It’s official: Albert Lea native sets Guinness World Record for pencils

Published 1:38 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Most people have a few pencils lying around their house or office. However, for Aaron Bartholmey, it’s about 70,000.

Bartholmey has been collecting pencils nearly his whole life.

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“It started with that gift from my teacher,” said Bartholmey, telling about how his first-grade teacher gave students pencils for Christmas.

This prompted him to start his own collection of the familiar writing tools.

As a child, Bartholmey acquired many of his pencils by traveling with his grandfather to flea markets and other sales.

He eventually joined the American Pencil Society. This helped him grow his hobby as well as network and meet other pencil collectors.

Once Bartholmey had collected many thousands of pencils, he expressed his interest to Guinness World Records.

“It was quite the process,” he said. Two experts came to see his collection. It had to be an event open to the public, and each pencil had to be counted. The counting process took about two days. By the end, Bartholmey had an official count of 69,255 pencils. He said that he is sure that he has more. After a 12-week wait, Bartholmey was officially approved by Guinness as the World Record holder for most pencils collected.

This unique hobby brought a lot of attention to Bartholmey. He has stories about himself and his pencil collection in the Washington Post, on CNN and Iowa Public Radio, to name a few. He has even done interviews for media networks in Canada and Spain.

Occasionally Bartholmey said he will get a phone call or email from someone telling him how they had a loved one who collected pencils that passed away and asking if he would like to have the pencils for his own collection.

He said that one of his favorite things about this hobby is finding especially old pencils and learning about the history of them.

“I like antiques in general,” he said.

Bartholmey also has a small collection of Albert Lea advertisements as he said that he is passionate about the town he grew up in. Right now Bartholmey lives in Colfax, Iowa, where he has resided for about a decade. When asked if he plans to continue collecting pencils now that he is the record holder, he said, “I’m still gathering new pencils all the time. I have no intention of stopping any time soon.”