different – quite different.

 ConfidantGvFC
A4 / plus$22£30 (~$39)
A5 / flagship$18£25 (~$32)
A6 7 pocket$12£20 (~$26)

My experience

My Confidant is well made, but not as well made as the Graf von Faber-Castell notebook. Inside: mine has some materials/bubbles under the paper inside the lid, making it uneven. Outside: the cloth isn’t tight around the spine and some pages were not separated properly, as you can see in the video below. Stephen from Pencil Talk had the same problem with his Flagship (A5) Confidant8.

One way of looking at his would be to say that it shouldn’t happen to a small notebook that costs $12, but on the other hand, the similar GvFC notebook costs more than twice that amount, so the Confidant still seems good value for money.

First I thought my notebook doesn’t lie flat, a problem also described by Discover Analog, but then I realised that the Baron Fig description of ‘Opens Flat’9 refers to the pages being flat enough to write on, it doesn’t mean that the covers should lie flat on the table.

One more thing to mention about the paper: Andi Talarico from Baron Fig told me that the Vanguard and the Work/Play II use Baron Fig’s new upgraded paper, while the Confidant is still using the previous paper.

The Paper

Graphite Performance

Let’s have a look at the paper in terms of graphite performance.

As part of this comparison I have only compared the paper to Field Notes paper10.

To find more about how the paper is tested, please check the Ingersoll post.

The violin plots show that this is a great paper: It produces very dark lines of graphite (the violin plot for the Confidant’s paper ends very low) while the paper is quite light and bright (the violin plot starts quite high).

The confidant sample used for the violin plot

Violin plots, Confidant on the left

Ink Performance

Most of my inks are quite well behaved. Not surprisingly the paper dealt well with ink.

So I thought I take some of my slightly less well-behaved inks out, in this case, a waterproof ink, just because waterproof ink often goes deeper into the paper. The images below show that the waterproof ink didn’t bleed through and the reverse side of the paper was unaffected (open images in a new tab to see the high-res version).

Conclusion

To sum this blog post up in a few words: Quality control could be better. The paper is excellent. The notebook isn’t cheap, but good value for money compared to similar notebooks.

 

 


Price and exchange rates: June 2017

I would like to thank Andi Talarico from Baron Fig for the review sample I used for this boig post.

  1. ..but sometimes customs forget to charge you []
  2. The Confidants are all a bit smaller than the equivalent A paper size []
  3. ..reminds me of the Lichtenberg drawing from this blog post. []
  4. Usual disclaimer as mentioned in previous blog posts: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of nobility were abolished in the Weimar Republic in 1919. Graf (Count) is just part of his surname. In reality no one seems to care about this rule though. []
  5. Abbreviated: GvFC for easier reading. []
  6. I am not sure when it came out. I got my first one in 2010 []
  7. I am not 100% sure. The Baron Fig Kickstarter mentioned 100g/m2 paper, but in an email I got from Baron Fig they mention 90g/m2 paper. []
  8. Mine is the Pocket one (A6). []
  9. Found at the bottom of this page. []
  10. ..as they are the paper samples I have redone after discovering the colour base paper shift issue discussed in the Black Ice post. []

Faber-Castell at Insights X 2016 1

After the quick interruption to my Insights X posts (I just had to post about October’s Pencil Pot of the Month, so that the post is on time): let’s continue with all the cool stuff from Insights X and move on to Faber-Castell.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to look around at their stand as much as I would have wanted to, so this is not a in-depth as I would have liked it to be.

Perfect Pencil

Faber-Castell did hand out goody bags to everyone from the blogger group and I am quite happy that this included the green (Castell 9000) version of the Perfect Pencil. You might remember that I lost mine after years of use. This summer I bought a new green one in Müller, a German drug store chain. They sell them for around €8. Even though I got one again since summer it’s nice to have a spare one (the one from the goody bag) – just in case I lose it again. In my opinion the Castell 9000 version of the Perfect Pencil is by far the best product Faber-Castell is selling (but I also love their dust free eraser).

Magnum Perfect Pencil

There were also some Perfect Pencil related news: there’s a new Magnum version of the Graf von Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil, but Sean has already mentioned this a few weeks ago, so it might not be news to you.

Pixel-it

One of the new line of products Faber-Castell presented was the Pixel-it line. My guess is that if adults want to be kept busy with colouring books then children want that to. Faber-Castell thinks that with normal ‘connect the dots’ pictures you often know in advance what the final result will be.

fabercastell-pixel-1

This reminds me of a scene from Red Dwarf with our favourite Scouser. This video should hopefully start at the right scene (7 minutes 44 seconds in).

