The Ballpoint Pen — A Story for Our Times

Big Red Car here.  The Boss’s off to church so I’ve been surfing the Internet a bit and picking up some interesting stuff.

We take a lot of things for granted and sometimes we need to reflect and focus on where we are.  In today’s fast paced Internet age, that is becoming really important.

So the Big Red Car got to thinking about things like — where the Hell did the ballpoint pen come from?

Doesn’t it seem like the ballpoint pen has been around for, say,…………………………………forever?

The ballpoint pen in popular usage has only been around since the end of World War II — the mid 1940s and the first generally available ballpoint pens cost approximately $12.50 each — huh, Big Red Car, can that possibly be true?

Fountain Pens

The fountain pen was the precursor of the ballpoint pen — distinquishable from a nib  and ink bottle because it could hold its own supply of ink.  It was invented in 1884 by LE Waterman.  The guy was an insurance salesman.  Huh?  An insurance salesman, Big Red Car?  Yes, indeed.

The fountain pen business was dominated by four companies — Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Wahl-Eversharp.  This was the predominant writing instrument for the next 60 years.

The Ballpoint Pen

The ballpoint pen was invented in 1938 by a couple of Hungarian brothers named “Biro” and was commercialized by an Argentine company.  Today pen and ink style art is called “biro” — hmmm, that’s interesting, Big Red Car.

The big selling point for the ballpoint pen you ask?  What was it, Big Red Car?

It was that you could write for 1-2 years without having to refill the little buggers.  That was the big advantage versus a fountain pen — no refilling for a year or more.  Wow!

In 1945, a Chicago businessman — Milton Reynolds — travels to Argentina and sees the Biro pens.  A light goes off in his head and he says:  “Wow, this is a great product.  Nothing like it in the United States.  Maybe I can steal the idea and bring it to America.”  Oh, Chicago was a cess pool long before current events.

He buys some and reverse engineers them — ignoring and trampling on the Biro brothers patent.  Hey, patent trolls were alive and well decades ago.  In 1945, he sells them through Gimble’s department store for $12.50 each — two years of writing, no smearing.  Wow!

First day sales are in excess of $100,000.  At $12.50 each!  That’s 8,000 units, Big Red Car.  That’s a good day for anyone.

Market Dominance

Long story short, the ballpoint pen business has its ups and downs and there is a huge shakeout plus incredible price cutting.  The market is almost destroyed until along comes Bich, a French company, who drops the “h” and become Bic and you know the rest.

Today Bic dominates the inexpensive ballpoint pen business and will sell over 14,000,000 pens annually at prices as low as $0.29 each.

Now, the Big Red Car has left out a lot of details — as he is want to do, the lazy bugger.  But in the end, the story is the story.  Did ya’ll know that about ball point pens?  I know you didn’t, haha.  Big Red Car, you crack yourself up.

Read this article <<<link to learn more about the ballpoint pen.  It will amaze you — the damn ballpoint pen is a very recent invention.  Who would have ever thought that?

But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car!  Hey, write me a note using a Bic(h) pen.