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What are the Best Pens for Autographs?

April 02, 2019 8 min read 5 Comments

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Imagine waiting in line to get an autograph from your favorite sports player. The line is long, gruesome, but worth it when you head home with your prize in hand. All your friends gawk over the special sports memorabilia and you grin as you set it up in a place of honor.

However, only a few weeks later, something's gone wrong. The autograph is no longer pristine. It's faded, smudged, and ruined.

This is the trouble when you use the wrong pen for the job. Autographed memorabilia are investments, something to cherish, show off, and even sell. But, if you use the wrong pen, you've ruined the entire investment as soon as the ink hits the surface.

Stop this from happening to you by using only the best pens for the autographs you acquire. Here is everything you need to know to get your money's worth from any future autographs.

The Importance of UV Protection

Before heading out to have your sports memorabilia signed, you need to know how to protect it when you get home. Even with the best pens with the best ink, UV light damages anything over time.

Tom Brady Signed Patriots Jersey

When you find high-quality ink with a good lightfast rating, that damage is minimal, but it's always necessary to take extra precautions to save your collection from getting damaged by sunlight.

That being said, there's no reason to hide away your collectibles. Instead, find a place out of direct sunlight in which to display your treasured pieces.

The greatest protection you can get is finding UV resistant glass to encase your autographed memorabilia. This special glass keeps those harmful rays from ever touching your collection at all. This, in addition to high-quality ink, makes sure your autograph stays bold and clear for many years to come.

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint pens shine far above all other pens when it comes to baseball autographs. Baseballs are a very popular item to get autographed, and they tend to be high in demand. So, it's good to know the general rules beforehand.

When you think about autographs, chances are good that you don't first think of the common and humble ballpoint pen. You might think you need something more stable like a marker.

You may be surprised to know that you never want to use a permanent marker when someone is signing a baseball. The ink soaks into the material of the baseball and fades away. Sooner or later, you're left with nothing at all.

Michael Jordan Signed Sports Memorabilia

Ballpoint pens, on the other hand, use an oil-based ink that resists against the material. It stays firm on the surface of the baseball, never absorbed into the material. If exposed to direct sunlight, the ink fades a little, but still retains clear lines.

As for colors, most people tend to prefer blue ballpoint pens over black ones. The black tones shift to purple with some brands, whereas blue stays true over time.

The Best Ballpoint Pens

Bic Round Stic Grip: This pen holds the honor of being one of the most reliable ballpoint pens around. The ink flows without skips, and the plastic is sturdy despite its cheap price point. It even has a grip for extra comfort and control. 

Bic Cristal: Chances are good that you've seen this particular ballpoint pen once or twice in your life. Its clear barrel looks sleek and it tends to be dependable with its ink flow. Even if one doesn't work, they always come in big packs, so you'll have plenty of spares.

Aaron Judge Signed Baseball Bat Memorabilia

Uni-Ball Jetstream: This ballpoint pen uses a new formula of ink, one that binds together with the paper. This gives it a fast drying time without any hints of smudging. The ink is also fade resistant, giving you long-lasting autographs to enjoy.

Permanent Markers

While they aren’t great for baseballs, there are other great uses for permanent markers. They write well on many kinds of surfaces, including glass and plastic, and are fade resistant. The name itself has the word permanent in it, so it's often a great choice no matter what sports memorabilia you're signing.

Despite their strong smell, permanent markers are not toxic, and they keep your collection free from damage. Even your favorite autographed jersey is safe from the ink eating through the fabric.

As always, blue and black are the colors to choose. Blue is better than black, as black has slight color shifts over time and develops a strange outer ring around the ink, but some athletes refuse to write in blue, so make sure to bring a black back up.

Sometimes you'll want a metallic silver permanent marker when signing on dark materials, but most people switch to a paint pen in those situations.

Best used on:

  • Cards
  • Photographs
  • Baseball bats
  • Hockey sticks
  • Jerseys
  • T-shirts
  • Cleats
  • Posters
  • Helmets
  • Books
  • Magazines

The Best Permanent Markers

Sharpie: When you're looking for the best of the best, Sharpie always wins. They've made a great name for themselves, and they should remain at the top of any permanent marker list. Their ink is strong, pigmented, and there's a wide variety of sizes available for the perfect autograph.

Bic Intensity: If you're unable to find a Sharpie, these will do in a pinch. Their ink is vibrant and acid-free, leaving your autographed sports memorabilia in good shape for a long time. They're comfortable to use as well.

Floyd Mayweather Signed Boxing Glove

Sakura Pigma Micron: Artists all around the world use these pens and they're excellent for autograph purposes as well. They're loved for their permanent ink that is bold, pigmented, and fade resistant. For a pen with high-quality and lightfast ink, this is hard to beat.

Paint Pens

These kinds of pens are a convenient way to get the lasting effects of paint in an easy-to-use application. The most common are acrylic paint pens, but oil-based paint is abundant as well.

Acrylic pens dry in no time at all, leaving your precious autograph smudge-free and pristine, but it has the risk to harden and flake off if there's too much paint on the surface.

Oil paint takes longer to dry and needs extra care to not smudge before everything sets. Water-based paint pens work okay but they are not as lightfast as acrylic or oil. When you're investing in your collection, it's best to ensure the autograph lasts a long time.

The nice thing about these pens is that they're opaque and stand out against the surface you write on. This makes them perfect for autographs on dark surfaces.

