Though Staedtler and Faber-Castell may get more attention here at pencil talk, the Bic name might be better known to global consumers.
Famous as producers of disposable ballpoint pens, Bic also make woodcase pencils.
The Bic 101 is made in China, and is sold in a box that lists distributors in Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and China.
It has some interesting claims:
A couple of notes – first, the statement about the wood species is a welcome disclosure. Second, regarding “Fumigated wood” – this isn’t generally a consumer concern, but I’ve bought enough “vintage” pencils to confirm that like old books, mould can become an issue over time in pencils.
The box also states “Exam Grade”, “Low Breakage”, and “2B Superior Quality”.
There seems to be some new Asian pencil trend focused on “Exam” pencils. Does anyone know more about this? The 101 is yet another entry in this category.
The pencil has a sparse finish – black with grey cap and white cap ring.
The lettering is in gold, and states: “Bic 101 Superior Quality – 2B”.
Okay, down to business – the pencils sharpen easily and perform very well, laying down a dark, rich line. This was a complete and welcome surprise to me, as I really expected budget performance from this budget pencil.
16 Replies to “Bic 101 pencil”
Molding pencils is a complete surprise to me.
I have to get a box of these with “exam grade” and the picture on it for my son. He’s 11 and VERY paranoid about having a pencil that won’t fill the bubbles all the way in on his assignments and tests. I have to find a good eraser, too. He takes it seriously when told “a stray mark” could mess up his answers. I dread him taking the ACT and SAT!
Looks very interesting, never seen on any of the Bic webpages. Looks a bit similar to the Bic Indiana which is painted gray with a blue tip and is available in HB/2B.
Any possibility for ordering and shipping worldwide? I live in Germany.
I have some dozens of vintage colored pencils which are rather badly mildewed so I can attest to the susceptibility of pencils to mould (they were probably stored in a dank basement for a long period of time). Mouldy and mildewed pencils are probably not a concern of consumers in North America given generally temperate climate conditions, but I can well imagine it being a problem in tropical climes with oppressive humidity. As well, the “fumigated wood” language may be aimed at retailers in an effort to allay their concerns about investing in volume quantities of this “perishable” good.
Thank you all for the comments!
Frank, if you are seeking a few of these, I would be happy to send them to you. If you want a larger quantity – there are Malaysian sellers on eBay such as “muntc” who sometimes sell these.
Beautiful closeup photograph of the point — you can see the sharpening!
I suspect that “exam grade,” like undercoating and most extended warranties, is a marketing tactic to make more money. I know that if I were filling in bubbles, I’d probably buy such pencils, “just to be sure.”
Thank you Michael! I was reading your blog today, reminiscing about the Chudnovskys and their apartment supercomputer. I remember reading that edition of the New Yorker when it came out!
Usually anything labled “superior quality” is anything but!
Most of Pencils Companies sells in Asia (China, Thailand, Malaysia mainly) Exam pencils also known as OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) pencils as most of the student there have ONE important exam to enter in University (no second chance their) wich use this kind of Optical reader to make corrections and results publication faster…
In those exam, no calculators, no bags, you can only enter in the exam room with 2 Exam pencils, one sharpener, one eraser that all. So that why you need “superior quality” pencils ;-)
I have notice that most of those OMR pencil are usually 2B-3B darkness leads.
Wow, I’ve never seen this in Korea before.
Thank you Stephen, I’m going to find it here.
interestingly enough, the Conte name does not appear anywhere.
Where did you find those? I’ve been trying to find Bic pencils outside of Mexico and Panama (normally you only find the ones made of a polymer instead of wood) but have been unsuccessful so far.
Thank you for the comments. Bic and their brands are as much of a mystery to me as those of the other large manufacturers. I did recently find some Conté branded graphite pencils in Canada. It seems the Conté brand is being used for art supplies, while office and school products have been transitioned to Bic branding.
I bought these pencils at a value store (kind of like a dollar store, except that most items cost more than a dollar), but the pencils are orange/yellow instead of black. Maybe different countries sell different types? It’s still in 2B, though.
And I agree with the Pencil Maker on the reason why we have ‘exam grade’ pencils. I’ve taken a few examinations where we were required to use 2B pencils to shade the ovals which correspond to our answers. However, I was a lazy student and just used a HB pencil, which was the type I used most often. They had to use a separate scanner for my paper :)
This is becoming interesting. Especially Zanne’s reply, I can relate to that. As a teacher, I’ve always had this problem with photocopy machines and the ordinary HB pencil. Copies become very faint, even thought the line looks rich and dark on the original. I’m not sure why, really?
Logic tells me that it has to do with the way graphite reflects light, or rather how the mixture of clay, graphite and something else, we put on the paper reflects light? Besides the paper itself of course.
I’ve tried a lot of different pencils in order to find one which would be my timesaver
(meaning I don’t have to redo everything in ink or at the computer). Only a few Japanese brands qualified.
This is the first time I hear about OMR pencils. Maybe schools ought to buy OMR pencils instead of the generic HB? That would “mark sense”, since we copy a lot. :=)
In addition to mark recognition, several “exam grade” pencils such as the Stabilo Micro 288 Exam Grade 2B come with leads in a slightly-larger-than-standard diameter of 2.5mm. This allows students to fill the circles more efficiently. Dunno about the Bic, though.
Of course, it’s also easy to market exam-related stuff in countries with extremely test-centric education systems.
I bought some of these via ebay. They are impressive pencils, especially for the price. They lay a dark, rich line and are very smooth. You do have to sharpen them frequently, as with a Palomino or a Blackwing. Too bad that these excellent pencils are not part of Bic’s regular stock in the USA. There are several Bic products that never make to this country—some of the better ones, unfortunately!