A The Independent of London article, The rise and rise of Sudoku, claimed that:

[...] sales of pencils in Britain are reported to have risen 700 per cent on the back of the Sudoku boom.

A 700% increase seems objectively a disproportionate increase; additionally, that article evokes an unproven correlation between Sudoku and such an increase.

Did a 700 percent increase in pencil sales occur in Britain on the back of the Sudoku boom?

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    The original article from independent says: sales of pencils in Britain are reported to have risen 700 per cent on the back of the Sudoku boom. And that's all they say about it. Not gonna waste time researching, this claim is total BS. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 6:13
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    Does the phrase "on the back of" imply correlation or causation in British English?
    – user5341
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 18:50
  • 1
    @dvk It is a more colloquial form of "in the wake of." Commented May 1, 2015 at 11:15
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    IMO the claim doesn't necessarily need to be BS, I'd expect that the regular volume of pencil sales is extremely low, because the users would be mostly schoolchildren and not even all of them.
    – vartec
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 20:56
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    I note that when 'adult coloring' books became popular recently, not only where all appropriate coloring pencils sold out, it took many months to restock them - even at specialist art stores. As such while this claim stretches plausibility... it is still worth exploring properly rather than dismissing out of hand. @GeorgeChalhoub
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


I think I found the person responsible for this quote, saying something very similar a decade later. Faber-Castell is a pencil business based in Germany, owned by a single aristocratic family.

Shades of grey, and other hues, put lead in pencil sales (The Australian)

It all adds up to a pretty picture for Andreas Wilhelm von Faber-Castell, the managing ­director of Asia-Pacific operations for his family company, Faber-Castell. Founded in Germany in 1761, the writing and art supplies business produces more than two billion wooden-cased pencils every year.

The Sydney-based director said sales in Australia had “gone absolutely crazy” — a 600 per cent jump in pencil sales last April — thanks to adult colouring books.

This gives us enough context to solve the mystery: the good Count Faber-Castell is being selective with his sales figures. The 700 percent spike in British sales might have been limited to whatever month the article was written, followed by a slump thereafter. But maybe it wasn't even month-on-month. Maybe they sold 1000 pencils in the UK one week and 8000 the next week, which might be as simple as the combined effect of a sudoku boom with final exams.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the global year-on-year growth for pencils is fairly linear:

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