Float About #48... © Copyright Thurs/June 2, 2005
a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to Eskesen floaty pen collectors

News from the Factory...
Friday/May 20, 2005... Eskesen held their 59th annual Open House. About thirty-six floaty devotees flocked to Store Merløse, in Denmark, to share in the anniversary celebration. Collectors came from cities near and far. Countries represented were Denmark, Norway, Holland, England, Germany, the USA and more.

Miranda and Dik left their hotel about 8am and met with Marinella Bak. Together, they drove to Eskesen, arriving about 9 am. Steffi, from Germany, and hubby were already on the scene. London collector, Susan Eisen, was accompanied by her husband Russell. She said when she caught sight of the flags at Eskesen she couldn't breathe. Her excitement escalated as they approached the plant. Pen trading began while the group was still in the parking lot!

Photo by Marinella Bak: Miranda Wittebol sporting the smile. Tone Hanken, from Norway far left.
Rene Asmussen in baseball cap. Rune Straxrud in the Norway t-shirt and Finn Sørensen in light blue.

It wasn't Saint Peter, but owner Ole Schneider that welcomed Eskesen fans into the gates of “floaty heaven”. Collectors were lead into the lunch room where Kim Rasmussen took their names. Miranda reports, “Ole made us feel welcome with drinks and cookies. He also gave us a brochure with a Mama Mia pen”.

“ We were divided into three groups. The factory tour was nice, exciting and full of information. We learned a new way to design artwork on the computer, saw a new clip and a machine that can make floaty pens faster. We were introduced to a brand new floaty pen called the 532 which has a smaller floaty part”.

All of the collectors participated in a treasure hunt. “Twelve big boxes were filled with floaty pens. Each collector was allowed to choose 10 floaties from the first box”. The tours and treasure hunt continued.

Photo by Kim Rasmussen. Finn Sørensen & Miranda Wittebol.

In between activities collectors had time to chat, design pen art, trade pens... whatever they wanted to do. At 3pm (13.00) the group enjoyed a nice lunch. “Afterwards the treasure hunt resumed. Each collector was allowed to choose 20 pens. Then it got crazy. We were told to take as many pens as we wanted from the boxes. Everyone had a big bag of floaties to take home with them! At the end of the day we took a lot of group pictures and we got spoiled again with a Chiquita C-Top and a Nokia slanted top pen. Ole will send us the pictures via e-mail. In the parking lot the trading continued, which was fun to see! So many floaty collectors together is very exciting! For me, this was a day I will never forget!”

Photo by Dik van Hees: Susan Eisen (in pink). Miranda is flanked by Amy (USA) and Chris Dedman.

So what do thirty plus collectors from around the globe do after a trip to E? For years to come it will be referred to as the Invasion of Copenhagen. Susan Eisen told me that collectors used text messages to notify everyone when they discovered a pen source. The stores didn't know what hit them. Some locations sold out of pens.

Susan intends to return in 2006. When I spoke with her she was still on cloud nine. Her idea to get collectors together for a day of trading before the 2006 factory visit has merit. Susan has some suggestions regarding cheaper airfare for the next event too. Start dreaming now. Eskesen's 60th birthday is just 12 months away.

It's time the thank the staff at Eskesen for their hospitality. Attendees felt pampered and appreciated. I am not really surprised. It's exactly what I would expect from our floaty pen company. Happy 59th Eskesen... and many more!

In the autumn of 2004 ... Eskesen announced a pen subscription service for collectors. There are four different levels to choose from. Each subscriber receives two pen packages. The first round of parcels were mailed last November. Now subscribers anxiously await their second installment, which is scheduled to ship in June.

Many subscription holders shared their reactions to their first box and the highlights of it's contents. Their comments appeared in the last issue of the newsletter. The overwhelming majority of recipients were ecstatic. As the second packages arrive, I will include spontaneous reports in Float Along and comments will be summarized for Issue #49. If you are curious about the subscription offers, (Sorry... offer has ended.)

New barrel colors have recently been added... to Eskesen's color palette. The Soil Moisture Experiment pen comes from Nancy Nerenberg at Float Art. It's the first example of the new powder blue that I have seen. You will find it under the new arrivals category. I expect more colors to surface as we get into the tourist season.

