Saturday, April 6, 2013

Laurentien Coloured Pencils

Laurentien coloured pencils are a Canadian classic.  Most people probably remember either using them in school or buying them for their children to use.  For whatever reason, I never had a set of my own when I was young, so one of the first things I did when I was living on my own in my first year of university was walk down the street to the store and buy a set of 60 Laurentien coloured pencils (I know, I'm such a geek).  I was absurdly thrilled that I finally had a set of my very own.


 This post from the Canadian Design Resource has a good history of these pencil crayons.  They were originally called "Laurentian" (with an "a" not an "e") and were owned by the Venus Pencil Company, although later the name was changed to the French version Laurentien (with the "e"), apparently to help promote them in the Quebec market.  In the mid-nineties, Laurentien was bought by Sanford.  I remember when these pencils came in a nifty vinyl pouch that I coveted when my best friend owned a set, but this was later discontinued by Sanford.  The colours each had a number and a name (the numbers were apparently a relic of the days when they were used in colour-by-number kits), and many of the names were rather unique (you can find a list of the names on Wikipedia).  Unfortunately, the comments in this post tell a sad story: Laurentien pencil crayons have been discontinued and are now difficult to find (and those that are available are often of poorer quality).  I was sorry to discover that when I was researching this post, and thankful that I was able to purchase my set several years ago.


The pencils themselves have an easily recognizable design, with the name "Laurentien", the name of the colour (in both English and French), and the number stamped on white on the body of the pencil.  The large white space is apparently for students to write their name in, so they don't get their pencils mixed up with those of other students.  The colours are vivid and blend relatively well; several years ago I made this chart showing the colours I had in my set (which included both the basic colours as well as 6 metallic colours).

(Click to view larger.)

Most office and art supplies available in Canada today are made by American companies, so I am sorry to see the end of these pencil crayons.  They are still one of my all-time favourite supplies, and I'm sure I'll be taking better care of my set of 60 now that I know how much harder it will be to find them in the future.

Do you remember using these pencil crayons?  What other classic supplies from your childhood do you miss?

44 comments:

  1. LAURENTIEN!!!!!!! So awesome!!! I used to treasure these. My parents FINALLY bought me a pack of these when I was a kid and I treasured them so much, if the leads ever broke, I would save them and keep them in the plastic pack. ... Ok. That might have been a little weird. I no longer have any... rats.

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    1. Maybe not as weird as you think, Azizah! I actually used to save the broken leads from my pencil crayons as well. And for a while I even saved pencil shavings too :)

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  2. Hi Heather, first of all, I enjoy reading your blog. Second, unfortunately, where I'm from, Malaysia, dont have these colour pencils. But as a child I've always used Stabilo colour pencils, perhaps because my mother used to work with the company and I often get a box load of supply. :-) but I still enjoy colour pencils, markers, sharpies etc til today.

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    1. Thanks, Shia! You were lucky to have a mom who worked for the company :) I'll always enjoy these too; they're classics and a nostalgic reminder of childhood.

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  3. I always liked crayons better, but also had a pack of colored pencils. Crayola is the dominant brand here in the States.

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    1. Crayola is popular in Canada, too, and is probably the most common brand for items like this, but when I was a kid, Laurentien was usually what everyone preferred.

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    2. I still have mines the originals from 20 years ago

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    3. i have an unsharpened pack of 24 numbered pencil crayons. i also prefer crayons to pencil crayons but but I LOVE MY LAURENTIEN. are they still made...i mean if i sharpen these will i be able to get more? not so sure

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  4. You bet I remember these! I got my first set in Elementary School. I never knew what the white spaces were for! Great post.

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    1. Thanks! I actually didn't know what the white spaces were for either until I did the research for this post. Those white spaces make so much more sense now!

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  5. Classic supplies from childhood? Y'know---none. Modern writing gear seems to me superior to anything I recall as a youngster in the 1960s. Polymerized pencil leads, gel inks, on-line availability of inexpensive but relatively difficult to find goods, etc. Norman Haase at His Nibs in the States says, I think, that this is a second golden age of fountain pens.

    You bet, I feel a little awkward not feeling nostalgic. Jack/Ohio

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    1. I'm not a very nostalgic person generally, but when I do feel some nostalgia for an item, it's usually more for the memories I have associated with it rather than for the actual quality of the item. Definitely agree that there are a lot of awesome supplies available these days, though.

