SHARPIES: One of the Greatest American Inventions Ever! [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Mar25

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SHARPIES: One of the Greatest American Inventions Ever! [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

Open up any junk drawer in your house and I’m sure you’ll find one.  Just about every person born in this country in the last 40 years has used one.  Sharpies, the ultimate magic marker have been a staple of our lives since the 1960s and more than 200 million have been sold worldwide.

The original black Sharpie marker was introduced by Sanford in 1964.  Sold only in one color, the fine point permanent marker was designed for quick and easy use on everything from paper to metal.  They would quickly find their way into most American homes to be used on everything from wrapping meat, to labeling a CD, to minor home repair.  Most stars and athletes can be seen toting one to sign autographs.  Talk show hosts Johnny Carson and Jack Paar were said to be early fans of the product and could be seen with one, while hosting The Tonight Show.

Sharpie markers are officially labeled as “non-toxic” and can be used by children.  While they are not meant for the skin, ink on the hands can be removed by excessive washing or with alcohol.  Though they are marked as “non-toxic,” they are known for their strong scent.  While not overpowering, extended exposure could lead to a minor headache.

As the 1970s rolled around, Sharpies were introduced in the now-common 8 pack featuring the colors yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown, and black.  As the popularity of the brand grew, new sizes were introduced including mini markers, paint markers, and highlighters.  The original 8 color line has been expanded to 30 colors and are sold in various packs, including limited edition colors.

In 1989, the Ultra Fine Point was introduced becoming the first marker to write like a pen.

Although the markers are designed to be long lasting, they are not refillable.  According to the package the company recommends storing the markers upside down, with the cap securely fastened, and the tip facing down.

In 2004, Sharpies were introduced in metallic silver, gold, and copper for writing on dark surfaces.  Due to problems with the mixture, the metallic gold and copper were discontinued.  I remember purchasing the metallics in a special three pack when they were originally released.  While they did work, the ink at times would become very, very oily.  While the silver color stayed on the market, the ink did undergo some reformulating.

In 2005, Sharpies took over the popular Accent highlighter brand and the name and logo are now proudly displayed on a line of five color fluorescent markers highlighting important information on office documents, everywhere.

The new promotion for 2011 is a line of five 80s retro colors: Banana Clip Yellow, Jellie Pink, Argyle Green, Valley Girl Violet, and Leg Warmer Orange.

The brand has undergone a major expansion in the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down.  From 2001-2009, they sponsored the NASCAR Spring Cup Series 500, a nighttime stock car race in Bristol, Tennessee.  From 2004-2008, they also sponsored the Nationwide Series Sharpie Mini 300 race, also in Bristol.  They have also sponsored drivers Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurry for several years.

Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star David Beckham is also sponsored by the brand and has appeared in multiple ads.

Former President George W. Bush is also a major fan of the product.  He would sign top government documents with them and also had markers specially made with his name printed on them for both The White House and Camp David.  He would give them away in special gift sets to staff and important guests.  Some of these collectables are quite valuable and can earn top dollar.

In an article for the US News and World Report, Howard Heckes, president of Sanford Brands of North America once commented, “Sharpies are good for the president of the United States or the president of the PTA.”

You too can order your own personalized set on their website,, starting at $11.99 for a half dozen.

The beauty of the markers is the ink becomes permanent on most surfaces.  On some glossier materials, ink that has not yet dried can be removed with simple rubbing alcohol or WD-40.  The same goes for any ink that may accidentally get on your fingers, or it will wear off in a couple of days.

A special line of home repair Sharpies were also released for touching up wood surfaces.  I bought the pack years ago at the local Home Depot and it really works.  Using one of the three colors light, medium, or dark; you simply color over any marks.  There were a few scratches in my kitchen cabinets left by the contractors during installation and after a few seconds of coloring and they were gone.

So, how do you use Sharpies?  I can say I do everyday.  I’m constantly marking folders, tapes, and CDs.  I still do some occasional home repair touching up here and there.  Their website has about a billion more ideas for use including coloring eggs to creating a custom yoga mat.

The marker also has quite a fan following.  Now, with over 1.5 million fans on its Facebook page.

It’s great to see a truly American product like this be so successful.  Since their parent company merged with Newell Rubbermaid, they have rolled out an even larger line of products, even pens!  I hope they continue to release new colors and versions.  I would love to see the gold and copper colors return.  The silver is great for writing on dark surfaces, so how about creating a white version as well?

By the way, you know a product is successful when knockoff versions can be found.  I remember finding a Hengbau version, with the same design and very similar logo, years ago at the old Eastland Mall flea market, in East McKeesport, PA.

THE 411

What: Sharpie markers

Who: originally manufactured by Sanford, the company is now owned by Newell Rubbermaid

Where: headquartered in Oakbrook, Illinois

Cost: a box of 12 black markers is $7.99 at Staples, but they are sold in numerous colors and quantities

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: Everyone should have at least one black Sharpie on hand in their home.  You never know when a famous sports star will stop by.  They are still quite inexpensive and bottom line — they are just a darn good reliable product.