Float Pens Out and About
Here, in the USA... May 28th-30th is Memorial Day weekend and a legal holiday. Unlike our neighbors, we did not fire up the grill, but early Saturday morning Bill and I took a few hours to scour our local flea market. There were no float pens to be found. That doesn't mean we came home empty handed. Bill managed to find a few books he had to have. A plush Felix the Cat followed me home. We had the fortune of bumping into a few friends along the way. All in all, it was a brief but satisfying break from work.

Later that afternoon we popped into a high school graduation party. Our talented neighbor and trusty cat sitter, Stephanie Kunz, was the guest of honor. She is a beautiful and bright young lady with a promising future. We also attended the official ceremony on Sunday. Graduations are so bittersweet. Soon Stephanie will be off to college. While friends, family and neighbors rejoice in her growth and success, we don't want to see her go!

May graduations also signal... the end of spring and propel us into summer. Ah summer, the sweetest floaty season of all. Souvenir shops and tourist traps are teeming with trinkets for travelers. Around the world there are cities we can depend on for a floaty pen fix. Europe has Paris, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and so many more. North Americans rely on Seattle, San Francisco, NYC and Little Rock?!? That's right. Consider Little Rock, Arkansas for a summer destination. I know, it may not sound as glamorous as an island vacation, or theme park, but it's a great family get-away. Don't take my word for it, visit www.LittleRock.com. You will see there is something for everyone!

Little Rock, the Capitol city, is right smack in the middle of the state. I understand The William J Clinton Presidential Center is a must see. Architecturally speaking, critics say the facility is outstanding. Step inside for a generous helping of American history. It promises to be an educational as well as entertaining experience.

Clinton pen

North Little Rock resident and collector, Carol Eruren, reports the Clinton Museum Store is offering several different Eskesen float pens. The first four designs are constants on my pen list: AK/Hog Heaven/Razorback, Politics/Democrats, Politics/Republicans and the most recent addition... Politics/Air Force One. You might recognize the fifth design, Clinton Running the USA. It's an older design that has been revived for the Museum. I no longer carry it on my list. Two custom pens have also been created. The first (pictured above) features four historic snapshots of President Clinton, Hillary and Chelsie included.

The second was created to commemorate the opening of The William J Clinton Presidential Center and it's nicely detailed. The facility and street signs are affixed in the foreground. A family strolls the library grounds.

Before you pack your bags and load the car... hold on a minute! The newest designs were in such demand, they have sold out. Both designs are currently in production and expected to arrive at the Museum Shop in about a month. I was able to purchase the last of the snapshot inventory. Find them under the New Arrivals category. I will be notified when the reorder arrives.

There are three ways you can obtain the pens. Of course the best way is always to make a personal visit to the site. If that isn't possible, the helpful staff at the Clinton Museum Store is willing to mail order the pens to domestic and international addresses. The pens are not included in the (NOTE: Sorry, pens are sold out; link removed May 2015.) catalog, but take a few moments to browse their other offerings before you compose your order. The Sock's merchandise caught my eye.

The third option is FloatAbout. I intend to purchase a quantity of both new designs for inclusion on my list. I've been told the reorder includes pens in both the classic style and the new C-top version. It's possible the C-tops will be a little more expensive. As soon as I hear from the gift shop, I will post notice in Float Along.

To plan your visit, or explore the Center from your desktop. Travel safe!

Kim Dougherty wanted to let everyone know... that she was able to reach the folks at the Carnegie Hall Gift Shop. They do have the float pens that were featured in the last issue of Float About in stock. The pens sell for $5 each. Unfortunately they are charging $5.99 to ship. Kim ordered two, I wonder if they would ship several for the same shipping rate?! Anyway, if you are interested in getting their pen, ask for item #359. This is their mailing address... Carnegie Hall Gift Shop, 881 7th Avenue, NY, NY 10019. Thanks for the update Kim.

Pen collector Douglas Yeo is a musician in the... Boston Symphony Orchestra. Doug enjoys travel, but he didn't have to go far to find the site specific pen sold at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum in Boston. It shows several works of art in the museum framed by the interior courtyard. Sorry, no time for a scan, but I assure you it's beautiful. The pens sell for $3/ea plus $3 s/h. (NOTE: Pen sold out long ago; Link removed May 2015.)