For example, if you have a photograph made up of lots of dark colors, a Sharpie autograph gets lost. Instead, a paint pen pops against the dark and lets the autograph receive the spotlight it deserves.

Ken Griffey Jr Signed Seattle Mariners Jersey

Because of this, the best color used with these pens is metallic silver. It catches the light and looks great on any surface. It brings an extra sort of pizazz to the special autograph.

Most pens of this type require a bit of prep work to get the paint going, so be sure to prepare beforehand so that you don't run into any problems.

Best used on:

  • Dark surfaces
  • Cards
  • Photographs
  • Footballs
  • Posters
  • Hockey Pucks
  • Basketballs

The Best Paint Pens

Molotow Acrylic Silver Marker: If you're looking for a paint pen that dries fast and resists UV damage, this is the one you want. Molotow paint markers use high-quality acrylic paint that doesn't fade. They're refillable for extra bang for your buck.

DecoColor Opaque Silver: This pen comes with pigmented oil-based paint that lasts for years and years. The silver sheen is beautiful and catches the light. The opaque paint lays down smooth and doesn't clump up or flake off.

Recollections Signature Metallic Marker: Using a special pigment ink, it dries fast and has a life of its own in the way it shimmers. It looks great on any surface, showing up opaque and strong. The ink is fade resistant and acid-free.

Fountain Pens

There's something luxurious about a classic fountain pen. The fancy nibs and rich ink make for a smooth experience. Back in the day, or even in some recent times, autographs were only written with these kinds of pens.

They have the advantage of letting you choose the kind of ink that goes inside the pen. This way, you're guaranteed the highest quality of archival ink to ensure that your autograph stands against the tests of time.

Peyton Manning Signed Super Bowl 41 Football

They also look a whole lot better than a standard ballpoint pen and a regular old Sharpie. Handing one of these pens to your favorite sports player is a nicer experience. It sets you above the rest.

The problems occur with the relative fragility of the nibs. It takes a bit of knowledge to know how to work a fountain pen without bending it out of shape. It also needs holding at the right angle to get a good amount of ink flow.

Plus, they won't write well upon rough or slick surfaces. Paper is best for fountain pens.

However, if you want the most luxurious experience, a fountain pen rises above the rest. When you hold one in your hand, you feel the difference right away.

Plus, these pens offer you the ultimate amount of customization in terms of ink. Black and blue are always the industry's standards. With high-quality ink, the black inks won't discolor like other pens tend to do.

Best used on:

  • Cards
  • Posters
  • Books
  • Postcards

The Best Fountain Pens

Pilot Metropolitan Collection: Pilot makes some of the best pens around, and their Metropolitan line is gorgeous. What's even better is that you get a high-quality pen for at a reasonable price point. It comes in a wide variety of designs and nib sizes.

Scribe Sword: This fountain pen catches the eye with its all stainless steel design. It looks sleek and beautiful and feels even better to use. The flexible nib allows for great ink flow and line thicknesses. 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl Champions Helmet

Lamy Safari: This inexpensive pen comes with the choice of either a plastic or a metal barrel. It's a great choice for beginners, with a nib that is both flexible but not too fragile. They also come with several high-quality ink cartridge refills to make the experience as easy as possible.

General Tips to Keep in Mind

All of these pens are great in their own way, but there are still some things to remember before each signing. These tips ensure that the experience is amazing without fail.

  1. Buy brand names only.Knock-offs are cheaper, but they're also a lot lower in quality. 
  2. Test the pen beforehand.Some pens need prep work for proper ink flow. Test them on a spare bit of paper before it's your turn for the autograph.
  3. Bring spares.Sometimes even new pens fail us at the worst times. Bring extras in order to safeguard yourself against this problem.
  4. Give ample drying time.Even if the ink dries fast, give an extra couple of minutes of careful handling in order to eliminate the chance for smudges.
  5. Buy new.This depends on the pen, but when in doubt, buy yourself a new one for the best experience.
  6. Stay away from bright colors.In general, blue, black, and silver are all you need. Other colors are much more prone to discoloration and fading.

Use the Best Pens for Autographs to Protect Your Collection

By using all of these particular pens, your autographed sports memorabilia will be of the highest quality. You won’t have worry about the autograph getting damaged over time. Your prized possession will stay valuable for years to come.

Dr J 83 NBA Champions Signed Basketball

Taking the extra time to read about this information means your investment will only continue to rise in value. So, the next time you find yourself with the opportunity for an autograph, make sure to remember to get the right pen for the job!

Now that you know the very best pens for autographs, it's time to find all the upcoming signings to put that knowledge to good use!

5 Responses

Kane Holland
Kane Holland

May 13, 2022

These Sharpie 12 Count pens satisfy creative drives with their vibrant and beautiful black color that doesn’t fade. We might have to be economical when using it, though.

Kane Holland
Kane Holland

May 13, 2022

I find that Sharpies can sign on any surface. Its use is quite good. What I like is that it is waterproof and dries quickly. You can tell me more about other pens if you know.

Ronal Owens
Ronal Owens

July 12, 2021

Thank you for writing this article, I am looking for the best pen to autograph on baseball.

Robert Thompson
Robert Thompson

April 21, 2019

1983 autographed basketball


April 21, 2019

what would be best on basketball shoes? sharpie or deco paint pen? thanks in advance….

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