FLOAT ABOUT... © Copyright June 16th, 1998 Issue #15
Greetings Float Collectors... The Strike! Many were unaware that the country of Denmark was crippled by a two week strike that began late in April. The Danish trade unions were asking for an increase from 5-6 weeks of vacation time. Shocked? Unlike Americans, many civilized countries recognize the value of rest and relaxation in balance with labor. In the USA, we work hard all of our lives in hopes of reaching retirement. All too often, we get there just in time to get sick, or even die. Our strong work ethic has some serious pitfalls.
It was the first strike in 13 years and took the country by surprise. Transportation came to a halt when the gasoline supply ran dry. Petrol was rationed by driving very slow (translation: USA speed limits). Float pens, boxed for shipment were stacked up and going nowhere. Eskesen was at a stand still. It quickly became a global affair. Pen distributors around the world were stressed to the max. Clients awaiting custom pens designed for dated promotions were frustrated and in many cases irate. The tourist trade was effected. Many vendors are still awaiting their summer orders.
Thursday May 7th, the Prime Minister of Denmark stepped in and demanded the strike end and everyone return to work. I guess he finally came to his senses and realized how critical float pen distribution is to the world. Unfortunately Friday was a legal holiday. Then of course there was the weekend. So it was Monday, May 11th before the masses returned to the daily grind. In reality, float pens were the least of their worries. The Danes were much more concerned with their supply of yeast. Brian, at Eskesen, said the groceries and supermarkets looked like the nation was preparing for WWIII. Yeast was like gold.
Brian looks forward to the day when he can sit his granddaughter, Louise, on his lap and tell her about the time when Danes almost had to do without making Danish pastries and five loaves of bread a day. Of course the strike ended in compromise. Families with children under 14 years of age have been granted an extra 3 days for family care, and the rest get two more days. Brian relates, 'It's all history now. The wheels of industry are turning again.' What a great historical event to commemorate with a float pen! On behalf of collectors everywhere, I wish Eskesen and the country of Denmark a speedy recovery.
Float Pens in the Media ...
Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion... was news to me. I was totally unfamiliar with this publication until Leslie Galavan sent me to Barnes and Noble in search of the June/July issue. Leslie thought we might all appreciate the article entitled Travel Treasures Souvenirs from Everywhere U.S.A., which begins on page 12.
At first my attention was drawn to the souvenir plates. A photo captured the same plate I incorporated into my California pen display. When I flipped to page 15, Leslie's intentions became obvious. The photo in the upper right hand corner features an old wooden test-tube rack loaded with float pens. The rack is situated under an antique framed picture of Horseshoe Falls. It is nestled between a penguin lamp and what appears to be a head of cauliflower.
I went on to enjoy coverage of Ted Frankel's Uncle Fun store in Chicago. This is a place I can't wait to visit! I'm sure the magazine is a must for Mary Englebreit fans everywhere. For float pen collectors that feel a need to own pens on paper, this issue should be on newsstands through early July. The cover price is $4.95. Thanks for the tip Leslie.
Amtrak Travel Planner... Penhopper, Gary Kuenzle of Milwaukee, is a true-blue train buff. His weekends often involve train exhibitions, demonstrations or even rides. When he told me that float pens appear in the current Amtrak Travel Planner... I just had to have a copy.
Amtrak cleverly incorporated a variety of souvenir items in the current issue. The first float pen appears on page #24 and features a rollercoaster from Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. The park is only about an hour from me. I was so excited when I saw the picture, but highly suspected the pen to be bogus. To my knowledge CP has not offered a float pen for several years. A phone call to the park determined the situation unchanged... no float pens. Darn it! On to page 28 where a pen from Memphis, TN is prominently pictured in it's actual size. Only the caption panel is displayed. It reads 'Graceland' with a pic of Elvis' famous mansion.
