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Is this a sign the adult coloring book fad has peaked?

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If there’s a sign the bubble in adult coloring books is about to burst, it might be found at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

The museum’s gift shop is selling a set of colored pencils designed by fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld and aimed at adults who like to relax by color and draw. Asking price: $3,000. Despite the exorbitant price, the pencils, dubbed the KARLBOX, already has a wait list, a MoMA spokeswoman said.

Coloring books geared to adults have surged in popularity during the past two years, with publishers rushing out versions for every type of fan, ranging from “Harry Potter” coloring books to those featuring zombies and, yes, evil clowns. Coloring books once ranked at the top of bestseller lists, but have since been replaced with more conventional books. For most people, coloring is a relatively cheap way to relax, given that a coloring book like “Lost Ocean” by Johanna Basford sells for less than $11 on Amazon.

“Some families are doing it together with their kids. People maybe that are recovering from illness are managing to do it in hospital -- I’ve had investment bankers,” coloring book artist Basford told CBS News last year. “I think at the base of it, everybody has that little bit of nostalgia about when they used to color when they were kids.”

The KARLBOX takes the hobby to the next level. One result of the boom in adult coloring books has been a boom in colored pencil sales, with pencil manufacturer Faber-Castell saying earlier this year that they had to run more shifts to keep up with demand.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is selling a box of colored pencils designed by renowned fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld for $3,000. Museum of Modern Art

Lagerfeld worked with Faber-Castell to create the KARLBOX, which is billed as a limited edition collection of 2,500 pencils, sharpeners, erasers, crayons and a sharpening knife, among other items. Each box has a serial number plate and a certificate of authenticity.

The designer is promoting the box as part of his enthusiasm for drawing, which, he says on the box’s website, is “like breathing and writing. These are things that almost relax me.”

Still, the $3,000 box of pencils may simply be part of the coloring book fad’s maturing lifecycle. After an immediate ramp-up in growth to fill demand from consumers, competitors edge into the market (witness the surge in types and variety of coloring books), with manufacturers then needing to step up their game to separate their products from the pack. As consumer interest starts to fade, the pressure can become more intense. 

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