The ballpoint pen is an extremely popular writing instrument. Millions of ballpoint pens are manufactured and sold around the world every day.
You will find an extensive range of options available to you on eBay,, from economical multipacks to premium ballpoint pens.
This guide provides you with useful information and helpful tips to help you choose from the assortment of ballpoint pens eBay has to offer.
Ballpoint Pen History
The first ballpoint pen was invented in 1888 by John L. Loud. Using a metal ball that rotated in a socket beneath a reservoir of ink, Loud’s pen could write on coarse materials such as leather, but was unsuitable for materials such as paper.
In the early 20th century, several people utilised similar technology in an attempt to create a clean, reliable pen that could replace the quill and fountain pen.
In 1938, László Bíró created a ballpoint pen using quick-drying ink similar to that used in the newspaper industry. This was the first ballpoint pen that could write effectively on paper. The ballpoint pen is commonly referred to as the biro in tribute to the pioneer’s name.
The first commercially successful ballpoint pen was created by Milton Reynolds in 1945. The ‘Reynolds Rocket’ was the first of many widely available ballpoint pens to hit the market.
The world’s leading brand in ballpoint pens materialised in the 1950s. Marcel Bich, who later shortened his name to Bic, released a highly successful ballpoint pen that was licensed from László Bíró.
Many other leading names in the pen industry were created in the 1950s and 1960s, including Parker Pens and Paper Mate.
Whilst being developed over time, the principle technology in ballpoint pens has remained largely the same as at the start of the 20th century. Even in the digital world of computers and electronic word processors, the ballpoint pen remains a vital part of everyday life.
Ballpoint Pen Design
Although the specific designs of ballpoint pens vary between manufacturers, the components remain largely universal. The ballpoint pen has an internal reservoir of oil-based ink, with a rotating metal ball held in a socket beneath the reservoir to dispense the ink. The socket is usually made of brass, and the metal ball is typically made of steel, brass or tungsten carbide.
The reservoir of ink is usually contained within a thin, plastic tube. Ink is forced towards the tip by the forces of gravity. When pressure is applied between the tip and the writing surface, the rotating ball allows a consistent, even distribution of ink. Without pressure applied, the ball seals air out from the ink reservoir to prevent it from drying out.
The average ballpoint pen has a shelf-life of approximately two years and can write a continuous line of between 1,500 and 3,000 metres.
Ballpoint Pen Uses
The foremost use of the ballpoint pen is for writing text. Whether at home, school or the workplace, ballpoint pens are the most popular writing instrument available.
Gel-ink and liquid-ink rollerball pens are a common alternative to the ballpoint pen. Whilst using similar mechanics, rollerball pens use water-based inks rather than oil-based inks. Whilst they generally provide more fluid ink-flow, rollerball inks do not dry as quickly as ballpoint inks, leading to potential smearing or smudging. This is a particular issue for left-handed writers. Unlike oil-based inks, water-based inks will also blot if held against the writing surface.
Ballpoint pens do have some limitations:
- Due to ink flow relying on gravity, most ballpoint pens cannot write upside down. However, there is a ballpoint pen developed by Fisher known as the ‘Fisher Space Pen’ that uses a pressurised ink reservoir. This allows the pen to function when upside down by forcing ink towards the tip.
- Whilst ballpoint pens are particularly versatile, they do not function on wet or oily surfaces, and will not write on smooth plastics or glass.
The ballpoint pen is also used as an art tool by many professional artists, as well as by amateur doodlers. Their affordability and widespread availability makes them a popular art medium, whether for drawings using solely ballpoint pens or for multi-media artworks.
There are some restrictions when using ballpoint pens as an art medium. Whilst many colours are available, fewer shades can be created compared to paints and other media. There is also concern over light-sensitivity of the ink, leading to potential fading. Furthermore, once a line is drawn using a ballpoint pen, it can generally not be erased. There are ballpoint pens in existence with erasable ink, however, pioneered by the pen company Paper Mate.
