Deltiology 101: The Pen Matters!

What is the best pen to write postcards with - smudgeproof and waterproof

What is the best pen to write postcards with – smudgeproof and waterproof

I see it all the time.  A tourist purchases a cheap postcard from a souvenir shop.  Inevitably the postcard has a glossy back, as most cheap touristy postcards do, because there is no designer on staff to think about details with these publishers).  Said tourist grabs a pen – or horror of horrors borrows one from the first person they meet.  A scribble here, a scribble there, a quick address, stick of a stamp and the postcard gets sent off.  I have to admit, I’ve even done this in pinch.  But the problem is, on glossy postcard backs the ink does not have time (or capability) to dry and the writing gets smudged.  I have even seen this happen with the spray-cancellation from the post office.  And then, with a little bit of rain just before the postcard is popped into the mailbox, and the address becomes unreadable – and therefore undeliverable.  It’s very important that the ink is waterproof, especially if you live in Seattle or in the hurricane zone!

I did a quick test of all of my favorite disposable pens on semi-matte postcard backs (Max & Co. Post postcards and Lantern Presspostcards).  Here are the results (where S = Smudgeproof and W = Waterproof):

S & WNot S; WS; Not WNeither S nor W
Sharpie Permanent Ultra Fine MarkerBic Ultra Round Stick Grip BallpointBic Classic Stick BallpointPentel Hybrid Technica 03
Staedtler Permanent LumocolorFaber-Castell PITT FinePilot G2 10
Zebra F301 BallpointSharpie Pen FineStablio Point88 Fine 0,4
Staples Opti Flow
Zebra Japanese Brush Pen
S after ink dries; WS after ink dries; Not W
Pigma Micron 01Pilot Precise Rolling Ball Fine
Pilot VBall 05
Uni SuperInk Uniball
A variety of disposable pens used on semi-matte postcard backs - tested for smudging and waterproofing

A variety of disposable pens used on semi-matte postcard backs – tested for smudging and waterproofing

That’s why I make it a routine of carrying my favorite pen with me when I travel – a Sharpie Ultra Fine Permanent Marker.  Sharpies dry fast, so there is no smudging – even if it gets wet.  I am going to Dick Blick to see what other colors they carry in the Staedtler Lumocolor.  I did like the feel of the black one I have, but it would be fun to have some other colors to use for mail art!

What is the best pen to write postcards with - smudgeproof and waterproof - closeup to show pen tips

What is the best pen to write postcards with – smudgeproof and waterproof – closeup to show pen tips

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