FLOAT ABOUT... © Copyright August 1997 Issue #11
Fellow Float PENatics... In passing, if someone were to ask me 'What do you know?', I would have to reply 'Not nearly enough... but I'm working on it'. Life remains a mystery, and with every day a new discovery. Since last we spoke, Sojourner landed on Mars, Bill Gates bailed out Apple, and UPS hit the picket lines. The strike delayed release of the list and newsletter. Bill and I are not dependent on UPS to ship our business packages, but many of my float pen sources rely heavily on those boys in brown. Several parcels of pens arrived late. Do you sense my frustration?!
Media News.... the current Fall issue of Collectibles Flea Market Finds includes a fabulous float pen article, written by the editor, Cathy Cook. Cathy is one of us... a die hard collector. She admits her first passion is tin-litho dishes and tea sets (as featured in the same issue), but she also fancies float pens. The article is quite colorful and very informative. Several pens were photographed and my California display wheel was also pictured. (Note: follow the article carefully. It jumps from page 35-57-80. Many have overlooked the continuations.) I believe you will also enjoy the magazine as much as I do.
As expected, the article did indeed generate an interest in float pens. My email/snail mail boxes have been stuffed! The article rekindled the flame of some that had allowed their passion to cool. Several new collectors, hungry for the perfect collectible, have turned to float pens. I have also been in touch with individuals that have collected since childhood and thought they were all alone. Remember the movie Contact? 'We are not alone... we have each other.'
Maybe you don't always mention in mixed company that you are an avid float pen collector. I mean, not everyone understands the attraction. I promise you, it is safe to come out of the closet! Float pens have been discovered and are considered a genuine collectible. I try to carry a clicker and photoramic pen with me at all times to educate those less worldly.
If you haven't read the article yet, the magazine may still be at your newsstand. Many Barnes and Noble Stores carry it. I even found a stack at my local K-Mart. If you missed it, I do have a limited number of extra copies. Much to my amazement, my current list has several of the pens that were pictured:
1) Chicago, Illinois 'Take the El-Train'
2) 'Minnesota' loons with a really nice caption panel
3) 'Smoky Mountains' bear moves past cabin in the hills
4) 'Monterey, California' otter swims on his back
5) The Heinz Ketchup pen was not featured, but it received a mention.
FX, a Cable TV channel, called to ask if I know any float pen collectors in the San Diego or LA area with a substantial collection of pens. FX produces a collectibles show that features collectors in their homesteads and spotlights their collections. I felt quite comfortable sending them directly to Libby Spatz and hope they follow the lead. Elizabeth would be perfect for the job. They will also refer to the list of collectors at my website to explore other possibilities. We'll see what develops.
Nancy Gundel clarifies the Murphy Brown situation involving a float pen. Murphy is barred from the Whitehouse, so Frank is given a DC assignment. As consolation, Frank assures her he will purchase a Stealth float pen from the Pentagon. What a guy!
Astrological pens... One of my distributors has 12 pens that represent each sign of the Zodiac. Before I invest mucho $$$ in these pens, I wanted to discuss it with you. Are you interested in owning a set, or just your personal sign? Feedback needed and appreciated. While you're at it... what is your sign?
Eskesen news... If you can't get there yourself, be sure to send your scouts into Duty Free Shops in search of float pens. A clamshell pack with multiple pens can be found there. Eskesen is also working on special single packs for England, doubles and triples for the European Marketplace.
Collectors pen update... The pen design is in the hands of Eskesen, undergoing what we hope to be, FINAL revisions. Shortly after the changes are approved the pen will go into production. I am so excited! Pens should be ready for sale/trade by the release of the October issue of Float About.
Pens come and go... Cathy Cook has a tip 'n' strip pen with 'USA Vicki' clearly marked on the clip. It was featured in her article. Shortly after she told me about her pen, Nancy Given emailed to say she has a Red Hot Chili Pepper pen with the exact same stamp.
I have been informed that USA Vicki was an American company that produced a knock-off of the Eskesen tip 'n' strip and clicker style float pens. It is my understanding that USA Vicki was purchased by The Magic Pen Company, which has since gone out of business. If you have information to the contrary, please share it with the rest of us.
Several pens are destined to quickly disappear from shops everywhere. Hanna-Barbera has been sold. Consequently, the series of five Flintstone pens, the Jonny Quest and the Jetson family pen will not be continued. Refer to my pen list to check remaining inventory. This will be the end of the line.