Follow-Up to Issue #47...
Only a handful of people expressed... an interest in making a third custom collectors united floaty pen. So, it seems logical to scale the project back to one pen instead of two. Spring has come and gone, so let's aim for the fall theme. Miranda and I passed a few ideas back and forth, but we are leaning in the same direction. See if you agree.

The artwork would be a conceal/reveal image. In the top panel Eskie is mowing the lawn and float pens are hanging from the tree branches above him. Tip the pen to reveal the second panel. This time the trees are bare and he is raking up piles of float pens. Beside him is a bushel basket full of float pens with Eskesen's logo stamped on it's side. The artwork would be in a vertical format. We both like the idea of using the new mocha brown barrel. Seems an apt choice for an autumn theme. Normally conceal/reveal images are presented in the clicker style pen. We all know how contrary those button and retraction mechanisms can be. Miranda and I feel the classic style, or the naked twist n click with a chrome clip would serve us better. So what do you think?

If you would like to be included, there is room for a total of 15-16 collectors. The name of each participant would appear in the caption panel. This idea was introduced months ago. If you indicated an interest before, please do so again. I wouldn't want to miss anyone. A custom order would require a minimum of 550 pens. Each collector will have to commit to 35-50 pens. Cost with shipping/handling could run anywhere from $55-$75. If we get this project moving soon... we could have it by fall! If you are remotely interested, get your name in. You will not be obligated to follow through until you have the details and final costs.

Media Sightings...
The War In the movie, The War, Kevin Costner.... carried a guardian angel float pen in his pocket. When Mitsuhiro, at Retrobank of Japan, asked if I might know a source for this pen, I didn't have a clue. Until recently, I hadn't even seen the movie, but promised Mitsuhiro I would do some research. Bill and I would have enjoyed the movie even if it didn't have a float pen in it. The story was strong enough I had to remind myself to watch for the pen.

When the floaty made it's first appearance I paused the tape. I could barely decipher the image, but I did spot two big bubbles. We didn't detect a caption panel or text so we were both almost convinced it's a clear window. However, we couldn't see through it either. It was really impossible to be absolutely sure.

The pen makes it's final showing within the last few minutes of the film. This time we got a much better look. My photo lacks clarity because it is a digital picture taken from the televised image. It's rough, but I think you will get the idea. Have you ever seen this pen? Is it in your collection? In an attempt to get more information, I contacted several distributors. The source has yet to be identified. Even the staff at Eskesen drew a blank. If you have anything to add... please contact me.

In February, Mitsuhiro proudly presented me with ... several Retrobank designs from their 2004 line. It's an impressive group. Sorry, these are singles from my personal collection. No extras available. I wish I had time to scan each and every design. Instead I chose some of my favorites and artwork that would scan well.

Retrobank Group A

'UCC' is a coffee company. As a 'coffee' collector, the Hawaii Kona and Blue Mountain pens are special to me.

Retrobank Group B

Most float pen collectors are crazy for conceal/reveal images. The first pen is an excellent example.

My Retrobank collection is phenomenal. Their portfolio exhibits a true sense of style. They also express a healthy dose of humor. Mitsuhiro has been so good to me. In time, you too will be able to purchase Retrobank pens. They intend to post and sell pens on their website. The pages are currently under construction, but be patient and check back frequently. Retrobank.co.jp Thank you so much Mitsuhiro.

Micale Maddox of Ideal Motion Promotion... offered a bit of celebrity gossip. She asked, “ Did you happen to see the pre-game show before the Oscars?” Of course I did not. “ On the TV Guide Channel, Joan and Melissa Rivers were showing off their glider pen that had Joan and Melissa floating up and down the red carpet, microphones in hand...” You might be thinking Micale has the eyes of a hawk, but not so. Her company designed the pen so she is quite familiar with the design. Micale went on to say, “ Apparently, they were giving one out to everyone they talked to. ” Micale contacted TV Guide to see if the pens are for sale. No such luck. “It was fun to see Joan Rivers making fun of our beloved pens.”

