There seem to be many different kinds of shops selling stationery in Shanghai.
There are the functional ones, selling stationery and other office supplies. Customers seem to be companies, but you’ll also find pupils there.
There are the fashionable ones. You’ll find them near universities. They do have some normal stationery, but seem to focus on cute stationery. They also sell make-up and girly things, too. The fashionable stationery is not always of high quality.
…and then there are the overpriced stationery shops. They are often located in shopping centres. They sell all sorts of expensive stuff. To be fair, the price is not only the shops fault. Many items, even though they have been made in China, have been reimported from Japan or Korea. I assume that even in Japan or Korea they are not cheap in the first place and someone has to pay for (re-)importing small numbers of them, which are probably not very economical. You can often find other items in these shops, like Monchhichis or iPhone docking stations.
One example of this kind of shop is “Queen’s Market – selected by Tokyo” in the new Shanghai Hongkou Dragon Dream Shopping Centre. Amongst other items they are selling Delfonics‘ Rollbahn range, Japanese stationery with German text printed on that sounds very much like it’s coming straight out of a Kraftwerk song.
These kind of shops often don’t survive very long. One reason might be that there are similar shops near the shopping centres which pay less rent and sell similar items cheaper – often copies or similar no-name products.
In the last five years or so the number of these overpriced stationery shops has gone up steadily.
I would like to thank Hui Liu for telling me about this new shopping centre in Hongkou. I would have not gone there otherwise.
When I go to the supermarkets in Shanghai it’s usually E-Mart, a large Korean supermarket chain. In the past I used to go to Carrefour, but I think I haven’t been to a Carrefour in Shanghai for at least five years – just because it’s less convenient to go there. It’s a shame, because they always had a good selection of Faber-Castel products with very low prices. Even though I’ve seen Tesco in Shanghai Tesco entered the Chinese market in 2004 when they bought the Chinese supermarket chain 乐购 (LeGou – Happy shopper) in the past, I’ve never actually visited one. This had to change. I mentioned Tesco in previous blog posts. It’s one of the biggest or the biggest supermaerket chain in the UK. Many Brits try to avoid Tesco for various reasons, but my wife and I usually don’t mind and visit more or less all supermarket chains nearby, we don’t have a particular favourite.
The Tesco I went to is in SongJiang, not far from the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. The selection of stationery is fantastic, much better than in the English Tesco extra I usually visit. The stationery products on offer are dominated by Chinese brands, which is no surprise – there are a lot of Shanghainese M&G products in the shelves. Even though I did not notice this brand in the beginning of the decade, it has certainly been in all the supermarket chains in recent years. Pencil-wise the choice is not great, there are only a few different pencils to choose from. Most are hexagonal, some are triangular. Most space was reserved for Tesco’s own brand yellow pencils (I’ll try to check where they are made when I go there again), Staedtler’s yellow pencil 134 (produced in Shanghai) and Chung Hwa’s Drawing Pencil 101. Pens are surprisingly cheap, but I’ll write more about that another time. One brand that seems to grow year on year in China, Britain and Germany is Maped. Maped – Manufacture d’Articles de Précision Et de Dessin (Manufacture of Precision and Drawing Tools) is a French company established in 1947. Unlike companies like Staedtler or Faber-Castell, Maped concentrates more on non-pen stationery, like paper-clips, scissors, etc. Since 2006 they own Helit and Diplomat, two German companies. Helit manufactures Bakelite desk accessories and other items. You can see their Bakelite blotting roller in this blog post. This blotting roller is from a mould or based on a mould that is at least 90 years old. Back to Shanghai: I’m quite happy to have so much choice. You can be sure that I already bought quite a few stationery products in LeGou Tesco.
The 100th post at Bleistift. I thought I should make an extra effort for this blog post, so there will be the first ever giveaway at Bleistift (oh, go on then, scroll down to find out more about the giveaway before you read the article). Today’s post will look at the history of Staedtler UK. It is a follow-up post to the Staedtler Tradition Last time I spelled Tradition lower case, as printed on the pencils, but for this post I decided to consistently start with a Capital. 110 post from March 2010A post that mentioned that Stephen Wiltshire is using the Staedtler Tradition. Twelve months later Staedtler managed to get his support for their pigment liners..
1790 – 1920 Wolff and Cohen
The history of Staedtler in the UK seems to date back as far as 1796. As far as I can tell this was the year when Elias Wolff, aged 15, started his career as a pencil maker. In 1822 he officially started his own company and by 1840 his son was on board and the name of the company changes to Elias Wolff and Son.