Beverly Broadstone reports Knott's Berry Farm has replaced Eskesen pens with Italian Fat Boys. Boo! This is very sad. KBF had carried a quality series of Snoopy pens. Now long gone! Beverly also received a giant Italian float pen as a gift, which she jokingly calls 'Obese Boy'. It's nearly a foot long and appropriately large in diameter.
Many have requested the two Ruby Montana pens that appeared on my last list. These pens are temporarily sold out, but they are on reorder. They should be back in stock by the mid September.
Recent Acquisitions... Two fab BEATLES pens have invaded America. Abbey Road and Yellow Submarine pens can be found under the Celebrities column on my list. Yes, they are expensive... sorry, couldn't be helped. I invested, knowing you would want them both in your collection.
The Babar series of illustrated books, by Jean deBrunhoff, translated from the French beginning in 1933, remains one of the most popular series in childrens' literature. The five pen series depicts Babar, a gentle gray elephant, in classic style. Find them under the 'Cartoon' column on my list.
If you are female and grew up in America between 1976-1997, you are no doubt familiar with Hello Kitty. Sanrio, of Japan, has created an array of popular characters to include Pochacco, Keroppi, Badtz Maru, Monkichi, and they even dabble in Felix the Cat on occasion. I am unsure if Sanrio has ever offered a float pen in the past, but they have one now!
Keroppi, the bug-eyed and happy, green frog, has his own float pen. The colorful caption panel reads: 'KEROPPI' 'TIME' complete with graphics. In the picture panel, Keroppi drives a little red car. A transparent banner trails behind with the message 'GET YOUR KICKS'. Available at many Sanrio stores and dealerships for $4. Some collectors are also carrying this pen on their trade lists.
Star Trek pens are en route to this country, but haven't hit the shelves yet. With a little luck and a lot of bucks, I hope to have them soon. Note I do have a handful of Beavis and Butthead, MTV,and Nick at Nite pens on this list. Comedian, Mr. Bean, has also been commemorated in float pens, keychains and even a toothbrush! Items were recently released. I traded for a few from foreign collectors.
Christian, a German collector, has an item in his collection that would make any one of us swoon. He has an early 1950's salesman's sample case that contains 48 float pens, made between 1947-1953. He didn't say if they are Eskesen's, but I assume they are. Now that is something to dream about!
Top Ten List .... there are four pens that have turned up repeatedly on collectors Top 10 lists. San Francisco's Foggy Day on the Bay, White Sands National Monument (white sand pours over a lizard), Hawaii (people running from an erupting volcano) and the Heinz Ketchup pen. These four seem to be favorites of collectors everywhere.
Issue of imprinting... Many have commented about imprinted float pens. They do seem to be turning up everywhere. These pens usually feature a generic picture design with the caption printed on the bottom opaque barrel rather than within the caption panel. From a collectors standpoint, is this kosher? In my opinion... yes. After all, it is a site-specific float pen. Example of two such pens:
Are these two different pens? Yes. Technically, there is a very distinguishable difference from pen to pen. They would not be considered duplicates, but rather two separate pens, within a collection.
Given a choice, which would I prefer? #1. Why? It is more desirable to have the message included in the caption panel. I would liken it to a real autograph as opposed to a xeroxed signature. Also, the caption info is better protected and will certainly endure under use longer than an imprint. However, if #1 were not available, #2 would be a satisfactory addition to my collection.
Imprinting has opened a door to clients that lack the confidence or capital to custom order 1,000 or more float pens. This option allows the client to test the market before making a major investment. It is my hope that after they purchase imprinted pens in smaller quantities, sales will justify the production of their own custom pen. At least this is a starting point. We'll see how it goes.
Psychology of the float collector... even obsession has it's limits. Between 8-9pm I shackle myself to the bead table to make bracelets for 5 or more hours. TV has become a part of my nightly routine. At 11pm, Bill is still in the workshop, so I tape the news and we watch it later. In the meantime, the Lifetime Channel airs reruns of Homicide: Life on the Streets at 11, so I frequently tune in.
We sometimes worry that our collecting habits have gone overboard. Think again. Are you familiar with a disturbing episode of Homicide regarding a truly obsessed pen collector? He became so enamored of a particular pen in another man's possession... he murdered him for it!
