Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Pentel Question - The Spread Of Ain

I’m curious about the spread ofthe newer Pentel Ain lead versus the old Super Hi-Polymer. To me the Ain packaging is much more eye-catching and marketable, yet I get the impression that Ain has not made it everywhere, some Pentel distribution areas seem to be sticking with the old Hi-Polymer brandname and packaging? So, a little survey, please leave a comment and let me know what Pentel lead is common in your country.

Equally if Pentel lead isn’t common in your country then I’d be very interested to know that, and if not Pentel, what brand is common?

42 comments:

kiwi-d said...

OK, so I will start the ball rolling. In New Zealand you only see Ain, the old Super Hi-Polymer is gone.

pigpogm said...

In the UK, both are available. I think the Hi-Polymer is still more common than AIN, especially in art shops, though we only sell AIN at Cult Pens.

Shawn said...

In the US, I have never seen Ain. In fact, I had to order some from a Japanese importer. Are the Ain and the Hi-Polymer the same lead?

Mike said...

In the US, the premium Pentel lead seems to be Hi-Polymer 120, and it comes in paper tubes. It seems to me that it is the same as Ain, just in different packaging.

kiwi-d said...

I did once ask Pentel and got a semi-intelligable reply, but I believe Ain and Super Hi-Polymer are actually the same leads. There is also a Premium Hi-Polymer but its not the same, its a lesser grade of lead.

Pawel said...

Hi,
Here in Poland traditional Hi-Polymer in variety of hardness grades, no Ain here - I had to order it from USA or Hong-Kong.

I don't know if Hi-Polymer and Ain are the same leads, there are however some grades only available as Ain - 0.3 2B for example.

stephen said...

And where does the "For Pro" fit in the scheme? It seems to have a higher price than Ain lead:

http://pentel.imagestore.jp/contents/goods_info.php?gd=7055

Anyhow, to answer the question, in Canada, at least my little patch, I've seen (only just this month) 0.5 HB Ain, and no other Ain variety, at a giant suburban "big box" department store. But never at an art supply store or stationer. It also seems to be present at the Pentel Canada website, again just the 0.5 diameter mentioned.

My unscientific guess would be that Pentel and Staedtler are the market leaders.

One other bit of information:

This Pentel cartoon (pdf format) -

http://www.pentel.co.jp/recruit/recruit/seminar/images/pentel_comic02e.pdf

indicates that:

- The Hi-Polymer lead was introduced in 1960, in the 0.9mm diameter.

- 1960 also saw the "Pentel Sharp" and "Pentel Pencil" introduced - the world's first push button lead advance ("knock-type") pencils.

- the late 60s saw 0.7mm and 0.5mm diameters introduced

- 1973 was when the 0.2mm diameter was introduced

Finally, the second last panel says (no date revealed), "After that, they improved the polymers and developed the stronger, smoother high-polymer 100 and the high-polymer Ain."

It's still not clear where the "Super" variety fits in - but some interesting history nonetheless.

Griffith said...

I live in Japan. Please take it easy on my poor English.

Pentel Ain is one of the most popular leads in Japan, too. We can see it at many stationery shop. Hi-Polymer is still on sale, but Pentel seems to be diminishing the market; generally speaking, only at specially store we meet.
I'm using Pentel For Pro lead for my 0.5mm pencils, which is, I guarantee, very dark and smooth. For 0.7mm using Faber-Castell.

Pentel Ain, Mitsubishi UNI, Pilot ENO are the three major lead packages in Japan.

kiwi-d said...

Stephen - I'm a conspiracy theorist - there's probably only 2 leads (good and best), just a huge variety of different little containers with different names to turn them into about a dozen different things. :-)

Griffith - nothing wrong with your English. Thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

Where in the US can I get this "Pentel for Pro" lead?

DjR said...

My experience in Scotland :) is that AIN is still hard to find in shops. In fact, I can't recall finding AIN in any of the stationery or "art" shops that I call into. Of those in your photo, the one second from left is the one I see most.

FWIW!

David Reimer

JiBi_AI said...

In Thailand, I can commonly find 4 of them in the picture and I think most of asian country too.

by the way, when I talk to my friends, most of them didn't know that Ain is Pentel's product so they bought another pentel leads instead.

Pentel is the most popular leads in Thailand, the other brands are, such as, rotting, niji, tombo, etc.

Max said...

