Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Vintage Colored Pencils: Two Curious Bicolors

Empire Sunset Dual-Kolors: Pure nostalgia

I have a particular fondness for bicolor pencils. First, they are nostalgically special to me. 1960s-era Empire Sunset Dual-Kolors may have been among my first colored pencils, and the sight of their triple-striped barrels fills me with childhood memories.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a vintage Mallard Maestro Combination #705 (below) – a blue/red bicolor that is a dead ringer for the Dual-Kolor! According to Brand Name Pencils (where I bought it), the “Mallard Pencil Co. of Georgetown, Kentucky, was established in 1945 – shortly after its founder, E.S. Mallard, was released from military service.”

So far, that is the only historical information about the Mallard pencil company that I have found, so I’m curious to learn more. The question is: Which came first, the Maestro or the Dual-Kolor? (A quick scribble told me that the Maestro is a tiny bit better than the Dual-Kolor in terms of use, but not much. They are both pretty terrible.)

Top: Empire Sunset Dual-Kolor; below: Mallard Maestro Combination
Which came first?

The second reason I adore bicolor pencils is that they are supremely practical in a compact, portable sketch kit because I can carry two colors in the space of one. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know how excited I was when Caran d’Ache released its Bicolors set last year. Not only were they made by my favorite colored pencil maker; they were water-soluble! At the time that I wrote that review, I was certain that Cd’A Bicolors were the only water-soluble bicolor pencil set ever to be made. I was wrong!

Recently I came across a curious set of inexpensive, used bicolors on eBay: Staedtler Luna Aquarells. Although labeled “vintage” by the UK seller, the box bears a barcode, so obviously the set isn’t too old. A quick Google search resulted in many images of Luna Aquarells with the same packaging, so the set may not be “vintage” at all. However, all the sets currently available are single-color sticks, not bicolors, so it’s likely that the bicolors are no longer made.

Not very vintage.

Staedtler Luna Aquarell Bicolors

Based on the pigment content, which isn’t as low as I expected, Luna Aquarell Bicolors are probably intended for the back-to-school market (the diagonally striped cores resemble stick candy!). Made in Hong Kong, the colored cores bear a whitish outer layer, which is a mark of the ABS “Anti-Break System.”

ABS Anti-Break System

I stand corrected: Caran d’Ache Bicolors are not the first water-soluble bicolors to be made! (But certainly they are the only ones worth using.)

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