|Eagle Magicolor watercolor pencils|
amazing vintage item crossed my eBay path recently: a totally unused set of
Eagle Magicolor watercolor pencils. (In terms of an exciting find, it was second
only to the set of Caran d’Ache Prismalo watercolor pencils, likely from
the ‘30s, that I stumbled upon last fall.) My interest in Eagle has focused
mainly on vintage Prismacolor and Verithin pencils, and once I acquired
some from the various production eras, Eagle fell off my radar. I had never
heard of the Magicolor name before, nor did I even know that Eagle made a
watercolor pencil – yet there it was in a generic “vintage colored pencil”
search. Fortunately, the item had a “buy now” option (auctions give me
jitters), which I certainly did!
box indicates a copyright date of 1936, but I know that’s probably related to
the company and not the product. How old might this apparently rare set be? My
historical research (which consisted of contacting several helpful and knowledgeable
pencil collectors) didn’t yield any conclusive information. Based on the Eagle
logo design, however, the consensus is that the set is from between the end of
World War II and the early ‘60s.
cardboard box is similar to the kind I’ve seen Eagle Prismacolors come in with
a snap closure and hinge that enables the set to stand upright.
pencils in my set of 24 came unsharpened, and the rest had factory sharpening
that showed no signs of use. (Of course, now they have all been sharpened and
used by me!) The product line must have been making a transition from factory
sharpening to unsharpened, so the set came with some of each. The barrel is
round with glossy paint matching the core color in a design similar to Eagle
Prismacolors of the same era.
to Prismacolors, that is, except for one standout detail: The gorgeous gold metal
end cap with wedding-cake tiers and a red stripe – be still my heart! It must
be one of the most beautiful end caps I’ve ever seen!
|Be still my heart!|
Eagle logo and typography are the same as in the Turquoise Prismacolor era. The
Magicolor branding, however, has a distinctive look: The partly italicized Magicolor
and the name surrounded by “sparks” tickle me no end.
|Eagle Prismacolors and Magicolors have the same logo and typography|
When I compared the Magicolors with Prismacolors more
closely, I saw that the color numbers are the same – Magicolors begin with 12-
and Prismacolors begin with 9-. They also have the same thick cores as
|Magicolor and Prismacolor color numbers are the same except for the initial 12 and 9.|
With all these similarities with Prismacolors, I had high
hopes that the Magicolors would apply with the same creamy softness and high
pigment quality. In fact, the cores are harder than Prismacolors. Among my
watercolor pencils, Magicolors are most like Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer
in softness and application quality, and when used dry, the pigment coverage is
good. Unfortunately, the pigment content isn’t as high, so when activated, the hues
don’t have a rich wash (it’s most visible in the swatches under my sketch).
|1/16/20 vintage Eagle Magicolor watercolor pencils in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook|
This set of Magicolors raises so many questions: If these were
made during the same era as the Eagle Turquoise Prismacolors, which are spotted
fairly often on eBay, why are they so rare by comparison? (One of my collector
contacts was as amazed as I was that this set appeared; he has an identical set
but had never seen others before it or until mine.) Twenty-four is a modest set
quantity; were there larger ones? Surely a set of 12 probably existed. Since
the lower pigment content might not be up to artist quality as the Prismacolors
are, perhaps they never caught on and were discontinued after a short run.
The Magicolor brand seems to have disappeared early on, but at
least by the Sanford era of the ‘90s, watercolor pencils were being produced under the Prismacolor brand. I’ve
never seen Prismacolor watercolor pencils in a set larger than 36, either
during the Sanford era or currently, so maybe the watercolor pencil market just
hasn’t been a priority for the Prismacolor brand. (Nobody in charge has asked my
opinion on the matter, of course.)
However brief Eagle Magicolor was on the art supply shelf
decades ago, I am all the more thrilled to have grabbed this set to experience a
part of watercolor pencil history.