Eberhard Faber “Mongol”

I never quite warmed-up to the Mongol.

It’s one of Eberhard Faber’s oldest brands, dating back at least to the early 1910s, and there have been many iterations of this pencil. Perhaps that’s why I have been less interested in this one; there are just so many of them. The one pictured above is the less-commonly seen round Mongol 480—it’s very comfortable to hold, and despite being a No. 2 pencil it writes more like a No. 1.

For many people, the Mongol was their standard No. 2 pencil in school, but for me that pencil was the Dixon Ticonderoga so I don’t associate it with those early years. From what I can tell though, through the volume and variety of vintage advertisements as well as sources such as Petroski’s The Pencil, the Mongol was nothing if not ubiquitous. The packaging for the Mongol—including the typography used for its branding over the decades—was very eye-catching. I especially like the imprint on this version of the pencil:

The Mongol was also at the center of a scandal involving Damian Hirst, himself no stranger to scandal. An installation of his included a box of Faber-Castell Mongols, which was stolen and held for a kind of ransom (the teenaged sneak thief who took them threatened to sharpen them). For being part of the exhibit, they were valued at £500,000.

Perhaps I’ve underestimated the Mongol.

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17 Responses to Eberhard Faber “Mongol”

  1. John says:

    I’m with you on this; I never really got into the Mongol when I was in school (or Dixons). My daughter is strangly attracted to the ferrules on the few Mongols around here, though. Bizarre.

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    • Sean says:

      I should say that, even though I grew up with Dixons I wasn’t particularly fond of them either. I was born and raised in New Jersey, which must have been territory in Dixon’s favor. Funny enough, the first pencils I ever kind of “noticed” were the pop-a-point pencils, back in grade school.

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  2. Kevin says:

    Well Sean, I can thank your sample Mongol No 1 for turning me into a Mongolholic. I love these pencils and particularly the older packaging above. The finish of the paintwork, stampings and ferrules is always near perfect and the ferrrules resist rust/corrosion better than the Ticonderogas. I think I must be one of the few people down under to own this gorgeous pencil. Of course the Mongol, Ticonderoga, Velvets etc were never available down under ( (the Eagle Mirados were, but I never recall seeing them), and I never knew the greatness of the American pencil industry until you set me straight with your samples.

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    • Sean says:

      I’m glad you like them, Kevin. And just so everyone knows — it’s not that I think they are bad pencils. It’s just for some reason they never became a favorite.

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  3. memm says:

    For me it is a great looking pencil. Like for Kevin this is an unusual pencil where I live, which, like the nice box and its unique logo, only adds to its attractiveness.

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  4. Sean says:

    I agree that some of them look very nice (especially the one I mentioned in the post). Another thing about the boxes is how sturdy the cardboard is — not like something you’d see nowadays.

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  5. The Mongol has my favorite ferrule and is my favorite pencil. The out-of-print book Quintessence: The Quality of Having “It” (Betty Cornfeld and Owen Edwards) chooses the Mongol No. 2 as the quintessence of pencil. If you have an Amazon account, you can see the two-page spread via “Look Inside.”

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  6. Sean says:

    Michael — is the Mongol what you remember being around when you were growing up? I’m curious, since you were in the heart of Faber territory.

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  7. adair says:

    In my childhood Mongol competed with Venus, Dixon, and Wallace as the school pencil of choice. I do not remember the round-barreled ones, though. I agree about the beauty of the packaging—sturdy and colorful, you almost didn’t need an additional pencil case! Still, I remember loving the sword-wielding figure of Ethan Allan on the Ticonderoga box.

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  8. adair says:

    Yes, the Invader was the star of the Wallace line. It was a very good but slightly less expensive pencil than the Mongol and was common in schools as well as banks and offices. By the 1960’s, the Invader logo had shifted from a Faber-Castell-like jousting knight (with a pencil in place of a lance) to a thift-conscious patch of Scottish tartan.

    By the way, if I recall correctly, Mongol used to have a special line of pencils called “School Time.” I think they were regular Mongols but packaged more economically in larger boxes.

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  9. Sean says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your recollections. This is all very interesting to me.

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  11. Kathy Stockton says:

    How can I order the Eberhard Faber Mongol 480 No. 1 pencil?

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  12. What does the Mongol mean?

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