The Battle of the Budget Pencils: USA Gold Versus USA Titanium
Most readers are probably familiar with USA Gold pencils. Branded as "America's Pencil", the USA Gold's packaging is emblazoned with the American flag and "Made in USA" in as many places as possible. The history of manufacturing of the USA Gold pencils is complicated, so I'll try to break it down for you (thanks to "WoodChuck", who I suspect is Charles Berolzheimer, for this history of the USA Gold): Originally, the USA Gold was introduced by RoseArt as a competitor to Ticonderoga and Mirado pencils and was made of incense cedar. USA Golds were much cheaper than their competitor and RoseArt used this tactic to gain market share and popularity. Because of this reduced cost, the cedar used was often much lower grade and the graphite used was imported from China. In 2003, RoseArt purchased J.R. Moon and claimed to be the second largest pencil company in the US. Two years later in 2005, Mega Brands acquired RoseArt. I suspect that the USA Gold is manufactured in the old J.R. Moon pencil factory as Mega Brands has stated that their pencils are manufactured in Lewisburg, TN-- the location of the original J.R. Moon factory. ANYHOW, enough of that history lesson. Let's get to the review.
The USA Gold pencil is instantly recognizable-- it has bright blue foil stamping that declares it is America's Pencil (I find that silly, but hey, branding-- if it works, it works). The finish is sloppy and I suspect it only has one or two coats of lacquer as you can see the wood grain and the seam in the slats pretty clearly through the paint. The ferrule is actually not that bad-- it has that old tin can look with a thick blue band in the middle. The eraser is pink and while functional, wears down pretty quickly. I prefer to leave my eraser unused and use a block style eraser to do the erasing. Performance is okay. For a budget pencil it works-- it is as dark as an HB grade leaning slightly towards 2B. Writing with the pencil offers a tactile experience as the graphite is a bit scratchy at times. For the price and performance, these pencils are worth their cost, but you can find much better performance out of even cheaper pencils at Walmart (see Pen+Gear neons). I paid 98 cents for an eight pack which puts them at about 12 cents a pencil.
The USA Titanium is a new offering from Mega Brands and is touted as "High Quality" and the packaging asserts that the pencils have durable lead and long-lasting erasers. LIES! First glance at the USA Titanium is underwhelming. The finish on the pencil is a bland pencil yellow and a tad lighter than the USA Gold. The Titanium definitely has only one coat of lacquer as you can clearly see the wood grain underneath. Equally as underwhelming is the silver ferrule at the top of the pencil. It does not have any of the detail of a classic ferrule and is largely smooth with two thick black bands at the top and bottom. The box of 36 USA Titanium pencils I purchased had a few pencils that were unacceptably defective and for a pencil that is "High Quality" this is disappointing. The graphite is a bit smoother and darker than the USA Gold so that is a bonus for me as I like a darker pencil. I'd say that the graphite it lays down is on the darker side of 2B. The eraser on this pencil is GARBAGE and actually leaves pink streaks on the paper. I though that the erasers on both the Gold and Titanium would be the same, but they are not. They both wear down pretty quickly and leave similar amounts of dust, but the Titanium eraser seems like it has something else added to it to make it feel more gummy. I also just could have gotten a bad batch. This is not really okay since I paid a bit more for the "better" pencils. I paid $5.47 for 36 pencils which put the USA Titanium at 15 cents a piece.
Overall, if you were to choose between the two pencils, I'd pick up the USA Golds. I am not sure why the Titaniums were so bad for me and don't get how they are pushed as a better option when they clearly are not. Both pencils can be found in your local Walmart.