Besides limited praise of the Futura, I had no other point of reference on Richard Best pencils. After a bit of research, I found an article printed in 1945 that gave a bit of background on RBPC. Founded in 1890, it was a small family company run by Alfred, Frederick, and Richard Best. In 1945, they had 50 employees working in Irvington New Jersey. Some time after 1961, the company was absorbed into the J R Moon Pencil Company. J R Moon is still cranking out pencils in Tennessee; in fact, you can still get pencils derived directly from the Richard Best designs such as Try-Rex pencils. For those of you who haven't hear of Moon pencils, JR Moon makes the 'Write Dudes' USA Gold pencils that are sold at Walmart.
After scouring ebay for a while, I finally found a good deal on a box containing Richard Best's Futura and Royal Scot pencils. I'm very pleased with the Futura, but the Royal Scot is also a great pencil!
Richard Best Futura:
The Futura's I bought are probably at least 60 years old. That being said, they are in great shape--even the erasers still work! The paint is great...I love the color and the quality is at least as good as my BW 602. The scrolling Futura actually covers two hexagon sides, which is an unusual detail that we pencil nerds can appreciate. The wood is quality cedar, and the sample that I have all contain well-centered leads.
The 'LEKTROFUSED LEAD' is the real joy of this pencil. In a completely qualitative/subjective test, I think the Futura's #2 lead is just as smooth as the 602...but a bit harder and not quite as dark. The motto 'Write smoother Last longer' is very descriptive in this case. For a more relate-able comparison: the Futura writes lighter/harder than a Palomino HB, In fact, it seems to be about the same hardness and darkness of an American Ticonderoga. The magic comes in the fact that the Futura glides across the page MUCH smoother than either the Palomino or the Ticonderoga. It has to be one of the smoothest #2's I've ever tried. There seems to be a dry spell on ebay for Futura's right now, but I bet the #1 soft version is amazing.
The Futura is far from a direct competitor with the Blackwing 602, but I think it is just as nice of a pencil in its own right. On the plus side, it's a lot cheaper than an original 602, on the negative side it's at least as rare as the 602.
Richard Best Royal Scot
My Futura's came in a box of Richard Best Royal Scot pencils. These were mystery pencils to me at first, but they ended up being a great find. I'm generally not a big fan of triangular pencils, but I really like the shape of the RB 'Try-Rex' profile--it has a really comfortable ratio of flat to round. The Royal Scot black paint is really smooth but not overly glossy. Overall, the Scot is a classy looking pencil.
My Royal Scots came in F grade. I was leery of a harder lead at first, but the Scot is so smooth that I was won over as soon as I tried writing with one. This is the kind of pencil that will let you enjoy writing several pages without sharpening. I still prefer softer pencils in general, but if I am writing away from a good sharpener or sharp replacements, the F grade is my new favorite.
I have found two different vintages of Royal Scot. The newer set came in a cellophane sleeve instead of the fancy cardboard box. The shape of the two vintages is similar, but the branding is different and the newer pencils have a pink band on the ferrule.
Unfortunately, the newer vintage writes completely different than the old. The pink-band is noisy and rough in comparison. Whereas the old version just glides across the page, the pink-band feels like someone sneaked a piece of 800 grit sandpaper under my paper. Both are a bit lighter/harder that a Ticonderoga #2, but the original is smoother than the Dixon and the pink-band is rougher. The points last well in both pencils with the edge going to the pink-band in this category. I like both of them, but the older version deserves classic premium pencil status.
Richard Best Omega:
I found a Richard Best Omega colored pencil in a grab bag a while ago. This pencil is a contemporary of the Eagle Verithin and the Venus Unique colored pencils, which were geared for writing and drawing rather than being used as art pencils. My Omega is in violet, has the Try-Rex shape, and writes smoothly. A quality pencil that looks cool--it's now my go-to violet colored pencil.