Call 1/800-USA-RAIL to request a free copy of the Amtrak Travel Planner. Fair warning, it's guaranteed to stir your wanderlust. Heck, while you're there, plan a trip or vacation via rail and really see America.
Pens by the Horde... If you missed Nancy Nerenberg's article that appeared in The San Jose Mercury News West, never fear. You can enjoy the article in it's entirety complete with color photos of Nancy at (Sorry, 04/19/2010 NOTE: article is no longer posted.)
Float Pen News...
Twist 'n' clicks get a polish ... I mentioned in issue 14, the twist 'n' clicks are now available in 14 colors, but there is more news. The barrels are going glossy, just like the classic photoramics. The new glossy T&C's are already in production. The color palette includes: red, hot pink, white, yellow, black, royal blue, teal, mint, dark green, light blue, orange, raspberry, lavender and gray blue. Check them out at souvenir stands everywhere. Be sure to hold on to those matte barrels that have now been discontinued.
Dating, via pieces and parts... It is true that older pens are sometimes marked on the belly band instead of the clip. However, this band is still in use today. So the belly band, by itself, has little to do with the age of the pen.
This clue will assist in age identification. I've been informed that Eskesen began including the 'E' with 'MADE IN DENMARK' on their stamp in 1987. Previously the stamp read 'MADE IN DENMARK' or simply 'DENMARK'. It won't tell you exactly how old the pen is, but (assuming parts haven't been interchanged), it will tell you how old it isn't!
Don't forget, many Eskesen pens distributed in foreign countries are unmarked. Others sport a simple 'E' at the top of the pocket clip. The new twist 'n' clicks are often overlooked because at first glance they do not appear to be a product of Eskesen. 'MADE IN DENMARK' is actually molded into the clear plastic on the very top of an Eskesen twist 'n' click. Look closely.
Outstanding find... I purchased a vintage Eskesen mechanical pencil from a serious collector. The full metal tip indicates it had to be manufactured before 1979. From the models and style I would guess it to be from the late 50's. It has an extra wide belly band. This is an exceptional piece for many reasons. The band has the days of the week stamped on it. Calendar numbers appear above the models. When the days of the week are lined up with the numbered days of the calendar, the pen becomes a perpetual calendar. Too cool!
The models are interesting too. This is the first tip 'n' strip in my collection that has models wearing gloves. Ok folks, now you know it's out there... you need one in your collection.
Where did they go?... If Eskesen is producing 100 pens per week, where did they go? I believe the USA is their #1 customer. That isn't too surprising when you consider the size, population, tourist sites, and industry represented. In truth, almost every country on the planet has their own float pens. Can you imagine?
Many pens are designed for promotion and advertising. They are rarely seen or distributed to the general public. World Wide Marketing just created a pen for a major client, HBO. They commissioned a pen for the release of the new Tom Hanks movie, From the Earth to the Moon. WWM is uncertain how the pens were distributed, but assumes they were shipped to HBO clients. Keep your eyes open. No telling where they might make an appearance.
If you know someone that works in the health field, pharmaceutical companies frequently use float pens to promote their drugs. I have several such pens. It's an industry that we often overlook in search of pens. If you have any kind of a relationship with your pharmacist, doctor, or nurses ... see what they can find for you.
Europe is another giant-of-a-client. Beyond their tourist pens, the Euro Disney stores have stocked up with new designs for 1998. Libby Spatz reports a three pack of Little Mermaid pens from Paris. The parks were also carrying multi-packs of pens. Amy Cook reports similar packs in London.
Disney's new Wild Animal Park in Florida, has four twist 'n' click designs. I have only seen two of them. Beverly Broadstone has a new Disney pen from Disneyland pictured on her website http://members.tripod.com/~floatypens/index.html. It is unlikely I will be offering them for sale. I am sure they will be showing up on trade lists everywhere.
Rumors about more Star Trek pens and a new Star Wars series persist, but I haven't seen or heard anything concrete. We will just have to keep our fingers crossed.
