Do you want to hear a heartwarming and inspiring story? Last year, I managed to buy my childhood pencil tin off Ebay. My pride and joy at junior school was an oversized Jelly Babies pencil tin, and I’d spent years and years searching for another one. Finally, my search was at an end, and I paid seven whole quid for a Jelly Babies tin. Hurrah! I was so happy.

But then… it got LOST IN THE POST.

My reaction:

spongebob sad

Imagine, if you will, sad music playing while I wander along a street in the rain, pausing only to look in brightly lit windows and watch happy crowds of people, all with pencil tins. It was a tough time.

Gradually I recovered, and even started to forget about my tin. It seemed I’d never own it, and was destined to wander the earth tinless.

But then…



My god, I was beside myself, and probably everyone else as well. My other half had made me this tin using a picture, yellow paint, and varnish. He’d even bashed it to make it look old. He did an amazing job. And there was me thinking he’d bought me some speaker wires.

Not only that, but he’d filled the tin with pens and pencils with my name on, confirming my place as the fanciest kid in Year 5 once more.

I love him.

I need to share all this shit with you guys, obviously, so I’ve been here and there collecting all my vintage stationery, and I’ve put together a pretty good dream team of old school supplies.

Right, trundle wheels out…

1. Pencil tin


I guess pencil cases were sort of acceptable, but let’s face it – all the cool kids had a pencil tin, because… I don’t know, science. They just did. The tin marked you out as a serious stationery owner; when some scrotum turned up with a pencil case, you got the feeling it was full of Netto own brand pens and their own droppings. Do not @ me, I am right about this. Even if your pencil case was a fun Walkers Crisps one.

I now need to modify my new tin by scratching various witticisms into the lid with a compass. On the list so far:

  • Jenny 4 Alex
  • Mr Patterson is made of poo IDST (bit long but still true forever)
  • Keep out!
  • Daniel Ross smells (my reaction to a cruel and heartless romantic rejection by him)

If you don’t have a cool and rad Jelly Babies tin, you could always go for Forever Friends, Coca Cola, or that Egyptian Mummy one every kid had at some point, for some reason. Possibly school trip to museum related.

2. Felt tips


Alex did such a good job he even got these pens with my childhood name on them. I was only ever ‘Jennifer’ at school, when my mother introduced me to someone, or at the doctors. I suppose it’s a good job we weren’t allowed to choose our own names for these, because there’d have been a lot of pencils with ‘Terminator Big Dick’ written on them. Not by me, but by Kris in my class who claimed he could make his dick dance. Points awarded for having Berol, Crayola or Molin pens. Molin were the best, as they came in packs of 5000, each a different colour. Also, points awarded for having 5000 felt tips. I suppose they were the equivalent of cigarettes in prison.

3. Pencils


Again, with your full name on, if your parents love you. Otherwise, might I suggest Yikes! pencils, or holographic pencils that say ‘Beamish’, Eureka’, or ‘York Railway Museum’ on them. Again, school trips. Sadly, I don’t have one of those giant novelty pencils, but really, who actually used those? Apart from Kris, attempting to measure his dick.

4. Coloured pencils


Much the same as felt tips, only you were encouraged to use these more, as they didn’t leave so many stains when you got stuff wrong, which you did, because you were me. Anyway that’s balls, you can’t rub out coloured pencil. I suppose you can go over them with felt tips, which kind of defeats the point. Points again for owning 5000, but not as many points as felt tips, as you could only do crappy pale drawings with them, and not great big permanent arts on your exercise book/hand/face.

5. Rubbers

IMG_20181202_134326 (1)

Now mostly known as erasers, because the word ‘rubber’ means something else and makes people laugh, because condoms therefore willies.

Anyway, in my day rubbers were equal to felt tips in value, and the more you had the better you were. (Possibly boys had a different rule, I don’t know, but this was the law of girls.) Girls would acquire enough rubber to start their own tyre factory, if all the tyres had badly printed cartoon characters on them.

Alex did get me a rubber with my tin. It said ‘Classmaster’ on it, so I did the only sensible thing:


Of the vintage rubbers, which I picked up at a car boot sale, may favourite is the He-Man one, obviously. In reality, it’s the ‘Hot Dog’ rubber that wears a sash, that everyone had. When I asked the man at the car boot if he had that one, he said “Someone’s already bought it.” I will have my vengeance.



