Course:HIST104/Bic Cristal Pen

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BIC Cristal Pen.[1]

The BIC Cristal is a inexpensive ball point pen produced by BIC, a company renown for their stationary products. The pen was launched in 1950 by Marcel Bich in France and claims to be the most sold ball point pen in the world, purchasable in over 160 countries.[2]

How it All Started

BIC Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of disposable ballpoint pens today. The journey started in 1945 as Marcel Bich teamed with Edouard Buffard in Clichy, France after Mr. Bich realized the potential in manufacturing ballpoint pens[3]. Five years later, Marcel Bich launched his own ballpoint pen in France named the BIC Cristal which later became a huge success among consumers around the world. Marcel Bich also realized the importance of pushing his products into foreign markets through taking over foreign companies, signing agreements with agents, and arranging licensing agreements with companies.[4]

Listed below are the dates of interest for BIC Corporation’s history:

BIC Company Logo.

Geographic Expansion

1950 - Launch of the BIC Cristal ballpoint pen in France

1953 - Creation of SOCIÉTÉ BIC

1953 - 57 BIC in Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Italy

1956 - BIC in Brazil

1957 - BIC in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa

1958 - BIC in North America

1959 - BIC in Scandinavia

1960 - BIC in Africa and Middle East

1995 - BIC in Eastern Europe

1997 - BIC in South East Asia

2009 - BIC in India: Agreement with Cello Pens[5]

Product Diversification

1969 - Promotional products activity in the United States

1973 - Launch of the BIC® lighter

1975 - Launch of the BIC® shaver

1979 - Acquisition of Conté®

1981 - Creation of BIC® Sport

1992 - Acquisition of Wite-Out®

1997 - Acquisition of Tipp-Ex® and Sheaffer®

2006 - Acquisition of PIMACO in Brazil

2007 - BIC Graphic USA acquires Atchison Products

2009 - Acquisition of Antalis Promotional Products and Norwood[6]

promotional Products

The success of the BIC Cristal Pen has lead to record sales throughout its history where the pen recently reached the milestone of 100 billion pens sold.[7] Based on this record, BIC has stated that “the pens have been sold on average 57 times a second since 1950”[8] which marks a remarkable achievement by any pen manufacturer. The simple design as well as the low cost of BIC Cristal Pens both contributed to the successful sales at an international scale.

Pens and Cultures in Contact

A pen is mobile it drifts from pocket to pocket it has no prejudice and everyone can use it. BIC Cristal pen's cross cultures everyday and help to conduct everyday business between the people of the world. Egyptians first used thin reed brushes to write on papyrus which helped to document their culture and history just as we now document our culture and history through the use of the pen[9].

How cultures have used the pen as a tool to communicate and connect with each other helps to show how pen's can demonstrate cultures in contact. Yet how does the BIC Cristal pen itself demonstrate cultures in contact? In 1884 a salesmen in New York City named L.E. Waterman created the fountain pen, this creation would become the dominant writing tool for most of the world for the next 60 years[10]. Although an American first created the fountain pen it was two Hungarian brothers, George and Laszlo Biro, to further revolutionize the pen and create the "Biro"[11]. An Argentinian company called Eterpen Company helped to promote the popularity of the pen by emphasizing the fact that it could write for a year without refilling[12]. Thus we can see that the Biro pen developed from multiple cultural backgrounds with an American creating its predecessor, Hungarians revolutionizing the model and Argentinians promoting it. The BIC Cristal pen is the modern version of the Biro in all its perfect simplicity[13].

BIC Cristal Pens.

The BIC Cristal pen sells 14,000,000 pieces worldwide daily, showing that the pen is in demand all over the world and is used equally by many cultures[14]. The pen could be seen as a hybrid pen designed through the interaction of multiple cultures helping to perfect and promote the pen. It truly is a pen of the people, an example of this consensus can be seen from the London Museum's exhibit, in 2005, "Under a Tenner" where guests were asked to select their favourite designs for less than 10 pounds[15]. There was a choice of 100 objects that were used in daily life and the BIC pen was chosen to be in the top 10[16]. Some people even felt so passionately that the pen was a pen of the people that they wrote in to Tony Blair in 1997 asking why he had not used a BIC pen to sign his party manifesto instead of a fountain pen[17].

The development of the BIC Cristal pen shows a great example of a product being defined by multiple cultures in the effort to perfect something that the world uses daily. The fountain pen started us off and came from the American's then Hungarians responded with Biro's, Argentinians promoted the Biro to help it get off the ground, and finally the French company BIC brought us to where we are today. The pen industry is still growing year by year and is simply producing a product people can't do without[18]. Despite the growing dependance on computer technology all over the world our desks are still littered with pens and the BIC Cristal pen is the one people all over the world go to. Greg Farrell


Winner of the contest, Cristal® Art Gallery.

The BIC Cristal pen, unchanging through the decades, now has been adapted to new roles. In scientific academic papers, it is not uncommon to see the Cristal pen designated as a control specimen for several specializations, particularly in forensic sciences and physics. For example, the ink of the Cristal pen has been the subject of many forensic studies which attempt to differentiate between ballpoint inks, an art crucial to the theory of testing handwriting.[19]

In addition to playing a role in the scientific world, the pen has become a medium through which fine art is produced. On 14 April to 17 May 2011, BIC held a "Cristal Art Gallery" contest which required participants to post images of works of art produced from a BIC Cristal pen. The winners were subsequently chosen by a panel jury comprised of artists (Anne-Flore Cabanis, Juan Francisco Casas Ruiz, and Paolo Ulian) who were renown for utilizing the BIC pen in their work. In 2004, the Museum of Modern Art in New York recognized the BIC Cristal pen as a masterpiece of design and added it to its "Humble Masterpieces" collection.[20]

Since the 1960s, BIC has also played a role in expanding the concept of advertisement through writing instruments. The ball point pen has become a medium through which companies are now able to promote themselves. This is not just limited to writing instruments, but has been expanded to apparel and lifestyle items.


  1. BIC World, Image Gallery[1]. Accessed 22 Nov 2011.
  2. BIC World, 60 years Cristal pen press release[2]. Accessed 22 Nov 2011.
  3. "BIC World - History," BIC [3] Accessed 22 Nov 2011
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  8. Ibid
  9. Anonymous. "Pens of Distinction." Middle East 419 (2011): 50-51.
  10. Anonymous. "Pens of Distinction." Middle East 419 (2011): 50-51.
  11. Anonymous. "Pens of Distinction." Middle East 419 (2011): 50-51.
  12. Anonymous. "Pens of Distinction." Middle East 419 (2011): 50-51.
  13. Anonymous. "Pens of Distinction." Middle East 419 (2011): 50-51.
  14. Anonymous. "Pens of Distinction." Middle East 419 (2011): 50-51.
  15. Rees, Jenny "Biro Writes Itself Into History." Western Mail 10 Feb. 2005, 1 ed.
  16. Rees, Jenny "Biro Writes Itself Into History." Western Mail 10 Feb. 2005, 1 ed.
  17. "The pen of the people: But the fountain is mightier than the biro." The Guardian 2 Aug. 1997
  18. Brooking, Pip. "Pull of the Pen." Promotions & Incentives (2004): 33-36.
  19. Hammond, Derek L. "Validation of LAB Color Mode as a Nondestructive Method to Differentiate Black Ballpoint Pen Inks." Journal of Forensic Sciences (2007) 52:4. 967-973.
  20. Museum of Modern Art. "Humble Masterpieces." Exhibited 8 April - 27 September 2004.