Sean I always purchase directly from Blicks website, for some reason the Blick catalogs have higher prices than the website...I'm thinking about going with the Blick color pencil as the cores are pretty much the same as Prismacolor and are much cheaper. Although I will still purchase the Prismas that are a must in my portraits, I'll look into the Blicks other colors that are used for everything that is not flesh tones. I buy open stock and only when I am trying a new brand I'll purchase the sets, after seeing what pencils I use most in the set, that dictates what pencils I buy in open stock. Last years inventory of color pencils was at $700 that was about 590 pencils, since I worked in oils quite a bit last year, this years budget is not nearly as high but will stock up on the pencils anyway and buy more paper.
But before purchasing from the catalogs always check out the website for a better deal and always look for when they have free shipping deals that are going on.
Yeah Sean, I found out long ago that the catalogs are always higher especially for educational catalogs, I guess they realize that the school system has money to throw away like that when it is not their dime that they are spending.
I like a well stocked inventory so I do not have to worry about if I have enough supplies to get the job done and also it makes it much less stressful knowing if I mess something up I have backup at hand and do not have to worry about going down to the art supply store and spending twice the amount on the same materials. There are certain color I use all of the time for portraits and always keep them on hand. When there is a deadline, the last thing you want to worry about is if you have that right materials.