On Mon/April 18th I received an email from Beverly Broadstone. “ Oh! Guess what I scored from eBay!? The Oscars - Academy Awards Joan & Melissa Rivers floaty pen!” Beverly paid $5 for the pen and yet another $5 for shipping. Way to go Beverly. I wonder if any other collectors were able to get their hands on this design?

Way back on Sunday, April 3rd... my neighbor, Cyndi Kunz, delivered her copy of The Columbus Dispatch to my door. She was confident I would be interested in an article which appeared in the Travel section. She was right. Steve Stephens' Ticket to Write column begins with “Nothing says Niagara Falls like a floaty pen or nice patch”.

The article focuses on collectors and the goods they gather. “Karyn Smith of Columbus has over 180 cloth patches” and Julie Nyhus collects penguins. There is a long list of collectibles mentioned. Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts, banks, bells, glass dogs, antiques, shot glasses, images of covered bridges, spoons, Christmas ornaments, postcards, necklaces, elephants, mugs, bird sightings, towels, native costumes, coasters ... and believe it or not, the list goes on.

Sandy Lehman Mann collects floaty pens and magnets, watercolors, pins, lighthouses, books that feature local photography, cuisine and spooky legends. Hats off to Sandy. She is obviously a dedicated huntress. When she travels her goal is to return home with an item to add to each of her collections. Loretta Zedella concentrates on floaty pens. Amazingly, both women are from Columbus. Just 60 miles away and I don't know either of them.

March 25th, Boston collector, Sarah Garrett almost dropped her magazine when she opened to a page with six picture floaty pens. Subscribers to Travel & Leisure magazine also receive a Family supplement. This bonus publication includes an article of praise for our favorite collectible. The online version does not include the photos, but it's a fun read. Author, Jeffrey Bauman, was kind to include a link to my webpage. Read all about it. (NOTE: Article removed long ago; Link removed May 2015.)

Collectors News...
Another major milestone for collector... Miranda Wittebol. A day or so before she left Holland to venture to Denmark, Miranda crossed the 9,000 mark. Really. She is still sorting through all of the pens that she got at the factory to weed out duplicates. Her latest acquisitions from E have pushed her collection way over the mark. Now going for 10,000 and beyond.

Minnesota collector, Sue Buetow... has encouraging news to share. Accompanied by her boyfriend, she made a seven day journey through South Dakota and reached Wyoming, their final destination, on May 25th. “ We spent several days in the Black Hills. South Dakota is one of our favorite states to visit. I was disappointed. Several places that I found pens in the past did not have them this year. I did manage to find five new pens. This may be old news but (I've been out of the floaty loop for awhile) I'll tell you just in case. Wall Drug had three new pens. Two different South Dakota pens and a Hustead's Wall Drug Store pen. I also found a Flintstones pen at the Flintstone Theme Park in Custer. My favorite find was two Elvis pens that I bought at an antique store. Have you seen a clicker style, conceal and reveal, slightly older Elvis pen? It says Elvis on the front and the back has musical notes half way up the window. The other half of the window is black. When you tip it, a young Elvis appears. Both pens are the same only different colors. I was pretty thrilled to find these!”

It's a shame the Flintstone pen does not include the theme park's name. The caption panel as follows: A pic of Fred + 'THE FLINTSTONES' + Dino. The Flintstones and the Rubbles float into the drive-in movie. It's an old standard. ”As for the two S.D. pens, I think I've seen the picture panel before, but the caption panel is different. The Wall Drug pen is totally different than the older one I have. ” Kudos to Sue. She's a great scout.

It's been about two months ago... Wisconsin collector Debbie Hoesly escorted her only daughter, Kristin, to a California community college for her freshman year. They encountered a sandstorm in Nebraska, snowstorm in the mountains of Utah. “ Then we drove through clouds of painted lady butterflies in the desert of Nevada. It was gross and made a huge mess on the windshield/grill. It was unbelievable, but other than that the trip was pretty easy. ”

“ My uncle lives in Las Vegas. He treated us to the Bellagio for dinner and we saw the lights. Much to his horror, I made him stop at the Worlds Largest Souvenir Shop. Well let me tell you - it was Floaty Pen Heaven!!!! They had a display of probably a couple thousand pens. It stood about 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide, all big square bins FULL of pens. ” Unfortunately, no pictures. Debbie was in a state of shock, suffering from sensory overload, sleep deprivation and burn-out from all the driving. She totally forgot about the digital camera in the car. “ I am still kicking myself. It was a sight to behold for any floaty freak”.

