Is something good just because it's hard to obtain?
These Golden Sword pencils come from Daiso, a chain of Japanese stores that are almost like dollar stores, but with better stuff. They have about 60 stores in the US, spread between California, Washington, and Texas. While anyone in these cities can stumble upon these pencils, the majority of us are at the mercy of a friend or purchase mule to help us out. Japanese pencils are great and in my humble opinion, the best in the world. But the question I asked myself while reviewing these pencils is "Are these pencils good because they're GOOD or because they weren't easy to get? And what about the reverse? Is something like a Ticonderoga or Staedtler Noris looked down upon because they're so ubiquitous? Why?" I didn't really come to a conclusion, but I will say these pencils are pretty good, all told. I just don't think they're worth the hassle to obtain if you aren't near a Daiso.
At its core (har har) the Golden Sword pencil is simple: natural wood with an inked imprint. Plain ferrule and pink eraser. They're meant to be cheap. Stock ferrule / eraser and no paint job makes that obvious. The pencils come 4 to a pack, which makes the price seem even cheaper. They come down to about 38¢ per pencil, which is around the low-end of midrange, really. But for Japanese quality in the US, it's pretty reasonable. A dozen Tombow 8900 will set you back around $5, so at $4.50/dozen, these are around that price range. I couldn't begin to speculate on who produces these pencils for Daiso.
I love a good natural pencil, and this one looks really nice. The imprint is a nice condensed sans serif font, very plain, but perfect for a "generic" pencil. On all the ones I have from the two 4-packs, they're printed well, with no overprint or misaligned imprinting. The wood is a pretty decent straight-grained variety, very light in the hand. It sharpens well and feels pretty soft. It has no real fragrance.
The ferrule is gold and seems to be the standard ferrule for Asian pencils, which is similar to most generic US ferrules, except it's missing the "nail file" bit in the center. The eraser is a surprise: it's hard and doesn't erase very well. It's not Musgrave-level terrible, but for a Japanese pencil, it's definitely subpar. It will take care of lighter marks just fine, but if you're heavy-handed like me, I'd suggest a high quality stand-alone eraser.
The cores I got were B and 2B, one 4-pack of each. I'm a fan of soft cores, and I definitely like the dark mark that these make. However, I've found over the past few weeks of using this pencil that the cores are a bit brittle when freshly sharpened, even when being gentle when writing and trying to avoid the point snapping off. Shorter point sharpeners are probably best for this pencil. It just doesn't seem to have as high quality of a core as the low-end offerings from Tombow or Mitsubishi.
So, overall, these are good pencils, albeit a bit soft with a crappy eraser, but if you have a Daiso in your area, they're definitely worth grabbing. I'm just not sure they're worth the hassle of getting someone to buy them for you and ship them to you if you don't.
Available from Daiso stores, $1.50 for a 4-pack.