FLOAT ABOUT... © Copyright April 1998 Issue #14

April 5, 1998.... Keogh, our youngest cat, is quite content to spend the entire winter in hibernation. On March 27th she ventured onto the porch, saw her shadow AND lingered long enough for a bath... I knew it was spring! Time to plant new pens! I have carefully chosen a colorful spring bouquet beginning with...

Cardinals, Hummingbirds, and Robins ... As promised, a new set of three native bird pens. Bird watchers and nature lovers will appreciate the detail and color of this series. Find all three listed under the Animals column.

Eskesen afloat in NYC... After an exhaustive search of Manhattan, I had to admit defeat. I did not find one new NYC pen to add to the April list. I am pleased to announce, Eskesen's dominance in the marketplace was immediately apparent. Outside of a few Italian tip 'n' strips, every float pen that I encountered was manufactured by Eskesen. A very comforting discovery.

Sink, sank, sunk... The pen created for the Broadway play, Titanic was nowhere to be found. Maybe you saw the picture of it in a fall issue of Newsweek? Don't despair. Many collectors have noticed the common Titanic pen, that is readily available, has more exciting artwork than the Broadway pen. The caption panel displays the date of the tragedy. I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

Glitter site pens.... new from Eskesen. Imagine the word 'HOLLYWOOD' spelled out horizontally within a clear window. Colors alternate from character to character, typically in blue-green-red-yellow-orange-light green-lavender-red and so on. Multi-colored glitter pours over the lettering. 19 US sites are represented in the series.

There are a few of us that won't be able to sleep at night until we have them all. For those that exercise restraint, I suggest you acquire at least one or two. Whether you find them exciting or not, they do represent a new breed of Eskesen pen. There is a bonus for those of you that enjoy bloopers. In the initial order, Pittsburgh is misspelled. The 'h' was accidentally dropped. The corrected pens are in the works.

Good news-bad news, from the World of Coca-Cola... It is unlikely I will be permitted to sell any of the Coca-Cola pens, at least not in the near future. However, Coca-Cola has authorized the sale of their pens to gift shops and Coca-Cola distributors across the USA. Look for a source in your neighborhood.

Yes, I went out of my way to visit the Coca-Cola store on NYC's Fifth Avenue. Their inventory was incomplete. If your search is equally as unsuccessful, Coca-Cola Atlanta is still willing to mailorder the pens directly to you. The phone number for The World of Coca Cola is 404/676-8776 (regular business hours). Ask for George, he is extremely helpful.

Each item is in a blister pack with colorful labeling. The packages can be opened and resealed. There is a $6 shipping charge per package (not per pen). Save on shipping charges by teaming up with collectors in your area. I can't quote the exact price, but for about $35 you can receive the entire set of 6 pens and one key chain (shipping included). The January 1998 issue of Float About detailed the pens and listed prices. (A pen was added to their inventory just after the release of the Jan issue.)

Madonna, in need of a spanking... When I published the January issue I directed collectors to the Madonna Fan Club website to purchase the new Madonna pen. Sorry I wasn't aware of the killer shipping charges. The pen sells for $10 plus shipping, which I believe totals $14. OUCH!

The pen is a conceal/reveal clicker style. Madonna strikes a classic pose, captured in black and white photography. Beverly B tells me the photo is taken from Madonna's 'Sex' book where 'M' is pictured hitch-hiking naked on a busy street. As tip 'n' strips go, it is very attractive.

Madonna is somewhat of a chameleon, changing looks every time we see her. While collectors found the photo work excellent, few recognized the model as Madonna. The presence of a cigarette in her lips generated some controversy. While most celebrities and parents are struggling to impress on our youth how uncool smoking is... this sex symbol continues to light up. Others felt it was entirely in-keeping with her 'bad girl' image. Either way, from a collectors stand-point, it's a pen worthy of consideration. The fan club's website is listed on the collectors page. (NOTE: pen sold out shortly after it was posted. Website is no longer listed on the collectors page.)

