FLOAT ABOUT... © Copyright August 16th, 1998 Issue #16
Perhaps you have noticed... time flies whether you are having fun or not! 4th of July weekend our local stores were gearing up for their annual back-to-school promotions. I swear Christmas items are creeping onto the shelves. At the same time, turn your head for just a minute and major changes come about without official announcement, hype, or fanfare. I have momentous news.
History in the making.... Since the last issue of Float About, many changes have been initiated. The high gloss barrels on the classic #534 style pens have been discontinued. The matte barrels, unique to the original #964 twist & clicks, have also been eliminated. A hybrid has emerged. The newly introduced barrels are neither high gloss nor matte. So, for lack of a better term, let's call them satin, as they do reflect a slight glimmer.
The new ABS plastic was adopted by Eskesen for numerous reasons. It is more environmentally friendly, an important factor to us all. Also for production efficiency... why not create both pens from the same material? Custom colors will blend with ease. ABS accepts and holds an imprint better than the previous material. It is also a bit lighter in weight. I have noticed they even sound different when I pick them up by the handful. Eskesen feels the differences are minimal and views the new plastic as an asset to the product, not a sacrifice.
All of the old colors have been replaced by new shades. The classic style is now available in these colors.... royal blue, dark green, goldenrod (yellow), white, light blue, mint green, pink, red, black, and yes... lilac! Note orange was not included in the list. It is difficult to distinguish some of the old colors from the new, until you place them side by side. The red and black remain close to the old issue. The mixed marbled barrels tend to look different from order to order anyway, but the color blends remain unchanged... burgundy/black, green/black, and white/black.
The #964 twist n clicks now appear in royal blue, dark green, goldenrod (yellow), orange, light blue, white, mint green, pink, red, black, lilac, burgundy, teal, and gray/blue. Some of the names remain the same, but the density of shades differ.
Eventually all of the old colors will disappear. The new barrels are already in full production. In fact, I have received several in recent orders. The glossy barrels may never be available again. This has prompted me to offer the barrels I have remaining in stock in a box of mixed colors, a Toy Box of sorts. Having a rainbow of extra barrels on hand is a luxury. As you catalog it enables you to choose the best barrel color to accentuate the artwork within a pen.
There are millions of glossy pens on display and in inventory around the world. They are not going to vanish overnight. It might be wise to have some barrels on hand for future repair and replacement. They are also handy for transforming keychains into pens. You will find details and pricing for glossy kits under Related Products at the top of my list. I have a very limited inventory so don't delay. Most of the pens on my list still have glossy barrels... for now.
I was stunned when coffee retailers began using printed cardboard and foil packaging instead of tins, but it certainly didn't alter the product or slow my coffee consumption. The pen barrel is but the packaging for the floating component. Yes, it is going to be different... but yet the same. You will see them soon. You be the judge.
Media Mention... from the Mon/August 10th airing of Murphy Brown. Frank returns from Cuba with a present for Murphy. He pulls out a pen and tells her 'turn it upside down and Castro's pants fall down.' Kay immediately confiscated the pen. This is the first time I have seen or heard of a float pen on TV for quite some time. However, this is the second float pen exchange between Murphy and Frank that I am aware of.
1998 Guiness World book... Andre' Perrin asked me to make a copy of the Unusual page in the current Guiness World Book. The only copy I have found is the paperback version. This edition does not include an Unusual page. My search continues. Our main library does not have hardcopy, but I haven't given up. I assume when I find such a page... Andre' will be mentioned there.
While the GWB has proclaimed Andre' Perrin to possess the largest float pen collection in the world, even Andre' admits it may not be the largest of all. He assumes many collectors do not feel a need to divulge the size or depth of their collections. I agree. While Andre' chose to share the particulars of his collection with the world, others do not.
In our last communication, Andre' estimated his collection at between 3,600-3,800 pens. You might think that to acquire such a massive number of pens Andre' picks up every pen he finds?! Not at all true. He is quite selective. He seeks pens with a certain quality or theme that he can appreciate. The results... a fine collection with personality.
