A Collector's Guide to Buying Ballpoint Pens

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A Collector's Guide to Buying Ballpoint Pens

The ballpoint pen is an extremely popular writing instrument, with millions sold each day across the world. Whilst there are many economical pens available on the mass market, many manufacturers also create designer and high-end pens that are prized by collectors. This eBay guide offers pen enthusiasts and collectors some useful information and valuable tips on buying ballpoint pens.

History of Ballpoint Pens

In 1888, a tanner named John J. Loud created and patented the first ballpoint pen. The pen consisted of a steel ball that rotated freely in a socket beneath an ink reservoir. Whilst John J. Loud's pen was suitable for writing on coarse materials like leather, it was not suitable for writing on smoother surfaces such as paper.

Through the early to mid-years of the 20th century, many people endeavoured to create a cheaper, cleaner and more reliable pen to replace the quill and fountain pen. In the late 1930s, a viable option was developed by a Hungarian newspaper editor, László Bíró. Bíró, whose name is the source of the common ballpoint pen name 'biro', created a pen that used quick-drying ink similar to the inks used to print newspapers.

After the Second World War many companies competed to produce viable ballpoint pens of their own. The first truly commercially lucrative pen was created by American entrepreneur Milton Reynolds. The 'Reynolds Rocket' was patented and released towards the end of 1945.

In the 1950s, another commercially successful ballpoint pen was released in America by Marcel Bich. In 1953 Bich shortened his name to Bic, creating the world's most popular brand name in ballpoint pens.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the introduction of many more leading names in the ballpoint pen market, including Paper Mate and Parker Pens.

Whilst ballpoint technology has been adapted and refined over time, the principle mechanics have remained the same as they were at the start of the 20 th century.

With the rising popularity of ballpoint pens, there has been an ever-increasing desire for a high-end market. Many brands now offer premium ballpoint pens made with fine materials such as sterling silver and gold.

Ballpoint Pen Design

Whilst the precise designs of ballpoint pens will vary between brands and manufacturers, the basic components are universal in nature.

There is an internal reservoir of viscous, oil-based ink which dries almost immediately when it comes into contact with a writing surface. At the base of the reservoir is a metal ball bearing housed in a socket. The ball is usually made from steel, brass or tungsten carbide, whilst the socket is normally made from brass.

Ink is forced to the tip of the pen by gravity. The rotating action of the ball allows ink to be dispersed evenly when pressure is applied between the tip and writing surface. When pressure is not applied, the ball seals air out from the reservoir, preventing the ink from drying out.

A typical ballpoint pen will last roughly two years. The amount of ink in a standard ballpoint pen allows a continuous line of between 1,500 and 3,000 metres to be drawn.

Uses of Ballpoint Pens


As you would expect, writing is the most common use of the ballpoint pen. Whether at home, work or school, the ballpoint pen is an invaluable writing device. There are some limitations to the ballpoint pen, however. Due to their dependence on gravity, most ballpoint pens cannot write upside down. Ballpoint pens are also incapable of writing on surfaces that are wet or oily.

As an Art Medium

Aside from writing, the ballpoint pen may also be used as an art medium. Many amateurs choose to sketch with ballpoint pens, whilst some professional artists such as Andy Warhol have used them alone or as part of multi-media artworks.

The light sensitivity of inks and limited range of colours are concerns for artists working with ballpoint pens. The inability to erase a line once it has been drawn is also a limitation, although erasable inks have been formulated by the Paper Mate brand.

Types of Ballpoint Pen


Commonly made of plastic, these are the most common variety of ballpoint pen. Disposable ballpoints, as their name suggests, are designed to be discarded once they have run out of ink. Whilst you can buy multiple disposable ballpoint pens at a low cost, they are likely to be less desirable to pen enthusiasts and collectors.


Refillable pens are commonly made from more premium materials, including metal or wood. The ink reservoir and tip are replaced as a single item, so that refilling them is both simple and convenient. Many brands create very high quality refillable pens with premium casings that will appeal to collectors.


Most disposable pens come with a detachable lid that prevents ink from drying out or dispensing onto unwanted surfaces. You may find retractable disposable pens as well, but the majority of retractable pens on the market are also refillable. Retractable pens usually contain a spring-loaded mechanism, whereby the tip of the pen retracts back into the main casing when required.

Ballpoint Pen Options


The most common colours of ballpoint pens are black and blue, although you can purchase ballpoint pens and refills in a wide range of colours.