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    2. Yeah, you're right about the memories. If pressed, I'd say the Lindy ballpoint pen and a brass manual pencil sharpener my Dad bought me do jog some good memories, the kind of childhood memories where a small thing seems very important because of its novelty, family connection, etc. Jack/Ohio

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  6. I came across your blog searching for the Laurentian felts. I just bought a Doodle Art, and yes I am reliving my childhood and wanted my "original" felts pens. I'm sadden to think my search is most likely going to end with not finding them. If the pencils are gone, surely the felts are as well :(

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    1. I can't remember if I ever used the Laurentien felt markers or not, but I remember seeing them around. It possible that some retailers may still have some old stock, though, so you might still be able to get lucky in your search.

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  7. I have been looking for these since my son has started using the ones I had since I was a kid. I'm so sad to hear that they're no longer available or hard to find. Boo! Which brand would you recommend if you were to buy them now?

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    1. It's hard for me to recommend anything, since I'm really not familiar with other brands. I do remember that I liked Prismacolor pencils when I was younger, and they definitely are a step up from the more commonly seen Crayola pencils.

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  8. I was feeling in a sentimental mood this week and decided I desperately needed some Laurentiens to remind me of my childhood in Canada in the '70s. I was distraught to learn that they've been discontinued! But my dismay was somewhat alleviated by reading about other people's memories. I wonder if anyone has a recommendation of another brand (available in the UK) which might come close to Laurentien. Thanks in advance!

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    1. As I mentioned in my reply to the above comment, Prismacolor is the other brand that I remember. Their UK site is here: http://www.prismacolor.co.uk/

      But I don't have a lot of experience here, so I welcome any other recommendations as well!

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  9. Well, I am devastated. As a kindergarten teacher, I have tried other brands of coloured pencils with my kids and the Laurentiens break far less and apply colour more smoothly than the Crayola and the Prang, which are the only other brands we can order from our school board. You pay for cheaper, you get cheaper. :(

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  10. You have confirmed which I have dreaded to hear that the Laurentien Pencil Crayons are a product of the past. This is unfortunate for these pencil crayons were of high quality. They were strong and didn't break as the Crayola ones do. I have one package that I have yet to use. Now, I will keep them. The Laurentiens were the only pencil crayon that I would recommend on the supply list. Now, I buy Staedtler which are made in Germany.

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    1. I haven't used Staedtler pencil crayons - I'll have to give those a try one day and see how they compare.

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    2. i have some too the Staedtler ones but i prefer laurentien. i guess since they are a thing of the past i will NOT be sharpening the ones i have. :(

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  11. The only brand I have used for my art then and now. But am sad that I have to find another brand to switch to as I exclusively use Laurentien.

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    1. I am an artist. I use prismacolor pro, but you can get a less espensive Prismacolor called Scholar. I loved Laurentian's . Its all I used when I was younger. Sorry not to be able to get them anymore.

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  12. This is horrible. I have a few Laurentien pencil crayons that I'm hoarding for as long as possible. I won't even share them with my niece. I think I'm going to have to switch to Staedtlers. They have water colour pencil crayons that look promising. I never did like Prismacolour or Crayola. I found the quality of the leads to be far less superior to Laurentien. Thank you for the post. :)

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  13. When my 2 Sons were young, every time I would go back to Montreal, the first stop was always Rossi's to pick up as many packages of Laurentien colored pencils as I could find. When I'd get back home again, the first thing the kids would say was "did you get us come pencils ( and smarties)". I have a 16 year old granddaughter and will give her the last package of 60 that I have been saving for a special occasion.

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  14. I am dreadfully disheartened to find out that Laurentian pencil crayons are no longer available, as they are way better pencil crayons than crayola. I will rather send my daughter to school with a used makeshift set of laurentian, and Canadiana, for the love of quality colouring.

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    1. I couldn't agree more with your comments. My 8 year old daughter got so frustrated with the crayola sets breaking that i went out and looked for a laurentien set, it was at that point i found out that they were no longer available. I set out on a mission to hunt down older laurentien pencil crayons and during that process i fell in love with them all over again!

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  15. I worked for Venus Pencil in Etobicoke in the 1960's.We manufactured the Laurentian colored pencils,millions and millions of them.