I haven't seen Ain here in Denmark yet. Pentel Super Hi-Polymer is probably the market leader or perhaps Staedtler since Staedtler is sold through every post office. I think Mitsubishi is also fairly big. I think I recall them being sold in a major chain of bookstores. There is also a 'Danish' brand 'Linex'. However, they are mainly known for manufacturing rulers etc. So I doubt they produce the leads themselves. I havee also seen Tombow a few places. Faber-Castell seems to be sold mainly through art shops.

Jake said...

In Canada, the most common is the hi-polymer, specifically the 2nd tube from the left (clear bottom, black lid). I have never seen Ain, but I hope they are the same.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, to answer your question, in the U.S. one place which supplies Ain leads is JetPens. They are located in California I believe which makes them a logical transshipment point for Asian products. I have Ain 4B 0.5 mm lead which suits my taste for a dark and smooth lead for the crossword puzzle. Scanning JetPens' lead offerings on their website I note that the only diameter for which they offer the old (mere) Hi-Polymer is 0.2mm. All other sizes are the Ain brand or Mitsubishi. I have yet to encounter Pentel's Pro line of leads anywhere.

Barrel Of A Pencil

Henrik said...

Hi Dave
I have to disagree with Max about the Ain leads - my local stationary pusher (bog & ide) carries the Ain range in HB and 2B 0.5 and 0.7 mm. But it is just recently - earlier on I had to go to the postoffice for a decent lead.

Henrik

Gunther said...

Many years ago, Pentel pencils and leads were available in almost every stationery store in the area I live in (Germany). But now these products have mostly disappeared, and only older stores still have remainders of old Pentel items, including lead. This covers mainly the variants 1 and 2 from left, but also cardboard tubes (I have never seen tube 3 around here). The new Ain leads are only available from online retailers or on special order. - Now only leads from Staedtler and Faber-Castell are regularly available.

Max said...

Thanks Henrik! That's good to know that they carry the Ains. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Here in Canada, I saw the Pentel Super Hi-Polymer lead for sale in the local Staples. However, I bought the Hi-Polymer 100 and the the Ain in Japan.

Glen Mullaly said...

Hey Dave!

Another Canadian chiming in, this time from the West Coast. Hi-Polymer Super is the most widely available one around these parts, both in the art stores and the office / Costco type superstores.
I buy it by the gross when I can find it in my preferred hardness ( H or F depending on the batch, they really vary sometimes ) on sale.

I've only ever seen the Ain on your little ol' blog.

Andrew said...

Here in the US, I only see the hi-polymer in the rhomboid tubes in your average office products store. However, the Japanese stationery store in Japantown in San Francisco has the Ain, and I can also get it from www.jetpens.com, which specializes in Japanese writing instruments and ships from Mountain View, CA. Since reading your review, I use only Ain leads.

Akis said...

In Greece you cannot find Ain leads. For some strange reason the company that imports the Pentel products doesn't import Ain lead (but imports AIN erasers.......)
I think that the easiest to find is Staedtler or Faber-Castell.

Anonymous said...

You said the Ain packaging seemed more "eye catching" to you. The packaging of the Ain gives me a strong impression of cheapness, which in turn makes me think the lead will be of a lower quality.

And to answer your question, of those leads, the Pentel Hi Polymer Super, with the red band, is by far more popular. I have never seen the two on the right in stores, and it has been many years since the one to the far left has been sold here in the USA.

Mike said...

I have to agree with "anonymous" above me: I really think the packaging of the hi-polymer lead (the second from right) looks much better than the Ain packaging; the number "100", written out in those little squares, really appeals to the math side of me.

Just adding my two cents :)

Germ said...

wow!! alot of posts on leads. but i guess when it comes to MP, we use leads the most, even if we have 300+ pencils in collection..... :) or are lucky enough to. hehehe

i personally like the rhomboid Pentel tubes. have known it for years, it is like a trusted friend. have mostly used the hi-polymer in HB for probably 25yrs or so. maybe a few times i cheated..... i bet those were pentel as well.

there are a few more pentel lead tubes not shown. i hope to have them to david soon. :)

fishsaysmoo said...

Im in USA now, but I used to live in China - and lemme tell ya, in China (at least 5 years ago) we ain't got neither. Leads are not a big deal. Small stationary companies make them and street vendors sell them to kids. Most leads at small stationary stores are from these small companies. However, some stationary stores in large malls may sell "imported" lead that include these two kinds, and most of the time they're so expensive it's not worth buying.
The leads from small companies are always hit and miss-sometimes they're real dark and smooth, sometimes they break with every movement of the pencil. I think big American brands like Pentel is becoming more common in big cities like Beijing, but due to cost, kids are still buying from cheaper, independent makers of pencil & lead.

kiwi-d said...

