Sanford Mr. Sketch Markers; Are They As Good As They Were?

Since the 1970s, the greatest magic marker for kids has been the Sanford Mr. Sketch. You know this one; it’s a set of a dozen or so markers, all water soluble, that smell like their colors. They are sold in sets of different sizes, including 4, 8, 12 and 16.

They have great cult appeal; on YouTube all sorts of folks have posted videos, including the favorite practice of Mr. Sketch users, painting the smelly moustache.

Urban legend says that they had to stop making them because the government didn’t want kids to be sniffing pens, but this is not true.

Taste wise, they sort out like this, for instance:

Dark Green/Apple

The flavors are pretty much as you would find them in food; after all there is a similarity, as they are safe for children.

There is some debate as to whether the quality is what it used to be, and the markers apparently don’t last as long as before. Currently part of Newell Rubbermaid, the Sanford brand has been ignored, and Mr. Sketch too. There is definitely more that could be made out of both the Sanford brand and the Mr. Sketch product; it just needs to be connected to Sanford, not Sharpie, which is all about being indelible.

The markers themselves have a certain Lego quality, as they click together, and they can be put in a long stack, which is useful in classrooms as swords and other light sticks.

Sanford as a brand is the pioneer in markers. The company was founded in Massachusetts in 1857 by Frederick W. Redington and William H. Sanford Jr. as the Sanford Manufacturing Company. It later moved to Illinois.

Sanford was one of the great writing brands, along with Eberhard Faber pencils and the El Marko, first made by Flair Paper Mate. They debuted in 1965, around the time that American writing exploded with the advent of cheap, fun, colorful pens, like the Bic Banana.

Question for BrandlandUSA readers: Is the Mr. Sketch as great as it was? And if you were to give some advice to Newell Rubbermaid, what would you say?


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. What a lowbrow and disgusting commercial for Mr. Sketch markers. This is the best you can do? You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    1. I have a friend who has an old 4 pack

  2. I now have grown children so Im not sure if i will ever get the chance to purchase these markers – but the commercial is absolutely adorable! Made my whole family laugh out loud!

  3. I LOVE the new commercial!! I crack up like a child whenever I see it, I am 27 by the way. I have waited for years for these to hit the shelves again. I would suggest mass advertising though instead of limiting the ads to children’s channels and Hulu. I would also suggest creating a website of its own not linked to the makers and have a place for children to get printable coloring pages or games. Then they could share their creations on the website and have their own little “Mr. Sketch World”. It would be cute. I know my daughter loves the Crayola site like that.

  4. Good grief! Isn’t it enough that our culture seems to be increasingly enamored of poor behavior — now a commercial for kids’ markers embracing “farts” as accepted humor? I’m no fuddy-duddy. I just think the popularity of raising up flatulence as humor is lazy and, frankly, disgusting. Come on people! With some good marketing skills, I’m sure you could have dredged up SOMETHING more appropriate to catch our children’s attention. Get a little class, huh?

  5. I just wanted to share that I LOVE the Mr. Sketch commercial where the blueberry farts!!!!!!!

  6. Does Mr. sketch can be use to paint food? Since the ink is non toxic, could I use them to decorate cakes?

  7. I would say to bring back the “Instant Water Color” markers of the 60’s, with the cream-colored barrels and original scripted “Mr. Sketch” on the barrel. And bring back the “Aqua” color. These markers were awesome and seemed to go away when the scented ones came out.

  8. I don’t remember using Mr. Sketch; I remember sets of generic felt tip markers in assorted colors, as well as El Marko, Flair and the late great Bic Banana pens. My dad used Sanford’s “Marker” (permanent, metal casing, distinctive chemical aroma) at his retail business–though these were probably considered “too dangerous” for home use near walls, carpeting, etc.

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