Prague Souvenirs Tip: Kooh-i-Noor Mechanical Pencils


Prague souvenirs can be a touchy subject. Being locals, we really would not recommend buying anything that is being offered as a "Prague souvenir" in highly exposed areas in Prague (because what says Prague more than a Justin Bieber Russian doll or an FC Barcelona player puppet?). Instead, we want to point your attention to really cool things that you can buy (only) in Prague and that are truly local and have a local history behind them. Just like in this post:

The Kooh-i-Noor pencils have been with us since early childhood. Founded in 1790 by Joseph Hardtmuth in Vienna and patenting the first pencil lead made of clay and graphite in 1802, the company relocated to Budweis, Czech Republic (guess what town is the true home town of Budweiser Beer? No, it's not St. Louis). The Hardtmuth company also introduced the standard international system of designating lead density (HB, H, F etc.). The company was nationalized in 1945 and was owned by the Czechoslovak and then Czech government until 1994.

What we recommend today has been something that Zuzi and I grew up with since the earliest classes of elementary school - the famous "Versatilky", i.e. mechanical pencils that were introduced in 1950 and that remained unchanged until today. Instead of a classic wooden pencil, with a "Versatilka" you get a turned steel enclosure that holds a pencil lead of any color you want. Therefore, you have a reusable, recyclable pencil, you just need to replace the leads once in a while. You can also choose leads of any density and quality. The Versatilka also has other, fun uses that only small school kids will probably appreciate: if you screwed the interior mechanics off, you would just end up with a steel tube, which could be easily turned into a small blowgun (using orange peel as the ammunition). Then you would screw the insides back into the steel enclosure, and use the Versatilka as a pencil again. The Versatilka pencil has another cool feature: the integrated sharpener, which you screw in and out of the pencil, so you never lose it.


I saw this particular set that you see in the gallery in the Botas 66 Concept Store (a store that sells modern variations of the old Czech communist Botas sneakers - another great souvenir, we think) near the Bethlehem Square in the centre of Prague. I mentioned to Zuzi how cool I thought it was. She agreed and guess what - I got it from Zuzi as a gift for my name day (a fairly big holiday here in the Czech Republic). You get a really nice case and an eraser gum with the pencils. You can also buy the traditional pencils and mechanical pencils individually (see here).

If you liked this souvenir tip, stay tuned for others! We will post many more soon...