The Philosophy of Pencil Collecting
A Personal View
by Michael J. Grace

The desire to collect a record of places one visits, organisations one has belonged to is always strong. Pencils are one form of souvenir that can be purchased, often quite cheaply.

The passing 'cult' characters are often displayed on 'souvenir' or 'collectable' items and pencils are no exception. A collection of this nature marks the passing fads and trends.

A trend in recent years has been the declining production of the souvenir pencil, particularly from firms. Firms often give free items away advertising their Company. Pencils were a common item, but currently fairly infrequent in appearance.

Many young people receive 'named' pencils as presents and obtaining these from friends, pupils etc. provides a link to people that have otherwise disappeared from ones life.

The standard manufacturers pencils can also be a source of great interest, as well as sometimes being beautifully designed, as they record changes in world history and economic trends to mention a few points. The re-unification of Germany was noted through pencil designs being changed to state, GERMANY, not the older, WEST GERMANY. Other companies have changed production to countries with cheaper labour costs, for instance BEROL changing from ENGLAND to MEXICO.

Invariably, as one collects items, the collector starts to develop his tastes and searching for 'historical' exhibits occurs. With the pencil, an object that in use is consumed, one frequently finds that the only available examples are used and often in poor condition. It is only if one is lucky enough to trace one that has been kept by somebody else as a momento for themselves that one finds good quality specimens. The infrequency of finding these items in antique shops is a good indication of the difficulties faced by the collector.

Developing an interest in the item leads one into paths of research to discover how the pencil started, the companies involved and other aspects. Again the passage of time has not left many records about the humble pencil.

The accumulation of related paraphernalia begins to absorb the avid collector, including boxes, adverts, mechanical pencils and the like.

Consideration of the historical technical development of the pencil has also become important. From developments during the Wars, modern mechanical pencils, the use of paper instead of paint to decorate the pencil are all aspects under consideration.

The Collection as a whole therefore provides pointers to the collector of:

Michael J Grace
MJG Pencil Collection
Copyright 04/05/96
M J G Pencil Collection
Classification of Pencils and Database Record

1.1 Introduction

Once I had accumulated a few hundred pencils it became obvious that I needed to develop a formal method of recording the items to allow me to quickly identify whether or not I had the pencil. To start with the system started on file paper in a ring binder, but this soon became slow and tedious. A major decision was made in 1991 to enter all my records into a database. At that time I had some 1700 items, many of which had not been recorded in my manual system, so it was a long job, about a week of my holiday. It has proved extremely valuable and was worth the effort.

1.2 Storage

To facilitate some understanding the Collection is stored under five main categories:
i)Standard pencils
ii)Pencils with out-sized ends
iii)Pencils in pencil boxes
iv)Pencils in packs - flattish cardboard etc.
v)Large pencils

The standard pencils are stored on corrugated cardboard 'trays' in drawer units, mainly two bedside cabinets and some other units. The rest are stored in A4/A3 cardboard boxes. Pencils are recorded and stored in date of accession to the collection and referenced by an individual number and the tray and drawer position as appropriate.

1.3 Classification

Each pencil is recorded under the following database FIELD headings, further descriptions of less obvious ones are given below. (Entered L to R in order.)


1) Type

Pencils are split into type based on their content. The following is the current code list.

Code	Name	Example

L	Location 	Tower of London
C	Character	Mickey Mouse
M	Manufacturer	Staedtler
F	Firm 	(Advertising) Shell Petrol
S	Society	Scout Association
P	Person	Michael Grace
E	Event	1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
R	Religious	Design or quote
D	Design	No distinguishing name/mark
T	Twig	Made from a twig
A	Arts	(books,films etc) Back to the Future
I	Item	non-pencil collectable

2) Point

This was one of the most essential early codes which is used to describe the text flow on the pencil in relation to the point (sharpened or expected sharpened end). The codes are:

L	Left
R	Right
V	Vertical
N	Non-pointed

A left pointed pencil is one where the point is to the reader's left as they read the text, an example of this most common form is given below.

 <            The text is written here!

The next two are obvious. A non-pointed pencil is not an unsharpened pencil, but one on which there is no text or obvious design that requires you to look at it from a particular angle.

3) End

This classifies the other end of the pencil!

P	Plain
R	Rubber, ferrule encased
M	Motif
D	Dangle, on a ribbon
C	Character, figure model on pencil
S	Specialized, design for a specific purpose
P	Pennant

4) Size

This is divided into two sections, Length and Cross-sectional shape, separated by a / symbol.


S	Standard 7"
M	Medium 8"10"
T	Tiny <2"
D	Diary, specific design
O	Odd
PROP	Propelling pencil (ie non-wood)
CASE	Cased wood pencil, e.g. in a metal holder


R	Round
H	Hexagon
O	Oval
S	Square
W	Rectangular
T	Triangular
V	Heart
8	Octagon
X	Star

5) Basecolour

The main colour of the background to the pencil.

The last few are to do with the purchasing of the item.

1.4 Example entry

This is given for the latest Castell 9000 pencil.

NAME	Faber-Castell
CONTENT	GERMANY SV [CASTLE LOGO]CASTELL[CASTLE LOGO]9000 HB(REVERSED) [JOUSTING LOGO]FABER-CASTELL//Water-based varnish Wasserlack HB(reversed) (text in gold, gold end band)
DATE	040596
COST	0.45

The CONTENT uses some codes to simplify data entry.

[]	contain a brief description of a picture
()	contains a reference comment
//	means on the opposite side (on a hexagonal pencil).

1.5 Concluding comments

For interest this database has been produced using Microsoft Works v3 for DOS on a PC 286 compatible computer.

The most useful part of this tool is the ability to search very quickly to identify whether or not a pencil I receive is a duplicate or new item. Any slight design change is taken to be a new addition and is recorded with a new accession number. It is these changes in design of manufacturers pencils which can be an indication of events of world importance. The best example is the change from pencils stating; WEST GERMANY to just GERMANY after the re-unification.

I hope you will find this information of interest. I would be interested to hear how other collectors have classified their collections.

Please contact me by Email at:

Michael J Grace
MJG Pencil Collection
Copyright © 040596
MJG Pencil Collection Copyright © 040596
The Pencil Pages © 1996-1999 Doug Martin