FLOAT ABOUT... © Copyright November 1997 Issue #12
Hello Everyone... The earth remains on it's axis, but it's taken some serious hits since our last chat. When the media announced that Mother Teresa had passed away, it was a sad realization, but not unexpected. On the other hand, the death of Princess Diana was a major quake. Not unlike the assassination of John F. Kennedy, we will each remember when and where we first heard the news of Diana's tragic demise.
History is mapped, recorded, and disseminated via many means. Video is probably the most common modern facilitator. It steps into our living room and speaks directly to us. Through audio and video, we witness history in the making, up-close and personal.
It was reported that in mourning, people scrambled to buy anything and everything that depicted Diana. Some acted in an attempt to hold onto her memory. Others were simply investing. The media visited souvenir shops in England that specialize in Royal memorabilia. Of course, business was brisk. 'A pretty desperate attempt to own a small piece of a Princess' was my first thought. My second thought was, 'I wonder if they sell Princess Di float pens!?' Then I blushed with shame.
I can understand why we treasure keepsakes from loved ones, but I was uncertain why we feel a need to have and hold mementos from total strangers, like Diana. Then it became clear. People like Diana and Mother Teresa are not strangers. Over the years, we have met many times. I may not know them well, but I know more about them than the people that live next door.
No matter how seemingly trivial, an item of sentimental value is priceless. Being sentimental is not a weakness, but rather a softness. Something we could use more of in this world. So, if you have a Beatles badge, picture of JFK, or an old movie ticket tucked in a drawer... others do too. If I had a choice of any token I could have to commemorate Diana... it would be a float pen. It's my own personal way of recording history.
The Fabulous Floating Pens Exhibition... was held at the Idaho Center for the Book, Boise State University. The exhibit opened October 17 and will end November 9. Director, Tom Trusky, asked many of our fellow collectors to contribute pens. It's amazing how many did. Several National distributors were also represented. The list is a virtual Who's Who of the float community.
I would assume this is the first exhibition of it's kind. The introduction, which appears on the program, is an apropos quote from John Adams, Diary, November 13, 1760. 'A pen is certainly an excellent instrument to fix a man's attention and to inflame his ambition.' The program continues with a list of every pen displayed.
I was honored, even a bit overwhelmed, to find my Anatomy & Definitions panel, boldly displayed on the entire back page of the program. Postcards were also made especially for the event. Of course the most important token of all was a float pen designed for the occasion.
For those unable to attend this premiere event... I proudly offer you the float pen! You'll find it under the 'Events' category. And a grand event is was!
A website has been dedicated to the exhibit. It's still under construction. You will find the address included in the website list. So far, it's a webpage, with some cool photos, but when the exhibit is over, the page will grow.
Rumor to rest... Who was it that emailed to say she heard Disney was going to discontinue making float pens? I want to assure everyone, this is absolutely untrue. Disney pens are going strong and there are no plans to pull the plug on pen production. I promise.
In fact, many of us noticed the summer flood of Disney float pens and keychains into their stores across the country. By now I think every American collector has these pens: 101 Dalmations, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Lion King/Simba (orange barrel), Little Mermaid, Jungle Book, Toy Story, the new Pooh keychains and pens, Snow White, both Hunchback designs, both Beauty and the Beast pens, and both Aladdin's.
Others are still struggling to find: Bambi, Dumbo, Lady & the Tramp, Pinocchio and Peter Pan. Do you actually own a Pinocchio pen? I don't believe that I have seen one. Are we sure one even exists?
Despite all of the merchandise Disney pumped out for 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' movie, they neglected to make a float pen. I have several NBC fans knocking at my door, hoping to obtain such a pen. If you know something I don't... please tell me about it.
Categories... I have a 'Blooper' category to cover those oops pens that sometimes slip through quality control. An OSU Football pen with players on the field, but where is the football? My Quality Suites pen has a pair of headlights in the parking lot, but no car behind them! An Indianapolis race car pen missed it's turn at the oil pump. The barrel is bone dry. Look very closely to see that 'Bakery' is misspelled 'Backery' in the new version of the New York hot dog vendor pen. Hee hee.