Amersfoort pen is in.... and it's a beauty. Contact Miranda at email@example.com to negotiate a trade. This is a dream come true for Miranda. She wanted to design a pen for her home town. Delivery was delayed by the strike, but it has arrived. If time allows, when I receive my pen, it will be scanned and posted on my website for all to see.
By the way, Miranda plans to visit the USA in March of 1999 with her boyfriend Dik. She hopes to meet many pen collectors. Looks like Miranda's journey will include a stop on the West coast and NYC. I am unsure sure where she will land, or how long she will stay. Bill and I have promised to meet them on the West Coast. I hope those of you that reside in CA and NYC will be there to welcome them. Details to follow in subsequent issues of FA. Check in with Miranda for interim updates.
Aries, David M, of Sausalito... tells me he began collecting in the 80's. He was amused by the variations possible in such a simple format. Being in TV biz, the pens had an immediate appeal. After all, if you think about it, the pictures in many float pens are like mini TV stage sets. If that's true, the window becomes a miniature TV set.
David traveled a great deal on business. It didn't take him long to develop his own pen theory. He could tell a lot about a town before getting there by the subject(s) used in their airport float pens. If all they sold was a pen with an airplane inside, it was going to be a boring visit. His theory usually proved to be correct. Have you any pen theories?
Floaty Love ... Sandra Watkin's neighbor, Pete, has a crush on Chelsea, a waitress at their local watering hole. Chelsea collects float pens and always keeps a few in her apron. She swears she gets bigger tips when she lets her customers fondle her floaties! Pete purchased a soccer pen to impress her. I believe he has since given it to Chelsea. Is the floaty kitten now smitten? Good question?
The California AIDS Ride 5... had at least one enthusiastic float pen collector as a participant. Sandra Watkins, accompanied by over 2,500 cyclists, peddled out of San Francisco to begin their 560 miles journey to Los Angeles. This was the largest fund raiser in the country and successfully raised $9.5 million. $13,603 of that is attributed directly to Sandra. Her months of preparation paid off. She took the ride in stride. Congratulations Sandra... we are so proud of you!
To commemorate the event, Sandra had 1,000 float pens made through Floaty Industries. The picture features four bicyclists gliding down Highway 1. A sign in the background reads 'Never Give Up'. The caption panel reads 'California AIDS RIDE 5' '560 miles - 2,500 riders - May 31st - June 6th, 1998' + logo.
This was yet another pen hung-up in the strike. There was serious concern that the pen wouldn't arrive in time for the event. It was really a close call. The pens were a big hit at the ride. A limited number are still available. They are selling for $5 per pen, with profits going to the San Francisco Aids Foundation. Pens are available through Floaty Industries, listed under Websites... or call 818/566-1559.
Hurray! Over 40 new pens added to the list.
Teach's Hole... This pen appeared on my last list just a little too late to receive a formal introduction. Teach's Hole is the home of the Outer Banks Original Blackbeard Exhibit & Pyrate Specialty Shoppe. Get to know them better at... www.teachshole.com
The National Corvette Museum pen... was overlooked when I first posted issue #14. It was added days later. Find it under Kentucky. Auto fans will be thrilled to see a new BMW pen under Advertise and the third Studebaker pen under Autos.
Introducing a Presidential duo... both delightful additions to any political or float pen collection. Find them under the heading Politics. Thank you Nancy Given for introducing me to the Lincoln pen. It's fabulous.
The Honest Abe pen.... is from The Lincoln Museum of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The image within the pen is titled 'Long Lincoln'. It appeared in Harper's Weekly on November 26, 1864 as a political cartoon of the election year. The pen is most unusual. Lincoln's black hat rises/falls over his elongated figure. The hat appears/disappears behind a scroll positioned in the top foreground. The scroll reads 'With malice toward none; with charity for all...'
The Lincoln Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to the interpretation and preservation of President Abraham Lincoln's legacy. (04/19/2010 NOTE: Museum closed in June 2009.)
