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Goodbye, Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

Back to school season is here, and students are stocking up on school supplies for the year ahead. For most, it is probably the last year they will have a chance to buy an American made pencil.

Sanford, a division of Newell Rubbermaid, and the last major US based pencil manufacturer, will be closing their Tennessee plant later this year.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at Sanford’s mainstay pencil, the Papermate Mirado Classic.

The pencil is indeed a classic, with over a century of manufacture. The Mirado was originally named the Mikado, with the name amended during WWII. It was made by Eagle, and was one of the quintessential yellow school and office pencils for decades. The red band on the ferrule was an identifying trademark.

A range of Mikados can be seen at Brand Name Pencils.

Today’s pencils seem to come in many package types, and are readily found at large office supply stores. If memory serves, I’ve seen packages of three, six, eight, ten, and twelve.

Here is a package of six purchased this past weekend. For contrast, I also have a box purchased perhaps in 2006, and another from about 2004.

Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

The pencil is marked:

USA Papermate Mirado Classic HB 2

The 2006 pencil is the same, while the slighty earlier pencil had a different branding – it is a Sanford Mirado.

Sanford is a global company, and there are at least two other Mirados out there, though I haven’t personally seen either:

  • The Columbian Mirado
  • The British Mirado
  • One other difference – the new pencil has a factory sharpening, while the older pencils are unsharpened:

    Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

    As a writing pencil, I find it average. Strangely (or maybe not), the five year old pencil labeled Sanford seems to use graphite that seems much richer and smoother.

    Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

    Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

    Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

    In appearance – it is what it is – the very epitome of bland and dull. But sometimes bland and dull work.

    The haphazard application of the ferrule and painting of the red band don’t speak well of the manufacturer’s standards.

    The graphite has that crumbling propensity of some lead cores.

    Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

    While I wouldn’t classify the current version as a great pencil, it is still sad to see it go. And of course, it probably will reappear, manufactured in Mexico or China.

    28 comments to Goodbye, Papermate Mirado Classic pencil

    • David O.

      The “Sanford” branded version of the late 1990′s was one of my favorites. I still have 21 left out of a box of 72, purchased from Sam’s Club in the U.S. I wish that I’d bought more. They were of higher quality then, at least I thought so. I think that in the “old” pencil days, a gold colored pencil was considered to the be top line model from a pencil manufacturer. At some point, it stopped to mean anything and became the standard color. The Mikado became the Mirado around WW II due to the anti-Japan sentiment in the U.S. – if I remember the history right.
      I also have some new old stock of the old pre-Sanford Mirado’s. I got them just for the heck of it from ebay I think.

    • David O.

      Oops, you noted that the name was amended during WWII.

    • Personally, I think the PaperMate brand (pens and pencils) declined badly post-Sanford.

    • Adair

      The Mirados declined in the same way as the Black Warriors. Sanford allowed two great American pencils to become mediocrities. It should not surprise us: this is the same company that stopped production of the classic pencils it inherited from Eberhard Faber, including the Blackwing.

    • ‘Tis sad — not that many years ago, the Mirado was still a fine pencil. Along with traditional yellow and the Black Warrior, there were Mirado Woodtones, light and dark woods with a clear finish.

    • David O.

      I’m holding off on using any of the last 21 of the “Sanford” branded Mirado’s I have, as once they are gone they are gone. I have plenty of other pencils, probably a lifetime supply for 10 people. I may pull one of the Sanford’s out occasionally.
      I also recently bought a bunch of Black Warriors (over 100) at a Big Lots store here in the U.S. They had packs of 10 for just $1 U.S., or 10 cents each. Great fragrance like the old Sanford Mirado’s and nice cedar. They are the new design with the flat paint and very small font. These will be part of the last of the U.S. made ones probably.

    • Ticonderoga

      I found a large pack of mirado classics made in the u.s.a in my basement. I put about 3 or 4 away to keep and I am now using the rest. Once my supply runs out, I don’t know what I will do. I’m not using my saved ones

    • Ticonderoga

      These pencils were part of a small test I did to find the best pencils ( see dixon oriole for reference) and the old u.s.a made “good” ones, scored a 9.5 out of 10, tied with the U.S.A made Dixon Ticonderoga 1388-2 HB soft. It WAS a good pencil but nowadays I don’t know what to say.

    • Rick

      PaperMate brand (pens and pencils) declined badly post-Sanford, like a post here mentioned is true, pencils are junk, you keep on sharpining and they keep breaking until you got to the half of the pencil, good idea , so you can buy more i guess!

    • BCS

      Apparently, the new ones will be made in Mexico. I just saw a blister pack of Mirados; the pencils were made in the USA but the package had already been changed to remove the “Made in USA” star and the back said “Made in Mexico.” They’d covered that with a sticker. I’m betting those stickers will be removed soon, after the production shift is done.

    • Thanks for the update, BCS.

    • Johnny

      Does anyone know what happened to the Sanford Eagle pencils? They were wood-composite and sharpened well. I can’t find them online except for golf pencils. I never saw any in stores either, though I have 2 at home.

    • David O.

