…something yellow, number four-eighty-two? Thought the Mongol pencil was dead? Think again!
My travels this summer took me to Costa Rica, where I was pleased to see that the Mongol Pencil — now made by Paper Mate — is alive and well in Central America. In fact, I think this was the pencil I encountered most commonly on the shelves of shops in Costa Rica. I haven’t cracked the bubble pack open to try it yet, but when I get the urge to, I’ll be sure to write up a proper review of it. Until then….pura vida!
A while back I took the Paper Mate Mirado Classic — which I did not expect to actually enjoy — for a spin and found it to be quite a nice little pencil. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because that unassuming little schoolhouse-yellow, office-desk-drawer-inhabiting pencil has a slightly more adventurous sibling: the Mirado Black Warrior.
The Black Warrior is one pencil which, under one brand name or another, has been around for quite some time. It was part of the Eagle family prior to 1969, when the company was bought by Berol; it then passed hands to Sandford and eventually the Newell-Rubbermaid conglomorate that makes pencils under the Paper Mate brand. Somewhere along the line, it got coupled up with the Mirado pencil to become the Mirado Black Warrior, and here we are. The classic iterations of the pencil have been a favorite of numerous writers over the years, but how does the present-day version stand up? Let’s take a look at it and see.
The Mirado pencil is one of those iconic Yellow No. 2’s that have been around forever. It was originally manufactured, some time in the early 20th century, by the Eagle Pencil Company in New Jersey. They gave it the name “Mikado”, which means “Emporer” in Japan. Then in 1941, Japan suddenly became a little bit un-cool in the eyes of Americans for some mysterious reason, and Eagle re-named their pencil the Mirado. Since then it’s been produced in numerous variations and even released in locally-produced flavors around the world, but some form or another of the Mikado/Mirado pencil has been made for over 100 years.
While the existence of the Mirado may seem to be a reliable fact of life, the only constant in the universe is change. It almost goes without saying that the Mirado is no longer made in New Jersey. It’s no longer even made in the U.S. — current U.S.-market Mirado pencils are produced in Mexico. Over the course of the past century, Eagle was gobbled up by Berol, who was gobbled up by Paper Mate of the Sanford-Newell-Rubbermade cartel. Their U.S. pencil factory shut down, product lines were consolidated, and production was moved south. However, the Mirado is a survivor that has weathered the storm of the ever-changing corporate seas: while numerous other pencils have fallen under Paper Mate’s axe, the iconic Mirado is still being produced.
In the last Throwback pencil review, the subject of which was the Faber Castell Velvet, we discussed the convoluted series of mergers by which the lion’s share of American pencilmakers became concentrated in the hands of Newell Rubbermaid (by way of Sanford) who then proceeded to kill off their product lines, one by one. It was basically like the Hunger Games for pencils.
Actually, it was more like the formation of a black hole. Numerous pencil brands collapsed gravitationally inward creating one super-massive object from which none could escape. Sandford gave that black hole the name Paper Mate, which prior to the mega-merger was a pen manufacturer. Today, only the few Mirado lines of pencil are made under the Paper Mate banner, but that was not always the case.
[Actually, since writing my initial draft of this post, I have found another current-production Papermate pencil. Foreshadowing!]
Today we’re going to look at the American Classic, a Made-in-USA product of the early 2000s. I found a package of these, still in the wrapper, tucked away in a desk drawer, so you bet bottom dollar I swiped them and gave them a try.
Happy late May Day, comrades. I hope you’re recovering well from a successful day of instigating glorious proletarian revolution. Anyway, today I popped in to that bastion of the working class, Goodwill, and found some cool stuff during my mid-day break from bourgeois exploitation. (Just kidding. I work for the government, and I oppress the bourgeoisie on a daily basis; or at least they seem to think I do).
The Mirado Classic pencils are noteworthy because they are of mid/late-2000s vintage. Of course the Mirado Classic is still produced today, but the model pictured above was made in the USA, out of cedar. Production has since moved to Mexico, and more recently cedar was dropped in favor of a different species of wood for the Mirado Classic (or, at least, it’s no longer the only species of wood). I think it would be fun to use one of these for a throwback review, and/or do a comparison review of the circa-2019 Mirado Classic, the current Black Warrior, and the old USA Mirado pencils.
Hey man, we all make mistakes. Some of us more so than others; that’s why one of the reasons I love writing with pencils is that they’re erasable. But we pencil geeks know that once you get into the realm of exotic pencils — Asian pencils, “drawing” pencils, etc. — sometimes they don’t actually come with an eraser. Of course, even those of us who stay safely within the realm of #2 “school and office” pencils and have an eraser always at our penciltips know that not all erasers actually, well, erase. So I reckon if I’m going to write a blog that focuses heavily on pencil reviews, I should review a few erasers while I’m at it.
What’s a good review without a benchmark? Something ubiquitous, middle-of-the-road, and easily obtainable to compare against, which you, dear reader, are probably familiar with? With those criteria established, I ran across the street to the office supply store and picked up a three-pack of the most cliche eraser I could find: the Papermate Pink Pearl, which will be the subject of my first eraser review.