While I thought the letter pencil grades (“HB”, etc.) were standard, I came across this lament about the end of the barely known EE grade.
The web’s best site for researching issues like this is the always entertaining and informative Leadholder.com, which has many vintage drafting equipment catalogs online.
It seems that in the 1930s, Staedtler’s line ended in 3B, ExB, ExExB.
By the 1950s, the line had extended to 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, ExB, ExExB.
It is as if these grades had relative meanings. I take the “Ex” to be “Extra”.
In the 1970s or eighties, the grades had become EB and EE. I know of a store that still has an old Staedtler display which shows these grades.
And finally, sometime between that time and the present, EB and EE disappeared, with 7B and 8B appearing.
The trail would appear to run cold – except that Staedtler is a huge global corporation. After my posts on the pencils of New Zealand and Australia, I found myself checking Staedtler’s many national sites, and noticed that they aren’t all just translations or localizations of the same content.
And there it was on the site of Staedtler Thailand – the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100, still produced in grade EE.
So if you’re looking for this pencil, it’s not yet extinct – though it is on the endangered pencil list. Quickly testing it out, I can find no difference between it and the 8B. Something might be revealed by longer term use. It also doesn’t say where it’s made – most likely it’s origin is in Thailand.