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Where is Flair’s ElMarko?

May 20th, 2008 · 44 Comments

By Garland Pollard

Apparently, the “bold vivid color” of El Marko watercolor markers, made by Flair, were not long lasting enough. The pens have disappeared, though Flair pens survive, made by Newell Rubbermaid’s Paper Mate division.

In 1955, Paper Mate became part of Gillette. The Flair was launched in 1966. Gillette’s Stationary Products Division became part of Newell Rubbermaid in 2000. No word on when El Marko disappeared.

Tags: Brand History

44 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt // Dec 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I have a red El Marko permanent marker that I bought in junior high around 1970, I believe. It still works!

  • 2 Will // Jul 6, 2009 at 7:08 am

    I sorely miss the old El Marko brand red marker.

    I use colored markers to color code the tabs on my manilla file folders. With the old El Marko I got got a nice red color, but it was translucent enough that I could still read what I’d written on the tab. On the other hand, the “Marks-A-Lot” brand, which seems to be the only brand available around here, is so dark and opaque that it obliterates whatever I’ve written on my tabs :o(

  • 3 Anthony Gallego // Jul 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

    I have the green el marko and yes it is translucent…

  • 4 Anthony Gallego // Jul 15, 2009 at 11:25 am


  • 5 Anthony Gallego // Jul 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm


  • 6 Sam H // Jan 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I have a Navy Blue El Marko Permanent Marker By PaperMate. I can’t remember when i got it, but I DO know I was in Elementry School. I am now 48 years old and YES it works GREAT. The cap is air tight and it last and last!

  • 7 frank // Sep 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Am looking for information on an El Marko advertising campaign built around a Zorro theme. Any information would be apprciated.

  • 8 Lori Rogers // Jan 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Wow, El Marko is one of the first markers I had around
    1971, I was six. Does anyone remember the Mead black and while
    illustrated folders you could color in with markers? Usually they
    had a psychedelic design

  • 9 The Macalope Weekly: FUD. It's what's for dinner | WP DemoWP Demo // Jan 29, 2011 at 9:18 am

    […] sitting in the cafeteria eating out of a brown paper bag with “Microsoft” written on it with an El Marko by Microsoft’s mom. The company saw some of the PC sales volume being replaced with tablets and […]

  • 10 Mariano Corral // Feb 4, 2011 at 5:33 am

    I’m a Landscape Architect, I still my last 4 El Marko Pen are 24 years old. It still works.
    I have save them like gold. But my red color is starting to fade as I use it occassionally when the drawing is important for me. The nib was perfect. The thickness was just the right size.
    How I wish they bring it back. What can we do for the comapny to bring it back. There are millions of artists that miss this pens. What a marketing and bussiness blunder.

  • 11 Gary Glover // Aug 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I still have several El Marker markers. As they dry out I refill them with food coloring. It works. Don’t over do it. Try about six drops. Let it set about 15 minutes and test it. If it isn’t wet enough, try six more drops and test again. If you over do it, it really makes a mess, but if you follow this procedure, it is no mess at all. –Gary

  • 12 Gary Glover // Aug 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    This is for the WATER COLOR ONLY.

  • 13 lee harvey haight // Jan 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    heyare you people paying attention? anthony gallano has a GREEN one!! and yes, it IS translucent,

  • 14 Najeeb Ahmad // Feb 6, 2012 at 12:11 am

    The Grove Consultants in San Francisco ( sell the original El Marko under their name “Charters”. They’re exactly the same and fantastic!

  • 15 Garland Pollard // Feb 13, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I will be sure to look for it…glad to know there is a replacement.

  • 16 JustMe // Apr 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    As a matter of fact, they have not disappeared.
    The pens were discontinued in the 80’s in the US b/c a kid swallowed the cap.They are still available in Mexico! Apparently they don’t care if kids swallow the caps in Mexico.
    Those Charters markers are not the exact same as the original el Marko (I know this because I was on the team that worked with a designer to create those charters markers before Grove bought the now-defunct company. ) Charters are still a good option, but are spendy if you’re looking for more than a few at a time.

