Top positive review
I can be pretty picky about my pencils
Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2016
I can be pretty picky about my pencils. The problem with Dixon Ticonderogas is that they are made in China and Mexico and on Amazon you never know what you will get. To complicate things somewhat, I've seen incense-cedar wood used in both China and Mexico versions of the same pencil, as well as lesser quality non-aromatic basswood or other lower grade wood material that is not readily identifiable.
Also, Ticonderogas over time have changed their packaging graphics and they will no longer specify wood type on the box, anymore. They now use a generic phrase "Premium Wood / Bois de la meilleure / Madera de primera calidad" which gives absolutely no indication if the wood is cedar or not.
Of late, they have a stamp signifying "100% American CEDAR WOOD sustainable forests" and this designation will grace all boxes of pencils that are created out of incense-cedar (presumably!).
It seems that this stamp has started to show on their products manufactured starting 2016. You will see it on their colored erasable/checking pencils, Tri-Conderogas, and their standard issue Ticonderogas in the 12-pack cardboard box, 24-pack hang tab clear plastic boxes, 48-pack hang tab green cardboard boxes, and the 96-pack cello wrapped variety which is in actuality 8 of the 12-pack boxes packaged as a single 96 count unit.
They probably will start to use this designation on other products as well to make it easier to distinguish which of their products are incense-cedar wood and which are not.
UPDATE: They also have a new stamp in the form of a gold colored banner: "Celebrating over 100 years of excellence". AVOID those like the plague! You are buying the low-end Ticonderoga. The irony...that they would label their low-end garbage as "excellence".
Ticonderogas come in a higher grade and lower grade now. Look for the green-white CEDAR WOOD stamp if you want the high grade Ticonderoga.
The problem is that there are huge stocks of pre-2016 packaging and it is hard to tell what's inside unless you actually peek into the box and handle the pencil in person. Even then, some variety of Ticonderogas will have sloppy paint jobs that have paint dripped over the ends and make it difficult to see the wood grain or take a whiff which is an important hint as to what you are dealing with (cedar vs basswood). Of course this is not possible when buying on Amazon.
I've bought 96-pack Ticonderogas at the large wholesale membership stores before (Costco) that are of the Mexican origin, in the same cello wrapped individually boxed units per dozen, HOWEVER, they are "not marked for individual sale", meaning the bar codes and product code (i.e. 13882) are not imprinted on the individual boxes.
The 96-pack bought today (2/6/2016) here on Amazon are also of the Mexican variety, in the same cello wrapped individual boxed units per dozen, AND they are each marked for individual sale, replete with barcodes and product codes. This is an interesting distinction because there is a huge quality difference between the two, and this is the crux of this review:
- The Costco variety have a strong paint smell where the Amazon variety is nicely aromatic cedar.
- The Costco variety is NOT imprinted as 100% AMERICAN cedar wood, the Amazon variety has the imprint.
- The Costco variety is obviously not cedar wood, wood is a pasty white without visible woodgrain patterns
- The Costco variety had very poor paint jobs and the classic green foil lettering and logos are noticeably poorer quality
- There were more curved pencil "bananas" and off-centered leads in the Costco variety
- The Amazon variety had largely well centered leads with mostly straight barrels, and the ferrule yellow paint stripes were clean
This all means that if you are lucky and score a box of the cedar wood variety, you will have a great writing experience.
The Mexican Ticonderogas were generally thought to be superior to the Chinese versions, because the Ticonderogas made in China largely used basswood/non-cedar wood, had a smallish eraser head, and the leads were poorly centered, and the ferrules were poorly painted as well. A lot of technical problems seems to plaque the Chinese version, like leads falling out (poorly bonded lead), or broken leads, or not sharpening well to a point (poor quality wood to blame). However, my Costco experience illustrates that both factories, whether it be China or Mexico, produce higher grade Ticonderogas and clearly lower grade ones as well.
Interestingly, the latest batch of pencils that are hitting the shelves in big office retailers like Office Depot or Staples are of FANTASTIC quality and they are made in China versions, with well centered lead cores, incense-cedar wood barrels, sharply imprinted foil lettering, and ferrules that are printed very evenly with a bright yellow band, and erasers that are starting to grow to a size that almost rivals the Mexican counterparts. They are slightly darker in color and a very smooth, satin finish.
I hope that Dixon is starting to listen to the myriad of complaints about the inconsistencies of their Ticonderoga product line, and the latest developments in this venerable brand is surely encouraging that all is not falling on deaf ears. In fact, the latest batch that are made in China would indicate that they have made a major commitment to restoring the brand to its former glory!