Friday, October 19, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils: Eberhard Faber Aquarello

Vintage Eberhard Faber Aquarello

Early in my vintage colored pencils series, I reviewed the Eberhard Faber Mongol (which I also mentioned months later when I experienced my most exciting colored pencil geek moment ever!). At the time, it was the only water-soluble colored pencil in my fledgling vintage collection. Of course, as a subset of the colored pencil universe, water-soluble pencils are of particular interest to me, since they are my current coloring medium of choice. As is true of contemporary materials, historic pencil manufacturers produced many more traditional colored pencils (wax- or oil-based) than watercolor versions, and the latter are more difficult to find.

Since the Mongols, I’ve acquired a few other vintage watercolor pencils, including the Faber-Castell Goldfaber and Venus. Most recently, I found a set from Eberhard Faber that was new to me: Aquarello “water color” pencils, which “inaugurate a new era in the field of art.”

Although the used set I got on eBay was not complete, the cool original box was in better condition than most I’ve purchased from the era.
The hinged trays can be made to stand up on the desktop.

I get a kick out of the marketing copy: “The colors can be ‘SUPERIMPOSED.’” I see that the same “Paint with pencils” tagline that appears on Mongol packaging is being used here, too.

I love the snap tab closure; a similar tab was used in some production years of the Mongol, too. (My Mongol box doesn’t have one, but I saw it on the one that appeared in The Post.) These similarities in packaging make me wonder if one superseded the other in Eberhard Faber’s collection or if they existed side by side.

A snap tab keeps the compact box closed.

The Aquarello has a plain, unfinished end. I miss the lovely metal end cap and equally beautiful typeface on the Mongol. I wish I knew the years they were produced relative to each other.

Unfortunately, this is a brief and mostly pictorial review, as these washable “colored leads” are just as wimpy as those of the Mongol. A bit softer and containing slightly more pigment than the Mongol when dry, the Aquarello takes some scrubbing to activate. Perhaps the Mongol was intended as a harder pencil for details, while the Aquarello is slightly softer for coloring.

The Mongol and Aquarello have similarly pale washes.

As a colored pencil historian, I appreciate seeing these early American predecessors to my favorite art medium. And using them makes me doubly grateful for contemporary water-soluble colored pencils, which are so much softer, contain more pigment and dissolve with greater vibrancy. Honestly, even very inexpensive contemporary watercolor pencils seem better than vintage ones. Of course, I don’t buy vintage pencils with the hope that I’ll find one of better quality than what I can buy easily off the shelf today; I collect them for their historical interest. As I concluded when I compared vintage and contemporary Goldfaber sets, it’s good to know that technology and manufacturing processes have improved over time, making it possible to produce better quality pencils, even at the low end of the price range.


  1. I have an old Mongol set and didn't know they were water soluble. Thank you.

  2. I have 2 Mongols(one with cap, one without) and 2 extra colored pencils total of 50 colored pencils. Also a black box Aquarello with the cap on the top

    1. Nice! These seem to be getting harder to find these days... enjoy yours!

  3. Hello, Sorry I meant cap as in snap tab..
    (For the comment above)

  4. My collection isn't big but it's nice lol, Thanks for your kind comment.

  5. I have a similar set of Faber Aquarello's. What year do we think they are from?

    1. This set and the other set I have ( were both seen in a 1930 Eberhard Faber catalog!


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