With these new Pixel pictures you don’t draw lines but colour squares / pixels that make up the picture. The colour you are supposed to use is printed as a number in the square, which solves the problem of making it too easy to recognise the shape of the final picture too soon. I think it is possible to recognise some shapes, before starting to colour the picture – especially if there are areas of colours represented by a single digit number next to areas represented by a double digit number, but the surprise doesn’t get spoiled as much as with connect the dots pictures.

fabercastell-pixel-2

Here’s a magnification of the picture above so that you can see how the numbered pixels look like:

fabercastell-pixel-3

Karl Box

The centrepiece of Faber-Castell’s stand was the Karl Box. They were so proud of it, they also presented it at the entrance of the trade fair1. It contains a selection of Faber-Castell pens and has been created together with Karl Lagerfeld. It’s limited to 2,500 and the price is 2,500, too – €2,500 that is.

Faber-Castell Karl Box

Other items

I was quite excited to see Insights X branded Grip 2001 pencils. Unfortunately they were not part of the goody bag.

insightsx-grip

In the press pack I saw that Faber-Castell has also released

  • new pens in their Ambition range with a good looking guilloche pattern,
  • white, grey and black pencils in the style of their Grip 2001 pencils, but the dots looking like crystals, similar to the Staedtler pencils with crystal dots,
  • different, new sets of coloured pens and pencils
  •  and new colours for the Grip 2010 and 2022 pens

Except the Magnum Perfect Pencil, mentioned above, Graf von Faber-Castell has also released

  • desk accessories made from leather
  • a very good looking pen roll made from leather
  • ‘Limited Edition Heritage’ fountain pens

uni-ball / uni / Mitsubishi Pencil

This might not be well known outside the German speaking countries, but in Germany (maybe even more markets, I don’t know) Faber-Castell is distributing uni-ball products. I am not sure when this started, but when I was still living in Germany uni-ball products didn’t have the Faber-Castell logo printed on them. Now they do, so I am not sure whether the cooperation is just more obvious now or whether there was no cooperation in the past.

uni-ball

For the Insights X that meant that Faber-Castell and uni / Mitsubishi Pencil were next to each other. Faber-Castell also included uni-ball products in their press releases. This included the ‘Trend’ version of the uni-ball Air, a pen I was disappointed with, mainly because of the false claims in their UK advertising. Well, those claims about producing fine and broad lines are the same in Faber-Castell’s press release, but at least they don’t seem to be the big selling point for Faber-Castell. Faber-Castell also presented the uni-ball Power Tank Trend – the advertising seems to indicate that this pen is similar to a Fisher Space Pen.

When I asked at the uni / Mitsubishi Pencils stand about pencils I was told that they don’t do pencils in this market and therefore don’t have any here. Maybe not selling pencils in this market is part of the agreement they have with Faber-Castell? Who knows.

Outside Insights X – Karstadt

The most exclusive Faber-Castell products were not at Insights X though, instead I found them in Karstadt, a department store in Nuremberg’s city centre – just opposite Staedtler’s shop.

I wonder whether Faber-Castell thought something along the lines of ‘If Staedtler has a shop in the city centre we also want to make sure we have a big presence in Nuremberg, the closest city to our headquarter’. Well, what I saw in Karstadt were the most expensive Graf von Faber-Castell products I have seen in my life.

Here are some of the highlights.

Grav von Faber-Castell Pen of the Year 2015 Sanssouci Potsdam

Grav von Faber-Castell Pen of the Year 2015 Sanssouci Potsdam

Two Pen of the Year 2015 Sanssouci Potsdam. One of them will set you back €3,500.

And here’s the pencil that is worth more than my car: a Perfect Pencil for €10,000.

The white gold and diamonds Perfect Pencil. Only 99 have been made.

The white gold and diamonds Perfect Pencil. Only 99 have been made.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take more photos with my phone because a shop employee told me off, saying that I need a signed letter from management if I want to take photos of the expensive pens. Well, luckily my wife was able to take the photo of the €10,000 pencil with her mobile, but the employee watched us with hawk eyes2, so we didn’t dare to take a close up photo of the pencil 8^(

I was surprised to see that Karstadt didn’t sell any Pelikan or Staedtler products. I found that rather odd as other department stores like Kaufhof sell these brands.