Alex did get me a ruler, but it was a foot long ruler that wouldn’t fit in my pencil tin. This is because Alex is serious, and uses things like big rulers and protractors, and also because he is a gimpy swot and his favourite show was Blockbusters.

Therefore, I need to choose between this Barbie ruler, which is new but very much in keeping with the 90s spirit:


Or the rocket ruler pictured above, which is genuinely 90s, but is more of a smelly boys thing.

If I had a ruler with horses on it, that would be an instant yes. But sadly I don’t, so for now I’ll go with the Barbie ruler.

Pencil sharpener


Right, this is a bit of a difficult one, as all the really cool sharpeners won’t fit in the tin. Alex did buy me a standard metal two hole sharpener – and credit where credit’s due – That was the most grown up and badass sharpener when I was 10. However, I don’t think it really fits with my other stuff, so I chose this Barbie sharpener in the end, for its nice compact size.

However, had I been able to choose any pencil sharpener, it would have been this one:


My prized possession – a robot, and you open its chest flaps to reveal the hole. Sharpenings go into its head. I’ll just let you bask in its glory for a minute.

The Barbie sharpener does have its benefits though. It’s much better for sitting round the table sharpening wax crayons, in order to make shit ‘glitter’ instead of doing work. much easier to contribute to the communal pile with this.

Pritt Stick


Or, as we called it, Prick Stick. Necessary for… I have no idea. But we always needed one.



Everyone knows that the fountain pen was the holy grail of the 10 year old girl’s pencil case. Boys probably didn’t care, they probably just carved out their answers on a slab. Anyway, I’ve had trouble finding decent fountain pens for this project – maybe they were phased out, along with lunchboxes and P.E.

As a bit of a cheat, I’m including these three swish ballpoint pens, which are the kind of style the cool kids would have gone for. I mean, you could have a plain fountain pen – IF YOU WERE A DIV.

As you know, the best thing about fountain pens was the cartridges, which, along with felt tips and rubbers, were currency in the junior school prison system.


I got these from my father in law. Not sure why, but he he had loads.

Anyway, cartridges were useful for the following (in order):

– Throwing at people
– Biting the ends off and accidentally ingesting the ink then regretting it
– Swapping for stickers
– Writing

Any woman of a certain age will, upon seeing ink cartridges in the wild, immediately grab them for herself then start quoting ‘kings and queens’ and ‘IDST’ at you.



Lastly, we have the misc section, which is always the best section in any list. Mostly, the misc section in a pencil tin will be comprised of paper goods, such as notes, and fortune tellers (see above).

If you never went to school, or were a boy, the basic premise of a fortune teller was as follows:

– Girl moves it about, you choose a corner
– Girl moves it about, you choose a corner
– Girl moves it about, you choose a corner
– Girl lifts up the flap – “you’re a der brain!”

These can be frighteningly accurate.


There’s only one thing left to do, which is to fill my brand new pencil tin with all the brand new school stuff I have, because this term I am going to be super organised, and each felt tip is going to be put back in order, and I will neatly rule my work, and my handwriting will be spotless.

R.I.P. my sides.

Even at 35, I haven’t learned how to keep a pencil tin tidy. God help humanity.

Stupid vegans and pissing in a Daniel O’Donnell mug. Would you like to buy my novel? Click here then have a biscuit.

9 thoughts on “My 90s pencil tin: a tribute

  1. This whole thing has me hooked more than it probably should. ‘Course, it was off to a good start with the chrimble pressie. That’s a work of art.
    I’ve had a Jurassic Park 2 pencil tin for about, oh, twenty-one years now? It has a stegosaurus on it. But you can hardly tell now.

    “I’ve had trouble finding decent fountain pens for this project”

    Wha…? Hard to find in the shops maybe, but have you looked at the Cult Pens or Pure Pens websites? (I know about these sites. I have no shame. Not anymore.)

    Not just as swish as those ballpoints, but, well…


  2. I managed to lose my pencil case at Secondary school , it is probably still there 21 years later ..
    I was not happy , because the pencils had cute animals on them and I’ve never been able to get pencils like that again…



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