I don’t usually go out of my way to get a dozen box of any particular pencil. There is rarely any need to “stock up”. That said, there are some pencils that linger in the back of your mind, and it is only a matter of time before you find yourself in possession of a redundant but absolutely thrilling box.
The Mongol Stenographic is unusual on several levels. For starters, it’s round-bodied (like most steno pencils) and comes with both ends pre- sharpened; what is striking about the barrel is that it is much thinner than most pencils (it feels more like a chopstick than a pencil in the hand) – probably to make you hold it as lightly as possible. It has an appealingly natural look, due to it being coated with what seems like dark varnish, not opaque paint (the grains of the wood show through). The half-dozen box is unusual and lovely too.
That said, there seems to be generational differences in the formulation of the lead. The reason I wanted to get a proper box of these pencils was that the single copy I had of it (circumstantial evidence points to the 40’s and/or 50’s as to the period of manufacture) wrote surprisingly smooth and creamy for a stenographic pencil. I am not sure exactly when this particular box was manufactured, but the pencils in this box write more like a conventional steno pencil (such as the Venus Velvet 505), drier and harder. The body color is darker too.
From top to bottom: 40’s/50’s Mongol Stenographic (no box), boxed Mongol Stenographic (unknown vintage), Venus Velvet 505
There is a very interesting vintage ad for Eberhard Faber stenographic pencils and pictures of a slightly different box over at Lexikaliker. I wonder which package is older; the typography and design appear to be the same and only the color is different (silver vs. light turquoise). It’s also interesting how they advertise the Stenographic as “quicker to sharpen” – it would be difficult (at least for me) to sharpen such a thin pencil evenly!