The company was based in London, which is not surprising. The UK was and is very centralised and in the past graphite mining and production was controlled by the crown. Graphite had to be transported all the way from Cumbria to London, to be sold or auctioned. Soon Flemish traders were supplying graphite to all of Europe and the Society of Mines Royal asked the family of Höchstetter to apply their Bavarian mining techniques to make mining more efficient.
Solomon Cohen, another pencil maker, was born around the same time as Elias Wolff. When his son Barnet Solomon Cohen took the business over he started trading as B.S. Cohen. In 1919, at a time when England had some of the best pencil factories in the world, B.S. Cohen and E. Wolff and Sons merged. The name for the new company: Royal Sovereign Pencil Co.
… and Napoleon?
These were turbulent times. Elias Wolff and Solomon Cohen were born around the time of the French Revolution and worked as pencil makers while the war between Britain and France and the Napoleonic Wars were going on.
Paulus Staedtler, another pencil maker, was born in 1779, in Nuremberg. Turbulent times there as well: Prussia took Nuremberg over before, in 1806, Napoleon’s army gave the city to their ally Bavaria – not long before all of Franconia was annexed to Bavaria in 1815. In 1835 Paulus’ son Johann Sebastian Staedtler started his own factory, the company we know today as Staedtler.
1919 – 1992 Royal Sovereign Pencil Co
The Royal Sovereign Pencil Co started life in 1919 and was renamed to Royal Sovereign Group Ltd in 1974, just before the factories where taken over by Staedtler. Strangely enough the names Wolff and Royal Sovereign never belonged to Staedtler. I have to assume that the new Royal Sovereign company only held on to the names and maybe some other intellectual property rights, not to any hardware. As far as I can tell, based on information provided by Companies House, the United Kingdom Registrar of Companies, the company was taken over in 1987. It took me a while to figure out that the company that took over the rights to the trademarks etc must be the Dickinson Robinson Group, a company that pioneered a number of innovations in paper-making in the 19th century. In 1989 this group was then taken over by Pembridge Investments, around the same time the rest of Royal Sovereign became part on Nontradorm, before the rest of the Royal Sovereign Group was officially dissolved in 1992. The names “Wolff” and “Royal Sovereign” do however live on. A family owned business, West Design Products, somehow got hold of the rights to the names Wolff and Royal Sovereign and sell Indonesian-made pencils under this name. A first attempt at contacting West Design Products nearly twelve months ago was unfortunately left unanswered, as was a subsequent attempt, so I was not able to find out how these traditional names came into their possession and whether their pencils are made in Staedtler’s Indonesian factory.
1975 – 2009 from Royal Sovereign to Staedtler UK – how the pencils changed
In April 1966 Royal Sovereign started to produce two different types of Staedtler pencils in Pontyclun, Wales. The early Staedtler Tradition 110 pencils made there had “RS – Bonded” printed on them. The factory still made Royal Sovereign pencils and they, too, had “RS – Bonded” printed on them. These early Staedtler Tradition pencils were pre-sharpened on the right side, i.e. looking at the pencil with the print facing up, the right side of the pencil has been sharpened. The RS Bonded version hexagonal, like all other Tradition 110s, and mainly red. The cap has the typical Staedtler look, but only the side of the pencil with the gold letter print is painted black. All other sides of the pencil are red with a thin black strip in the middle.
The next generation of Welsh-made Tradition 110 pencils is pre-sharpened on the left, the same way as nearly all modern pencils. This means that the text on the pencil is not upside down if the pencil is held in the right hand, as was the case with the RS Bonded version. The black and red pattern changed, too, and is identical to modern Staedtler Tradition 110s. The side with the print and the opposite side are black. The other fours sides are red with a black strip between two adjacent red sides. For this generation the stamped text “RS Bonded” has been replaced with “Bonded”.
The next generation of Tradition 110 pencils was probably released around 1972, a few years before Staedtler bought the factory in Pontyclun in 1975. This is the first generation of UK Tradition 110s, where the glue has been applied by a machine. Previous version had the glue applied manually. The print changed from “Bonded” to “Jet Bonded”.
I am not sure whether there has been a generation or several generations of Tradition 110s between the previous Jet Bonded version and the next version that features a bar code. It is more than likely that this version of the Tradition 110 was released in 1990 or shortly after.
