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Buying old pencils.

Old Pencils.
Left to right: LYRA Dessin No. 2, Eberhard Faber Magazin, LYRA No. 92 Steinhauerstift

One thing about pencils is that they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to. Oh, there are still excellent pencils to be had, like many of the ones I write about in this blog. But you can’t get them at a regular office supply store, or a department store. You can track down obscure Japanese stationers, or specialty online retailers, but even they often have limited selections.

But one other way to get some great pencils is to buy old pencils. Not used pencils, but pencils that have just been hanging around, maybe put out at a garage sale, or for sale on Ebay. Many (most?) of these pencils from a few years ago are of excellent quality, and some are outstanding. They’re not like today’s office supply store cheapos.

In Canada, a quality pencil like a Faber-Castell 9000 or a Staedtler Mars 100 ususally goes for $C1.75 at an art supply store. With 14% tax that’s $C2.00 even. (That’s $US1.75.) It’s a lot more than most people care to pay for a pencil. At a big box office supply place, that type of cash can buy two dozen no-name pencils! But the ten-cent pencil is usually scratchy, badly finished, and a poor writer.

I mention this because my spending limit for a good old pencil is the cost of a good new pencil. But they’re usually less. And this has to include any shipping costs, since I can walk to the places that sell the Staedtlers. I’ve usually been delighted, though occasionally felt ripped off. Someone who seems to be cleaning out an attic … often is, and pencils from them may be mis-described, and in a foul state – stereotypical Ebay junk. And packaging – it’s kind of amazing how shoddy the packaging often is, even though the seller is charging for this.

The good side is getting something like the LYRA No. 92 Steinhauerstift. This is some sort of carpentry or craft pencil, I suspect. It’s beautiful, and it looks like it stepped out of a history book. Plus it cost less than a modern Lyra, which I can still easily buy.

I don’t want to start “collecting” or buying more than I can appreciate and use, but an occasional older pencil is really a joy.

Anyone else out there enjoying some older pencils?

13 comments to Buying old pencils.

  • Older pencils are marvelous. I have dozens of Staedtler and Faber-Castell drawing pencils, charcoal pencils, and Staedtler mechanical pencils which I inherited. They’re not simply pencils to me, they’re a direct artistic connection to my relative who’s passed on, and I feel that connection every time I pick one up to use it.

  • J B Bell

    I’m not using any old pencils (well, I did get a nice Lyra from as part of my Pencil of the Month membership, but I’m not sure if that one’s out of production or not). However, I would say that while most of the cheap office-supply pencils are not so nice, a lot of places carry the Dixon Ticonderogas. It’s no luxury car, but it is a good, serviceable pencil that sharpens well, writes decently, and keeps its point. Definitely to be preferred, IMO, over the Paper Mate or no-name options next time you’re at Office Depot.

  • Drieux

    I had the very good luck to find a few dozen boxes of the discontinued Derwent flat graphite and flat wax-strip (the Drawing line) pencils about three years back. I’ve not yet had the time (and expertise! {grin}) to use either of the flat/round Drawing pencils all that much, but some of the flat graphite pencils have been used in my sketching.

    In terms of lead holders and lead– these are the 2 mm sort that I used back in my professional days– I still use them rather more than a wood-case, as I have a better ‘feel’ for what sort of line/shading I will obtain. The problem is not being able to simply walk into a stationers and getting a package of 2B leads.

    Great site, by the way. Keep up the good work!



  • thought you might like to see some of my favorite pencils..

  • Becki Chalmers

    Does anyone know how/where to find Bucksin #2 pencils, once made by Blackfeet Writing Company?

  • Switchonoff

    I recently found a box of old pencils in my grandmothers house and all I can say is that these are way ahead of the rubbish they sell in the supermarkets around here. oh and btw “Steinhauer” is german for mason.

  • Klaus

    I would like to amend Switchonoff’s post.
    The German online dictionary LEO lists two entries for “Steinhauer”:

    engraver der Steinhauer
    quarryman der Steinhauer.

  • sadeek

    Anyone interested in acquiring old pencils (oldest is ‘wallace no.3 pencil,’ made in 1850) please contact me.

  • Good evening, could you please send details of your pencils for sale together with pictures to my email address above,thanks.Ömer

  • Nalini Raj


    I had about ten boxes of old venus velvet pencils …that were stolen!! Our house got robbed..and we lost a lot of things, but I was sad about losing those pencils!!!

  • Rachael

    I have been given some pencils that date I think to after the 1st world war. They are triangle in shape and have various indutrial wording on them. Such as Totectors/Wilkins & Denton Ltd/Agricastril tractor oil. Any ideas?

  • David O.

    I went through an acquisition phase where I bought ~ 1 gross of Faber Castell “Balance” #3 on ebay and even more #2 Eberhard Faber “American” pencils (probably my favorite) from an art supply place on west coast. I figure they’ll last me for many lifetimes. In both cases, the quality seems much better than the average pencil today.
    The #3 “Balance” pencils were and are still in their original paper banding and 1/2 gross boxes. I figure they were still around after all this time since they are #3, so less popular. I also have a bunch of older Mirado #4′s. The Eberhard Faber “American” pencils don’t have ferrules or erasers, but that is OK. I’ve got lots of those “cap” erasers.
    Of course I’ve acquired even more since then (100 or so new #2 Black Warriors for 10 cents U.S. each etc., etc.). I won’t go into my mechanical pencil collection…

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