Rare and Not Rare: A Visual look at Crayola crayon color names you probably haven't seen


Every collecting hobby has its items that would seem to the average person to be rare but in reality are quite common.  I saw this when I collected beer cans years ago.  Everyone asked about "Billy Beer".  You know, the beer in a can that the President's brother produced.  The reality is that it was such a novelty, nobody ever threw any of them away and so the market is flooded with them.  I got tired of hearing about them or seeing them over the years.

When it comes to Crayola colors, there's a bit of the same pattern going on.  Crayola has played into the public's thirst for colors and publicly called out a few colors where they have changed names for one reason or another.  They have also officially retired many colors.  Both of these moves have prompted the general non-collecting public to think that any color renamed or any color retired must be "rare".

Take "Indian Red" as an example.  Crayola said they renamed the color to "Chestnut" to avoid anyone from thinking they were politically incorrect by using the word "Indian" after we'd gone to "Native American".  Of course the joke with that is that the color name stems from India for a plant used as the original source for the color.  Now, they could have changed the color to "India Red" and cleared up that misconception but rather than potentially open up another can of worms referring to India, they completely renamed it.



Does that mean that "Indian Red" as a Crayola crayon color is rare to find?  Not in the least.  Perhaps after a 100 years it might.  But the reality is that they used the color for 96 years before changing the name.  There are a lot of "Indian Red" crayons out there still as a result.  It isn't rare at all.

That brings us to the most infamous renaming of a color.  The 1962 Flesh to Peach renaming.


I probably get more mail and see more comments about "Flesh" than any other color Crayola has.  Let's get to some facts on this one:

- Yes, it was renamed to Peach in 1962.
- No, "Flesh" is not rare.  It was used for decades in many assortment sizes.
- No, "Flesh" isn't about people's skin color.  Look at your palms...it represents that color.  Every person in the world, regardless of skin color has essentially the same color on the palms of their hands.  That....is what flesh represented, not the pigmentation.

The story, which I've already documented on my web site, is a bit more complex than Crayola just renaming it in 1962 because of the "Civil Rights Movement".   In reality, it started out as "Flesh Tint".  This was a common color used in painting and other industries.  In fact, it is still used in some industries.  As for Crayola, they used "Flesh Tint" from 1903 until 1949 when they dropped the "Tint" portion and left it as "Flesh".  They used that until 1956 when they renamed it to "Pink Beige".  That name only survived for two years and was only found in one box of 48 colors during that time (the 64 colors box hadn't been introduced yet).  By the time they did introduce the No 64 box, it got named back to "Flesh" again.  This time though, the name only lasted until 1962 when they renamed it "Peach".  Yes, it has been over 50 years since we've been using crayons with the "Flesh" color name but the reality is that there are many boxes that have survived from the era when they did use it.

So...is "Flesh" a rare color?  Not as "Flesh" it isn't.  I wouldn't even say that "Flesh Tint" is very rare.  You can find it in nearly every 24-color Rubens Crayola box from the early years and there are a lot of examples of those boxes out there to find.  However, "Pink Beige" is an obscure color because of the only two year run of it and the fact that it was only found in one assortment size.  That's not to say you can't find one without too much difficulty.  I see that box come up on eBay several times per year.  Whether they have that color in it is always the question because many of these are used boxes.  And whether they have a decent unused one is even rarer.  Still, they are out there and not really, really hard to find.


And that brings us back to retired colors.  Whether it was the original 8 they retired back in 1990 or some of their "newer" colors that were retired later, none of these crayons are necessarily rare.


The complexity in Crayola's color history is that while they have publicly retired or renamed many colors, there are so many more that have simply vanished from their color palette without any fanfare.  They've renamed things without any publicity.  It is some of those that bring on the rareness factor.


Let's look at "Light Blue" for example.  I've written about this one often.  There is a "Light Blue" that was used for a box of crayons back in the 1910s for the E.C. Charleston department stores (which later merged into becoming Wolworths).  That crayon is very rare.  I know of only two.  One in a surviving box and one that got into another older Crayola box (which is quite common to have the wrong colors in a used box you find).

They put one in the very first No 64 box when it debuted in 1958.  This was a completely different color from before and was so close in color to "Sky Blue" that it was dropped from the assortment within months of coming out.  The only other assortment I've seen it in was the No 72 box as they were prototyping that one to come to market around the same time.  Nevertheless, this is still a reasonably rare crayon.



Their renaming wasn't only in the earlier years.  As late as 1997 they had introduced the color "Torch Red" but quickly changed it to "Scarlet".  It is a hard color to find now but it can be found if you know what boxes it is in (see my article on the website).


