Automatic for the people

Mitsubishi’s 70s era ‘Automatic Pencil’ designs are a good example of finding a collecting theme and exploring it thoroughly.

I had previously managed to find the more attractive series of ‘M5-501’, ‘M3/5-703’ and ‘M3/5-1003’ in aluminum, and thought I had finished the series.

Then I came across a lower tier design: A tapered hexagonal design in plastic that had a printed metal ‘plate’ on the body. After much searching, I managed to obtain a black and a red version shown here. I don’t know if there are more colors, like maybe blue.

I have no supporting documentation but I think what happened was something like this: the ‘Automatic Pencil’ moniker was a prestige device, to upsell the then new-fangled ability to reload a new piece of lead from a large reservoir - instead of having to refill a single piece into a very slim metal tube.

Because of the initial cost of manufacturing, I believe Mitsubishi produced the more expensive 700 and 1000 yen models first, BEFORE lowering the price to 500 and then 300.

It certainly cost more to print a separate sticker or plate to be applied to a plastic body. The ‘303’ also lost the metal flange around the button.

Lastly the internals seem to support the progression from expensive to cheaper methods.

The Automatic Pencil versions had metal internals and can be fully disassembled.

The 303s switched to plastic reservoirs but were still able to be disassembled. Then later, the clutch was embedded in the front, making it less reparable in the event of a bad jam.

That’s all I have for now :slight_smile:


That awesome font and the clean graphic design for the stickers is serious very pleasing to the eyes.


Ever find yourself losing your religion when things become too automatic?


Those are nice! I don’t think I have any in my hoard.


All the time! Full automatic mechanisms feel like fool’s gold to me. Haven’t really enjoy using them as they are designed.


This forum is called “knockology” and not “no-need-to-knock-ology” for a reason :laughing:

Awesome collection and very nice writeup


Can’t let this go without the song, man…

Wow, Michael Stipe… went Letterman.


You finally solved the puzzle for me.

All this time, I misunderstood what the earlier “automatic” wording meant. It certainly didn’t mean automatic lead advancement. I thought it was for the pushbutton advancement, replacing the analog twist mechanism. But now I get it. It’s automatic lead feed–the fact that there’s a reservoir and no longer a requirement to manually feed in a new lead. And of course, in time as this mechanism style because ubiquitous, “automatic feed” was implied and then the word was dropped.


I was wondering if anyone else got it. I couldn’t tell if the post title was intentionally like the album title. But then again, R.E.M. is an American band.


REM was my first live concert. Loved them all the way through MONSTER.


For me, it was up until Monster. I just didn’t get on with that album. “What’s The Frequency Kenneth” was about the only song that was palatable for me.

I discovered REM through a friend of mine in the military while I was deployed Germany. We went on this long countryside driving trip and several albums of REM were on hand. And the songs were like… perfect for the ride. Fables Of The Reconstruction was a massive eye opener for me.

Can’t Get There From Here, Driver 8, Carnival of Sorts (Box Car), Radio Free Europe, Maps and Legends, Gardening At Night, Old Man Kensey, Green Grow The Rushes, Feeling Gravity’s Pull, Life And How To Live It, Kouhoutek, Good Advices…

Then Eponymous came out and that had me really hooked.