This week’s reader is one fortunate artist. She has in her possession some old Prismacolor colored pencils!
She also had a couple of questions about them. Here’s what she asked.
I found that along with my Prismacolor Premier pencils I also have some odd Prismacolor pencils with other names: Sanford Prismacolor and Berol Prismacolor. Are these beginner pencils with less permanence than the Premier pencils?
Old Prismacolor Colored Pencils
I have good news for Dolly and for anyone else who has pencils with these labels.
They are artist grade pencils.
They’re also perfectly good to use, and may actually be of higher quality than the current Prismacolor pencils.
So what are they?
Time for a quick colored pencil history lesson!
In 1856, a man named Daniel Berolzheimer founded the Eagle Pencil Company. He made graphite pencils and other writing tools and accessories.
Colored pencils didn’t come into being until 1938 under the name Eagle Prismacolor pencils. Even then, they came in two forms: The soft core thick lead pencils, and the thinner, harder leaded Verithin pencils.
In 1969, the company adopted the name of Berol Ltd., and renamed the pencils Berol Prismacolor. The company remained family-owned for five generations. Then, the Empire Pencil Company purchased the company and its products. That was in 1986.
In 1995, Sanford LP purchased the Prismacolor line. The name was changed again, this time to Sanford Prismacolor.
Sanford is a subsidiary of the Newell Company. You may be more familiar with some of this company’s other products, including Rubbermaid, Coleman outdoor products, Mr. Coffee, and Yankee Candle, just to name a very few.
Are All Those Pencils of Good Quality?
Factories built by the original owners manufactured Prismacolor pencils until Sanford bought the line. Family-owned companies are often more interested in producing top-quality products because their name is on the line.
After the sale to Sanford, those factories began to close. Manufacture of Prismacolor products was out-sourced when the last factory closed in 2010. Products made by factories not owned by the company sometimes results in lesser quality control.
I looked through my pencils and found a Berol Prismacolor and a Sanford Prismacolor among the colors I rarely use. The pencils are both metallic silver and have the same color number—949, though the Sanford pencil is labeled PC949. I’ve used them both (at least both of them are sharpened,) and recall no difference.
Are They Permanent?
I cannot tell you that because lightfast testing was not done back then. At least I found no evidence of lightfast tests or test results.
I am confident, however, that earth tones (browns,) grays, blacks, and some of the less bright colors are lightfast. The jewel tones (if you have any) are more likely to fade.
You can use all the colors if you’re doing craft art. If you want to use them for fine art for your own display, then make sure to frame them with UV resistant glass and display them where natural sunlight does not reach them.
Old Prismacolor Colored Pencils: The Bottom Line
Those Eagle, Berol and Sanford Prismacolor colored pencils are perfectly good for modern day use. They feel about the same as today’s Prismacolor pencils when you draw with them, and they should perform very well.
By the way, you can still buy some of these old Prismacolor pencils if you know where to find them. Hint: Etsy and eBay are both good sources.
- Prismacolor/About Us