  • 17 JustMe // Apr 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    The charters are longer with a triangle base vs the short el marko with the square base..but still very nice.

    Silly I know, but apparently I am a markers nerd.

    Its so hard to find a good, non-smelly pen that will write on flipchart paper on the wall and not leak and will not roll off the table and has a snap top and and and …sorry.

  • 18 keith shepherd // Jul 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    What a fantastic product! I have two el Markos that STILL work far and away BETTER than any of those fancy expensive ‘art’ markers! I’m 55 years old now!!!

  • 19 Raymond // Dec 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I was on the original team that developed..The ElMarko…in fact, it is my image on the product. Introduced to the PaperMate sales Force in San Diego in 1970 at the Del Coronado Hotel. I still have a case or two of the markers unopened. Should maybe sell them on Ebay. I also was on the development team for the Flair pen.

  • 20 Garland Pollard // Dec 14, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Its great to hear from you Ray. What a fun history and an un-noticed contribution to my childhood! Just FYI, I have a flag that Neil Armstrong signed when I ran into him as a child at Dulles Airport. He wouldn’t of course sign on the fabric, so he signed the wooden pole in Flair pen! Sadly, it’s a bit faded but you can still see the marking and I have it framed.

    So what was the corporate structure then? The parent company you were working for at the time?

  • 21 Doz Hewson // Dec 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I turn 45yo next July 25. The first FLAIR pen I remember using was a White-barreled ULTRA FINE one w/Black ink, in the 1978 summer. I’ve learnt that the FLAIR pen debuted in 1966 as a REFILLABLE pen. Growing up, I’d never seen a FLAIR refillable. In fact, I don’t remember knowing that refillable FLAIR pens existed. I’ve two questions: How long were FLAIR refillable pens in production? Why was their manufacture discontinued? There is, for bid on ebay, A Red (I think) barreled FLAIR refillable, NOS, from 1966 w/extra refill. AFTER NEARLY FIVE DECADES, CAN THAT THING STILL WRITE, IN YOUR OPINION? Thanks in advance for answering.

  • 22 Jeannie // Dec 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I was going through an old trunk of my mom’s and found a red el marko marker. I took the cap off and was literally SHOCKED that it was still very much working! I’ve been out of HS for 30 years and I’m thinking that she had this for a long time before I graduated. My son who is 17 was completely impressed.

  • 23 Dan the Man // Feb 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I still have my blue El Marko from high school, purchased 32 years ago, it still works!

  • 24 Garland Pollard // Feb 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    the pens are danged amazing! Mine still works from the 1980s too….stunning!

  • 25 Alvaro // May 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Red and Navy Blue: my last two El Marko markers are still working OK, since around 1974!! Never dried out and not fading yet. Fantastic and really unsurpassed product.

  • 26 J.P. // Jun 17, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I’m new (as a professional) to the Visual Thinking / Mindmapping / Sketchnoting game even though I’ve been diong it my whole life. I just found what looks like, a similar, if not the same product here, at the Grove Foundation in San Francisco. Someone correct me if I’m wrong….

  • 27 G P Willoughby // Jul 4, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    I have a blue El Marko from mid 70s that still works fine. I also have a Magic Marker from the 60s that is still good.

    Products were made well back then.

  • 28 Ellen // Aug 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Had a new pair of red Soft Style shoes by Hushpuppy. I tripped, scraped the toe, took off a 1.5 inch strip of the top layer of the kid, exposing the bright white underside. Took it to a cobbler; he said he couldn’t fix it. I took an El Marko red permanent marker and colored the scraped toe tip. Perfect color match.

  • 29 Mike Vain // Aug 18, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    I used to carry an El Marko at all times in high school in Chicago. Wherever I saw “Latin Eagles” graffiti, I would change the L to an E and the E to a B, thus making it “Eatin Bagles”. Boy, did they hate that! If they had known it was me, I wouldn’t be around today. 🙂

  • 30 Ginger // Sep 3, 2015 at 8:23 am

    I was just rummaging in our office supply closet and found a yellow el Marko marker with a square base. I knew it looked familiar (my childhood, maybe) so I snatched it up and immediately went online and found this website. Now my cute little yellow El Marko is sitting on my desk smiling at me. AND…it still writes well AND smells exactly how I remember.

