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Bic Critérium 550 pencil

Bic Critérium 550 pencil

Here is the modern incarnation of a classic pencil. The Critérium name dates at least as far back as the 1930s, and has continued through various mergers and acquisitions to the current Bic ownership.

This is a pencil I have sought for years. I’m not sure why, but Bic seems to be engaged in very selective pencil product sales and export. The blog showed a beautiful Critérium leadholder earlier this year. The pencil collector in France who sold that leadholder to me also stated that no Bic woodcase pencils are available in his area! Is that really possible?

Bic Critérium 550 pencil

The pencil has a distinctive green body, with black cap and white cap ring. It is available in a range of twelve degrees. Imprints are in black or white. My understanding is that this is Bic’s premiere woodcase pencil.

Bic Critérium 550 pencil

The pencil writes very well, and sharpens easily. It is another pencil whose performance surpasses the appearance. I would guess that it could compete with major global brands on most quality aspects. Yet, the lacquer and imprint details unfortunately look neglected. Bic is major design firm, and I’m sure they could do better.

Bic Critérium 550 pencil

A very close look also reveals that the pencil is stamped “China”.

Recommended, if you can find it.

My thanks to Gunther from Lexikaliker for kindly sending me these pencils.

Further reading:

From leadholder.com: Some interesting brand history.

From Bic: Official product page.

4 comments to Bic Critérium 550 pencil

  • Frank

    What area of France is this, where no BIC woodcase pencils are available? Two or three times a year I’m in Northern France (Alsace) and always look for pencils. Last October I bought Critérium 550 pencils, HB and 2B, made in France and China, and BIC Gilbert 33 HB, made in France, and BIC Gilbert 33 H, made in China, and also the budget BIC Mentor HB, made in France. Maybe the French are old ones but still sold, but the packing looked quite up-to-date. And nearly every shop offers some woodcase BIC pencils, even the extruded BIC Evolution seems to be more popular. Next month I’m in the Center of France and will check what’s going on.

    The French and Chinese Critérium are very similar, no obvious differences between lead, wood and finish (both poor); the Chinese Gilbert uses a redish wood and the diameter of the pencil feels to be one or two millimeter larger (I know this sounds a stupid and I should use a caliper). Lacquer and imprint is okay, better than both Criterium.

  • Frank, thanks for the detailed comment.

    I just tried to look up the collector’s city, and realized that I had sent him my address, but not the reverse. It was probably on the now recycled envelope. Reading further, I think he associated the concept of availability with the practicalities of convenience in concluding that these pencils were not accessible. I understand that. For someone in a rural area, a trip to a large city to buy pencils might very well be unjustified. So, it probably isn’t a literal claim that there is an actual woodcase pencil-free zone in France. Yet, he was interested and kind enough to pick up the aluminum leadholder for me, so I also assume he has some knowledge of his area’s stationery sources.

    I don’t have all the pencil varieties you mentioned to test, but will point to your comment in the next post. (And I will be mentioning the Mentor.)

    It may not be the case that the “France” imprint means “Made in France”. One manufacturer, who answered other questions, would not directly tell me if their products marked “France” are manufactured in France.

    Thanks again for your valuable input.

  • Thanks for your reply.
    Just last year- in Paris- all I could find for French-made pencils was the Bic Evolution HB (which I like quite a lot). I looked in all sorts of shops.
    I did pick up some wood-cased Bic pencils called “Bic 101,” which are very smooth 2B, though made in China. If you’d like one, I can send you an example.

  • Thank you for your kindness. I do already have a Bic 101. I think some will be be happy to know it can be found in France.

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