      It looks like they are gone now as well. My only guess is that the “American” version has taken that marketing slot. I wonder whether both the Mirado and Black Warrior will be available down the line.

    • David S

      I haven’t used a yellow Mirado for many years, because they were aNd apparently are, inferior to Ticonderoga. However, for many years, I used Mirado Black by Papermate, and still have some in my desk, but have recently switched to the black Ticonderoga #2, because the lead is a little softer, and better for newspaper crosswords. However, I still think that the Black Mirado is an excellent pencil, and, if Ticonderoga didn’t exist, I would use them exclusively.

    • Ted B

      I think the old Empire Pedigree pencils were hard to beat. See here and I have one in my hand. http://www.pencilpages.com/gallery/empire/1956-pedigree.jpg

    • Johnny

      It’s a shame, I liked the eagles. I also recently bought a pack of USA made Mirados from Kmart, it was the last pack of Mirados there. Also @ Ted, I have 2 Pedigrees, but they are newer than the ones in the picture, my guess is late 80s or so.

    • Packdude

      Now I KNOW that I wasn’t actually crazy when I stocked up on the Mirado product line a couple of years ago. Fortunately I still have several hundred USA-made Mirado Classic, Black Warrior, and a few Woodtones to boot.

      I have been stocking up on my favorite pencils whenever I can, because every time I turn around, some company has sold out to the low cost labor and materials commodity market. How sad!

    • Bob Shelly

      General Pencil Co. still manufactures all of their pencils in the U.S.A. They have 5 hardness grades and 3 different quality ranges in their school pencil category. They also have charcoal pencils, other graphite pencils for art and colored pencils; again all made in the U.S.A. They are a big name in the art industry and widely distributed in art supply stores and available on-line. They have been in business since 1889.
      Check them out at http://www.generalpencil.com

    • David O.

      I ended up finding a bunch of new old stock (unsharpened) Sanford Eagles at the thrift store tonight. They are very different. As noted above, they look to be wood composite but they are almost “plasticy”. They do seem harder to sharpen than cedar. The graphite is a harder #3 hardness, so the point would last a bit. I’d never seen them before, so I figured what the heck?

    • Chris B

      I was going through some office supplies I have and found an old box of Berol Mirado No 3 5 left from a box of twelve. Are these related to the Papermate/Sanford line?

    • Dana

      Berol bought Eagle, who first made Mikado/Mirado pencils. Then Sanford bought Berol; then came Papermate. I’m not sure how the business merger happened in that last step. I believe that is the corporate sequence of the Mirado Pencil Pilgrimage.

    • I have a reasonable stockpile of the Made in USA Mirado Classics (Miradoes Classic?), and I really, really like them. They’re not the darkest, or the best-dressed, but they are very smooth, and hold a point well. Even with all the expensive, beautiful pencils I have, I still find myself drawn to the Miradoes for most of the writing I do.

      The modern “British” Berol Miradoes are total junk (I say “British” because they’re made in China now). I’ve had the misfortune of using the “HB” (both eraser-tipped and uncapped) and the “2B”, and they’re perhaps the worst brand-name pencils I’ve ever used. They’re made of… some sort of hard wood (definitely not cedar), and the HBs vary wildly in grade even within a single dozen pack — from something as hard as a Staedtler 2H to about as soft Staedtler 3B. The eraser disintegrates when erasing, and does a poor job to boot. The 2Bs were just as much of a mixed bag as the HBs. And just to add insult to injury, the colour of the lacquer is all wrong; they’re a sort of neon orange rather than a golden orange.

    • Forgot to mention in my previous comment that I stumbled across this wonderful infographic/poster about the Mirado Classic by Brian Santangelo. Sadly, you don’t get a really good look at it, and he doesn’t appear to have prints for sale.

    • What an amazing poster!

    • Turtleman

      I’m sickened by the decline in pencil quality over the years….although I draft on ACAD I do renderings and sketches with the old fashioned yellow pencil. I recently told my secretary to order some pencils NO Sanford, NO Sparko No Papermate- xxxx……ONLY order a Mirado or Dixon Ticonderoga………. I was absolutely disgusted to receive a box of ‘Papermate-Ticonderoga’…… I’m angered by the corporate take-overs and shipping jobs off overseas

      I haven’t tested them, but I have noticed the leads overal have become more and mor brittle and worse, some individuals have leads that are not centered in the wooden tube……

      I have drafted since the mid-60′s and used the pencils since the mid 50′s….

    • Turtleman

      Self-Correction:

      Sorry to Dixon-Ticonderoga The box of pencils received is #3H yellow stamped as Dixon-Ticonderoga and the company ownership (in extrememly small print on the box) is MICROBAN.
      Made in Mexico.

    • Jan Zen

      Turtleman: Microban on the box shows that the pencils have antimicrobial treatment, it’s not a pencil company. Dana: according to the Santangelo poster, Sanford Brands bought Papermate in 2000.

    • I’m interested in making my own music blog and I’m constantly looking through many music blogs throughout the day finding new music first before other people that I know. But how exactly do those blogs find that music first? Can I really start by just posting the music I find on other blogs?.

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