My Collection – Photos and Commentary


Stanford University

Pencils from Stanford University, my Alma Mater.  These are from 1980-1991.  Note that the price of a pencil gradually increased from 20 cents to 39 cents.  Seems like a lot, but it’s less than the rate tuition increased.


Worth the wait, I hope: Pencils with animal names (the type of animal, not Fluffy), having animal logos when possible.  I’ve limited it to one per animal, for the most part.


Eberhard Faber’s generic Fish looks like it might be on a platter.



Birds from Wallace Pencil Co:

Reptiles and Amphibians:


Small Mammals:

Large Mammals:


Of all possible animals, who’d have thought that the camel would be the most popular?  These are from makers in five different countries: United States, Japan, Germany, China, and Korea.

Mythical Creatures:

I don’t know what a “suncow” is, but I say it’s a mythical creature.

Finally, we have the Golden ones:

Below are closer views of animal logos.  Click on them for pictures twice as large.

I recently got an iPad and found that large pictures sometimes display with low resolution.

Twenty Thousand

FRED’S PENCILS received its 20,000th click yesterday!  My thanks to all of you.

Red, White, and Blue

In celebration of this day, the Fourth of July, Independence Day of the United States of America, I have the privilege to present to you: Patriotic Red, White, and Blue pencils of all kinds.

Firstly, vintage brand-name pencils —

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Secondly, small packs of pencils referring to our military might during World War Two (including that of our Canadian brothers-in-arms) —

Thirdly, patriotic slogans from WWII and after —

Fourthly, advertising and decorative pencils —

(That last one is kind of disturbing.)

And finally, a beautiful bundle of Stars and Stripes —


I have a little collection of vintage pencils from colleges and universities in the Philippines.  Maybe you have never seen such a thing…

Well, now you have.

I also have several brand-name types made there —

The Eberhard Faber ones have a “MADE IN PHIL.” imprint.  The Master’s has an MPC logo; presumably this stands for Master Pencil Co. 

Odder Numbers

Speaking of unusual lead numbers —

When I first saw one like the Ruwe Hospital 4/8, I thought it actually had an extra-soft lead.  A quick test proved that it didn’t.  Obviously (in retrospect), a leading “2” was intentionally omitted on these pencils.  This was apparently done so that the numbers in the fractions could be large and oriented in the same direction as was used for the 1, 2, etc. hardnesses.

But even when the style of the Blue Band changed and truncation of the numbers was no longer appropriate, it was initially retained —

Odd Numbers

In an earlier post, I showed that pencil companies have distinctive ways of expressing a 2½ lead hardness.  They also have come up with unusual hardnesses and corresponding lead numbers —

The Templar’s 1-5/8 is “Exclusive with Reliance” —

Theoretically, that would be just a tad harder than the Berol Mirado’s 1½.

In fact, Eagle (the forerunner of Berol) had a 1½ , and also a 3½, back in the 1800’s —

The Eagle card also provides details of an old B/H system that was used for high-quality art and drafting pencils.  They squeezed an FHB between HB and F.

F is not an unusual grade, even for regular pencils, but only Eberhard Faber put it equal to 2-3/8, as far as I know.  According to this Berol Black Warrior, F (literally, F2½) is equal to 2½:


On this, my 50th birthday, allow me to engage in a bit of personal nostalgia — pencil-related, of course.

My earliest memory of brand-name pencils is the thick round General’s Blue Boy issued to us in first grade.   In third grade, students earned their first “grown-up” pencils by demonstrating good handwriting skills.  It was a big deal, and I was frustrated at being one of the last kids to achieve this milestone –

We got a classic yellow pencil, the Ravenwood by Reliance.  This was the official brand for the rest of elementary school.  It was a revelation to me when I discovered that it came in different lead hardnesses.  My interest in pencils was piqued, but I was not yet a collector.

Then, in sixth grade, I picked up an odd object on the playground —

It was obviously a pencil, but very different from a Ravenwood — two colors, a different metal part, and a really strange “2A” lead number.  Intriguing!  Fascinating!  I kept it.  I can pinpoint my becoming a PENCIL COLLECTOR to this event, this pencil, thirty-eight years ago.  But I still don’t know what that “A” signifies.

After that, I would ask my classmates, “Can I trade for that pencil?” when they were holding a pencil that I needed.  I was also an avid scavenger, always scanning the ground for dropped pencils.  I am not sure why, but on rainy days I could always find several pencils on the school grounds.

Junior High in the 70’s was a hotbed of pencil fighting, and I was there to pick up the pieces —

In high school, I constructed this display of my pencils:

It is a presswood board with 840 holes I made with a hand drill.  I used clear nylon fishing line to tie up the pencils.  I was very proud of that thing.  I put it on my bedroom wall and could hardly stop looking at it.