The more luxury, refillable pens that you will be interested in as a collector are commonly made of metal, wood, or a combination of materials. There are also high-end pens available that may be gold- or silver-plated, or contain other materials such as ivory or diamonds. You should ensure that ballpoint pens that are made using silver or gold are hallmarked.

Ballpoint Width

The line thickness created by a ballpoint pen depends on the width of the actual ball point. Widths typically vary between 0.2mm and 1.6mm. You may also hear different widths referred to by name, such as 'ultra-fine', 'fine', 'medium', or 'broad'. You should expect sellers to specify the exact widths of the ballpoint pens they have on offer.


As a collector, you may wish to buy a ballpoint pen and preserve it in its original form. You may, however, wish to personalise your ballpoint pen. Many sellers offer this service, including laser-engraving initials or a name onto the pen's surface.

Ballpoint Pen Brands & Quality

You will find many brands offering premium quality ballpoint pens to suit both enthusiasts and collectors. Well-known brands include Cartier, Cross, Dunhill, Mont Blanc, Parker and Waterman. Many of the well-known pen brands such as Staedtler offer ballpoint pens for both the budget and high-end markets.

Whilst you should expect high-priced ballpoint pens to feel comfortable in your hand and write smoothly, the quality will partly depend on your personal writing style and preferences. The tip of the pen is an important factor in creating a high quality product. The more premium ballpoint pens will use stainless steel ball bearings that rotate smoothly in their sockets, producing an even and fluid flow of ink.

Other Considerations

When purchasing a ballpoint pen to add to a collection or give as a gift, you will need to bear in mind the additional cost of accessories, such as cases or refills. You may also like to consider warranty options for high-priced ballpoint pens, particularly for unique or limited-edition items.

Buying Ballpoint Pens on eBay

You will find ballpoint pens of all types on eBay. For pen enthusiasts and collectors, there are many premium ballpoint pens on offer from a range of sellers.

You can find ballpoint pens easily by navigating to the Stationery & School Equipment category and selecting Pens & Pencils from the options on the left of the page. You can narrow your results further by selecting "Ball Point Pens/ Biros" from the "Sub-Type" option.

Many sellers also list more premium ballpoint pens in the Collectables category. You should navigate to the Pens & Writing Equipment section, where you can then click on "Pens" under the "Type" option heading.

From here, you will have a number of options to select from on the left of the page. You may first wish to select "Ball Point Pens/ Biros" from the "Sub-Type" heading. You can also select from a range of ink colours and brands, as well as specifying a price range.

Keyword Search

If you are searching for something specific, you may wish to use the Keyword search bar at the top of the page. For example, if you were looking for a Parker pen made from sterling silver, you would simply type "Parker sterling silver" into the search box.

You can also select "Include Description" to expand your search results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you're looking for, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you're looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay. eBay will then email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Ballpoint Pens with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you're buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know Your Item

Read the details in the item listing carefully. Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you're buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you. If you want more information, click the "Ask seller a question" button on the seller's profile or the "Ask a question" link at the bottom of the item listing page.

Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection. Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

Know Your Seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

* What is the seller's Feedback rating?

* How many transactions have they completed?

* How many positive responses do they have?

* What do buyers say in their Feedback?

* Are they positive about the seller?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

* Do they offer a money-back guarantee?

* What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer Protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection covers your purchase price plus original delivery cost.

rn Buy�}Nwp��� to seven working days after you receive your item. You do not need to give a reason, but you do need to tell the seller that you want to return the item.

Buying a used auction item from a trade seller

The seller may still offer a refund; most sellers will try to help if you let them know that the crate is not suitable.

Buying a used item from a private seller (any format)

If you buy from a private seller, you do not have an automatic right to a refund, but the seller should assist you if you have a problem. All eBay buyers are protected under the terms of the Buyer Protection policy.

Buying Your Used Dog Crate on eBay

Caring for a pet can be expensive, and buying used pet care items on eBay is a great way to save money on the essentials. Dog crates are designed to last a lifetime, and buying a used dog crate will make that investment even more affordable.

If you research dog crates before you purchase, you should find that a used crate offers the same benefits as a brand new crate, providing the condition is acceptable and the crate will not pose any safety risks to your dog. Buying a used crate on eBay gives you all the benefits of online shopping with the reassurance of robust buyer protection and lower prices than high street pet stores.

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