You can still find the last generation of the Tradition 110 made in Pontyclun in some shops that have old stock. This generation was in production until the factory was closed in 2007/2008. Around the same time, in 2008/09, the rest of Staedtler UK moved to nearby Bocam Park, about five miles West of Pontyclun.
Royal Sovereign had two factories, one in Pontyclun, South Wales (UK) and one in Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) and when Staedtler took over they bought both factories. Unfortunately, the one in Dee Why (Sydney) closed down nearly 40 years after it opened, around the same time as the one in Pontyclun. Another Staedtler plant that was closed shortly after was the one in Pahang, Malaysia. Products previously manufactured in Australia and Malaysia are now made in Thailand (pens) and Indonesia (pencils). It is a real shame that these factories had to close down.
Pencils can last a long time. On several occasions I took a whole day worth of notes using a Staedtler Mars Lumograph F without having the sharpen the pencil the whole day. In comparison some other pencils wear down really fast, a Dixon Ticonderoga for example, or most of the Korean pencils I know This is not meant as complaint. These pencils have other advantages, e.g. a very dark line. Even the ones that wear down fast are usually good value for money, the ones that last longer often cost a bit more, but are even better value for money. In a time when many consumers will buy the cheapest pencil they see in the supermarket it must be difficult for the established, high quality pencil manufacturers to keep smaller factories and factories in high wage countries alive. I hope that in the future consumers will not just buy any old, scratchy pencil, but a good one, so that these factories can stay open as long as possible.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. There was more I wanted to include, but this post starts to get a bit too long, so I will write more about Staedtler’s popularity in the UK another time. If you have further information about Staedtler UK’s history or pencils, not mentioned here, or if you find any mistakes please let me know.
After I heard that Staedtler’s Welsh factory closed down I started buying pencils from this factory in different shops. To celebrate the 100th blog post I am giving away three prizes, they are not worth a lot (check penciltalk’s anniversary post: How much is my pencil worth? Probably nothing! …but they were made in Staedtler’s UK factory in Pontyclun).
You can win…
A dozen Welsh-made Staedtler Noris. You can choose between the rubber-tipped version (Noris 122 HB) or the version with the traditional Staedtler cap (Noris 120 HB)
A pack of six Welsh-made sketching pencils
A blister pack with three Welsh-made Staedtler Tradition 110s
I am happy to send the prizes to any country as long as Royal Mail doesn’t refuse to send them there. I will use random.org to get a random number and the author of the corresponding article will get the price (unless I am the author or the comment is definitely spam, e.g. advertising for medicine, …). To take part please leave your comments before Friday, 8th July, 23:59 UTC.
I bought West Design’s Wolff’s Graphite Sketch Set in September 2010 from Granthams in Preston for £4.25 (~ $6.80; €4.70). The Sketching pencils set with six pencils (B – 6B) used to sell for £1.70 (~ $2.70; €1.90) in Granthams and for £3.70 (~ $5.90; €4.10) in Paperchase. All the old Staedtler Tradition 110 pencils are from shops in and around Lancashire. The oldest ones are from a corner shop about 200 yards from my home.
Exchange rates: July 2011
If you want to read more about Staedtler UK’s pencils…
I would like to thank my colleague and business historian, Dr. Mitch Larson, who gave me very useful information and suggested contacting Companies House, a registrar I hadn’t been in contact with for ten years.
Today: a blog post with images all over the place.
This weekend’s 56th annual Eurovision Song Contest is over. With an estimated 125 Million viewers watching it is a big event, but even though it is quite big in Europe not many people outside Europe …or better: outside the “European Broadcasting Area”, which includes many non-European countries, that participate in the contest would probably know about it Australia might be an exception. Not only is it shown there, viewers can even vote, even though their vote does not count.. Nevertheless, the contest even seems to inspire politicians: a few years ago Putin proposed a similar Asiavision Song Contest.
While watching the final this weekend I was kind of expecting that Jimmy Jump would invade the stage again – like during last year’s Eurovision final and during the Football world cup final – but there was no sight of him…
Other things I did this weekend, except watching the Eurovision Song Contest, included going to Manchester’s Trafford Centre. In John Lewis I saw a pencil shaped door stop for £25 (~$40; ~€29), but even more interesting than this was Pedlars in Selfridges. They sold Düller memo pads, including the long version featured in pencil talk’s recent Düller Memo Pad post …but unfortunately, they did not have the dotted version in stock. When I was in Pedlars a few weeks ago they still sold the Düller mechanical pencil that comes “in” a note pad, but this time only the sample was left (which is probably not for sale and was slightly damaged).
