Saturday, September 22, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils: Laurentien and Venus Paradise

Laurentien colored pencil packaging

Earlier this year when I was surfing around on eBay for vintage colored pencils, an interesting name caught my attention: Laurentien, a Canadian brand. The name popped up relatively frequently, sometimes in large bulk quantities, so I deduced that these pencils were no longer being produced but were also not rare. The sets I saw most often were of 12 or 24 colors packaged in plastic cases.

Some Internet research revealed that this colored pencil brand was fondly and nostalgically remembered by Canadians who used them in elementary school much the way Americans look back at Crayola. Unlike Crayola, however, Laurentien pencils were apparently pleasant to use.

Win a Commodore home computer system!
Curious, I waited for an inexpensive, used set to appear, and shortly thereafter, an interesting offer popped up: Two packages were for sale together, and one had a label promoting a giveaway of a Commodore computer! Instantly dating the pencils for the 1980s, the package made the offer irresistible.

The two incomplete sets I bought – both with the Faber Castell logo on the cases – might be of slightly different ages. The barrels of one set say “Venus Canada” while the others say only “Canada.” In addition, the pencils that say Venus Canada include color names in English only. The pencils labeled Canada show color names in both English and French. A distinguishing feature of
Faber Castell's logo appears on both packages
Laurentien colored pencils are the color numbers, which are intended for use with color-by-number coloring books. (Some of those corresponding coloring books can still be found on eBay.)

The name Venus was familiar to me from vintage graphite and colored pencils I’ve seen on eBay, including the small set of American Venus watercolor pencils I reviewed earlier this year. In that review, I mentioned the two random Venus Paradise pencils I had dug up at a local thrift shop. Disappointingly, the watercolor pencils were not nearly as soft and pigmented as the Venus Paradise, so I went on a hunt for more of the latter.

Eventually I acquired a used set of 12 Venus Paradise, which are relatively rare compared to other Venus colored pencils. When examined, I saw that the Paradise pencils have the same color numbers as the Laurentien pencils! The plot thickens!
 
In each color pair, the upper pencil is Venus Paradise; the lower is Laurentien. The color numbers match.

A nearly complete set of color numbers 1 - 24. Some say Canada; others say Venus Canada.

Some color names are in English only; others include French.


Indeed, it didn’t take long to discover that Laurentien and Venus Paradise were basically the same pencils marketed in Canada and the US, respectively. The most informative article came from the Canadian Design Resource, which said the following:

Although Laurentien (then spelled Laurentian) pencil crayons were made in Canada right from the start, The Venus Pencil Company Ltd. also marketed the same pencils under the brand name ‘Paradise’ in the United States. Both brands were developed for Colour-By-Number kits, and they both kept the same colour names and numbering system. This would explain some of the more exotic colour names like “#2 Sarasota Orange” and “#4 Hollywood Cerise.”
During the 1960’s, a couple of Canadian innovations were made: The packaging was changed to the portable vinyl pouches, and space for labeling on the pencil was introduced to deter theft from classmates.
In 1972, a year before Faber-Castell bought Venus, the French spelling “Laurentien” was trademarked in an attempt to increase sales in Quebec.
Sanford acquired the brand in 1994, and in 2001 they changed the packaging and discontinued the vinyl pouch.
Intriguing information for a colored pencil historian! It made me happier than ever that I had gotten sets in vinyl pouches (not to mention the Commodore promotion).

Two logo designs on Venus Paradise pencils
  
Left: Venus Paradise; right: Laurentien
I say that Laurentien and Paradise are “basically” the same because they aren’t identical. The Paradise core is ever-so-slightly thicker and feels a bit waxier.

The Paradise set I bought on eBay has a slightly different logo design than the two random ones I found at the thrift store (I’m particularly fond of the logo on the light blue and green ones from the thrift shop).

As for how they apply, both pencils are soft and waxy but don’t layer and blend as well as other soft pencils I’ve used. Still, for pencils intended for elementary school children, they are pleasant and certainly useable (a far cry from the hard, unpigmented Crayola pencils that I remember from my youth). As the only Canadian colored pencil in my collection (or that I even know of), the Laurentien remains unique and special.



5/27/18 Laurentien colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

6 comments:

  1. And that is my childhood, summed up in photos of pencil crayons! Probably many sets of those buried at my parents house among the childhood things.

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    1. That's very cool! I hope this was nostalgic fun for you! :-)

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  2. I still have two partial sets from my youth (1960s/70s). They were a staple of Canadian grammar school kids in my day ... and were colloquially called "pencil crayons"

    After sitting down with my son to colour using a set of Crayola pencils, I dug-out one of my old sets which were much more pleasant for him to use. It was in my attempt to find him his own set of Laurentian pencils that I discovered they no longer exist. :-(

    He's now using Staedtler pencils which are different again - far better than the Crayola of Topelek, but not as kid friendly as Laurentian.

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    1. You can still find Laurentien pencils on eBay relatively easily. It would be worth the nostalgia to get some! :-)

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  3. Thank you for this wonderful review! I loved my set of Venus Paradise pencils I had as a child in California, and was very sad to find they are no longer manufactured. It's great to find that Venus Laurentian is likely very similar in terms of its smooth, brilliant and fun colors, since they seem so much more available.

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    1. I'm happy that you found the review useful. It's wonderful that you grew up with a set of Venus Paradise!

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