While investigating the crime, the detectives visit the collector's apartment. I must confess, my eyes began scanning the room immediately. Searching the many wild, weird and wonderful displays in hopes of catching a glimpse of a float pen. I didn't spot any, but then thought to myself ... why am I not taping this!!??
Pens were suspended by monofiliment across the ceiling from corner to corner. Picture frames and other objects were adorned with pens and brightened by tiny white Christmas lights. A foam head was spiked with yet more pens. The apartment was dripping with pens of all kinds.
I guess the bottom line is ... I'm OK... You're OK. However, if you find yourself contemplating murder or robbery to obtain a pen(s) ... seek professional help! (and I don't mean a 'hit man'!)
Speaking of robbery... Longtime collector, Mari Ivener, had her purse stolen, subsequently found and eventually returned. All that was missing was cash, some postage stamps and the three float pens she purchased from the Grand Ol' Opry! She made sure to include the pen theft in the police report. I have wired telepathic curses to the thief. I hope the floaters get stuck and the ink oozes all over.
Correction... In the last issue I claimed to have six pens from Japan in my collection. In reality, there were but five. The sixth pen is from an amusement park in Seoul, Korea called Lotte World. Visit their website and you will see this is Korea's answer to Disneyland. Their Mickey and Minnie equivalents are raccoons of a cartoon nature. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, it appears to be a fun place to hang out. I know they have more than one float pen available.
Rainbows... Float pens are available in a rainbow of colors, but some are more prevalent than others. In America, we usually find pens in black, royal blue, light blue, red, green, pink, and white. Occasionally we see yellow or orange, most commonly used on cartoon pens. These colors, plus moss green and gray are very popular in Europe and other foreign countries.
As collectors, many of us have an appreciation for these odd colors. Probably because they are so uncommon to us. However, the general buying public, does not share our fascination. If the color does not sell, distributors do not order it. That is why we don't usually find these shades in the USA.
Three new barrel colors have made a grand appearance. The bottom barrel is opaque, but sports a faux marble effect. I have encountered these color combinations: gray/black, maroon/black, dark green/black. The tips that hold the clip in place on these pens are solid black. You will begin to see these with increasing frequency in future months.
The search is on... and new collectors have expressed their frustration. Where do you find float pens? I suggest you begin your scavenger hunt at souvenir shops, museums, travel plazas, duty free shops, truck stops, antique stores, flea markets, garage/yard sales, and businesses that have interesting themes. That should keep you busy for awhile.
Displays... Yes, I still have melamine displays available for $14.50 each; $12 for each additional unit. Yes, they are the same displays that Floaty Industries offers. There is one minor difference. The ones I sell direct are propped up on four black ball feet.
I am always amazed at the creative means people use to display their pens. Sandra Watkins filled a tin sand bucket with marbles. She then sticks her pens into the marbles and they are held in position. There are several cartoon characters featured on such buckets these days. I have two different versions of Felix the Cat pails. I know Curious George and others are also available.
Nancy Thomas neatly organizes her pens in large art portfolios. There they are protected and her collection is very portable. I continue to use the file folder system. Last month I invested in a four drawer file cabinet, which will help maintain my inventory for sale/trade.
LEAK, it's a four letter word... It's been asked if pens that leak can be repaired. This is a great idea, and what a challenge! First the exact location of the leak must be determined. Then the wound must be stripped of all oil residue. A suitable glue would be applied (not sure what glue that would be).
Often the leak involves the threaded area that connects the bottom barrel. It stands to reason that glue placed in this area will interfere with the thread action. On the other hand, if the crack is visible when the pen is assembled, it's likely the mend will be too. Furthermore, if a substantial amount of oil has escaped, we now face the task of refilling the barrel. It's a problem we have all encountered, but has anyone conquered it?
As summer winds down, I see my personal pen collection is still in limbo. This winter I will take time to become reacquainted with my pens and get them displayed. I intend to make more wheel displays during the winter months. Honestly, there aren't enough hours in the day!
At our house, the day is measured by craft production. If I didn't make something today... in effect... I didn't accomplish anything . We have a major craft event that runs three consecutive weekends in the month of September. In October I begin work on publishing a show list booklet for the Ohio Arts Council and we have two more craft fairs. So, for now, my attentions must turn to full-time production.
The next issue of Float About is due for release in October. Despite my schedule, I hope to have a newsletter prepared by late October or early November.
Hope this newsletter finds you sitting on a wealth of float pens.
Do your best to stay afloat!