General’s Supreme 550 pencil

General's Supreme 550 pencil

Those looking for inexpensive pencils soon discover that almost every large department and office supply store has a no-name or house brand – yet such pencils are often less than ideal.

Made of poplar or basswood with inferior leads, the pencils often just barely serve their purpose.

Yet if you’re buying pencils as a school teacher or department head, or for your workplace or organization, and have a limited budget, the options may seem very limited.

I don’t personally believe that children should have inferior pencils. Let’s think about this. Which will better promote learning – a pencil that is hard to sharpen and hard to write with, or a pencil that is easy to sharpen and easy to write with?

Yet financial realities may still be paramount.

It’s been a delight to recently learn about a budget pencil that is a remarkably good value. I have to thank a regular blog reader for telling me about this pencil, and sending a few my way.

The Supreme 550 is made by the General Pencil Co. of New Jersey. General is the oldest independent American pencil company.

The packaging for a dozen pencils is a re-sealable plastic bag. (A format also used by some other General products.)

The bag has a label stating: “Since 1889, General’s Supreme #2 Graphite, Sustained Yield Cedar Wood Pencil, Made in U.S.A.”

The pencils are labeled in green:

Obverse: USA General’s Carbo Weld SUPREME 550 2
Reverse: [bar code]

The pencil body is yellow, the ferrule gold with a black band, and the eraser dark pink.

General's Supreme 550 pencil

The finish overall is not great – it seems to be a very thin paint coating that easily shows defects. But it’s okay. And the classic lettering will bring a smile to many.

The pencil sharpens very easily. After trying out various basswood pencils recently, I realized that I was delighted to again be able to easily sharpen a pencil. Wasn’t ease of sharpening once an integral aspect of every pencil?

The lead writes well. I tried to use the pencil over a period of time, at home and work. It could not be called smooth in comparison to most pencils discussed here. It unfortunately is somewhat gritty. But it also seemed (compared to other HB pencils) to be relatively solid, non-breaking, and non-crumbling. And keep in mind that I’m comparing it to much more expensive “name brand” products. It functions very well compared to “budget” category pencils.

At US$1.50 for a dozen at retail, I’m thinking that large quantity purchasers can get the pencil for well under ten cents a pencil. I hope that price puts these reasonable quality, easily sharpened cedar pencils in the same range as those bad no-name, origin unspecified pencils.

Why don’t stores like Office Depot, Office Max, or Office Brobdingnagian offer General or Musgrave pencils? I think some of us should ask.

But in the meantime, I hope the Supreme 550 might be a candidate for those seeking a budget pencil.

General sells this pencil via a distributor who aims at U.S. college campuses. It can be purchased online (more expensive) or in person at various college bookstores. A larger order would have to be facilitated directly through the distributor.