If the 1980s had to be summed up with one specific sense, it would be scent. From Strawberry Shortcake dolls to Scratch and Sniff stickers and anything from Yankee Candle or Bath and Body Works, scented toys and stationery products were extremely popular. it brings me great pleasure to bestow this honor upon an item I may not have owned as a child but absolutely had the pleasure of using during both elementary and middle school.
Why did I choose this toy?
A few times a year in art class in elementary and middle school, the art teacher would bring out the Mr. Sketch markers. The box was mostly blue on the front and there was a drawing of a man wearing a beret. The bottom featured pictures that showed each color and coordinating scent.
The outer case would slide off and the markers would be lined up in their styrofoam tray. Sometimes, the last class to use the tray put them back in the order listed on the box. Other times, there was a more chaotic arrangement with a black cap on the red marker or a purple cap on the yellow one. You didn’t know if it was a scent coordination experiment or just a by-product of the usual scramble to get everything together before the bell rang.
I still remember the squeaking sound the styrofoam trays made when we pulled them out of the sleeve. It sounded like tiny sneakers running over a miniature polished wood floor.
Each table would receive one box of markers and everyone at the table would have to share the same box of markers. Back in those days, we were used to taking turns. Waiting in line was just a normal part of life.
I recently conducted an informal survey on Slack, Twitter, and Discord to find out what people’s favorite scents were as well as the most popular scent in their class.
Grape and cherry were the online winners but I was partial to the mint and blueberry. My classmates always seemed to want the black (licorice) marker.
When was this toy first produced?
According to Wikipedia, Mr. Sketch Markers were originally manufactured in 1965 by Sanford Manufacturing Company.
Is it still being produced (in some form)?
Yes, however, they have been bought by a corporation called Newell Brands. Newell also manufactures Rubbermaid, Sharpies, Elmer’s Glue (another favorite childhood art supply), and wait for it… Yankee Candle.
Was there a cartoon?
No, but I’m sure some of my classmates found an excuse to draw their favorite cartoon character or characters with the markers.
Was there an established villain in the canon?
They probably drew some villains with the markers too, but mostly I remember these came out for holiday-related projects.
Where did I acquire this toy?
I never had a set of these at home. Neither did anyone else in my neighborhood. Mr. Sketch Markers were strictly a school thing. That’s probably why there was so much anticipation when they came out at art class.
Recently, I decided to treat myself to a package of the twenty-two marker set. In addition to the classic eight, the twenty-two-count set has the following:
Cosmic Pink Lemonade
Smokey Cinnamon Rocket Fuel
Pineapple Shooting Star
Banana (apparently the new yellow because the lemon scent was reassigned to pink)
Rotten Melon Alien Ooze
Galactic Fruit Punch
Black Raspberry Moon Rocks
Was it a gift?
In a way, the marker set was a gift to myself. The excuse being this article series as well as some stencil sets I purchased to make my own holiday decorations. I didn’t have them when I did my Halloween decorations, but I did do a couple of Thanksgiving decorations.
Did I buy it myself? What store was it purchased from?
I did buy the set for myself from Amazon.
Do I still have this toy or anything from the original packaging?
No. While a vintage package with the original artwork would be fun to have: 1. The styrofoam is not the best packaging choice from an ecological standpoint. 2. Thirty-year-old markers would be desert dry now. I had to let the apple and acorn I colored this morning dry because after I colored them, they were wet.
Did anything surprise me while researching this toy line?
Mostly, I was surprised by the amount and range of products manufactured by Newell Brands. I also have Expo markers for my whiteboard and I use Sharpies to mark my packaged food.
I was also surprised by how tight the marker caps were.
When I pulled the tops off the brand-new markers to color with them, I wound up with scented marks on my fingers and hands. Sometimes I also ended up with marks when I put the caps back on the markers. Still, there’s something both relaxing and satisfying about making my own holiday decorations.
Do you remember using scented markers in school or were you lucky enough to have your own set? What was your favorite color/scent combination?