Folmer Preisler married into the Gosch family, whose business was making matchsticks. In 1900, at 26 years of age, he is put on the board of the company and will stay there until he retires in 1945. Preisler was responsible for HE Gosch & Co.'s entry into pencil manufacturing in the 1910's, in response to wanting to keep jobs and manufacturing in Denmark, as well as wanting to minimize imports of basic commodities due to the political climate of Europe at the time. At first, it doesn't seem as if they will succeed, as they don't have the expertise of German pencil makers, but Preisler appeals to the Danish people in a call-to-arms campaign to support the local maker. It works, and soon they make a profit and can even expand into another factory. Because Denmark is left relatively unscathed by the ravages of World War II, Viking enjoys some success in producing pencils for manufacturers that weren't so lucky. During the 50's and 60's under Preisler's son, J.A. Preisler, Viking regularly launches new products and has success. In the 70's, however, a rival matchmaker assumes control of HE Gosch and consolidates the matchstick business. The pencil business is out, and the Viking trademark is sold off. Pencils are still being sold under the trademark, however they are manufactured by third parties. The brand is still popular, but over time becomes smaller and smaller, ending up at office supply company Esselte, owned by conglomerate Acco, owners of Mead, Swingline, Kensington, among others. The Viking brand is acquired by Creas as just the trademark, but they decide in 2011 to go full steam ahead with making pencils again.*
The most iconic pencil from Viking is the Skoleblyanten 029. It's their yellow school pencil with a black dipped end cap. This pencil is listed as HB but performs more like a B in my testing, especially on the toothy paper of the Baron Fig Vanguard. School pencils should always be a little soft, in my opinion, so kids don't have to press very hard to make a good line and don't tire out quickly. There is something to be said, however, for a pencil that keeps it's point, and that is not the Skoleblyanten's strong suit. I wrote one page in a Baron Fig Infinity Vanguard (flagship size) and had to sharpen halfway through.
Next up is the Skjoldungen 400 HB Office Pencil. This is a brick red lacquer, similar to the Mitsubishi 9850. It is a little bit more true to HB than the 029. It looks like the 029 in shape and end cap, it's just red. The point retention is better on toothy paper, but you give up some of the smoothness of the 029. The mark it makes is light gray with very slight stone-brown undertones.
The Element 1 HB is Viking's "writing pencil". It is all black lacquer and end dip with a matte silver imprint. Also, this is the only one of the standard-sized pencils with a UPC on it. Point retention is on par with the 400 but the tone of the core is darker, though still true to HB. This is Viking's most sleek-looking pencil.
The Rollo is the drawing pencil line, a little bit thicker than the previously mentioned pencils, but not quite jumbo. It is a natural cedar finish, no lacquer at all, but it isn't as pungent as I would have liked. The only one CW Pencils carries is the HB, but they also make 2H, 2B, 4B, 6B, & 8B, each with a different end cap color. HB is black. This one is a good writer, too. It has a line darkness like the Element, but with the thicker core, it seems to write a little smoother. If the Rollo had pungent cedar and I had the 2B core, I might have found a new favorite pencil. The imprint is black and it has the UPC on it.
Most jumbo pencils I see are round, but the Valgblyant is a big full hex jumbo. Styled like the Skoleblyanten, all the way to the #029, the Valgblyant has a hole near the top for tying a string through and attaching it somewhere. It seems to have the same core as the Skoleblyanten 029 as well. Apparently, this is meant to be a pencil for putting in the election booth, as "Valgblyant" translates, roughly, to "selection pencil", according to Google Translate. This also comes in a red version, with a thick red core that sits on the orange side of red, white lacquer and a red imprint and end dip, complete with hole. I don't generally like Jumbo pencils and see their super thick cores as a waste in that you sharpen away more graphite than you use, but some people like them and this one looks really cool and lays down a nice line.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are 2 really tiny pencils available from Viking as well: the Mini and the Mikro. The Mini has a black lacquer, a black ferrule, and a black eraser with a shiny silver imprint. It is the size of a golf pencil and it the only one with an eraser in the whole group. This is a fancy golf pencil. The Mikro, one the other hand, is something so different, I don't even know how to explain it. This pencil is super tiny. It's about the same size as some thicker pencil cores. It will fit on one side of the hex of the Mini. But other than that, it is a fully functional pencil. It has a core, wood, and black lacquer with the same silver imprint as the Mini, with a black end. It is, of course, un-sharpenable in a standard way, and CW recommends a knife or sandpaper. I'm not sure how useful this pencil is, as it seems impossible for me to get a good grip on it, but it sure is interesting.
Overall, I'm glad to see new brands being imported by places like CW Pencils. It's good for those companies to see that we do have a market for their products, and while some of the things they bring over are nowhere near getting into big-box retail, it might lead these companies to try to get into the higher-end online stationery stores in the USA, how little there may be, and put some effort behind expansion. The more choice we have here in the US, the more the big players see it and, hopefully, react by making more quality items.
Available in the USA from CW Pencils.
*Most of this is information is from the Viking website, which is in Danish. Google Translate was used, but I did not pull it word-for-word, instead deciding to write the history through paraphrasing and in my own words after doing a little more research beyond their site. The Viking website is full of great information, and one hopes for an English version sometime in the future as their popularity grows in the US and other English-speaking countries. They do ask that if you have any historical or vintage Viking ephemera or products that you contact them, as they are trying to build their archives, which is hard when the company changed hands so often in a short amount of time.