The other day I got a box of Mitsubishi red-and-blue pencils, purely for sentimental reasons. We had some at home back in the early 80’s, and I had always loved their look; and besides the urge to stock up, I was also curious whether there had been any changes in the meantime. (Because Japanese pencil designs change so rarely, and because they produce some models so consistently, it can take much of the fun out of collecting – modern pencils often look and write the same as those decades old.)
There are four model numbers, depending on the ratio of vermilion to Prussian blue. My older pencils had more of vermilion (7:3), whereas this time I opted for half and half.
It’s mostly American and Japanese companies that’s been making these kinds of red-and-blue pencils – I wonder why they aren’t as popular or as available in other countries. I now know that many German manufacturers, inluding Faber-Castell and Lyra, also make these kind of pencils (the Color 873 and Document 9608 among others – please see comments below!)
On the older box there is a JIS mark in front (discussed in an earlier post), and the price (600 yen) is noted at the back. It was for a long time standard practice in Japan to mark the retail price of a product on the packaging, the numerals encased in a rectangle like this (though it is starting to disappear). On the newer box you have the now ubiquitous barcode, the recycling symbol for paper products and a note saying that the carton was made using recycled paper.
The imprint on the pencil is remarkably similar – well, the letters on the modern version are infinitesimally thicker. I so want to say that the new pencil writes as well as the old one, but surprisingly, I do notice some differences. The wood has become whiter. The vermilion lead is harder, lighter and noisier, although it still writes well. The Prussian blue on the other hand has not changed much, it is still satisfyingly dark, but, again, makes more noise. Seems like I should save the old pencils.