Please let me know if you find a reference to Andre' in any Guinness publication. I would like to have a copy for myself and another for Andre'.
Star Wars Insider... is offering a free Star Wars float pen with a subscription renewal to their publication. The red caption panel reads 'Star Wars' 'Insider' in yellow/gold. This gives me the impression the pen is an exclusive for distribution by the magazine. Linda Sienkiewicz investigated on behalf of her sons. She was told the only way to obtain this pen is to renew a subscription. The picture features Luke Skywalker driving his landspeeder across the Tatooine Desert. A sand mound appears in the foreground.
The Insider is published 6 times per year. Rates are $19.95/year. If this pen is a must-have for your collection, contact: Star Wars Insider, PO Box 111000, Aurora, CO 980042. Phone 800/878-3326... or fax 303/574-9442.
The Star Trek .... fan club is rumored to have a pen of their own for members. It must be a new release. If you are aware of the source, I would be happy to post the information. I wouldn't be surprised if the pens are available to members only.
FX the Personal Collectibles show... is in rerun for the summer. Late in July the float pen segment aired again. A handful of people were resourceful enough to make their way to me. I am in the process of initiating a new domain name to make it easier for folks to find me on the web. The 'turn2001.com' will remain in effect, but you will soon be able to address my website at 'www.FloatAbout.com'. To make life less complicated, a matching email address will be issued as well... 'DiAndra@FloatAbout.com'.
Collectors news... This first story was related to me by Nancy Nerenberg on 06/17/98. 'A woman sent me an email a few days ago saying she'd just read my article (a friend had given it to her) and she had collected floaties for 20 years and wanted to give me her collection. It turns out she collects lots of stuff, sometimes gets tired of a certain thing, and 'donates' her collection to someone she knows would be excited about it. I called immediately. Sure enough, she just felt she'd found the right person who would appreciate it after reading my piece.
The kids and I raced over to her house and she gave me 64 pens, many of them obviously old versions of pens we are familiar with but we have more modern designs. I was so excited. The kids also had a blast exploring her other collections in the house. I asked her what did currently excite her and she said those china things you lay chopsticks on, so we bought her 3 of those. Very, very nice lady. Quite an experience.'
What a wonderful windfall for Nancy. I assure you, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving pen collector.
07/10/98... On weekends, Ron Lanyi frequently enjoys the company of his young daughter, Claire. Luckily, there is no lack of children's entertainment in the Los Angeles area. They recently visited the new Long Beach Aquarium.
I'm sure you've been to an aquarium at some point in your travels? I bet if you close your eyes you can imagine the soft darkness that typically cloaks the audience. See the soft lighting that highlights the aquariums. Hear the soothing buzz and hum of the pumps as bubbles rise in the tanks. Smell... well, what exactly IS that smell? Visualize yourself positioned squarely in front of a tank and open your eyes.
Do the tanks remind you of something? Giant float pens? I wonder if aquariums were the first example of captured water with live floating action? I may not have a rocket in my pocket, but I'm sure there's a miniature aquarium in there ... somewhere... and I can write with it. Oh what a glorious instrument... the float pen. Thanks for the memories Ron and Claire.
08/7/98... Miranda Wittebol is planning a trip to the Eskesen factory in the month of September. I am sure she will share the details of her visit with those of us less fortunate. Travel safe and have a great time, Miranda. We are all anxious to hear about your journey.
06/24/98... Janice Iwasaki began collecting at age 12. She accompanied her parents on a trip to Lake Tahoe. She used her arcade money to buy a float pen at the gift shop. She fondly remembers sitting in front of the arcade watching the floaty skiers go back and forth... and so it begins.
07/08/98... Sue Halpern writes 'Hi, my name is Sue... and I'm a floataholic!' I had to respond, 'Welcome to the club Sue. We know exactly what you are going through.' It's a matter of degree. Perhaps you have been able to keep your collecting habit in perspective. It was never my intention to amass thousands of float pens. I naively thought that I would pick up a few in my travels. Friends might donate a pen or two. I might even trade with another collector once in awhile. Oh my...