I bought a nautical stationery set by SORT, The Society Of Revisionist Typographers, despite the name obviously a company, not a society. When I bought it I didn’t know yet, but a quick search on the Internet revealed that this set was featured in a UK newspaper’s 2009 Christmas gift guide. I am not so keen on the nautical theme, but the paper and printing were nice enough to convince me to buy this stationery set.
Something else I discovered this weekend, this time in Homesense in Preston: nice leather bound notebooks from Gallery Leather, printed in Korea (so I assume the paper is Korean, too) and bound in Maine, USA. All the journals I looked were very well made and at around £8 (~$13; ~€9) they were also very reasonably priced. I assume you can also find them at T.K. Maxx / T. J. Maxx, since they belong to the same company.
Back from Germany, I am going to try another four-in-one blog post. I did not take part in the Faber-Castell factory tour mentioned in one of the previous comments because of a bereavement – which resulted in a very different trip than planned. I hope to take part in one of their factory tours in December and hope to find the time to visit Staedtler’s shop in Nuremberg, too.
This is going to be a four-in-one blog post because I want to speed things up as there are so many things I want to write about but I do not write enough blog posts – so the queue gets longer and longer. The low number i.e. one of comments on the previous four-in-one blog post about the Black n’ Red polynote does however make me think that writing about multiple items in one blog post does not give each individual item the attention it deserves, so I might switch back to one or two items per post…
…but today another (the last?) many-in-one blog post.
The Kronenheft must be one of the most understated notepads available. I bought mine at Antiquariat Daniel Osthoff in August 2010. I mentioned this shop and some of the papers they sell in my blog post about the OHTO Super Clip. The Kronenheft notepad has been on the market for many years and is distributed by Carta Pura. It measures 15 cm x 10 cm and features a 290 g/m² Preßspanersatzkarton cover, an “imitation particle board” traditionally used, amongst other things, for book covers. It is a sturdy material made from wood pulp. The paper of this pad is 80 g/m² Salzer Werkdruck paper from Austrian paper manufacturer Salzer. Even though paper has been manufactured in Salzer’s town since 1469 and at the their mill, Obere Papiermühle, since 1579, the history of Salzer is slightly younger as the founder Kaspar Salzer did not have his own paper mill until 1798. Even though the 80 g/m² Salzer Werkdruck paper is not their best paper it is very good with a great feel and texture and a slightly creme-coloured tint.
Carta Pura, the distributor, sells this notepad in twelve different colours for € 7 each. You can also get a refill (40 sheets) for € 3. I paid less, but I am not sure how much exactly. FontShop used to sell them for a good price, but when I check recently I could not find it in their online shop any more.
This is the second appearance of a Morning Glory pencil at Bleistift. The first appearance was last month, when I wrote about RAD AND HUNGRY’s STMT X Korea kit. This time I used a much older Morning Glory pencil that my wife bought about ten years ago, the morning glory No. 33322-45229 HB. You would think that such a long product number can definitely point to one specific type of pencil, but there are actually different versions of the morning glory No. 33322-45229 HB pencil, with different colours printed on the pencil, but with the same product number.
The pencil itself writes very well. It could be a bit smoother, but it is by no means a scratchy pencil.
Since today is Star Wars day (May the Fourth be with you) I have to include the Pelikan M100, too. I cannot look at this pen without thinking of Stormtroopers and am convinced that if Stormtroopers had fountain pens this Pelikan M100 would be standard issue! It is a great fountain pen and all of its parts are either white or black, even the nib is black. The piston mechanism does not feel as smooth as it does with a Pelikan M200 or a Souverän, but when this fountain pen was released in 1987 it was not an expensive pen so it is no surprise that the piston mechanism is not on the same level. The nib however is excellent for a steel nib and is quite flexible, too.
Noodler’s X-Feather ink
The ink used in the M100 is Noodler’s X-Feather ink, a black ink that is bulletproof, i.e. resistant to bleach, chemicals, light, etc. I have used this ink for years and am very happy with it. There is only one disadvantage I noticed. If you use it in a wet writer and use paper that does not absorb ink easily (e.g. post cards) it can happen that a layer on top of the ink does not ‘dry’ completely. In this case it can smudge or smear, even days after the text has been written. Under normal circumstances this is however not really a problem.
The Kronenheft is just great, but with its price tag I am not sure I will use it often. It copes well with ink (no bleeding though) and pencil and has a nice colour and texture.