Fishsaysmoo - thanks for your comment. I am starting to make preliminary plans for the 2011 Lead Cup - do you have a Chinese brand of lead that would suggest is one of the better ones? I would like to have a Chinese competitor.

chopsticksandcommunism said...

i got a recommendation for a chinese lead brand. all the kids here in china use M&G (morning Glory) lead, which is produced under a sino-korean joint venture. i'm in china every summer for vacation and i hear M&G is getting a market in Poland and Thailand as well. Their lead is great, but i prefer my Faber Castell. They recently liscensed (a rare action in china, imho) the danish cartoon character miffy for their products, and i have heard the tips for their pens and pencils are supplied from switzerland and the inner tubes from like japan.

kiwi-d said...

Thanks for your comment chopsticksandcommunism. I would like to contact you regarding the MG leads - appreciate if you would email me at the address up in the blog header?

Andy said...

Just found some 0.5mm HB Ain lead at a Wal-mart here in Ottawa Ontario. Got the last pack, but there was a restock card behind it.

Time Waster said...

Wow that is cool I work for Walmart and haven't seen anything except super hi polymer in 3 packs 90 leads for just under 4.00

andrew said...

No AIN where I live. Only the Super Hi-Polymer lead. I've wanted to try the AIN lead, but the local stationary stores only carry the Hi-Polymer lead, which is very popular amongst students.

Peter said...

I'm from Singapore and here is selling hi polymer and AIN... but AIN is still majority of all the leads on shelves...

Kumara said...

I'm from Malaysia.
I bought a Kotobuki Mechanical Pencil to edit and proofread the hard copy of my upcoming ebook. The 2B leads supplied with it - made in Korea was not of acceptable quality. The writing was faint...not up to 2B standard. So, I went looking out for a darker lead and found the AIN 4B leads. The cost: RM4.50 around US$1.50 with 40 pieces of leads. So far the writing is good and just the intensity I'm looking for.
The mechanical pencil Kotobuki costs RM 8.90 just less than US$3.00. It's one of the few metal tipped mechanical pencils I can find in Malaysia. Mechanical pencils are in wide use in Malaysia especially by students. Mosty of them, howver, are the light plastic types.
It is hard to find a Kotobuki-type mechanical pencil nowadays except maybe in specialty art shops.
Anyway, I'm going to stick with AIN 4B because I can't find other brands.

Robert M. said...

I guess my contribution is a few months late, but it's interesting to read about these different leads. I've found relatively little good information on the different offerings.

I did stumble upon http://stationery.s25.xrea.com/site/stationery/reads.html in Japanese which is not particularly new, but it does grade various leads on an SABCD scale, and distinguishes several Pentel versions.

In Taiwan, Pilot Neox Eno are the de-facto standard for 0.3mm and sometimes other sizes, and the Pentel Hi-Polymer 100 is the norm in most stationery stores for 0.5mm, but rarely other sizes. In some of the better shops, you can get Ain, Mitsubishi Uni Shu, and Tombow Mono FX (with the exception of Ain, most are limited in size selection).

There are also a few of the European imports like Staedtler and Faber-Castell, though they're usually not as popular as the Japanese offerings.

I'd like to try out the Hi-Polymer for Pro and the Uni NanoDia and Hi-Uni offerings, but they're a bit trickier to find for me.

Currently I'm using 2B 0.3mm Ain (maybe a bit too brittle, but reasonably dark and fine) and 0.5mm 4B Ain/Hi-Polymer 100 (smooth and dark, but not quite fine enough for what I like to write).

Robert M. said...

Oh and a quick update to the link I posted earlier with some subjective ratings: http://tinyurl.com/cyfvz4 this link is a little more recent (still Japanese, sorry). Further, it separates pretty clearly the AIN, Hi-Polymer 100, Hi-Polymer 120, and Hi-Polymer for Pro lineups. It's one guy's subjective grading I guess, but it may still be handy for some.

a nobud said...

The Hi-Polymer is definitely more commom here in the US. For all I know, I didn't know the Ain even existed until I read your blog.

a nobud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

A part is missing from my father's vintage Pentel mechanical pen. I believe it could be from the 1960's. Do you know where I could take it to have it repaired in the Chicagoland area?

Anonymous said...

Here in the USA more exact california we have super hi polymer

Anonymous said...

We dont have ain lead in us only super hi polymer and others

Anonymous said...

I live in Poland. About 90% of the lead here is Steadler. but you can find some of the old, Pentel Hi-Polymer.