Debbie bought 20-30 pens, including some doubles...even triples. All of the pens had a gambling theme. “Some with the silvery/star background Have Fun in Vegas. I think I was a source of entertainment for the staff - haha - it was so much fun! It was the only place we stopped. Kristin and I made a pact to meet in Las Vegas for a few days sometime and have fun doing all the goofy stuff we enjoy.” On to California.

Debbie told me, “Leaving Kristin behind had to be the hardest, saddest and most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Ever. ” I knew all of the mothers and fathers listening would sympathize. Today, Debbie is slowly adjusting and Kristin is loving her new life in California. It's a happy ending in progress.

Richard Wickberg introduced... his tradesite. Pop in and check out his offerings. Richard also posted a long wishlist. Happy trades to all. http://home.comcast.net/~patwick/floatypens.html.

Renee Snyder also announced the reopening of her website. The pages represent her collection, duplicates and want list. Plan a trip someday soon Renee's Website.

Ber te Mebel of Holland is home and recovering nicely from his heart surgery. He truly enjoyed the cards and emails from the floaty community. Thank you all.

Northern Ireland pen

Craig Wilson was puzzled by the strange... shapes in the Northern Ireland pen, so he did a little digging. “They are basalt columns, found in an area on the northern shore known as Giants Causeway.”

“They're geologically similar to Fingal's Cave in Scotland, and formations here, such as Devil's Tower (WY) and Devil's Postpile (CA). While Native Americans have the folktale about giant bear claws creating Devil's Tower, the Irish credit a giant human known as Finn McCool.”

Giants Causeway

Legend has it that... Finn McCool, an Irish Giant, went to fight his Scottish counterpart, Finn Gall. One at a time, McCool drove the columns into place, until the causeway reached Scotland (Fingal's Cave). Once completed, McCool was so tired he returned home to rest. Finn Gall followed the causeway to Ireland to find a sleeping McCool. McCool's wife, a very shrewd women, told Finn Gall that the sleeping figure was her baby. Finn Gall grew alarmed, thinking this giant baby's father must be of incredible size and that he would surely lose any fight. Finn Gall fled back to Scotland destroying the giant's causeway as he went. Today only the two ends of the structure remain.

Richard Wickberg tells me such columns also occur naturally in Washington state. “Architects and professional landscapers use them as retaining walls and incorporate them in outdoor art”.

The following excerpt borrowed.... from the Feb/1997 Issue #8 of Float About.

“Are we a fickle lot? Snowdomes yesterday... float pens today. Who knows what tomorrow? It is my guess that in 10 years, maybe one out of every three of us, will still be collecting float pens. Will it be you? Me? Only time will tell.”

In 1994-1995, the earliest days of Float About, the floaty community consisted of a handful of people. With the introduction of the Internet, those numbers quickly multiplied. Many pioneers of float collecting have moved on. Do you remember Nancy Thomas? Libby Spatz? Klaus Schmitz? They were some of the first collectors I encountered, but they seem to have disappeared from the scene. Other collectors are as devoted today as they were a decade ago. Nancy Nerenberg continues to collect and has since started her own float pen design company, Float Art. As far as I know, with 9000+ pens in her collection, Miranda Wittebol currently holds the title of Floaty Queen. She didn't always have such a generous lead. Miranda has faced strong contenders on her climb to the top. The first that comes to my mind is Nancy Given.

In May of 1997, I was still actively trading pens, when I met Nancy G via email. She was working at Rounder Records in Boston. Nancy remembers, “ I might have had one or two hundred pens back then. ” She had been casually collecting since the early 80's, long before I got involved. Her first floaty pen was a present. “It was the I LOVE NEW YORK! pen, with a taxi accident on the other side” “ My initial foray into the web world of floaty pens was when I found you and ordered one each of every design I didn't already have.” Over the years Nancy remained a steady Float About customer, friend, and trusted trader in the floaty community. floaty merger

Andy Balbus emerged in February of 1998. He made a big impression on me. His initial order was for one of every pen on my list, well almost every pen. To this day it remains the second largest order in Float About's ten-year history. Andy was destined to become a major player. I have had the pleasure of meeting with Andy on two separate occasions. My only regret is that we don't get together more often.