In the summer of 1980, I displayed my collection in the hobby exhibit at the San Diego County Fair.  My sister had won First Place honors there for her troll collection, and I wanted the same glory.  I did win a First, which was great.  Something bad happened, though.  The display was covered with a sheet of clear plastic, but someone worked one of the pencils out and stole it.  I lost all faith in humanity that day, along with my irreplaceable, square-shaped, dark metallic blue, MechaMania Boy pencil from Japan.

Also at the Fair, I received a note inviting me to join the American Pencil Collectors Society, which I was excited to do.  In accordance with proper etiquette, I had Member pencils made and traded them —

(I am not currently trading any pencils.)

Finally, here are pencils from some places where I have worked:


One star, two stars, three, five, and seven.  Missing a four and a six.  Oh well.

Transitional Species

Most of you are familiar with the story of how Eagle’s flagship Mikado brand was changed to Mirado after Pearl Harbor, in order to remove the reference to Japan.  So K became R, but the transition was in two stages.  For a short time, the R was cleverly made by simply adding a bar to the K.  Then the R was rounded.

Another clear case of pencil evolution in action:


Blog note:  Please pardon my limited postings.  I’m still heavily involved in other things and have not been able to take new pictures.

Lead from Different Countries

The famous Borrowdale mine in England was the first source of graphite for pencils, but other sources around the world have since been found.  This material, along with its processing, is so critical to quality that some pencils announce the source of the graphite or lead —

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The famous Alibert mine of Siberia is represented.

It’s ironic that the English pencil boasts of having Spanish Graphite.  Meanwhile, another pencil (probably from Austria) has British Graphite.

Catching Some Z’s

I did a massive sorting of my collection earlier this year.  The thought came to me, “I’ve got a zillion pencils here.  Let’s see how many I can pick out that start with the letter Z.”

Here are the wooden brand-name pencils:

There’s also a Zulu in an earlier post.  The swirly one says Zippy Special.  There really ought to be a Zebra — I imagine such a pencil could be really cool-looking, with black and white stripes.  I know, the Zimmermannsstift (carpenter’s pencil in German) is a bit of a stretch.

Stretching further, I found these advertising pencils:

And finally, a mechanical pencil.  There is only one, but it is the Z-est of all!



There’s more than one way to represent that number, and the proof is in these pencils.  Anything other than 2½ must reflect an effort to add distinctiveness to a brand.  As a side benefit, it also helps kids learn math.

Here we have the decimal version, then use of all fractions from 1/2 through 5/10.  Then, a leap to 8/16 — distinctive indeed!


Although it may make us cringe today, it was once fashionable to give pencils featuring a deep, black mark African-themed names. 

And lest you think, “Oh, it can’t be as bad as it looks.  They’re just referring to Africa the continent, Swahili the language, negro the Spanish word for black, and Blackamoor the… the…” —No, it’s black people.  I don’t have them to show, but I’ve seen old boxes for the Negro and Zulu brands that prominently depict African tribesmen.

War Drawing

During World War II in Great Britain, there was severe rationing, including of materials used in the manufacture of pencils. Each pencil company seems to have produced a bare-basics War Drawing brand. 

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Represented here are Pencils Limited, Egerton, Venus, Rowney, Hardtmuth, a generic, and Royal Sovereign. (The bottom two show the reverse of the previous two.)

We’re Number Four!

American pencils intended mainly for writing (as opposed to drafting) often come in a range of grades, with 1 as the softest and 4 as the hardest.  But who actually uses the 4’s for writing?  You’d have to be quite heavy-handed, or perhaps trying to write secret messages.  They are relatively rare. 

No. 4 U.S. Pencils

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Joseph Dixon’s THE CRUCIBLE

When Joseph Dixon started his company in 1827 and for many years thereafter, the flagship product was crucibles, including ones made of graphite.  Hence a crucible became the logo on many of the pencil brands that the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company produced.  This logo disappeared in the early 1900’s (I’ll leave it for someone else to figure out exactly when), so pencils having the crucible mark are oldies.  Without further ado, I bring you some

Dixon Brands Bearing Crucible Logo

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Interestingly, the Metropolitan and Cabinet brands are not here, even though I have several old ones.  Why? I don’t think it’s about quality, as a wide range is shown.

If you look closely, you’ll see that there’s quite a bit of variation in the look of the crucibles.  We have…



   the Nicely Shaped




   the Bell




   the Tube




   the Chef’s Hat




   the Cup




   and one with the spout on the left!




This is what a real crucible looks like: