Bowing to demand, Crayola brings back basic colors

October 02, 1991|By Tawn Nhan | Tawn Nhan,Knight-Ridder News Service

EASTON, Pa. -- Ken Lang wasn't going to let his beloved raw umber crayon die without a fight.

So Mr. Lang, a former free-lance writer, disc jockey and dinnerware salesman from Oyster, N.Y., formed the Raw Umber and Maize Preservation Society. RUMPS, for short.

Its aim: to protest the loss of eight of the original shades that made up the Crayola box of 64.

Thanks to Mr. Lang and other crayon lovers, Binney & Smith Inc., the Easton creator and maker of Crayola crayons, announced yesterday that it would bring back those eight original colors -- for a limited time, at least.

In August 1990, the company halted production of maize, raw umber, lemon yellow, violet blue, blue gray, orange red, orange yellow and green blue -- the first eight colors to be inducted into the newly built Crayola Hall of Fame here.

The company said yesterday that the eight colors would be sold again in commemorative tin boxes until the end of December.

A million of the tins, each containing a box of the new set of 64 crayons and a box with the eight shades, have already been made, the company said. The suggested price is $6.99 each.

"We listen to our consumers," said Thomas Muller, vice president and general manager.

The response to the retirement of the eight colors was huge, Mr. Muller said. Eager to buy the shades before their demise, customers pushed sales up by an additional $6 million last year. Letters and calls, mostly from adults, poured in at a rate of about 300 per month, he said.

Among the thousands of letters was one from Chelsea Powell, a Stanford University sophomore who wrote that she and Stanford classmate David Williams were dismayed by the loss of the colors they remembered from their childhood.

"I'm glad they are bringing them back," Ms. Powell said yesterday. "Crayons are associated with my childhood, and they make you think about what you used to do."

She and Mr. Williams said that they still use their old set of crayons with the eight retired colors, although many have tips worn to nubs.

Nor is Ken Lang alone in his more organized quest. In addition to RUMPS, the Committee to Re-establish All Your Old Norms (CRAYONS) and the National Campaign to Save Lemon Yellow also formed to urge Binney & Smith to bring the colors back.

Mr. Lang said that reviving the retired colors was a concern for both adults and children.

"I think that I am a responsible adult trying to preserve heritage for our children," said Mr. Lang, who added that his wife, 6-year-old daughter and 6-month-old twins "color as a family."

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