Andy told me how it all began. “I bought my first floating pen in 1979. It was a memento of the summer I spent working in Cleveland, Ohio. Floating pens were the perfect souvenirs to commemorate my frequent business trips around the US and throughout the world. They were inexpensive, easy to carry in my briefcase and much less likely to leak than a snow globe. In 1998, I discovered the Internet. I typed ‘floating pen’ into a search engine and found a floaty community and a wonderful friend in Mansfield, Ohio.”

Andy's experience buying and selling floaties on eBay led to the creation of www.Sellers-Market.com, (NOTE: Store has since closed; Link removed May 2015.) It was the first bricks and mortar store in the world dedicated to selling virtually anything on the Internet. “Our seller name on eBay is 'magicwave'. Hopefully, we will get approximately 50 pens up each week. If I could trade a few thousand pens to someone, I would be thrilled.”

After all those years of actively buying and trading, collectors were shocked to hear that Nancy had sold her collection. No one as shocked as Nancy herself. After months of deliberation, Nancy approached Andy to see if he would be interested in buying her 7,000 floaty pens. On May 12 they agreed on a price. The final figure may have been less than Nancy could have gotten at auction, but it was fair and quick. The deal was sealed. The fact that Andy was willing to drive to Nancy's to pick up the collection was an attractive bonus. Sunday, May 15th, Andy made a trip to Somerville, Mass to take possession of the collection.

Andy's refers to the historic exchange as “ The Big Floaty Merger & Acquisition ” And it was big, probably the biggest ever. Before this purchase Andy had 8,000 floaty pens (including the floaty Secretary-style mechanical pencils). Now he has a total of 15,000. I think we have found our Floaty King. “ I won't know how many are duplicates for months. The job of going through all of them is daunting.” And Nancy? “I am sure I made the right decision, but will always retain a special fondness for floaty pens and the invaluable friends in the floaty community I met through the years of collecting and trading.”

Odds n Ends...
Uh Oh! I forgot... all about the drawing for the kidney shaped display. Collectors that spent $10 or more were supposed to have a chance to win a free display. No one mentioned it and I have been so distracted, it slipped my mind. The invoices were randomly gathered and each assigned a number. I tossed three die and the number totaled '10'. The number corresponded to Shelley Yee's invoice. We have a winner!

The American Pencil Collectors Society... is having it's 22nd bi-annual convention in Mankato, MN the weekend of June 19-21. Andrew Westberg, the current President of the APCS, extends a personal invitation to all floaty pen collectors. As an added incentive, their 2005 commemorative pen will be made by Eskesen. The event if free to the public. It will be held at MN State University-Mankato. Scheduled hours are Sun/Noon-6:00pm; Mon & Tues/8am-6pm. Membership in the organization is just $10. Get all the details... www.pencilcollector.org. If you are interested in the special edition floaty pen, please contact Andy at westberg@hickorytech.net after the convention.

The black gridwork displays... sold out months ago. Much to my dismay, I was unable to reorder. It seems the manufacturer has dropped it from their line. Gasp. These are very practical displays. Many collectors have become dependent on them. Sue Buetow is such a collector. If you would like to sell your gridwork units, or trade them for pens, Sue is interested. She has also decided to trade/sell off her entire floaty tip n strip collection for traditional floaties. Reach Sue directly at SueBeeOne@msn.com. If you happen to know a source for these displays, or something similar, PLEASE contact me.

Debbie Carriere discovered a secret... “ That scratch eraser stuff is a miracle! I had one pen that wasn't scratched, just very dull, like glass etching from a dishwasher. It's now so bright and clear!” I use it on just about anything and everything made of plastic. It's called Novus and it comes in three strengths. #1, which is an excellent anti-static plastic cleaner. #2 is for fine scratches and the one I recommend for float pens. Use it on the window portion, as it can dull the sheen on the barrel. The #3 formula is for course scratches. My Novus inventory is almost gone, but you can find it online and once in awhile I see it on the shelf at an antique mall. It's easy to use. Dab a light layer on the window area and allow it to set for a minute or so, then polish (buff) with a soft cloth. Debbie is right. It's a fabulous product.

