Crayola is Retiring another color on National Crayon Day 2017

In March 2017 Crayola has their consumers in a stir once again as their announcement to retire one of their colors from the No 24 box.  Now, whether they have said for the first time in history or whether they meant "for the first time on National Crayon Day", this is by no means the first time they have "retired" something from this box.  That is, if you take a color disappearing forever as a retirement.  Let's look at the history.

Way back before anyone can remember, the No 24 box evolved from the Rubens Crayola line.  That was a complimentary line from their Crayola line that targeted artists.  They put out their 24 color box in 1903/1904. It contained the following colors:

BLACK, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Chr. Green DK, Chr. Green L, Chr. Green M, Ch. Yellow Med, Cobalt Blue, Eng. Vermilion, Flesh Tint, Gold Ochre, Indian Red, Madder Lake, Magenta, Olive Green, ORANGE, Prussian Blue, Raw Umber, Rose Pink, Ven. Reds, Ult. Blue, VIOLET, WHITE, YELLOW (note that Chr. is short for "chrome", M is short for "medium", DK is short for "dark".

The majority of these original colors have been renamed or vanished without any publicity or public outrage.  I guess you could say they were "retired" if Crayola would only acknowledge those old colors in the first place.  As time went on, the Rubens box morphed into the regular Crayola line as the No. 24 box.  The year was 1935.  The transition was gradual as they kept Rubens (he was a master painter) face on the boxes but renamed the box.  Eventually they removed Rubens altogether.  The colors in that first No. 24 transition box with the new Crayola numbering were:


As you can see, they have already had colors disappear from either of these boxes.  Given that the current box as of 2014 (have they changed?) has the color assortment:
apricot, black, blue, blue green, blue violet, brown, carnation pink, cerulean, dandelion, gray, green, green yellow, indigo, orange, red, red orange, red violet, scarlet, violet (purple), violet red, white, yellow, yellow green, yellow orange

So in reality, we have only five colors that still have the same name in that No 24 box:  Black, Orange, Violet, White and Yellow.  Apricot didn't become an color until 1958, Blue has changed its original color twice.  Once in 1935 and once in 1949 so the blue you are coloring on today wasn't the blue people colored on back in 1903/1904.  Besides, the original box contained Ultramarine Blue anyway.  That color was discontinued back in 1958 when they redid many of their colors for the introduction of the 64-color box.  Blue Green has only been around since 1930 as that color name.  It originally came from a buyout of Munsell Color Corp. where they inherited the unique color back in 1926 as Middle Blue Green.  Blue Violet originated in 1930 but has changed its color back in 1958 and was called Violet Blue even.  Brown has been around since 1903 unchanged but they didn't use it in the original boxes under the Rubens line, instead choosing to include Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber instead (and Burnt Umber disappeared back in 1949).  Carnation Pink has only been around as a color name since 1958 but the actual color wass the same as Rose Pink which was in the original No 24 box so that color has been there under different names for the entire time.  Cerulean and Dandelion are  relatively new colors, having been introduction in 1990.  Obviously each time something gets added to the box, something goes away.  Gray wasn't introduced as a name until 1956 because it used to be called Nuetral Gray and that color was introduced in 1926 and didn't show up until the transitional No 24 box in 1935.  Green wasn't in the original box either as they were Chrome Green colors back then (light, middle and dark).  Those colors disappeared early (middle and dark in 1910 and light in 1935 during the transition box.  Even the original Green from 1903 changed color in 1930.  Green Yellow didn't come around until 1958.  Indigo is a very recent color, introducted in 1999.  Red wasn't in the original box.  They used English Vermilion and Indian Red in it originally.  It showed up during the transition box in 1935.  The color red has stayed consistent throughout.  Red Orange, Red Violet, Violet Red, Yellow Green and Yellow Orange were all introduced in 1930 back when Crayola used a color wheel approach.  Scarlet is also a more recent color coming in 1998 from the series of new color promotions they did back then.

As you can see, the No 24 has a long history and the colors have not been static at all.  Crayola's color history is also much more complex than simply a few retirements.  Renamings and disappearances were done throughout their history.  In today's world, yes, they "retire" colors but it is no different than the dropping colors of colors from before except that now there is a big promotional production around doing so.

And while you may be happy or sad on the color they choose to retire, understand it is merely a drop in the vast color ocean of changes that have been happening all along over their 110+ year history.


Crayola's Other Crayon Products

We all just think of "Crayola" now as the company and the brand.  While the Crayola brand of crayons have been around since 1903 and dominated the market since the 1920s, it is sometimes confusing that the company had a different name (Binney & Smith) and that it has had many different crayon products other than just "Crayola".  Let's take a look.