Gillette Castle... home of Sherlock Holmes! Find the 'Deep River Navigation Company' pen under Advertise. It features the Becky Thatcher riverboat passing Gillette Castle. Actor and star of stage, William Gillette, built the stone fortress for a cool million way back in 1919. It rests on the highest of the Seven Sisters Hills. Each pen is accompanied by a brochure from the DRNC.

Pens Mightier by the Horde... an article written by Nancy Nerenberg. I assume few of you have a copy of the March 28th issue of The San Jose Mercury News WEST in your possession? Lucky for us, there is the internet! It's an entertaining look into the obsession of float pen collecting. A topic we can all relate to. The entire article has been posted on Nancy's website for your enjoyment. (04/19/2010 NOTE: link to the actual article is no longer active.)

The leisurely art of float pen collecting... British author, Stephen Jarvis, has written a book entitled The Ultimate Guide to Unusual Leisure. The book covers a wide range of unusual hobbies and highly specialized pursuits, including unusual clubs and societies, lesser-known sports, collectors' newsletters, fanzines and so on. Roughly one page is dedicated to the subject of float pen collecting. The book, published by Robson Books of London, will be released in Britain next month. American release date is unknown.

Media alert... My dear friend, John DeWalt, called to tell me about Homer Simpson's introduction to tip 'n' strip pens. I still haven't seen it! Beverly Broadstone completes the picture for us. 'Apu, the Kwik-E-Mart owner, hands Homer a pen to play with while his burrito is warming in the microwave. Homer is pleasantly surprised! The next scene shows Homer with 5 pens in each hand, simultaneously tipping them over while counting down... Lift-off! 5...4...3...2..1.'

In a fax, Brian at Eskesen, confesses he is entertaining the idea of making a Homer Simpson tip 'n' strip as a gift for Simpsons' creator, Matt Groenig. Brian wonders if Matt would like it?! I'm sure you will agree with me when I say 'Go for it Brian. Matt will love it!'

Christian Andres in the news again... He's becoming quite the celebrity. A foreign publication entitled Oldtimer Markt featured an article on Christian in their March 1998 issue. Christian designed two pens for the company. One features a Volkswagen Beetle, the other a vintage convertible (of a foreign nature). Sorry I am not more familiar with car models. A full page ad offers a free pen with a paid subscription to the magazine. Congratulations to Christian! The designs are fabulous. You will find Christian listed in the collectors column.

Go girls! ... Miranda Wittebol, of Holland, has designed a pen for her hometown of Amersfoort. Final approval has been given on the design. The artwork is now in the hands of Eskesen. Finished product is expected in 4-6 weeks. Miranda will have inventory available for trade to collectors everywhere.

Karen Swanson, of Eatonville, Washington also has a first pen to her credit. She has created a pen for the Capital in Olympia. Karen is a very enthusiastic tour guide there. The pen is offered for sale on my list, or you can contact Karen directly to arrange a trade. Contact information for Miranda and Karen can also be found on the collectors page.

Twist 'n' Clicks gaining popularity... Brian, at the factory tells me, 'the new Twist and Click pen is getting an enormous reception around the world.' My distributors confirm. No need to worry. Eskesen would not abandon their classic photoramic pens. This version is just another option in style.

As a collector, if you had the choice of the same pen design featured in the twist 'n' click or classic style... which would you choose? Why? Let's take that one step further. Of the three readily available Eskesen styles, which is your favorite... the new twist 'n' clicks, the classic photoramic, or the conceal/reveal clicker style?

TC's are now available in up to 14 different colors! I think you will find an abundance of new inventory available this season at souvenir stands everywhere. As for refilling them... Brian assures me 'You have to have the knack!'. He suggests, 'It is best to twist very slightly with the refill hidden, then twist and pull apart.' I say, 'good luck!'.