Media mention... So you are wondering when Elizabeth Spatz is going to appear on the FX channels Collectibles show?? She isn't... at least not in the near future. FX contacted Libby and chose a date for her interview, and then didn't show. She waited, and waited... for nothing.
I've since heard from Michael Muntner, a serious snow dome collector. He had an equally frustrating FX experience. They followed through with his appointment. He was interviewed and the segment was filmed. Then FX decided not to use it.
FX had asked Michael if there were other people in the area with interesting collections. He provided them with some names. His own segment was replaced by someone Michael had suggested.
Libby and Michael convey no hard feelings. Both would still like to see their collections featured on the program. I guess, if approached, I would proceed with caution.
Dick confiscates a tip 'n' strip, intended for a bachelor party, from one of his students in a Third Rock from the Sun episode. He mentions the model is wearing an 'evening dress'. I'm certain I've never seen an Eskesen tip 'n' strip model wearing an evening dress. Have you?
Christie Leu, a polymer clay artist, remembers an episode of Friends that featured a float pen. Chandler tips the pen and remarks 'She's walking down the street... then ooopps... she's naked... then she's not!' This is a very loose quote. Can you firm it up for me?
Do you remember TV's Northern Exposure? I had been told a Washington souvenir shop had a NE pen available. Sight unseen, I ordered 20. When they arrived I was horrified. They were of Chinese origin. The artwork was the poorest quality I have ever encountered. A moose floats back/forth. The background is a street scene. I returned every one of them. They were SO bad, I didn't even keep one for my personal collection. Do you know a source for a licensed Northern Exposure float pen?
Collectors pen... has once again been turned over to Eskesen for revision. I feel confident this is it! If they are able to make the requested corrections, the pen will go into production. I won't be the only collector disappointed if the pens are not here in time for Christmas.
You've got to love them warts, bubbles and all!... Lian Farrer asks about pens that have developed a curvature? Often if a pen appears to be curved, the bottom barrel is simply improperly secured. Carefully remove the bottom barrel. Before you attempt to put it back in place, fully extend the point of the refill into writing position. Now reattach.
Unfortunately, all too often, the pen itself is indeed bowed! I find this happens if I clip the pen to something that isn't perfectly flat for a long period of time. Exposure to intense heat, like on the dash of a car, or in a dealer's case, can also bend or bow the pen.
It stands to reason that this kind of curvature might be corrected. Personally, I have not experimented with treatments, but it seems heat might hasten the healing. Let me know if you have any luck.
Yes, even bubbles must be embraced... Like friends and lovers, sometimes you just have to accept them for what they are. I have gone to great lengths to rid my pens of bubbles, with limited success. If the bubble is smaller than 3mm, give this a try. Grab the pen by the corrugated tip. Snap it down as you would a thermometer, only harder, until the bubble is broken into tiny bubbles. While the bubble is divided, apply gentle heat. Warm tap water in a glass, or perhaps a heating pad set on 'low'.
I actually removed all of the hardware and placed a pen on a plate in the microwave! This particular pen was so far gone, I had nothing to loose. I do NOT recommend trying this on a pen you cherish. I nuked it on the defrost setting, in 7 second intervals, about 6 times. It worked.
On the second pen, it didn't. I was able to shrink the bubble, but it remains. In honor of it's fortitude and resiliency I have dubbed this bubble (and others like it) a 'Wiley'. You know, as in Wiley Coyote. No matter how many times that anvil flattens him, he manages to get fluffy again. True spunk.
New pens... between craft fairs I managed to pull together a strong list of new pens for this issue. Rejoice, it won't last. As the winter months approach, float pens will disappear from shelves across the country. I fear the next list will be rather bleek compared to this one.
Several of my fellow art fair exhibitors have developed a fondness for float pens. This means I always travel with my sample boxes. At the Ann Arbor Winter Fair, an old friend and his new wife visited from my home town. Neither of them had ever seen a float pen before. Not even a tip 'n' strip! Their excitement was contagious. An exhibitor came over to go through the boxes with them. We have been doing this show for 22 years. Our AA customers are like family. A curious customer asked, 'what's going on back there?' Before I knew it, she was sitting on the floor of our booth, with the rest of the gang, picking out pens for gifts. We had a great time.