Many of Crayola's earliest colors are fairly rare just because there aren't many examples of those assortments that have survived.  Colors like Van Dyke Brown, Celestial Blue, English Vermilion, Lemon Yellow, etc. are probably colors few have.  Many of these don't have the color name right on the crayon itself.  In some of the earliest Crayola assortments, they only printed the color name on the box and used a numbering system on the crayon wrapper to tell you which color it was.  For color collecting purists, that is not the same as seeing the color name right there on the wrapper.


But Crayola's color history is full of obscure and rare colors.  "Gamboge Yellow" was only available in a hex style crayon and didn't appear in a lot of assortment sizes so it isn't that easy to find.

As the years went on, Crayola did more and more outside promotions, events and other activities that have created colors most of the casual consumer wouldn't even know existed.


Colors from exclusive restaurant chains such as the Chili's colors above are an example of now difficult to obtain Crayola colors.  None of the restaurants use them anymore and few people thought to keep them beyond just coloring with them in the restaurants so they can be hard to nearly impossible to find.



My best example of that is the color "Mirtilla Blueberry".  A reader sent me a picture of one she had because it was her favorite color from the Macaroni Grill color set.  Now, I had already acquired and documented what I thought were all the Macaroni Grill Crayola crayons but I'd never seen that one and yet there it was.  To this day, I still don't have one as I've never seen another.  To me...that is rare!




Back in the late 1990s Crayola dabbled with partnering on children's VHS videos by putting special 4-color sets into the clamshell video cases.  These were unique color names on the crayons made specifically for the movie.  As such, they are fairly obscure and take awhile to get all the sets.  Here are a couple of examples.



Some colors just fly by and almost get missed by the collecting community.  Take for example 9 scented colors that were in a Walmart exclusive box only just back in 2009.  I personally know of only four boxes that have made it into the hands of collectors just because they were gone so fast.



Others were held for an event that might have been obscure enough that only a handful of people even had an opportunity to get the colors.

An example of that is the Scarlet Pimpernel colors.  A benefit was held on January 27, 1998 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.  They showed a play called "Scarlet Pimpernel" and along with the play, Crayola created four new color names and put them into a generic four color box to hand out at the performance.  These are quite rare now.



Another example are game events where Crayola made up special wrappers for players with unique color names as a promotion.  Few of these survive.  I know of two full sets for the Philadelphia 76ers.  I have one set.  There were also a couple of colors made for the Philadelphia Eagles and given out but I've only seen one box survive and be sold on eBay and unfortunately I wasn't able to win that auction so I don't even know the crayons.  I've never seen another example of them show up.



Other really rare Crayola colors are ones that are exclusive or only show up internally at Crayola (but occasionally leak out).  Examples include the "Colors of Binney & Smith" company celebration set they gave to employees back in 2003.


These were never intended for the general collector community or public and each of the names are a bit of company insider information/stories.  Another example is the "carbon black" commemorative they handed out to employees in 2011.


 There are also two very exclusive colors made specifically for special people.  The first was "the Color Purple" which was made only for Oprah Winfrey and presented to her on her show back in 2006.



While I know this is an extremely rare color not available to anyone, I actually have one because I have connections.  They did another event in 2009 for author Eric Carle in which they came out with this special color:


I missed this one and only knew about it because it came up on eBay (however I missed the auction).  They gave them out at a small celebration so there are some around but I consider it a very rare Crayola color.  Of course, I'm biased to what I personally don't have.

Speaking of what I personally have, sometimes geography creates rarity.  Such was the case for Crayola crayons in Europe.  When they converted Fluorescent crayons to other crayon names, they used different color names in Europe than they did in the USA.  This has created five colors that I believe I have the only examples of in the collecting community.


These were from 1990 and have so far only been found in a larger assortment from the UK during that time but conceivably they might be in a Neon/Fluorescent box from the UK from that era too.  It's just that very few UK boxes surface in the collecting market.

Crayons available in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries sometimes had unqiue color names but they were found in many different assortments over the years so they are obscure but not truly rare


Still, they aren't colors you normally see.  There are many other one-off crayons.  Some are rare, some are not.



This Eastern Arts Association crayon from 1960 is quite rare but it doesn't have a unique color name so it it not as desirable.  Below, the True Blue special crayons aren't that rare so if you see one out there (and you probably will), don't get too excited.


There is also inaccurate information out on the internet.  Imagine that!  If you search on the rarest Crayola crayon you might find a Yahoo Answers reply about a "Plaid" color and how it was only put into so many 250-color assortment boxes because it was so expensive to make.  The story is a complete fabrication.  Crayola never made a plaid crayon and they never have had a 250-color assortment size.  200 is the largest and all the colors they can offer up at one time anyway.  Just beware of people making stuff up.  I try and correct these where I can.

Macaroni and Cheese is another color name full of variations, some which are very rare.  I'd done another post on color name variations and some of the variations are hard to find but perhaps only a couple of these are truly "rare".


