Often overlooked, the Palomino Prospector is a great pencil for those that want a quality pencil but need to stick to a budget. Most of the love goes to the Golden Bear, and rightfully so, but the Prospector sits in a spot on the shelf right between the Golden Bear and the Walmart Casemate pencils in terms of price, quality, and style. And it's made in the USA, for those people to whom that matters.
The Prospector is available in two different styles: Natural and Green lacquer. The Natural has a clear lacquer on it, so the natural look doesn't get dirtied up by graphite dust, hand gunk, or any other elements. This is unfortunate. I like when a natural pencil gets a little patina on it. That is one of my favorite parts of the Field Notes pencil. At any rate, the Natural look is nice, but I don't dig the gold foil stamping on the barrel...it just doesn't go with the wood very well. It looks good on the Green lacquer of the other Prospector, however. The green is a bit lighter than straight primary green but not by much. The gold foil looks good against it. The imprints are the same: a pill with USA printed in it, the Palomino Horse logo and old word-mark. Maybe the new logo/word-mark combo is for Blackwings only? Or when new stock is made, it will go to the new versions. The Palomino HB has the old logo/word-mark still. The Prospector box has its own logo, a silhouette of a prospector with a pick ax...why isn't that on the pencil? Then it says Prospector and a pill with the #2 designation. The ferrule is gold-colored with a white eraser. The pencils are pretty standard weight for a basswood #2 with ferrule and eraser, and perform accordingly in the hand. I'd be shocked to learn that Musgrave ISN'T their producer in the US: the Natural is a very sharp hex and the Green is only rounded by the amount of lacquer applied.
As mentioned above, these are basswood. That lends the look of the Natural to be fairly boring, woodgrain-wise. But the wood sharpens beautifully and acts as most basswood pencils do. With the Golden Bears sitting at a dollar more per dozen, the choice of Basswood is nothing but a price consideration, especially for a company whose parent company sells cedar slats for pencils as their main business. I imagine that's how the price of the Golden Bear is so low. The core is true to grade at HB/2 and the point holds its own against some of my toothier papers. All the cores were centered in my pack of Naturals. That's not necessarily a Musgrave trait.
Another clue that these are Musgrave-made are the erasers. These seem very similar to the white Musgrave eraser on the Write Notepads Royal Blue and In The Pines. The white is significantly better than the standard Musgrave pink eraser, and honestly, the Prospector beats even the Golden Bear in this area.
Overall, this is a quality pencil for the price. The Prospector Natural slides in at $1.95 for 12, with the Green being 30¢ more per dozen. That's a dollar less than the Golden Bears and a dollar more than the Casemate at 97¢. Comparing with the Casemate, the Prospector beats it in point retention and core consistency. You can get anywhere from a 2B to an HB (in the same pack) with the Casemate. And the Casemate erasers are junk. Prices on a gross are even better, with the Natural being $19.95 for 144 pencils. By no means are you getting Blackwing (or Palomino HB) quality at Walmart prices, but I'd stick this against any pencil in its price range.
Available from Pencils.com, Natural $1.95/12, $19.95/gross. Green $2.25/12, $22.95/gross.