There are two Beavis & Butthead pens, as well as some MTV promo pens on this list, in limited quantity. When I received the Star Trek series of three, I was disappointed. The starships just didn't turn me on. I must admit, I am not a big Star Trek fan. Josh Haplea is. He was quite pleased and said the pens were true to the artwork of the series. Don't overlook the spectacular Firelands Winery pen under the category Advertise. Check out all of the off-the-beaten-path site pens under Ohio.
Heidi Kelly suggests a sea monkey pen. Now that would be funny!
I intend to offer a new series of bird pens in the winter issue. Robins, Cardinals and Hummingbirds will be represented. Rock 'n' Roll cars, Classic Cars, and a new race car pen are also in the works. A new Cincinnati Ohio airport pen will be available too. Even Amtrak will be riding the rails inside a float pen.
The Astrology series has been designed, but the distributor decided not to go forward with their production. They found there was little interest in the series. Certainly not enough to justify the expense of buying 12,000 or more pens. The response I received was mixed too. Most people were only interested in purchasing their own sign. A handful of others were willing to invest in an entire set. If this situation changes, I will let you know.
Treasure hunts... Damon Zilly found a letter opener and keychain from the 1964 New York World's Fair. Both are in mint condition. Damon was able to procure both pieces for a grand total of $7. Just weeks later, our own Beverly Broadstone, found more of them. She was kind enough to share her duplicates with me. I am forever in her debt.
Brian, an Eskesen exec, really hit the jackpot this summer. Gitte, his wife, found 72 pens from the sixties/seventies. Of course, Brian bought the lot. At the County Fair he bartered for some tip 'n' strips that were likely manufactured in the early 1960's. While visiting England, he uncovered a 1965 float screwdriver. Brian, you really must to go shopping more often!
Clip to clip... All products manufactured in a foreign country, to be sold in America, must be marked with the country of origin. This is mandatory by US law. This is not so in other countries. Many pens made by Eskesen, destined for foreign trade, are unmarked.
So, how do you know it's an Eskesen? Become very familiar with the classic Eskesen photoramic, tip 'n' strip, and the new twist 'n' click pens. When pen shopping, I carry one of each with me for comparison. My scouts go forth with a similar package. In lieu of pens, carry photocopies.
Compare the physical pieces. Note the shape, contour and texturing on the corrugated tip as well as the tip atop the pen. Examine the clarity and detail of the artwork. Compare the length of the pen barrels. Keep in mind, Eskesen does make shorter barrels. These are usually found in the European market. I have several Disney pens made by Eskesen with barrels shorter than their standard models. Sometimes they mix colors too. The tip on top might be red, while the barrel is white.
Recently, Amy Cook, told me about a Mr. Bean pen that she received as a gift. She was so very disappointed that it was not an Eskesen. I told her to take a closer look. The new twist 'n' clicks are marked on top of the window portion of the pen. The words 'MADE IN DENMARK' are actually molded directly into the plastic.
Contemporary Eskesen pens are typically stamped 'E MADE IN DENMARK', vertically on the metal clip. Older versions read 'MADE IN DENMARK'. I have vintage pens which simply state 'DENMARK' on the clip. I have also found pens with the stamping on the metal belly band.
To date on dating... not in the romantic sense. Determining the exact production date of a pen or pencil is difficult, if not impossible. I do have information from the factory that will help.
Eskesen stopped producing their original full-metal tipped mechanical pencil in 1979. In 1984 they introduced a new metalized tipped version, but it only lasted a couple of years. At least now we know the mechanical pencils that sport a metal tip are pre-1980.
It's a small world after all... As an elementary student, I was not fond of geography. Why would I be interested in distant lands that I would likely never visit? Now when I catalog pens I spend hours searching the Atlas for their countries of origin. Wouldn't float pens make great geography teaching aids? I'm sure they would have captured my curiosity.