  • 31 Garland Pollard // Sep 5, 2015 at 7:45 am

    El Marko are amazing. Mine still works too Ginger.

  • 32 M.D. Jackson // Oct 21, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    I still have a lot of El Markos in operation as I do my research work and write articles, etc. How do I keep them working (really well) after all the years? Years ago, as a poor graduate student, I was going broke buying new El Markos to mark up my notes before exams, but I learned how to get around the high costs: if you go to an art store and buy Koh-i-noor watercolor ink, then you just pop the base off the El Marko, pour the ink in, and, VOILA! Good as new! You have to keep pumping in some ink from time to time, to keep the “wick” from drying out, but with a little care, you can keep El Marko alive and well! I feel bad for the company that made them, but I just couldn’t afford them. Maybe 30+ years ago, I swore I’d keep the El Markos working until I die. I’m 70, and still El Marko-ing my notes.


  • 33 Sharon // Dec 3, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    I discovered a green El Marko permanent marker in my stash of markers. I needed it to color skewers for a Christmas table arrangement. I just kept coloring and waiting for it to fade, but no. I colored all 12 skewers and the color is STILL strong! I don’t remember when or where I bought it. It has to be at least 30 years old. I used them all the time in my classroom. No really bad smell. Sure wish I could still get them. They were reasonably priced and had good tight caps. I must look to see if I have more.

  • 34 Garland Pollard // Dec 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Sharon..I used mine again today….for some scribbles…its an amazing pen.

  • 35 Bigs // Feb 21, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    This is so FANTASTIC. I was the Marketing manager for the Paper Mate Co Flair Div & El Marko markers (Gillette ) when the El Marko product was introduced at the National Sales meeting at the Hotel Del Coronado in 1970. In fact, that is MY IMAGE of El Marko on the pen .I had so much fun w/ that product making introductions as El Marko on a horse at some trade shows. Retired now living in pariadise on Whidbey Island, WA

  • 36 Garland Pollard // Feb 27, 2016 at 3:33 am

    Ray…so glad to hear your comments on the pen! I have one in my desk that I use every day and its truly an amazing product that it works when it is 25 years old.

    And what a nice place to live on an island in Washington.

  • 37 Tim // Mar 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Just picked up 5 brand new El Markos with the Zorro theme still in the boxes. How cool! I was told they were originally purchased in 1966.

  • 38 Mark // Apr 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    It’s amazing. You can still find these on Ebay. I bought some dated 1980 and they still work perfectly! Just goes to show when something is developed properly it works forever!

  • 39 Kenny Goh // Oct 21, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Greetings from the Republic of Singapore. I bought some boxes of El Marko permanent markers (red and black) from Gillette Singapore around 1970. I still have 2 pieces of red and 1 piece of black markers with me and they still works after all these years. I am using the permanent smear/water proof markers to mark my golf balls. It is a fantastic product.

  • 40 Willis Blackmore // Oct 27, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    I have a red el Marko Permanent Marker that one of my parents probably bought just after they came out, around 1966. It still writes, bright as ever!

  • 41 stephen tremm // Dec 9, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    I sort of have some of these, mine are physically the same but are Paper Mate Tempo Markers, no idea what year of production though. They are in the context of office supplies, a box of 10.
    Anyone with a Flair Refillable pen, get ready to be happy – they can be fitted with Cross Selectip refills, medium porous, fine porous, gel, ballpoint, highlighter.
    I have owned around 18 Flair Refillables and only one has had a working vintage refill.

  • 42 stephen tremm // Dec 18, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Here is a photo of one of mine. Anyone who wants to use it you are welcome to 🙂

  • 43 Laurie Zabrosky // Feb 8, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I still have a brown El Marko from my art class in 1970

  • 44 TAKI 183 talks the History of Graffiti Culture, Classic Cars and the Future of Street Art - New York Said // Apr 4, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    […] El Marko […]

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