August... just a week or so ago, Jane Fischer sent an email to remind me that displays can be created from the most simple and common objects. She has found a number of frosted glass souvenir tumblers to hold her float pens. Many of our collectors use souvenir mugs and trays to display their pens. La Nea Conner is an avid thrift store shopper. She reports many great finds for displays and collectibles there. Let's go shopping.
What do float pen collectors do all day?... The response was minimal, but this is what I know to be true. We have students and teachers from every level of education. There are legal aids and lawyers, dental hygienist and dentists, nurses and doctors. Several people are involved in retail/wholesale marketing of goods from candy to gold. Others are artists, craftspeople, designers and arts administrators. We even have some bookkeepers, factory production workers, travel agents, letter carriers and assorted postal workers, retired folks, and more! You name it... float pen collectors are doing it. What an incredibly eclectic group.
New Pens... Eskesen, in cooperation with Depeshe, designed a new version of the twist n click barrel for the Diddl series.
The length, wire clip and window are the same. The barrel is less tapered than the style we are familiar with. It also has seven minor decorative indentation rings near the point. What is a 'Diddl' you ask? He's an animated big-footed gray mouse of German origin. He's got enough hype and hoopla behind him to rival our own Mickey Mouse. According to Brian, 'Diddl is HOT!'
I must say, 'Diddl is a class act'. I was especially impressed by the matching tag suspended from each pen. It shares the artwork from the pen itself. The pens are displayed for sale in porcelain mugs that reflect the same design and colors represented in Diddl's pens. Very nice touch. Sorry, you won't find Diddl on my pen list. That doesn't mean he won't make an appearance. Watch trade lists from European collectors.
Euro Disney swimming in float pens... It's possible you have heard tall tales about new Paris Disneyland sets. They do exist! Disneyland Paris is offering two special pen sets. Each set is packaged in a clear plastic snap case and contains six float pens exclusive to the park.
The first set represents different themes and characters from the park itself. Some of the designs have appeared on Disney pens distributed in the USA, but the caption panels make this set unique. It reads... 'Disneyland Paris'. Each pen has a different colored caption panel and complimentary lettering. The second set of six has each of six Disney characters represented. They are both delightful collections. These sets have been offered at Disneyland Paris for at least a year.
That's not all! Euro Disney stores are carrying five smaller sets. Each set is attached to a stiff blue cardboard backdrop. 'The Disney Store' is printed over a globe with a pic of Mickey on top. Each set features three pens. Themes include: Jungle Book, Lion King, Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, and Toy Story. The Lion King set is a repeat of three designs that were sold in the USA back in '96. The Peter Pan set features just one new design.
Our Disney stores currently have several keychains in their inventory. Among them three or four Winnie the Pooh designs plus Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast... just to mention a few. I know a lot of collectors forget to look for float keychains when they travel. When you can't find pens in the designs you want, look for keychains. They can be transformed into classic pens by adding a barrel.
Have you seen the Eskesen ruler/pen combos? ... The pen has no clip or tip... very plain. The pen snaps in/out of a track on top of the ruler. The ruler shares the same color as the pen barrel. I have a couple of them in my collection. My fave comes from Nancy Given. It reads 'ICELAND' and has two Vikings floating along a beach front. The background includes a Viking ship, volcano, mountain goat, horse, natural springs, waterfall and two Puffins. A most unique assemblage.
Diana McClure, a dear friend, and terrific scout ... found my most unique and recent acquisition while touring the Southwest. It is from the Grand Tetons. A royal blue ruler features a floating moose on the left side... a group of people maneuvering the Snake River in a raft on the right. Two floaters permanently affixed to a ruler. It might be distracting to use, but it sure is great item to add to my float collection. I have a handful of them coming in. They won't be listed, but they will trade for two pens or sell for $6.50 each. If you must have one let me know.
Just out of curiousity... Has anyone received a negative email from a student in the UK regarding float pens? One of our collectors heard from this guy about a month ago. It was a very unfriendly notice that she should not be 'wasting her time collecting these awful pens.' !!?? Have you received anything like this? It's been suggested this kid 'Get a life!'