It's unclear when these were introduced, probably some time in the early 1950s given that the box says "Co" which means they were before they incorporated in 1956.  They were one of the first non-rolling crayon with a flat side to prevent them.  They hung around until late 1970s and were then morphed over into their Arista crayon line.


Arista is an artist line that showed up in the 1980s and carried on the anti-roll line of crayons along with other products such as oil pastel crayons.  They are still sold to this day.


Besco was a line of pressed crayons that started in 1927.  Pressed crayons are much heavier than molded crayons and are used in artistic and industrial arenas.  The brand stayed around until the late 1970s.


Although this doesn't indicate Binney & Smith, it was made by them on contract from Blackwell-Wielandy.  They did three known sizes and these are difficult to find.


Boston was an earlier pressed crayon product than Besco.  They started this line back in 1915 and continued with them until they transitioned to Besco.  You can find Boston crayon boxes clear up to 1932 so there was some stock overlap as Besco started up in 1927.


Cerata was designed as a lower cost crayon line.  This was a redo of their initial Cerola crayon line that was extremely short lived.  Cerata crayons came out in 1912 with this ornate box and later they developed more standard looking boxes that weren't as interesting as during this period of their business.  They survived into the 1930s.


Binney & Smith's first attempt at a lower cost crayon line was Cerola and this is the only known box.  It came out in 1911 and was quickly replaced by the Cerata line.


This is another extremely rare only-one-known box from their Chic'Ago pastel crayon line.  This was only around from 1930-1934.


Crayolet was a crayon line sort of like a "Crayola Lite" and it was more successful than Cerata because it lasted from 1926 (with another fantastic box design that was shortly lived) to the late 1970s.


Doo Zee was their last attempt at a lower cost crayon line.  It was designed to compete with all the cheap Chinese contract crayons coming in and populating stores as house brands.  It only lasted in 2001 and as it wasn't a success they sold off the inventory of crayons to a third party and various collectors found them used in something else entirely.


This was another contract brand with no indication that they produced it but I'd run across some documents showing so during my years of research.  It's a mystery to me as to when they started this and when they stopped but it lived long enough of have two distinct box designs over the years.  Most likely this was 1920s to 1940s.


Durel was a very early pressed crayon product that was introduced in 1909 and continued up until WWII when they were having trouble sourcing colors and after the war they dropped this line completely.


Easy-Off was introduced in 1972 as another washable crayon line.  They also moved to the larger sized crayons although they had used that size clear back in 1903 for a couple of their Rubens crayon boxes before phasing them out for decades.  This line didn't make it passed the 1970s though.


Binney & Smith has had a whole catalog of industrial crayon products going back to even a year earlier than their Crayola crayon line in 1903.  This is just one of many.  It is very difficult to know the run years for these.  This particular box, the only one I've ever seen, is pre-1956 though.


Gotham is another industrial crayon line.  There are a couple of known examples of this brand that have surfaced.  They seem to be from the mid 1950s to early 1960s.


Crayola acquired Munsell Color's crayon line back in 1926.  Prior to this, Munsell was widely regarded as the state-of-the-art high end crayon to have.  Crayola has already begun to dominate the market as the best crayon at an affordable price; something they wanted to expand upon and by buying Munsell, they grabbed the high end too.  Initially, they created Munsell-Crayola and Munsell-Perma boxes using the unique colors and by 1934 phased them out and incorporated the colors into their own evolving palette.


Perma debuted in 1920 as yet another pressed crayon targeted toward artists.  The crayon line survived until the 1980s.


This is another only-one-known example from Binney & Smith's industrial side of their crayons.  However, these came in a box similar to what they would use many years later for Crayola, holding four crayons.  They also used a different company name although the address is that of Crayola's headquarters at the time.  These were probably only around from 1903-1910.


Crayola didn't do a lot of licensed characters like their competitors, but they did dabble in them on occasion.  One such case if Winnie the Pooh.  These came out just for 1996/1997 and were gone.


More recently Crayola started the Portfolio line of artist products which included oil pastels; a close cousin of coloring crayons as a color medium.  I'm not entirely sure when they started but they still produce them to this day.


Crayola's most famous artist line of crayons was Rubens.  These started right from the inception of crayons in 1903/1904 and continued on until they were incorporated into the Crayola line around the 1930s.


Spectra was a pastel line of crayons that went back 1917 and continued on until around WWII when it also was phased out after the war.