The Gerald R. Ford Museum pens... just arrived from Grand Rapids, Michigan. An astronaut floats past the museum complex. Interesting composition.
Following a $5 million renovation, the nation's most entertaining presidential museum doesn't show you history... we put you in the middle of it. That's a promise directly from their brochure. Experience a day in the Oval Office, deliver a campaign speech, stand on the floor of a national political convention. A truly interactive educational adventure. The Museum is located on the west bank of the Grand River overlooking downtown Grand Rapids. Admission just $2-$3. Call 616/451-9263 for info.
Rhynchopsita P. Pachyrhyncha struggles to survive... Susan Healy, at the Sacramento Zoo, has initiated a Species Survival Plan to save the Thick-Billed Parrot. This beautiful green parrot with red markings, is the only living native North American parrot. The birds will be released in hopes of establishing a new population. All funds that Susan generates from the sale of float pens, notepads and pins, will be donated directly to the plan. For information regarding this noble cause? Contact: Susan Healy, Sacramento Zoo, 3930 West Land Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95822. Find this elegant pen under the Advertise column.
Aloha from American Hawaii Cruises... This pen features the S.S. Independence, the only ocean-going passenger vessel to cruise the islands year-round. Each week the ship visits five ports on four beautiful islands-- Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. A color brochure is included with each pen purchase. Listed under the Ships & Trains column.
Visit Mr Rogers' Neighborhood... In January, we moved our son Josh from Ohio University in Athens to Pittsburgh. We allowed just enough time to get him into his new apartment and load the fridge with provisions. In April, Bill and I returned for the grand tour. Pittsburgh is a relentless rollercoaster of hills, tunnels, bridges, rivers and impossible to follow streets, but oh what a ride! The downtown area is truly alive with activity, rich in culture and architecture. The Andy Warhol Museum and the Strip District are great fun. A trip to Pittsburgh would not be complete without a ride on one of the inclines. It was a wonderful weekend, but I didn't find one float pen. It was simply too early in the season.
Josh later alerted me to a special exhibit at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum. From April 3 through October 19 the museum has invited children and families to explore a hands-on 2,500 square foot replica of Mister Rogers' television house and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. For more than 30 years, TV personality Fred Rogers, has helped young and old alike value their uniqueness, appreciate others and marvel at the wonders of the world around them. You will find the official
Mr. Rogers pen under the Advertise column.
Attempting to obtain a pen from every state?... Some are very elusive. The new list includes an attractive South Dakota pen that more than adequately represents the state. It includes Mount Rushmore and the Corn Palace.
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad pen from Iowa is listed under Advertise and also under Iowa. I promise to continue the search for North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Kansas.
Hard Rock Cafe pens... La Nea Conner tells me you can buy a set of three Hard Rock Cafe pens direct from their website... (04/19/2010 NOTE: Link is no longer active and pens sold out long ago.) Thank you for sharing that info La Nea.
Untangled terminology.... I spent the better part of my youth in Lima, Ohio. There was a woman that devoted most of her day to picking up tiny pieces of paper from the downtown streets, which she saved. As children, among ourselves, we referred to her as Black Maggie or the Paper Lady. No, it wasn't a racial designation. The woman was always dressed in black.
When I speak to dealers at antique shows and flea markets the term save is often interchanged with collect. It isn't unusual to hear, 'he saves beer cans'. In my mind, for an item to be saved it had to be in peril and subsequently rescued. Rescued from what? I guess the trash can. Perhaps items like milk bottle and pop bottle caps that have outlived their usefulness the minute the bottle is emptied qualify. Rather than throw the caps away, someone decided to save them. So, when someone remarks, 'he collects beer cans', do you detect a different meaning?
