MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan Emilio Arenas, the holder of five Guinness records as the king of pencils and one as the top fan of ashtrays, is poised to earn yet another for his collection of 18,300 pencils, a treasure trove that he told EFE comes second only to his family.
The septuagenarian, who runs the Granja Arenas tourist attraction in the southwestern province of Colonia along with his family, proudly shows off different displays of his passion for collecting things.
Arenas owns 38,000 keychains, 10,000 pins, 16,000 matchboxes, 4,200 perfumes and 5,000 ashtrays, with the latter collection being the reason why Guinness awarded him a new record.
But pencils were the items that awakened an interest in collecting in Arenas when he was a child that seems to have no limits.
“I’ve been collecting pencils for almost 60 years,” Arenas said, adding that he found his calling in 1956, when, as an 11-year-old boy, he took a pencil to school with the inscription “Arroz Corona, el mejor de Carolina” (Corona Rice, the Best of Carolina).
While taking notes and when he needed to sharpen the pencil, Arenas realized the writing implement would never be the same, so he asked for a new one and kept the one that would become the first in his collection.
On that day, Arenas recalls, he received two pencils from his teacher: “one to take notes, the other for collecting.”
Arenas had been collecting pencils for 45 years when, in 2002, he got his first Guinness record for the world’s largest collection of pencils, numbering 5,200 at the time.
Arenas broke the same record four times, with the most recent coming in 2013, when he owned 16,260 pencils.
After setting his first record, Arenas was invited to visit the Faber Castell pencil factory in Germany, where he was welcomed by Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell, who invited the Uruguayan collector to pose for a photograph and told him: “This picture will go around the world and you will receive even more pencils.”
And that is what happened.
Arenas now receives some 400 pencils a day at his Colonia farm from remote places around the world.
“There is no way I can express my gratitude over how people are engaged in this,” the collector said.
Arenas cherishes the contribution of Maria Auxiliadora Delgado, President Tabare Vazquez’s wife, who once told him “next week, I’m traveling with my husband to Vietnam, and if I get a pencil, I’ll bring it to you.”
The first lady kept her word.
Among the thousands of pencils in Arenas’s collection, there are some he values more than others, including the one that started the whole collecting adventure, and “the world’s smallest and thinnest” pencil, manufactured specially for him.