Quick thought .... So, if you are what you eat... does that mean if you eat a little bit of everything, you can be anything you want?
The updated pen list ... has just over 500 pens. Nearly 50 new entries since the last publication. I purchased a large box of pens recently, many from older stock. I can not restock this inventory. When they are gone... it's forever. I made a notation on these pens so you know which ones are from my special purchase.
Scratch eraser... is back in stock. Finally. I placed an order way back in May thinking I would have it in time for the June newsletter. It arrived early in August. I purchased 2 oz bottles this time. It is a more economical size. Collectors that are currently using it to clean their pens are quite pleased with the results. I polished a bakelite clock with it last week... what a shine! It is listed under Related Products at the top of the pen list. A 2 oz bottle should clean as many as 200 pens.
The Toy Box... will include 20 glossy barrels (in assorted colors) with refills inserted, 20 matching tips, 20 bands, and 20 pocket clips. The pieces are contained in a handy plastic parts box. The Toy Box will sell for $22, which includes shipping via US 2-3 Day Priority Mail. The only colors that are not available are moss green and pink. I am still awaiting delivery of three colors and the cases. All should arrive by August 23rd. If you are really interested... reserve your box now.
The Advertising column ... has several new additions. The Circus World inventory is dated 1982. The Circus World, Great America and Kennedy Space Center pens are all from my special purchase inventory.
Bill and I take recycling very seriously, so I was thrilled to find a Recycle pen . Even more delighted to see it is so detailed. Don't overlook the beer and wine pens too. They are both very attractive.
The Exxon Valdez On The Rocks... pen was a nice find for the Event column. Thanks for getting me there Stephanie B! Now we can all have this pen in our collections. The Voyage of the India Star pen is from older inventory. The metal pocket clip simply reads 'DENMARK'. They are in very good condition. The Great Seattle Fire pen is new and exciting! Today-Tomorrow-Forever is the caption captured on a new Wedding pen. See the listings for details on all these new Event pens.
Flight category ... boasts two brand new designs, the P-38 Lightning and the P-47 Thunderbolt. The P-51 Mustang is finally back in stock. Much to my dismay, I have been informed the Lockheed Vega pen has been discontinued. If you have one... treasure it.
University of Washington... Huskies pen is very clever. School letters and a Husky appear in the foreground. The background panel is coal black. Gold glitter floats. Find it under Sports.
Animals category ... has an exciting newbie called Bugs. Boy are they nice. Superbly detailed. This pen incorporates the same concept as the aquarium pen. Instead of fish, the clear window is loaded with bugs. An assortment of spiders, beetles, and flying insects are represented. A must for budding entomologists... or people that are just plain fascinated by bugs.
The Foreign location pens ... represented are both grand. The oortpen, designed by collector Miranda Wittebol for her home town, is new to my list. Miranda is also offering them in trade. The Museo del Prado pen hails from Madrid, Spain. I was under the impression I would be able to purchase this pen on a regular basis, but not so. I bought 50 of them so everyone would have a chance to get one.
Glitter pens a big hit around the globe... Perhaps it's because of their glitz the public is drawn to the newly released glitter pens. Overall collectors are not rushing to stock up on them. Even so, there are a few glitter fans among us. I will continue to add new sites as they become available. California, San Francisco, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania (spelled correctly this time), and Texas are new to the updated pen list.
Politics ... now includes a Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential limo pen. Check it out!
Direct from the Badlands of South Dakota... new Buffalo and Jackalope pens. Even if you have never heard of a Jackalope... you can still be the proud owner of the float pen. They are jack rabbits with antlers. Find both the buffalo and Jackalope under the South Dakota heading. Linda S suggests a visit to Mike's Jackalope Home Page to learn more about this mythical creature. While you're surfing, Linda also pointed to the Roadside America site. Both URL's have been included in the www listings. Have fun!
Other highlights new to the US/Locations list...
