A Visit to the Arenas Pencil Museum

As I mentioned before in this blog, there is a famous pencil collector in the country where we currently live. Actually, Señor Emilio Arenas doesn’t only collect pencils; he also collects keychains, ashtrays, perfume bottles, etc., and he holds Guinness World Records in multiple areas. On his estate near the city of Colonia del Sacramento there is a separate building housing his collections, to which he welcomes visitors year-round.

Granja Arenas is actually a working farm, and there is a restaurant, produce shop, and gift shop on the premises next to his private museum. No doubt bustling on the weekends and during school trips, but it was quiet on the weekday we visited, and employees came out to unlock doors for us at our request.

There were three rooms dedicated to pencils, with other rooms housing other kinds of artifacts. I couldn’t linger as long as I wanted to, since the girl who guided us through the rooms clearly had another job to get back to. I apologize for the hurriedly taken photos, glares and all :(

The pencils are generally organized by type and by origin, but sometimes the taxonomy is unclear; this may be a result of specimens being added later on. I got the impression that, while major brands and flagship pencils are well represented, Sr. Arenas likes novelty and variety. He truly loves all kinds of pencils. There are jumbo pencils, neon pencils, anime character pencils, feathered pencils, you name it.

One of the highlights of his pencil-collecting career must have been his visit to the headquarters of Faber-Castell in Germany. There was a special display case in commemoration of the event.

If anybody is interested in how official Guinness World Record certificates look like, here they are!

At the end of the tour I got to meet the man behind the collection himself, in the farm shop ringing up sales of his homemade jams. He told me he had “five or six” Korean pencils in his possession, all pretty old, but by that time my family was glaring at me from the courtyard so I had to leave. Next time I think I will go more prepared, and ask him if he has certain pencils in his possession…

But I don’t know. Looking is fun, but for me this kind of display has its limits. I guess I’m more interested in the story of each individual pencil, how it came to be born, how it was received in its time and how it came to its end (as so many pencils seem to have done). At least I want to know how it writes, and the frustration of not being able to take it out of its vitrine and test it might get to me in the end ;)

But that is the irony of the pencil. If you use it, you will shorten its life. In order to live, it must keep some of its mysteries to itself. If Sr. Arenas had used up his pencils he would never have had a collection this large.

A delightful memento of the visit, courtesy of Faber-Castell:

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12 thoughts on “A Visit to the Arenas Pencil Museum

  1. Wow, this is impressive! However, as amazing as his collection may be, I feel somewhat overwhelmed, and like you I would prefer to test and to learn about one or the other. Thank you for sharing your impressions!

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    1. You’re welcome, Gunther! If I had to choose, I think I would be satisfied with collecting interesting facts and anecdotes about pencils, rather than the pencils themselves. But of course, having a physical example on hand to test and enjoy is always a bonus :)

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  2. That’s great. Thanks for showing us.
    I wonder how typical school trip looks like, i.e. what kind of explanations do the children get.
    Do you have more information about the pencil stub from Faber-Castell, next to the GvFC Perfect Pencil?

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    1. No, I don’t (and you have an eagle eye, Matthias!) – there are no explanations next to the pencils (although there were several special vitrines, I had the impression that it was all self-explanatory), and the person who guided us through the rooms is evidently trained to give out a few facts but not much else besides that. I guess I will have to ask Mr Arenas himself next time.

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      1. I wouldn’t say I have an eagle eye, but this is seriously cool stuff, so it’s really great you show us these pictures.
        I was imagining is an old stub used by someone famous (the count?) or it’s maybe for one of the really good looking pencil holders FC made a hundred years ago.

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      2. I’ll be sure to ask when I’m there next time. BTW it was a bit frustrating not to be able to read the printing on some of the pencils, since they were facing backwards. I could help him reorganize…

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  3. After my initial enthusiasm when looking at the huge collection I feel a little sad now when thinking about these pencils. They were produced to be with someone and to be used but now they are locked behind glass doors and will never fulfill their purpose … And in case someone sneaks into these rooms and tries to use a pencil there is a movement detector waiting.

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    1. I used to have difficulties understanding certain styles of collecting, but I’ve come to accept the personal tastes. And maybe there is some justification for this, too, because after all pencils have feet, they wander off…

      But I know, looking inside the glass I felt that they may just as well be a million miles away, all you have is proof of their existence.

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  4. I enjoyed reading about your son’s school trip, so it’s quite a treat to see how the place actually looks like. Thank you for sharing, Sola!

    As unfortunate as it is to not be able to test the pencils, I wonder how the display cases were made.. I’ve just never seen such displays before, so it’s quite interesting that he was able to outfit the walls with shelves like that. I wonder if they’re accessible from the other side of the wall.. that’d be fun! With secret stash behind :D

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    1. Thank you for reading, Jinnie! As for the display, I rather had the impression that you could slide the glass plate sideways and take it out… but I’m not sure. And you’re right, he must have bought at least some pencils as a dozen, so there should be a secret stash somewhere…?! It’s also fortunate that he had space to build a museum to house his collection. Not everyone can do that, you know!

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