111 Years Castell 9000

Can a pencil bring happiness? Inspire entirely new ideas? The history of the famous Castell 9000 is evidence of this. The green, hexagonal pencil has helped ensure legendary results and creations. Thus performance artist Joseph Beuys once posed with it for an art book as though it were a creative exclamation mark. The writing utensil, developed in 1905 by Alexander Graf von Faber-Castell, inspired special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi to draw a whimsical alien that later brought tears to the eyes of millions of cinema-goers as E.T. and Günter Grass, writer, Nobel Prize winner for literature and talented illustrator fell in love with this writing utensil, which is available in 16 degrees of hardness. He also coloured it including the holder and adorned it with the enigmatic lines: Words on demand. All pencils sharpened. And yet there is still much left unsaid.

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Faber-Castell - Graphite pencil Castell 9000 HB
Graphite pencil Castell 9000 HB
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Faber-Castell - Graphite pencil Castell 9000 HB with eraser
Graphite pencil Castell 9000 HB with eraser

... in a green robe

For many decades, the premium "Polygrade" pencils claimed their position as the undisputed flagship product of A.W. Faber. However, the shiny, yellow "Koh-I-Noor" made by the company Hardtmuth grew to become a serious competitor. In 1898, this lead to the decision to create a "new classic"¹ pencil. After years of trying and investing in a modern graphite purifying system, chemist Dr Böhm succeeded in creating an extraordinarily fine pencil lead using a process developed by him. Initially, the new pencil, which was manufactured in 16 degrees of hardness, was supposed to be given a crimson surface in order to set it apart from the yellow "Koh-I-Noor" and not let people be confused between the two. But the idea was scrapped so as to avoid any resemblance to the shiny, red "Vulkan" series made by the competitor Johann Faber. In the end, the company settled on a "vibrant green" colour that was going to be reserved exclusively for the new product series. "The new ... pencil is therefore clad in a green robe"². But what should the new premium series be called? "It was still waiting for its name..."³ when Alexander Graf von Faber-Castell came up with the brilliant idea of naming the pencil after his noble house: the factory owner christened the newborn product "Castell".
The company immediately started manufacturing the pencil in 16 degrees of hardness and presented it – "adorned with a luxurious, genuine gold imprint" – to the public. To promote the green Castell series worldwide "in the most conspicuous fashion possible", the company created an advertising motif that makes reference to the centuries-long history of the noble "Castell" family: two knights battling each other at the foot of a castle rock, but they are carrying pencils instead of lances as weapons – the defeated holding a yellow pencil and of course the victor a vibrant-green one!

The Castell pencil became a household name worldwide, and the battle of the pencil knights a trademark of Faber-Castell.⁴

[1] Konferenz 1902, DF 05-0021 Der neue sechseckige Stift erschien also in grünem Gewande [English: The new hexagonal pencil released clad in a green robe]
[2] DF 03-0037, p. 11
[3] DF 03-0037, p. 11
[4] DF 03-0037, p. 11

Historical product video