As the proprietor of a pencil shop, it's my job to seek out high quality, unique, affordable pencils. We sell hundreds of types but the one that most people notice we're missing is the legendary Dixon Ticonderoga. This especially comes up during back-to-school season, when it tends to be the requested pencil type of a lot of school supply lists.
The thing is, there are better pencils that don't have to be costly. I, like most children raised in the U.S. grew up using Ticonderogas, which were most definitely the best option at big box stores, especially for those of us in rural places (in my case, in southeast Ohio where Walmart was really the only option). In the early 2000s my mom discovered that the new matte black Ticonderogas, for some reason, was better than the yellow ones and that became the staple school pencil in our household. Since then, many things have changed. Dixon was acquired by a larger company and all of the production was moved out of the U.S. (namely to Mexico and Taiwan). Standards for the quality of the cedar changed, as did the cores of the pencils. Basically, the Ticonderoga isn't the pencil most people remember as being the best option. This is similar for a lot of classic pencils, like the Mongol and the Black Warrior--they might still be made elsewhere under the same name, but they're certainly not the same pencil.
My point is, the Ticonderoga is a fine pencils, and especially in places like the town I grew up in, might still be the best, most accessible option. The thing is, though, we live in the internet era so we have access to countless alternative. I have a lot of personal opinions about shopping on Amazon (come on, I'm a small business owner) but it really is a valuable tool for things like this.
Some of my recommendations for better school pencils are always the Palomino ForestChoice (which can be purchased in full gross boxes from pencils.com), the Moon Products Try-Rex, which is cheap and comes in three diameters, anything from Musgrave Pencil Company or the Nataraj 621 Pencil (if you're cool with having to put an eraser cap on it). If you're shopping at an office supply store or Target, look for Staedtler Noricas, which have great erasers and sharpen nicely.
Having a better pencil is better for everyone--the parents who will subsequently have to buy less of them, the teachers who won't have to deal with classroom distractions due to broken and malfunctioning pencils and the students, who maybe won't hate having to write with them.
This BTS season, let's share better pencils with the students and teachers in our lives because that's what they deserve.
Photo: me in the shop with our giant Ticonderoga, which was generously gifted to us by a customer last year.