And finally, Crayola is still providing rarity.  Just this year (2013) they did a Facebook only promotion of 8 renamed original colors to celebrate their 110th anniversary.  If you don't do Facebook, you probably missed out as they were limited and exclusive.  I don't think they'll be truly rare just because a lot of collectors caught it and bought up a bunch of them.


And occasionally, they do something you have no idea if they are rare or not because they are so foreign as in the case of these "Anpanman" crayons from Japan.


I guess we can end the discussion of rarity by suggesting that perhaps one of the rarest of all their colors is the infamous "C-Rex" color crayon from 2003.  Kraft Macaroni and Cheese had a contest and the winner would find a single Crayola crayon inside one of their boxes.  There was only one and the winner got to keep the crayon along with their prize for the contest.  Crayola themselves don't have a record of who won so who knows if it even still exists.  I'll leave you with the box it came in.



23 comments:

  1. Nice post. If you ever want to find a good home for those Philadelphia Eagles crayons, I know just the place. :)

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  2. Hahaha...now Donna, I don't even have those. I've never seen them other than a picture of the box where you can see the two special ones through the box window...just teasing me...

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  3. Great post. I just found an old box of 64 Crayola crayons at an estate sale today and the lady running it mentioned wondering if the rare red color crayon was in there. I'm glad I found this, otherwise I'd be wasting my time on the hunt for the "rare red crayon".

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  4. Syd - Thanks. I felt like it was time to point out there are colors that are rare and desirable and they are not at all what most people think.

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  5. Excellent post Ed. It pretty much covered all the bases. The only thing that I think are worth mentioning that weren't included were the original Canadian Metallic colors such as Kryptonite, zircon, etc.... and maybe jellybean.

    But overall I'm glad you set he world straight as to what's rare or not. I have very few left of these to collect fortunately.....

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  6. Good point, Alan, Zircon and Kryptonite are rare and deserve to be on the list. Jellybean is more obscure because I keep seeing a lot of those old boxes surface on eBay over the years although we both know that not all of those boxes actually contain Jellybean.

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  7. please mr. ed tell me how i can get the rare crayons plz tell

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    1. I am a collector of rare Crayolas. Well, actually I'm trying to collect one of every unique color and name. Anyway, I have almost all of them now. But I have been collecting for years and I amassed my collection by buying rare Crayolas off of e-bay, trading with fellow collectors and searching through thrift stores. It is a long process but if you are patient, you may succeed. I wish you best on your hunt for the rare ones!

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  8. I have an oroginal box of the 8 Crayola Collectors Colors that were retired in 1990. any idea of their value?

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    1. Hi Debbie, sorry about the late response...I took a break from the site for awhile. I'm afraid those boxes are not worth anything. Too many people saved them and they show up on eBay often with little collector demand as the collector base already has them. Sorry about that...

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  9. WELL I BEEN SAVING THE INDIAN RED FROM 1989 ALL THESE YEARS CAUSE WAS TOLD THAT WOULD BE WORTH $$$$$ ONE DAY AND NOW I SEE THAT NOT TRUE !!!! MIGHT AS WELL LET MY GRANDKIDS GET SOME USE OUT OF IT NOW !!!!

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  10. You forgot to talk about holiday colors

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    1. Hi Amanda, not sure what you are referring to as "holiday colors". Crayola put out two different Holiday crayon items back in 1997. One was a box containing 8 crayons but none of these had color names on them. They did a Holiday Pack one too that had a 24-color box and an ornament of a bear. In 2001 they also did a 16-color box but again, none of these crayon containers had any unique crayon names and this article speaks to rare crayon color names.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I have some of the numbered crayons from an old crayola contest. They are the ones before the contest was over so they just have pink writing of 'Name Coming Soon!'. Do they matter or not?

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    1. Some day these might be worth something but I see a fair number of these on Ebay still. As time goes on they will be more desirable.

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  13. Any info on the Silver Swirls crayons? I'm still looking for a package of 16. I like them because they were the real metallic crayola crayons.

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    1. Silver Swirls can still be found on Ebay from time to time but they have held their desirability all these years so I expect these to continue to be desirable and increase in value over time.

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  14. Or if there's a pack of 24 all the better. I'm looking for the complete collection of silver swirls crayons.

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    1. And the 24 is MUCH harder to find than the 16...

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  15. what is a box of original No 6 gold medal crayons worth? The site with all the info says "4 known"
    This is the real deal - faded, fragile, but unused, with type 2 crayons - which is contrary to the type listed for the years this box is from.

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  16. Alas, an entire set of No 6 boxes just surfaced this year. That means 12 boxes that were unused. That sort of floods the market. I haven't had the opportunity to update some of my "number of boxes known" since 2012 and a lot more older crayons have since surfaced. I will add it to my "to do" list for the website.

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