Pens Past, Present and Future...
Instead of waiting for the newsletter to post... I have been refreshing the Singles List a couple of times each month. If you visit the page ever other week or so, you are less likely to miss a vanishing design.

The Duplicates category... proved to be a major challenge. Far too much time and energy was expended trying to locate ten pens with a relative theme. Then I invested twice as much time scanning and formatting. After creating those gigantic images, I realized that many collectors would have difficulty loading and manipulating the sizes. Lesson learned. It's was 11:50pm on June 1st and I only had 30 duplicates ready to go. Thursday I took a more familiar approach.

I have been beating around the bush regarding the state of Float About. The business is endangered. We have trimmed our craft show schedule to five shows. Something has to be done to make up for the loss of income. I will have to make a lot of sacrifices to keep the pen biz afloat. Selling off my duplicates is a good start, but it won't be enough. Realize that scanning and posting a single pen is a lot of work for a little bit of money. Pricing is based on the age of the pen, quality, demand and rarity. Remember, these are not new designs. They are no longer in production.

Duplicates that do not sell will move to eBay. If that happens, I will start the bid at the current price plus $1 or more. The difference will help cover the eBay fees involved. This category is off to a rocky start. As soon as possible, I will revamp the format. You will not have to wait 2-3 months to see the next batch of dupes. As soon as the crunch is over, I will go back to scanning and posting. Visit the Duplicates page once a week or so to see what's new.

The New Arrivals List... includes four ad pens and one wedding design, all from Float Art. I just received an order from Floaty. Every pen in the box arrived with a bubble that may or may not disappear with time. All of the pens that have bubbles are clearly marked and priced at a discount. I suspect the Air Force One pen will be the most popular new entry, but I like the OK/Tornado and TN/Nashville designs. Luckily the majority of new designs are bubble free. Have fun pen shopping.

The Pope John Paul II floaty pen is currently in production. Mid-June is the estimated time of arrival. I will offer them for $4.25 each. I ordered most of the pens in the classic style, but a few naked twist n clicks as well. Check Float Along for updates. Yes, you can reserve now.

Those that read Float Along... already know that our friends were unable to accompany us to Mexico in April, so our plans took an unexpected turn. April 22nd Bill and I flew to Costa Rica. This was not a vacation. The purpose of our visit was to determine if we were interested in retiring there. I have no doubt we would fit in in short order. Many collectors have been waiting for the details. There were no float pens in Costa Rica, so if you wish to skip this part, you are excused.

Eight million people in Costa Rica and 4 million of them reside in the Central Valley. We stayed at the Hotel LaAmistad in the Capitol city, San Jose. Our timing was perfect. It was the tail end of the dry season. As expected, it was hot and somewhat humid. However, the climate is extremely diverse. You just pick an area that suits your comfort level.

The locals refer to themselves as Ticos. They are proud of their heritage and citizenship. The unemployment rate is very low. We didn't see a lot of poverty. There were only a few street beggars. Compared to San Francisco, few homeless people. However, while property values have escalated, wages have held steady. A maid or gardener earns about $125/month. There is some resentment building regarding the wealthy Europeans, Canadians and North Americans moving in and driving up prices. Even so, we did not personally feel any negative vibes. Razor Wire

Considering the size of the city and it's dense population, it is pretty clean. Public parks are scattered throughout. A pedestrian-only walkway services the stores in the center of town. Violent crime is rare, but petty theft and burglary are routine. We did not experience any problems, but others did. Houses and businesses have barred windows. The iron is decorative, but also necessary. It's hard to ignore the rolls of razor wire wrapped around the first and second story levels and bound to the fencing. Some neighborhoods require this degree of protection more than others. We were advised to take a taxi anytime we were out after dark.

Property value is highly inflated, but it is the security issue that discourages Bill and I most. If you ask a resident gringo or Tico about the security issue, they say “What security issue?”. The monthly household budget includes security measures. This is accepted as normal in Costa Rica. Barred windows and iron gates are a given, but there were other solutions we heard repeatedly. “Adopt a Tico family to live on your property. Hire a guard. Get a big dog.” When I asked, “Don't the burglars just kill or poison the dogs?” I didn't like the response. “Yes, it happens. You just get another dog.” A store owner explained, “Security isn't a problem. If I am going out for the afternoon, I just ask a neighbor to come over and watch my place.” Hmmm.... could we actually live like that? We both have serious doubts.