Scratch Eraser has sold out! I have found a new source for the scratch eraser formulas. It could be as long as 4 weeks before my order arrives. Note they are temporarily removed from the list. They should reappear with the June issue.

Shipping... I'm not sure I can make this clear enough. Do not attempt to send pens in an unpadded envelope of any kind or weight. The postal machines will devour them... I promise. It is imperative that pens shipped in padded envelopes be attached or placed inside something stiff for protection against bending. If someone is going to ship pens to you and you doubt their experience, simply give them instructions. It beats the alternative. Too many pens are being lost and destroyed by the USPS.

How can you tell if an unmarked pen is an Eskesen? A combination of factors come into play. When pen shopping, always carry a couple of E pens with you. Begin with a comparison of individual parts. I've noticed the corrugation on the bottom point can vary from coarse to fine from one Eskesen pen to another. The style and cut of the pocket clip has also varied considerably over the years. So these features will not be the best indicators.

Compare the shape of the tip on top, the width of the metal band, and the positioning of said parts. Foreign Eskesen pens are sometimes noticeably shorter than US pens. In fact, there are versions of the photoramic pens that measure a full half inch less than our American standards. The window length will be proportionally smaller in such pens. The collective palette of barrel colors incorporated by Eskesen will help determine origin. Remember, we may not see them very often in the US, but Eskesen frequently uses gray, moss green, orange and yellow in foreign countries. Line-up all the parts and hopefully you have found an Eskesen!

Is our obsession genetic?... an old topic revisited. Margot Naber received a vintage tip 'n' strip pen, screwdriver and bottle opener from her 80 year old Uncle. Surprisingly enough, years ago her Uncle worked as a salesman in the souvenir industry. Hmmm... maybe this attraction does run in the family!

Children can be so cruel... Danielle Wormington, of SantaCruz, shares this story... 'When I was in the 5th grade, a girl in my class went to Hawaii for Christmas break. She brought back hula girl floaty pens for everyone in our reading group, except for me, (she didn't like me). I never forgot it. Years later, my co-worker was going to Hawaii. I told her the story and that I always wanted a hula girl floaty pen. She found one and brought it back for me. I have been collecting ever since.' I would say Danielle conquered that situation.

The FX encounter... By now, most of you know that I did indeed appear on the FX channel's March 10th Personal FX the Collectibles Show. I was honored to be a guest. Thank you all for your support and best wishes. It gave me the confidence that I needed to go on. Many of you contacted me after the show and offered kind words and congratulations. I promise I couldn't have done it without you. It was weeks after the shooting that I sat down and watched the tape with Bill, Josh, and Jen. It's oh so obvious that I am not a professional TV personality, but I did get the message about float pens across. That was the goal, so I guess it was fine.

Laurie Weiner, of FX, had contacted me over the holidays and extended the initial invitation for me to appear. I expressed some reservations about accepting her proposal. I was reminded of the experience Elizabeth Spatz had with FX. After some investigation, Laurie determined Libby's situation had to be a matter of a misunderstanding. If I would come to the Manhattan studio, I had a 99% chance of being on the program. Those were pretty good odds. It was a great opportunity and I accepted.

The morning of March 10th we made our way to the studio. Laurie met us in the waiting room. She introduced herself and lead me to the set. Bill and our companion travelers, Vicki Bright and Marilee George, were ushered off to relax in the recreation room... a cool place to hang out!

At 10:30am, Laurie and I, began setting the stage for the float pen segment, which would be shot in the library. Crew members stopped by to visit and examine the pens. Everyone was very friendly. My boxes were loaded with hundreds of pens and a handful of props. We had plenty of time to arrange everything, so I felt very little pressure. When the clock struck 11:45, a buzz of excitement enveloped the room. I knew we were close to show time.