As usual please open the links on the images in a new tab to see them in high resolution (otherwise you can’t see the €10,000 pencil well).

Please have a look a Lexikaliker’s aggregator Insights X post if you want an overview and read more Insights X posts.

  1. Hmm, somehow reminds me of the old Remington ad. []
  2. Suspecting we plan a heist to get the pencil out? []

Graf von Faber-Castell Journal and Paper 1

gvfc-journal1Today: a noble notebook and pencil.

Graf von Faber-Castell, that’s Faber-Castell’s posh product line started in 1993. Back then our favourite count, Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell, introduced this line as part of Faber-Castell’s reorientation. As a pencil enthusiast I am quite happy that the Graf von Faber-Castell line has not neglected the humble pencil. There was a Graf von Faber-Castell version with only an eraser cap, a pencil extender and the perfect pencil and there were some other pencils along the way, like the fluorescent Graf von Faber-Castells.

This Graf von Faber-Castell Journal and Pencil set is available for free with most purchases from The Pen Company’s Graf von Faber-Castell line. I got it free of charge when I recently placed an order with them.

gvfc-journal-open2

 

The pencil included in this set is one of their fluted pencils with a silver plated end cap. I assume it is silver plated, not solid silver, but I am not 100% sure. These pencils are a bit harder than the very old Graf von Faber-Castell pencils, but certainly softer than a Faber-Castell HB pencil. In any case they are a pleasure to write with while keeping the point fairly well.

 

gvfc-journal-inside
gvfc-pencilThe notebook you get is clothbound and has thick, creamy paper in a kind of slightly yellow shade of light beige. It feels quite different to the ordinary white from most notebooks. Despite the smooth surface the paper is taking the graphite on very well. I am spelling this out because some smooth paper, like the one found in the original Field Notes, is very smooth and doesn’t work well with pencils – as if the paper is too smooth and not abrasive enough to get the graphite off the pencil and onto the paper. This Graf von Faber-Castell paper does however feel very smooth to the touch but is ‘abrasive’ enough for use with HB pencils. The writing experience on this paper is just excellent. It’s a shame you can’t buy these individually, but since they’ve been around for at least five years I hope that we will still see this notebook as part of some special offers in the future.


This blog post has been published on The Pen Company’s Blog, too. Just to spell it out, I have not received any money for writing this blog post.


Scraping pencils 1

Pencils not only seem to be reliable writers, they also seem to be reliable in terms of keeping their prices affordable.

In June this year I used R to do some web scraping. The data collected was supposed to be for a follow up of my Why did stationery become so expensive? blog post. Well, this is the follow up blog post and there isn’t much to show, maybe because we are talking about wood cased pencils. Fountain pens and mechanical pencils had a more extreme price development.

I did the R code not only for the follow up, but also to teach myself a bit more R, I would have normally done this in PHP, which I am more failure with, having used it since the 90s and having used it for similar tasks in the past (even though people didn’t call these tasks web scraping at that time, or if they did I did’t know).

chart showing how the Koh-I-Noor PolyColor Art Pencil prices have changed.So what exactly did I do? I was looking at how the prices for pencils have changed on the Cultpens web site over time. My code that will get historic prices from archived versions of the Cult Pens pencil web page from archive.org is available at GitHub if you want to try it or change it for your own purposes. If you do please bear in mind that my code is not very good, I realise this, but as I am new to R I don’t know how to improve it (at the moment – I hope to find more time to learn R in the future). Also, if you try this please try to minimise any strain on the server you get your data from.

The findings were less exciting than expected. VAT has changed a few times over the last few years and there are obviously currency exchange rate fluctuations to be taken into account, as well as inflation and other factors.

The most interesting changes I could see was a > 10% price increase for some Graf von Faber-Castell products between 2010 and 2011.

The  Tomboy Mono 100 got cheaper over the years. Between 2010 and 2013 it got > 20% cheaper.

The most extreme price rise was for Koh-I-Noor products. At the beginning of 2014 the big Polycolor Art Pencil tin got nearly 40% more expensive, smaller tins got more expensive, too.

Overall prices seem remarkably stable.

As mentioned before I assume the price stability is also linked to this being pencils. As shown in my previous blog post fountain pens seem to attract more extreme price hikes.


Picture: Mongol plus Pilot Color Eno pencils on Brunnen Der Grüne Block.