Addicted to Sharpie Pens?

Here’s an increasingly-common collector comment:

“I asked for it to be signed in ballpoint. He signed it in Sharpie. Argh!!!”

You,  the hobbyist, are thinking about what looks good.

The autographer signer? What FEELS good!

On the surface, the act seems crazy. A retiree signing a vintage item with a pen not yet invented when the card was first issued.

Well, I’m guessing that all of us have at least three stories of when a ballpoint pen failed us. It dried up. It wouldn’t write on a certain surface. It froze! After paying a whole nickel for that blasted pen. Wait. It was free. Or, I borrowed it from the bank?


Sharpies have spoiled us. I think the most thoughtful old-timers are embarrased when they’ve carved their name on a card, only to see that the ink pen hasn’t cooperated.

One other difference: Sharpies they have a thick barrel that feels good to arthritic hands of an 80-something. They’re easier to grip.

That’s the biggest reason “sign in ink pen” requests get ignored.

Coming Friday: The Yankee adventures of “Pinstripe Empire” author Marty Appel!

Ask The Expert: Sharpie Or Staedtler?


Hard to find, hard to spell,
but an autograph asset!

Tastes great! Less filling!

Oops. Wrong debate.

When I wrote about “The Autograph Card,” I was delighted to find that I was conversing with other collectors. Not just slick marketers who knew a few autograph buzzwords, but REAL collectors!

I wrote Brian Flam, asking him if he could share tips with collectors. I’m grateful to share his detailed findings, tested in years of his own collecting. Here’s Brian:

“Tom… Great question, as you could fill several blog entries on the debate of Sharpie vs Staedtler. Let me start by saying I have used BOTH pens for ages (25+ years of Sharpies, and 15+ for Staedtlers).  

Much like the ‘Corn vs Flour Tortilla’ debate, there is no clear winner. Both Pens have their places in the hobby (and in every ‘graphers pocket). Our website sells Staedtlers as a service to our customers, as they are not a high profit item, but so many people have told us they had trouble finding them, that we order them direct from Staedtler. Staedtler Lumocolor (F- Fine Point Blue) is our recommended pen, and we feel with a signer that takes his time (see pros/cons below) it looks Awesome! 

Our cards were designed to look good, no matter what kind of pen you use, perfect for those random TTM guys who like to use ‘whatever pen is closest’. Below, I will try and point out the pros/con of the two, and why I always carry both with me. 


Dry super fast. Perfect to prevent smudging when you hand a player a ‘stack’ of cards.

Staedtler’s ink tends to ‘take’ better to glossy cards (IE: Bowman Chrome) without ‘bubbling’ Back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s the ink tended to ‘sit on top’ of the gloss and would tend to ‘chip off’ the card. But in recent years,  something changed with Bowman Chrome (The ‘gloss’/coating changed) and I have not had this problem in years.

They are more expensive, and harder to find. Staedtler (a German Compnay) shut down their only U.S. office about 2 years ago, forcing anyone in the U.S. to purchase from a Staedtler office overseas, thus adding to the cost. There are ‘rumors’ of knock-off pens coming out of Asia that are cheaper (both in cost and assumed quality). We only purchase direct from Staedtler.

One negative is the ‘vibe’ of some players when they see ‘the fancy German pens’ and can be snippy (like when they see a binder with a page of 9 of the same card on it).

If the player is ‘taking his time’ to sign, and/or has a good writing surface (table, binder, roof of dugout, etc) I will use a Staedtler.


Old faithful. Perfect when you have a ‘scribbler’. Example: Manny Machado (Orioles prospect) sometimes signs just “M3” on items. So if all they are gonna write is a quick scribble, I prefer it to be BOLDER, and the sharpie looks better.

I also prefer a Sharpie if the player is ‘rushed’. When a player is signing while walking/running to the bus, etc I use Sharpie. I also keep a sharpie on me so when a kid next to me asks to borrow my pen to have a player sign his (insert pen-killing item here: Hat, T-Shirt, Mini-Bat, etc) I can lend him the Sharpie and not have the player kill a $3 Staedtler on some kids T-shirt. We have all had the experience of graphing on ‘bat day’ (or similar give-away day) and that’s why I always carry a pocket full of pens with me.

Sharpies do tend to ‘bubble’ on some high gloss cards (2010 Topps, etc). The blue ink can be ‘inconsistent’ in boldness based on the age of the sharpie (not as dark over time, if the pen has aged). 

And don’t start me on the ‘Blue versus Black’ debate (Let it be said that I am strongly on the BLUE side though!)”

Thanks again, Brian. Love those cards!

Coming Tuesday: Saying goodbye to a former pitcher after just 47 years.

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