Ballpoint Pen Types
Disposable ballpoint pens are the most common type of ballpoint. Usually made of plastic, they are designed to be thrown away once the ink has run out. Disposable pens are low-cost and often come in multi-packs.
Refillable pens commonly have more premium casings, often made of materials such as metal or wood. Once the ink runs out, the reservoir and tip are replaced as a single unit, making refilling them simple and convenient. There are many types of refill available, dependent on brand and quality. There are certain standardisations in place, however, so that many refills will fit into a wide range of ballpoint pens.
Whilst most disposable pens come with a separate lid attached to prevent ink dispensing onto unwanted surfaces, there are many retractable pens available to buy. Usually containing a spring-loaded mechanism, retractable pens do not require separate lids, and are often refillable.
Ballpoint Pen Varieties
The most common ballpoint pen colours are black and blue. Many brands have green and red inks available, and you will find sellers offering a very wide range of colours and shades. You may also find sellers offering options such as ‘neon’ or ‘glitter’ inks.
The majority of disposable ballpoint pens are made of plastic, whilst more luxury refillable pens are often made of metal or wood. You should expect to pay more for pens that are made of more premium materials.
The thickness of a line created by a ballpoint pen is equal to the width of the ballpoint itself. Typical widths vary between 0.2mm and 1.6mm. You may often see ballpoint widths defined by terms such as ‘fine’, ‘medium’, or ‘broad’. Sellers should specify the width measurements of the ballpoint pens that they are offering.
Barrel / Chamber
The main barrel or chamber of the ballpoint pen casing will usually be round, square or hexagonal. Many ballpoint pens, particularly the cheaper plastic varieties, will have transparent barrels in order for you to see the amount of ink remaining. Some pens will also have rubberised finger-grips attached for a more comfortable writing experience.
Some sellers may be offering a personalisation service. This may include laser-engraving a name or initials onto the pen, or adding a logo to promote your company or business.
Buying Ballpoint Pens
The intended purpose of the ballpoint pen you are looking to buy is an important factor to consider. You may be wishing to buy disposable pens for general use, for example, or you may be looking to buy a ballpoint pen for work or as a gift.
There are many different qualities of ballpoint pen to choose from, from luxury metal pens to economical plastic multi-packs. The tip can often be the difference between a low-quality and high-quality ballpoint pen. Premium ballpoint pens will have a smooth freely-rotating metal ball to prevent ink clotting at the tip.
Several brands of ballpoint pens exist offering a range of qualities and prices. Whilst brands like Bic and Pentel offer many cheaper options, Parker Pens and Cross are known to produce many top-quality items at higher prices. Other brands, such as Staedtler and Paper Mate, offer both economical and luxury ballpoint pens.
When buying a ballpoint pen, you should also consider the cost of accessories such as cases and refills. Premium pens often require more expensive refills, for example. For high-cost items you may also like to check whether the pen comes with a warranty option.
Buying Ballpoint Pens on eBay
You will find ballpoint pens of all types on eBay. From economical multi-packs to premium-quality ballpoint pens, you are bound to find something to suit your needs.
Find ballpoint pens quickly and easily by navigating to the Stationery & School Equipmentccategory.
From the options on the left of the page, you can then select Pens & Pencils.. You may then select “Ball Point Pens/ Biros” from the “Sub-Type” option to narrow your search results.
There are many other options available on the left of the page. For example, you can select the ink colour that you require or select from various brands, including Bic, Cross, Paper Mate, Parker, Pilot and Stabilo.
You may also use the “Price” option to enter a specific range of prices you wish to pay. This is particularly useful if you are looking for a more premium pen but are working to a strict budget.
If you are interested in buying a multipack, you may wish to calculate the cost per pen to compare deals between sellers.
If you are looking for something specific, you may prefer to use the Keyword search bar at the top of the page. For example, if you were looking to buy a sterling silver ballpoint pen to give as a gift, you would simply type “sterling silver ballpoint” (without quotation marks) into the search bar.
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
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Know Your Item
Read the details in the item listing carefully.
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Know Your Seller
Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.
- What is the seller’s Feedback rating?
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- 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?
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