In 1888, John Loud, an American leather tanner, filed a patent for a roller-ball-tip marking pen. However, his pen was never manufactured, and neither were any of the other 350 ball-type pens patented by others over the next thirty years. It wasn’t until 1935 that Hungarian brothers Ladislas and Georg Biro introduced an improved version of the ballpoint pen to the world. They first patented the pen in 1938 and applied for a new patent in Argentina on June 10, 1943, hence the celebration of Ballpoint Pen Day every year on this date!
After several failed attempts to bring the pens to the mass market, the Eberhard Faber Company bought the rights to manufacture the ballpoint pen in the US from the Biro brothers for $500,000. Ultimately, neither the company nor the Biro brothers were credited with bringing ballpoint pens to the general public.
Milton Reynolds learned of the Biros’ pen while on vacation in Argentina, and thought it would be popular among American citizens. Most of the original patents had expired at this point, so Reynolds copied the Biros’ design and signed a deal with New York City’s Gimbels Department Store to sell ballpoint pens on its shelves. His factory set to work manufacturing pens from aluminum not needed for war efforts, and on the first day of sales, Gimbels sold its entire stock of 10,000 pens for a whopping $12.50 each.
The original ballpoint pens were unreliable, messy, and prone to smearing, but fortunately for today’s society, the writing utensils have evolved significantly since the era of the Biro brothers and Milton Reynolds. Millions of different styles are available through a variety of distribution channels; now, ballpoint pens can be purchased anywhere from gas stations to office supply stores to the Internet! The widespread usage of ballpoint pens around the world makes them great marketing tools, and promotional pens continue to be a top-performing product category across all segments and industries.