1) Asia/Nepal/ Mount Everest/Yak
2) AK/Valdez/Port of the Super Tanker
3) NY/Niagara Falls/Helicopter
4) OH/Dresden/Basket Capitol of the World (basket floats down Main Street)
5) OR/Crater Lake/Chipmunks at play (very pretty)
6) WA/Omak/Riders on horseback (anyone have any information on the significance?)
Of the highest priority... It's nice of the USPO to provide us with free shipping boxes when we use their 2-3 Day Priority service. I frequently take advantage of the boxes myself, but I have learned a serious lesson. The box has a handy tear strip across it's bottom and this is where the weakness lies. If too much weight is applied to the face of the box, the bottom becomes creased, creating a hole in the corner. I tape right over the tear-strip and up both sides of the box to avoid this. It may be a little more difficult to open, but goods are more likely to arrive safe and intact. When shipping small items it might be wise to place them in a ziplock bag for added security.
Tiny bubbles... in the wine are fine, but nobody likes them in their float pens. In an ideal world, float pens would be bubble-free and snowdomes would stay filled to the tippy top. Because float pens are filled with mineral oil, bubbles can mysteriously appear and disappear without provocation. There isn't anything we can do about it. I have been able to chase them away temporarily, but it seems once a pen has a bubble ... it is destined to return. A small bubble is acceptable and not considered a flaw or defect, it's just a bubble! Large bubbles, that touch the floor and ceiling inside the window, usually indicate a leak or defect. I do not know anyone that has successfully repaired a leaky pen.
Inflated prices.... are going to become a problem for float pen collectors. I was appalled to find a dealer at our local June flea market offering a handful of float pens at $35-$65 each. When I pointed out to her that one of her $45 pens is currently in production and sells for $3 ... she didn't even flinch. She replied... 'So?'. Toned as if to say 'and what's your point?'. Dealers are watching the float pen market on eBay and other auction services. Pens are selling for outrageously inflated prices. These same dealers are unfamiliar with the industry, history or pricing. They think ALL float pens are worth $35 and up.
This is the primary reason I am now participating as a seller on eBay. I post float pens with a declared estimated retail value. Hopefully this will educate buyers and sellers about fair pricing. I am trying to post five or six pens each Tuesday night. I generally run the auctions for 7 days. The pens I have posted are the same items offered on my list, so you aren't missing anything. I start the minimum bid 25-50 cents higher than my Float About prices to help cover fees.
I have received a handful of inquiries regarding two pens that were auctioned on eBay. A&W Rootbeer issued a pen with a diver dipping into a frosty mug of rootbeer. I consulted Micale, at Worldwide Marketing. She said the pen was one of her very first orders. That means it is not currently in production. One of our collectors had the winning bid. Gary Kuenzle found the same pen at a flea market. So all I can tell you is ... 'they are out there'.
The second coveted pen is the RCA Nipper clicker style. As I understand it, it was made in 1997 for a specific event. I do not have a source for either of these pens, but if I find them, I will be sure to tell you all about it.
Cleaning tip... If I have several pens that are really cruddy and shopworn I clean them with mineral spirits (turpentine). It quickly removes the worst of the dirt and grime. Use a few drops on a paper towel to wipe down the pen (do not allow the turpentine to set on the pen for long). Then swish the pen around in a bowl of lukewarm (never hot) soapy water. Dish washing liquid is fine, as it is very gentle. Shake the excess water off, then roll it around on a dry terry cloth towel. Move on to the next pen. After the entire batch has been subjected to this treatment, they each get a hand polish with a soft cloth. If they still look cloudy, I turn to scratch eraser.
Future Issues... This is our busiest craft season. I highly suspect the October issue will be released late. I would like to have it out on the 15th, but since I am going to be in Maryland that week, late October seems more realistic. What's the name of the current hit pop song that choruses, 'I wish the real world would just stop hasseling me'? If it weren't for having to make a living I could easily live in my own little world of float pens and collectibles. That is as long as you would continue to call, write, email and visit me.
And with that... I am out of breath!
Your humble servant, alive and afloat...
Enjoy the fall float pen hunting season.
Winter follows oh so close behind.