The entire program takes place in an apartment studio. No room for an audience, extra bodies would only be in the way. The show is filmed live so the margin for error begins and ends with zero. My friends had been moved to the ballroom where they were comfortably seated and waiting for the show to begin. Laurie and I joined them to catch the first half of the program. Monitors were positioned in several places so we didn't miss a beat. We witnessed the filming of a Steiff display peacock appraisal. Amazing.

My turn approaches. I am very nervous. Laurie escorts me to the library, where we go over the plan one last time. John Burke steps in and introduces himself. They both assure me that I will do 'just fine'. Laurie provides last minute instructions... 'There will be four cameras running. John knows which one to face. Don't look at the cameras, look at John. He will prompt you.' OK, I tell myself... 'you can do this!' Take a deep breath and ...

we are on the air. John introduces me and we begin our slow dance from pen display to pen display. John gently prompts me all the way. He briefly turns away from me to face the cameras. I make the mistake of looking directly into the four, bright cameras which seem to be focused on me and only me. I'm stunned, just like a deer caught in headlights. Then I see a familiar face and smile among the crew. It's Laurie and she doesn't appear to be the slightest bit worried. In reality the cameras were on John! He turns back to me and we quickly wrap it up. For me, it's over! Big sigh of relief.

The crew was shooting the next segment just a few yards away in the living room area. Laurie and I began quietly picking up pens and taking the displays down. John returned during break to say 'It went great'. He had one final segment to film and then everyone relaxed... another day done.

John and Claire remained on set in the living room to shoot some intros for future shows. My friends joined me and helped get the pens back in their boxes. Thanks to Laurie, John and the entire staff for their support and assistance. We had a truly positive FX experience.

The intro to the show includes a display filled with float pens/pencils made by a variety of manufacturers. A second display filled with vintage-contemporary Eskesen writing instruments. These 'E' items were featured prominently in the 3 minute segment: a vintage Esso pencil, Heinz, Titanic, Beatles Abbey Road and Yellow Submarine, Speed Racer, and The Last Supper. I also prepared a display card with a variety of other 'E' float products. The card featured a key chain, letter opener, screwdriver, and toothbrush. The show winds down to a close with the tip of a Float Pen Collectors Unite pen.

If you are curious about the show, or want a video copy of the program for your float pen archives, I have duplicates. I sincerely wish that I could afford to send them to everyone for free, but I can not. For $6 you can have your very own one hour copy delivered directly to your door via US 2-3 Day Priority Mail. Foreign collectors will be asked to pay $3 plus actual shipping charges.

The Personal FX Collectibles Show airs on the FX cable channel every weekday at noon EST, 9am Pacific time. If you aren't watching, you should check it out. It is a very entertaining and educational program. In the course of a day, many items are appraised and offered for sale. They also visit the homes of super collectors and conduct demo segments. It's an hour well spent.

Peggy Mershon, a writer at our local newspaper, caught my performance and did an interview shortly afterwards. Read all about it.

A few moments of relaxation... The night of the FX shooting, Bill and I enjoyed a fabulous Italian dinner with Cathy Cook. I was so excited to finally meet with her face-to-face. Cathy is the editor of the Collectibles Flea Market Finds magazine. She is delightful company and a very dedicated collector. She too was once featured as a super collector on the Personal FX show. They visited her in her home. From Cathy's account, that was quite a job. As you might imagine, we had plenty to chat about.

The new issue of Collectibles should be on the shelves at bookstores and magazine racks any day now. I can't wait to pick up a copy. It remains my favorite magazine.

NYC Collectors ununited... Before the filming, I met with collector Andy Balbus at his office. The week prior, Andy had graciously offered to make arrangements for a meeting place in NYC. I am so relieved we didn't follow through with anything so committal. Collectors were asked to let me know if they intended to come. Several emailed to say they were unable to attend.