On a positive note, there are extremely attractive features. It has a stable Democratic government. They abolished their army many years ago. They do not have oil, gold or diamonds so the country will not be targeted or exploited for their natural resources. They are agriculturally rich. Coffee, bananas, sugar cane, decorative ferns and exotic flowers are all exported. Poas Volcano

While property is expensive, the cost of living is still less than most US locations. Health care is as good and better than in the USA. Many foreigners go to CR for cosmetic surgery, dental work and routine surgeries. Comprehensive insurance packages cost about 25% of what we currently pay. The climate is great. Costa Rica has volcanoes, waterfalls, gorgeous flora and fauna, the rainforest, rivers, lakes, a cloud forest, desert, plush vegetation and exotic wildlife. Whew! Let's not forget the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The people are educated, hard working, but fun loving.

Atomic Diner

We truly enjoyed the food. There are many bars and restaurants owned and operated by ex-pats that serve North American food. Denny's, KFC, McDonald's and the like are plentiful. Seems like we even saw an Outback. If you like Chinese, Italian, Mediterranean... it's all there. We preferred the local dishes. Picture left: The Atomic Diner, directly across from our hotel, became our favorite dinner spot.

As craftspeople, we sensed a major void. The Spanish and European influences are most evident. While Mexico displayed a distinct and unique flavor, Costa Rica lacked self-expression. Bill and I were surprised how much that bothered us. Friends and relatives have cautioned us to look around before making any major decisions. That is sound advice. We plan to visit San Miguel Allende, Mexico in September. Our travel buddies, Steve and Roswitha, intend to come along. In the meantime, fellow floaty collector and dear friend, Ron Lanyi, will spend several weeks exploring different locations in Mexico for the purpose of retirement. We will compare notes. We won't be moving any time soon.

Time to wrap this puppy up...
Issue #49... is due to release August 2nd. I won't make any promises, but I will do the best I can. For the first time in 28 years, we will not be doing the Oakbrook (Chicago) show in July. We only have four more events scheduled through the summer. Our last show takes place on Labor Day. If everything goes as planned, we will leave for Mexico soon after.

In the meantime, it's business as usual. Orders are filled on a first-come first served basis. As pens sell out they will be removed from the list. Do not feel bad if you miss a pen in the duplicate category. I have many boxes to go through. It's possible a similar design will resurface. For this issue I pulled out a box of mixed pens and started filing them by theme. If there ten that made a nice group, I started scanning.

Orders will be processed as quickly as possible. Remember, Float About is a one-woman operation. It may be 8-10 hours before you get a response Your patience is appreciated.

If at all possible, Bill and I want to visit Steve and Roswitha this weekend. They built a workshop in a rural area of southern Ohio. Construction began over a year ago. The building has been finished for months. Between bad weather and conflicting schedules, have kept us apart. If we go, it will be Saturday morning and return Sunday night. It shouldn't delay shipping orders by more than one day.

Until next time, I wish you a summer of sun and leisure.
Yours truly,

Just a few hours before this issue... was uploaded to the server, I received this email from Sue Buetow. “I just have to share what happened to me today. I went to a HUGE local antique store. Having no luck with pens, I proceeded to check out with a total of two postcards. I asked the clerk if they had a want book, which they did. She watched me write down ‘floaty/floating action pens.’ She pointed to a floaty Last Supper pen in their pencil cup and said, ‘Do you mean like that?’ A bit shocked, and excited (because I didn't have that pen yet), I asked how much it was. She answered back, ‘Do you want it? You can have it for free.’ Like a true Minnesotan I instantly replied, ‘YA!!!!!!!!!!!’ Outside of a dream, how often does that happen in a floaty pen collector's life?” I know the answer. Not often enough, but I hope it happens to you very soon.

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Go forward and read Issue #49
Back up and read Issue #47 from Feb 13, 2005

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FLOAT ABOUT... Diana Andra, 1676 Millsboro Road, Mansfield, OH 44906-3374
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