Recommended reading... Magnificent Obsessions features several collectors, including Western aficionado, Ruby Montana. Weird Rooms was also suggested, but I've yet to find a copy. Check better bookstores everywhere.
John Freimarck, a ceramist and collector, tells me there is reference made to a float pen in the book titled, 'The God of Small Things', by Indian screen writer, Arundhati Roy. Published by Random House. It was released in May of 1997. Are you familiar with the passage? Will you share it with us?
Cleaning tip.... If the window portion appears cloudy, use a soft fabric, (old sweathirt or flannel is fine) and glass spray. Give a gentle hand polish.
Collectors collide... I was very fortunate to meet with a few collectors this summer and fall. Angela Combest and husband, made a special trip to the Oakbrook Invitational, in Chicago, to meet Bill and I. It was a brief, but very sweet encounter. In August, Sean Fremon and family stopped at our house. My only regret is that I wasn't better prepared. Next time I will be.
Michael Muntner, the snowdome collector I mentioned earlier, met with us the night before our Gaithersburg, MD show. Michael is delightful company. We had time to kick back and visit. Sam Ferro and family also popped in, but not until Sunday. We actually traded for a few pens that I didn't have.
I make an attempt to meet with collectors face-to-face, whenever I can. It has been suggested that I arrange a mini conference in Mansfield for the Ohio and area collectors. Believe it or not, I am not the only one. There are at least four of us! I really like the idea. I suggest you do the same. Beverly Broadstone and Damon Zilly met this fall and had great fun. Winter months can be boring. Plan to have lunch with a pen buddy or two. Let me know how it goes.
Psychology of the float collector... Carol Santos finds that float pen hunting gives her a 'sense of purpose'. She enjoys the 'whole find and conquer cycle'. Carol is also flattered when loyal friends pick up a pen or two for her in their travels. It's nice to know they care.
Donna Bitzko collects pens from places she has visited in her lifetime. She thinks of her pen collection as a 'three-dimensional scrapbook'.
Jenny B, a Cancer, living in the Chicago suburbs has another theory about 'why floaty pens?' 'Most things in life have a rhythm or beat-starting with your own heartbeat, which unconsciously guides you throughout your day. The floaty pen has a smooth action-a few seconds of self-hypnotism that erases the beat-beat-beat of life and relaxes you.' No, she's not a doctor. She's an advertising copywriter.
I must ask.... if there is a gene prevalent in alcoholics, another in women likely to contract breast cancer... is there a gene lurking in the DNA of obsessive collectors? Are you the ONLY member of your immediate family that collects?
Shipping... I had two packages arrive from Canada, totally destroyed by the US Postal Service. The first was loosely packed, so I gave our PO the benefit of the doubt. The second package was ripped right down the belly and the machines consumed everything inside.
I consulted Oscar, my branch clerk. There are two very simple ways to avoid the ravenous canceling machines. If you bring your package to the window, void of postage, the clerk will weigh it and run a special postage tape, that replaces the stamps. This avoids the need to cancel all together. Priority Mail receives special handling and is also spared the canceling process.
Displays... unless I find a company to make the melamine displays for me, there will not be anymore. They were somewhat experimental and I discovered along the way I can not afford to make them. I am pleased to offer an alternative. A black gridwork display just 5-3/4" square. It holds 96 pens and sells for $11, First Class Post Paid.
I intend to make more spinning wheel displays. My California display appeared in Collectibles Flea Market Finds. You can see other examples on my website. Currently my largest wheel holds 218 pens. I want to design an expanded version that will handle 300. A winter project... I'll keep you posted.
The incredible web... it is astonishing. With each passing day, I realize how this new means of communication has directly influenced my life. What are the chances I would have ever met Laura Grimes in Washington, or crossed paths with Miranda Wittebol in Holland, without the web? Not likely. It's a bold, new and exciting world. If you have been thinking about getting on-line, but you are waiting for a push... I say JUMP! The water's warm and we are all afloat in cyberspace. Join the fun.
Future Issue... With a lot of luck, the next issue should be released late January.
The waters have been a little choppy, but I am still afloat.
Hope you are too.