Back to Black Maggie. When an obsession to save or collect interferes with productivity, family obligations, or designates an individual as a social outcast... this is a serious problem. I'm sure the compulsion to collect or save can be as addictive as gambling. Thirty years ago, outside of ignoring the problem, or being committed to a mental institution, there were few treatment options for such people. Today we have Prozac and a multitude of miracle drugs to help smooth our chemical imbalances. Of course, you and I are keeping this collecting thing in check.... right?
What do people do all day?... We have entertained the idea that our obsession with float collecting might be linked to our names, our astrological signs, a specific incident from our past, or even our genetic make-up, but we've yet to address the issue of occupations? Do certain professions yield collectors of certain items?
I was presented to this planet in July of 1952. Before I drew my first breath I was already an earthling, human, female, daughter, cousin, niece, Cancer, and a real pain (according to my Mother). These were all assigned traits beyond my control. However, now it was my turn to make some choices. I discovered very early that I love to make things. Just as early in my childhood, I began to collect.
My father and I shared a deep appreciation and love of animals. The first collection I remember involved cats. By age 11 it was the Beatles, then advertising signs, and the list has continued to grow right along with me. Did you experience a similar evolution? Were you encouraged to collect? Where did it all begin for you?
My family wasn't too surprised that I chose a non-traditional profession. For me, being a craftsperson is simply applying basic instinct to every day life. I think my attraction for float pens has a connection with my life style, which is defined by my work. Do you think your occupation has any reflection on what you collect?
Within my list of float pen collectors, I am aware of several teachers and nurses. I can't help but wonder if we polled any large group of people, it might be heavy in both of these professions? Just for the fun of it... what did you say you do all day?
Speaking of teachers... Professor Nancy Knechtel had a pen story to share. 'One of the English professors at my college got a floaty from Pompeii from a friend and was using it to take attendance in his classes. He sent it to me last week with a note saying that in EVERY class the students told him that it HAD to be Nancy's pen because she collects floatys. He said it was easier to give it to me than to hear the students nag at him every day! You gotta love those sharp eyed students - I got dozens from their spring vacations this year (the best - a great pen from Fort Sumter-a great design!)'
Nancy has an army of students they are dedicated to finding float pens for her collection. You may not be a teacher, but you must know someone that travels? Be sure to give them a brief education about pen shopping before sending them out on a mission. I find it is very helpful to provide each of my scouts with a pen. After all, it's the least I can do and it helps them distinguish Eskesen pens from the Italian and Chinese versions. Go forth and recruit.
Oh Happy Days... I contacted many of you in search of my original tape of the Personal FX Collectibles program. I was convinced, way beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had mistakenly shipped it to a collector. To my joy and relief, Bill found it. It was safely tucked away in the cabinet with his compact discs. The mystery of how or why is still debated, but it pleases me to announce copies are once again available.
The black plastic displays, that hold 96 pens, are also back in stock! Prices: 1/$12-2/$22-3/$30 The $1 increase for a single unit, allows me to ship via US 2-3 Day Priority Mail. Not only will the package move faster, it receives special handling. Both the tape and display are found under Related Products at the top of the pen list.
Trade etiquette, tips and standards continued... You thought you had a trade in-the-works, but then nothing happened. It doesn't matter who dropped the ball, someone just needs to pick it up and get it rolling again. These things happen! Do not hesitate to send a friendly reminder. Also, make it a point to discuss how the pens should be packaged for shipping. Do not assume a trader is experienced in this matter.
Regarding foreign trades... if you have a foreign pen for trade, it is worth two domestics in even exchange. This is fairly standard procedure among collectors.
Going, going, gone to eBay... Are you familiar with eBay? It is one of several auction websites where anything and everything from the world of collectibles is offered for sale to the highest bidder. If you love to shop, or the thrill of the auction turns you on... bring your checkbook ... if it's collectible, you will find it on eBay. URL included in websites listed via the link below.
Future Issues... Our craft show season is in full swing, but even
I think I can have issue #16 ready by August 15.
Until then... it's summer people.... kick, splash and float about!