By Wednesday afternoon only two people were expected. I canceled the meeting. I did go to the lobby and wait at the scheduled time, just in case, but no one came. Float pen collectors are a busy bunch. It's almost impossible to schedule a meeting time and place via long distance. I attempted meetings in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and now NYC. Next time I am in NYC, Lian Farrer and I have a date for dinner. Which is what we should have done anyway.

Psychology of float collecting... A topic that came up repeatedly on the set of Personal FX and in conversation with Cathy Cook is the practice of collecting for fun as opposed to investing in a collection. I find it most enchanting when a common item, that has no apparent value, gains collectible status.

Heather introduced herself to me via email as a collector of skeleton keys. An item often overlooked, even discarded. While some keys are drab, others are dressed in decadence. What they have in common is their purpose... they open doors! It is there the romance and mystery begin. Doors to what? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. A single key may go unnoticed,but display 20 or 30 of them on a glass coffee table and they become a curiosity. Isn't that what collecting is all about? It doesn't matter if the collectible is considered 'valuable' or not!

Float pens are a lot like keys. They open windows to exciting places. I collect float pens for fun and pleasure. To fantasize that they will become outrageously valuable someday, is a wonderful dream. Not unlike the when I win the lottery dream. This advice applies to collecting and the lottery. 'Never invest more than you can afford to lose'. There are many people investing in collectibles hoping to turn them around for big bucks. I hope they bought THE right action figure and THE Barbie doll, but what are the chances? It's a risk.

Personally, I worry about collectors that are investing $25 and up in any one Beanie Baby. I know parents that believe when their daughters are ready to go to college, they can sell their Beanie Baby collection for tuition. All of these little girls are going to come of age about the same time. Won't the market be flooded with Beanies? I'm not sure who is expected to line up to buy them?

The most I would pay for a pen/pencil today is probably $25-$35. It would have to be a very extraordinary piece. I have discussed this issue with other collectors and they agree. If I found a 60's Beatles pen, in mint condition, I might pay as much as $35. My disposable income is a major factor in the equation. If I could afford more, I might spend more. To date, I have yet to invest more than $12 in any float pen/pencil, vintage or otherwise.

People collect items that bring them happiness. Affordability is a factor. Where is the fun in being financially stressed? Speculative investment is rarely the primary concern in the heart of a true collector. Follow your heart, but don't lose sight of your bank book. Eskesen is now producing about 100 new pens each week. We have little hope of owning them all. Knowing this keeps us humble.

Foreign and domestic trade policy... Before you proceed to the collectors exchange column... a few words about trading. Most of you are very considerate and prompt with your trades. For those of you that have yet to venture into trading, there are some common rules of etiquette.

If you do not have pens to trade, do not ask a collector to reserve inventory while you spend the next 6 months or more trying to find something. It is unfair to tie-up trade stock for long periods of time. Two weeks is a fair period of time to hold reserve pens. Once a trade is in motion, be prompt about completion. Packaging is equally important. Do what you can to assure safe delivery.

It is common practice for a USA pen to be traded for another USA pen. If you live in the US and initiate a trade with a collector in another country, the exchange is the same. A pen for a pen. After all, you are each getting a FOREIGN pen in the bargain.

If you have been approached about a trade and you are uncomfortable with the offer you are NEVER under any obligation to accept such an offer. Remember, it's supposed to be fun. Trading requires a lot of time and effort. I suggest you start by contacting one person at a time. Take time to grow into it.

These are just basic ground rules. All of the items above are negotiable between two collectors. Oh... if you are currently on my list of traders and you have run out of inventory to trade, just let me know. I will temporarily remove your name until you can restock!

Happy Trades to you... until we meet again!

Floating About as usual,


Got the IRS blues ... or is that refund burning a hole in your pocket? I wore my Felix the Cat bracelet to our appointment with the tax accountant. I needed all the extra protection I could get against the evil forces of taxation. It worked! I hope you were as lucky.

Take me to Issue #15 of Float About please
Time to go shopping... Pens for Sale
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