Giving out writing utensils drives me nuts. Even more so is the kid that waits until 10 minutes into the period to ask. Seriously??
Every year I start out with no real policy in place and I'm not sure why. And every year I end up losing a bunch of pencils so I end up reverting back to the same system: collateral. For me it's been the most successful system.
Eventually some of them still disappear with this, but it takes longer. This year I have 9 pencils, flagged and sitting in a custom made pencil holder. It's been a couple weeks now and all 9 are still accounted for and I'm pretty impressed.
I had a kid build the holder for me out of a piece of scrap wood. He even stained it for me. (sidenote: I still can't get over how much I love having kids on hand to construct whatever I think up). Each pencil has a piece of masking tape with my name and a number from 1-9. I'm not sure what the numbers are really for. I had something in mind but it never happened. The holder makes it really easy though to check with a quick glance if/how many pencils are missing. And if one is gone but there is nothing on the shelf I know to ask who took a pencil without trading.
The pencil holder is sitting on a shelf and the kids just leave their item on the shelf and take it back when they return the pencil. Easy and takes no effort on my part which is the best part. My usual policy is only "good things." Things like phones, iPods, bookbags, IDs, or shoes. Things they definitely won't leave without. Trading me their broken pen doesn't fly.
Sure it drives me crazy that they don't bring a pencil, but it's not worth being frustrated over every period. Kids end up with something to write with, I don't lose a ton of pencils, and I don't have to deal with it. Success. Now the trick is making sure I actually start this back up in September instead of waiting until I'm already down a bunch of pencils.