Heavy Metal Crayons
Your memories of Crayola’s Metallic 3 will vary, depending on when you began with crayons and coloring books. Silver was the first to appear, in the 48-count box introduced in 1949. This was the largest regular selection Crayola offerered at the time, doubling the size of the next box down, the 24-count.
Early in the 20th century, there had been 28- and 30-count boxes, and in 1939 the very rare and short-lived 52-color box. But for Baby Boomers, the color escalation begins in 1949, with the 48-count. Gold was available in bulk for schools around 1953, and in the 48-count around 1956. Then the iconic 64-count was introduced in late 1957…it included Copper, and that completed the Metallic 3.
64 would expand to 96 in 1992, with no new metallic shades…then to 120 in 1998…and of those 24 new colors, only Antique Brass came on board, turning the Metallic 3 into the Ferrous 4. And that’s pretty much where things stand today…except that today’s Gold and Copper appear quite dull and washed out compared to the shining shades of old…I believe it’s a new pigment formula that resists tarnishing. Older examples will usually have a green patina on the outside, altho it wears off easily with use, and the color is unchanged below the surface.
But what most Baby Boomers probably don’t know is that Crayola had made metallic colors much earlier than the 1950s. From almost the start of crayon production in 1903, Binney & Smith (who were making chalk and industrial pigments since 1885) offered Gold, Silver, and Copper crayons. These were available mostly in bulk for schools, rarely seen in retails sets, and discontinued altogether around 1915. Nothing new under the sun, sez me.
As a kid, I remembed wishing they made more metallic hues…the most obvious being Bronze…Hey guys, we got an Olympics going on here…a little help with the Bronze? Nope, the best Crayola could do for 3rd place was a Copper medal. Brass, Pewter, Chrome, Gunmetal, even Rust…the possibilities were endless. And sure enough, when “specialty” crayon sets became the rage in the late 1980s, more metallics would shine thru…details tomorrow!
shameless plugs, untarnished, unoxidized…
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