Thanks to those who voted or left comments in this informal poll.
Unsharpened pencils were preferred, with the final tally being 35 for unsharpened, 17 for sharpened.
fixedgearfiend asked, “How are the pencils that come pre-sharpened, sharpened?” Staedtler’s Pencil Facts website has a video that very briefly shows factory sharpening. The machine is moving quickly, and the video is quite small, so it’s hard to give too much description – but it seems to be capable of sharpening several pencils in a second.
Kent mentioned the retail experience. Stores often have scratch pads to try out pens, pencils, and markers – but that won’t work with unsharpened pencils. So retail needs may be another factor in a manufacturer’s decision.
I wonder what the subject of the next poll should be.