Staonal is the oldest crayon line the company has.  It came out the year before Crayola and is on the industrial side of their business.  It continues in various forms to this day


It was thought early one that little kids needed little crayons as they had little hands.  The reality is they do better with just the opposite but these were targeted for just that back in 1924 when they came out.  They only lasted until 1934.


Crayola was playing around with Washable crayons as early as the late 1950s.  This line only lasted a few years though.


Here's another obscure mystery pressed crayon they did.  This was an only-one-known but has since been destroyed in a fire so now no known examples exist.  Not sure what dates this ran but suspect this box ran from 1934-1937.


The Unusual Western Crayola Crayon Container

In the early 1960s Crayola put out a very unusual crayon item.  It was their "No 82" container which was shaped and designed as a holster and had a reusable plastic pouch to get the crayons out of.

This container is now very rare and there are probably less than five known.  It contained the large sized crayons in the standard 8 colors.

Crayola went on to use the "No 1008" container for a few years.  These weren't shaped or theme designed at all, they just continued with the reusable plastic pouch design and the larger size crayons.  They only ran for a few years and disappeared from the market.


Just who is Crayola's Tip?

With Crayola changing their large box core products to a new design this year featuring Tip, I thought it was time to ponder just who this character is and when he started.

Tip is the Crayola character/mascot that they use on many of their crayon products.  He is a characterized crayon.

He started to appear somewhere around 1992 as near as I can figure.  Crayola remains a bit mysterious on his origins when looking at their own web site and material.  Nothing new there.

He's been on virtually all the 96-sized boxes of crayons they put out but Tip does get around on various sized boxes, various crayon lines and even on the European, Canadian and Asian boxes.

With all the new sets featuring Tip, it looks like his popularity is growing, not fading.

It's not the first time Crayola has used other characters on their boxes though.  Let's look a some of the other characters drawn onto their boxes over the years.  Bear in mind that none of these have had the generic appeal or intent of Tip who was used on so many of their products:

First up is the Chummy Animals characters from one of Crayola's failed Toy Set line in the early 1920s.  Many of the Toy sets were themes and so there were a lot of one-off characters.  Very few of their boxes in the early days featured a lot of graphics.

For their Color 'n Smell line they used some graphics such as the nose and also the small mouse and shoe.  The earlier Magic Scents just had a couple of the objects to smell such as a strawberry or a rose.

Crayola's extension of their failed Toy Set line was their Kindergarten Outfit.  Every self-respecting crayon company had one of these in the 1930s and Crayola was no exception to this.  They used a Dutch boy and girl on their Outfits.

Of course, when they worked with other companies they sometimes had characters such as this space one they did for a Crayola giveaway in a McDonald's Happy Meal.

Their Mini Kids line in Europe always contained blocks to spell out the crayon line and featured a small bear.  Along with that, they used this bunny on this particular box.

With their multicultural line they drew in a world with kids in some way.  There were usually always four of them and they had different variations over the years on this line.

The My First line was another European crayon line that featured characters on the box; in this case a bear.

I thought I'd put this Tip box here as it isn't really Tip, it's more like "mini-me Tip" or Tip as a kid.  This was another European box.

The "My World Colors" was another variation of the Multicultural line of crayons and while different, this used the same theme of kids and a globe.  In this case there are five kids instead of four and they are more animated than real looking.

With the "Room Full of Fun" box they added a door exploding open with the force of all the stuff crammed inside.  This was a one-off for a promotional offer.

And while the school girl was never really on the front of their boxes, she was on nearly all of their original boxes in the back.  It's a good way to know if you have a vintage early box.

When they introduced the 72-color box, they originally had a box and his dog on it but those faded away with the actual launch design.

For their "State Your Color" event, where they offered everyone to help them name a color for their state, they used the outline of the states as characters on the box.  Generally all of their largest boxes had graphics whereas the small sized boxes didn't.

For awhile they sold their bulk crayons (crayons all of the same color ordered specifically or bought from a non-retail specific location) they used an elf.  This was the first version.

 Later they flipped the box up and created this version of the elf.

Here's another of the failed and rare Toy Set line drawn with characters.  This one, like the other I featured above, has never surfaced.  It is only through advertising that we know they existed.

For the Wizard's Giant Box of Crayons they featured Tip but they also added a lot more graphics to it.

This World-Pak box featured a plane and two kids as a promotional effort on travel.

As part of their Easter promotion they used this bunny and created a box with very Easter-like colors. you can see, it looks like Crayola did indeed do a lot of graphics over the years.  It's only when you inject these alongside over a thousand different boxes where they didn't do any that you realize how unique these particular examples were to their business model.