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    1. I grew up in Etobicoke & remember the Venus Pencil company on the south side of the Queensway between Islington & Kipling. Laurentian pencil crayons were & still are the best - the leads were thicker & softer-ideal for colouring. The pencil crayons available today are just garbage - the leads are thin, hard & brittle. I was shocked not to be able to purchase Laurentien brand for my child when he started school. Is there any way we can petition to bring back such a quality Canadian icon so that our children & generations to come can experience them? How can we let them just disappear?

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    2. Janet from TorontoFebruary 4, 2016 at 7:35 AM

      I'd sign your petition. I'm disgusted with the poor quality of crayola brand pencil crayons. They constantly break. My kids need to sharpen them 5 or 6 times to get a point. And plenty of their school mates have empty pencil cases that were filled with Crayola in the fall.

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  16. I have been collecting the original Laurentian and Laurentien pencil crayons for the past few years and as of today i have finally completed my first full set of all the colors! ! have collected over 700+ including some full sets of the original vinyl packs! i love Laurentian pencil crayons with a passion.
    I have a few rare ones like the "natural flesh" and " indian red" and an ultra hard to find confetti multi colored laurentien pencil crayon. I plan on posting pics of my collection at some point in the near future. Thanks for sharing your memories and the research !

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  17. These were my favorite pencils when I was a kid. It's a shame that they're off the market now.

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  18. I still have a set in the original plastic case. Have kept them for over 40 years. I recently purchased a couple of adult colouring books and dug out my Laurentians and they glide across the paper as smoothly as I remembered all those years ago. Boohoo that they're no longer available :(

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  19. As a child of the 70s, I remember Laurentian pencil crayons vividly. I was so eager to receive my first "double pack," which was the set of 24. As an adult, I purchased the 50 or 60 pack. I remember the quality, the logo, the space to write your name (though I never did), and many of the colours (Indian red, cherry red, poppy red, lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, etc...). I would love if they still existed. The Crayola and Playskool brand that my five year-old has are of poor quality. They break easily, and the colours aren't that exciting. Wish I had known they would be discontinued, as I'd have stocked up on them.

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  20. hi im live in melbourne,can someone tell where and how to get the pencil color please? ive been looking for them foe ages, thanks heaps

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    1. Hi,
      Laurentian (brand) colored pencils are no longer made. (I live in Vancouver, Canada and these colored pencils were widely available, but are not longer made.) There are other brands on the market that you can find on different sites on-line and vary in price from low to high. I have a set of Laurentian colored pencils from when my kids went to school that I use for my coloring books but have bought other brands as well. I did purchase some that do come close to the smooth lines and bold colors but was by trial and error. ****As a side note: My Laurentian package (box) does have the name Faber-Castell. ****

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  21. I still have and prefer to use my old Laurentien and Berol Canadiana sets. They are smoother than the Crayola pencils.

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  22. So sad. I found this post while Googling where to find Laurentien pencil crayons, sorry to hear they aren't available anymore. I still have ones from 20 years ago when I was in school and am so happy they survived and now my kids are using the little stubs I saved. The best thing about them - they don't break (as often) when sharpening, compared to other brands. Someone else mentioned Berol - those are/were great too, and I have some remnants of those too in my collection.

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  23. You can still get Laurentien colored pencils, felts etc in Canada if you know where to order them from :)

    http://www.akdo.ca/Product/2513226/

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  24. I am 68 now and lived in Canada in the 50s and brought them with me when we came back to England to live. With the popularity of adult coloring books I was bought one by my husband this Christmas I have rediscovered my original Laurentine pencil (pack of 12). They are lovely nothing as good in England these
    days. Would not even let my children use them( what a mean mother I must have
    been). Wonderful that 55 years I can recapture my childhood. Shame that you can't get them now. Will have to use them sparingly !

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  25. Sad to see that Laurentiens are no longer made. I used these all through my school years. They were top line of coloured pencils. I have the Crayola now and find them to be a sorry replacement. They break often and the wood is horrible for shredding when sharpened. Will have to look for a better pencil set as I am getting back into the world of colouring again.

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  26. I'm disappointed to hear this news, but glad I clicked on your link to discover I'm not the only Canadian girl missing her childhood "friends". I'll have to go through that pencil box at my mom's to see if there are any left.

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