I get a fair amount of emails to the crayoncollecting.com website. Most of them are inquiring about the history, age or value of some older crayon box they came across or have. But sometimes, readers share a story or a perspective I would never have gotten from my research. Sometimes family members will contact me with more information about a small company that I wasn't able to find much history on at all. I also like to get the back stories of boxes when I see them up for auction.
Here are a few that I'll share with you:
1. Crayola No 41
After having the only known surviving canister for many years, a second one showed up on eBay. It was very rough and not all of the crayons were in it. My unopened canister came from a family that lived very close to the Crayola factory and the father of the farm collected various boxes from the executives that came down from their offices in New York to visit the factory. Back in 1903 you couldn't just stay at a hotel, you had to stay at farm houses. Theirs was one such farm house.
Earlier this year another pretty decent looking canister showed up on eBay as well. That makes three known. This one was opened (which splits the paper across the middle of the canister). The owner of this particular canister was asking way too much money for the market at the time. The recent recession evaporated nearly all the high dollar collectors from the marketplace and its taken time to rebuild that up. Recently a Rubens-Crayola No. 200 showed up on eBay and sold for $278 but that box had never surfaced before and so it was much rarer and more in demand. Now granted, the No 41 canister is the only wooden canister Crayola did and it did only run for about seven years, but the seller wanted $500 for it. That was more than even the unopened version I have went for on auction back when there was a lot of demand for rare crayon boxes.
But I was curious where they got their canister so I asked. I turns out that they found it inside of a child's toy tool box at an antique sale. Talk about a treasure within a treasure!
2. American Pride Penny boxes
Sometimes I have to publish advertisement images of boxes that haven't surfaced in the collecting community. They might be out in the world somewhere but until somebody gets it to me, nobody has a picture of it to know what it even looks like. Fortunately there were a few periodicals that featured images of crayons in advertisements from the early years.
This American Pride box was a "penny box" from American Crayon Company back in the 1920s. Many crayon companies did the penny boxes. They cost a penny back then and they were used to entice consumers to also buy their larger assortments.
Recently, a large number of these came up for auction on eBay. I again asked about the source of such a large number. Usually, the back story when you see a lot of clean unused crayon boxes is that they were in a store that had been closed for years, that they were in a warehouse that had been closed but not liquidated or that somebody had bought an entire case of them and kept them for some reason.
In this case, it was the latter. Apparently these came from E. Y. Allen, a noted
collector in this area of Va., who recently died by his own hand just last year at age 92. He
refused to go to a nursing home and just ended it all. From his estate, in addition to a variety of guns, collector plates, books, paper and ephemera was a RoiTan Cigar box full of these crayons. There were 40 boxes in all. While this sort of floods the market for this particular box, it's fun to see and here stories of this kind because one never knows what else is out there waiting for collectors.
I'll share a story from Mal O'Neil who wrote me earlier this year with a fond memory he had from a crayon box. Here it is Mal's words: "As a child, I owned crayons from a few different brands --
Crayola, RoseArt (ugh!), Alco, Penway... One day, having run one crayon down to its
wrapper, I peeled the Penway wrapper back just a bit -- only to discover a
second wrapper! With an unfamiliar design and bearing the name of a different
company! Flying Eagle! I cautiously peeled every one of my crayons then, and
probably regarded all new crayons from then on with a degree of suspicion, but
I never found another infiltrator; nor have I ever even seen Flyin'
Eagle crayons. Eh, still a mystery to me."
Sometimes collectors can solve a mystery. In this case, I was able to send Mal pictures of a number of Flyin' Eagle crayon boxes. Some had the "G", some did not. All of these were produced in China which made sense to me because many crayon companies have their crayons produced out of China. It was probably the case where the factory that produced Mal's crayons had done a run of Flyin' Eagle crayons by mistake when they should have been doing another brand and simply put wrappers over the mistake. The other possibility is that whichever company Mal's box was from, they had bought out Flying Eagle's crayon stock and were reusing it. That happened to one of Crayola's crayon experiments several years ago. They tried a lower quality brand called "Doo Zee" for awhile but they failed. They must have sold off the remaining inventory of crayons because another collector friend found them in a different crayon box later on that wasn't associated with Crayola at all.
4. Private Detective
Finally, I'll share a story from another reader. Unfortunately I couldn't locate the emails but one of my readers had a child's name written on one of his older boxes of crayons. They researched and actually found the son of the woman who wrote her name on the box. Alas, the woman had died just the year before after having lived well into her 80s. Her son didn't seem that interested but my reader was satisfied that at least he'd been able to track the family down. I've often had names on my crayon boxes too and similarly wondered if that person was still alive and where they were.