Thursday, April 5, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils, Part 10: Stabilo Schwan

Lefty Stabilo Schwan pencils!

Some German pencils came my way recently from a very nice person in Slovenia who knew I was interested in vintage colored pencils: seven colors of Stabilo Schwan. Coincidentally, around the same time that they were offered to me, I happened to buy a small lot of vintage pencils on eBay that included one Stabilo Schwan (the light blue one at the bottom).

The name Stabilo was familiar to me, but only because I had purchased a small set of the brand’s CarbOthello chalk pastels at the L. Cornelissen shop in London a couple of years ago. Searching on Amazon, I see that Stabilo offers “thin lead colouring pencils” with similar branding to the ones I have. The end cap looks similar, and the swan logo still appears, but the name Schwan does not.

I love these end caps!
The semi-hex barrel has a shiny varnish with the branding, swan logo and color number stamped in gold. The swan appears in white on the end cap. My favorite part of the external design, however, is that the pencils are stamped with a lefty orientation. (Now I have a dilemma: Will I store these as part of my vintage colored pencil collection? Or my lefty-oriented pencil collection? Another question that will keep me up at night.)

In the group that my friend in Slovenia sent, a slightly different branding treatment – like the dark green pencil below – appears on two pencils, which is also the way it appears on the one random light blue pencil I got from eBay. The rest have the treatment shown in the red pencil below. So I’m guessing that two ages are represented in my small sampling.

Two branding treatments

The pencil cores are very hard – among the hardest I have ever used. In fact, I included a Stabilo Schwan in my recent comparison of colored pencils hard enough to write with. Along with the American Venus Unique, the Stabilo has the best balance between hardness and color intensity, making it a good colored writing pencil.
3/25/18 vintage Stabilo Schwan pencils in Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

I didn’t think I would enjoy sketching with them due to their hardness, but because they have a fairly high pigment content, I was pleasantly surprised while making the apple sketch. The colors blend well, and the pigment covers the toothy Stillman & Birn Alpha surface easily. They hold a point so well that they are excellent for fine details.

I have such a small color range that I will probably use these more for writing than sketching, but I don’t come across vintage German colored pencils often, so I’m very happy to add these to my collection.


  1. You have such a collection of pencils!!! Just an update...I saw pink blossoms on a tree today. It looked so strange to see one and no others at all. Maybe there is hope for more before I leave...although snow is in the forecast again. lol

  2. Hi have you seen Schwan-Stabilo from 1987 eyar?

    1. Sorry, I don't know enough about Schwan-Stabilo to identify a pencil from a specific year.


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