Float About #52...
© Copyright Mon/May 29, 2006
a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to Eskesen floaty pen collectors
It is a turbulent and ever-changing world. Our global floaty community has been hit by an E-quake. If you are an active buyer/trader of floaty pens you may know what's going on. Since the last newsletter posted, I have heard the cries of many discouraged Eskesen collectors. Aftershocks and tremors continue to pervade our pen culture. Yes, it is disturbing news, but I am not here to stir the pot or fan the flames. I think of our tribe as a sensible lot, so let's not lose our heads!
Close examination of a floaty will reveal the artwork is composed of photographic images rendered on bits of film. It is the quality, depth and intensity of these photos that bring our pens to life. This photoramic® process has been the essence of Eskesen imagery for decades. Their expert execution of the photo process has sustained Eskesen's standard of excellence for sixty years. In floaty land, products created by Eskesen of Denmark, have always been superior.
So, why after all these years has Eskesen abandoned their registered photoramic® process and turned to digital? Perhaps it's for the same reason our 35mm cameras are collecting dust in the closet while our modern digitals follow us everywhere. Sometimes there are faster and less expensive ways to achieve our goals. It's called modern technology. While some embrace it, others are sure to protest. It's not like VanGogh traded in his brush for crayons. Digital processing is cutting edge technology and light years beyond where it was five years ago. It's gets better every day.
Ok, if it's so great... what is all the fuss about? Well, photos generated by the early digital cameras were course and pixilated. Some of the digital artwork coming from Eskesen looks akin to the Chinese and Italian pens that collectors view with deep disdain. It's true. So far, many of the images lack depth and the colors pale by comparison. Some collectors are calling it coloring book art, flat and lifeless. Remember, this process is new to Eskesen. With experimentation and practice, new methods often out-perform the original means.
Does the artwork really look so different? Not always, but sometimes it's shocking. The sample scans I have provided are raw. I didn't even run a color correction. To see the discrepancies set your browser to 100% view. Do you see the diagonal hash marks? Look at the patch of blue sky above Lady Liberty's crown in the digital image. And again on the 'S' in 'USA'. If you weren't looking for the pattern you might not notice it in the actual pen, but my scan made it pop. Bill examined the artwork under a microscope. He has a theory that a course half-tone screening, combined with less-than-perfect color registry, is responsible for the pattern. A distributor said the images are now printed on paper and it's the texture of the paper we see. Could be a combo of all the above. Maybe Eskesen will clarify.
My scans are as accurate as I can make them, but based on your monitor and computer settings, the scans may look extremely different on your screen. In the actual photoramic float pen, King Kong's body has a green hue. So if the gorilla appears to have a greenish tint in the scan on the right side, what you see is fairly accurate.
The corporate world balances precariously on the bottom line. Survival is key and small companies like Eskesen must adapt. Chinese and Italian producers seem quite content with their poor quality artwork. Over the years, they haven't made any attempt to improve their artistic style. Eskesen will strive for improvement. Many floaty devotees have voiced their concerns directly to E. The message has been received loud and clear. Distributors are taking steps to adjust their designs to fit the new medium. Jeff, the in-house designer at Topline Products, Inc., continues to discover ways to tweak his art to insure better results. Jeff is presenting his artwork in a high resolution format and enhancing the colors in his original art. He finds these minor adjustments go a long way to improve the final product.
This is what I suggest. Amazing results can be accomplished with digital technology. Fine imagery is within Eskesen's reach. Let's give the company a chance to figure this out. I have adopted a wait and see policy. I am not suggesting that you buy designs that you don't like. At the same time, don't snub a design just because it is digital. I would bet there have been a few photoramic designs along the way that you weren't crazy about? Well then, let's judge each pen on an individual basis, not on the production process.
I know what you are thinking. Photoramics are now endangered species. Yes, they are. Should you panic? No. At this time, there is still inventory stashed in warehouses throughout the USA and beyond. They are not going to disappear overnight. I would guesstimate by 2008 they will fade from the retail market. Realize as old favorites sell out, they will be replaced by digital versions. Several standard designs, like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building have already changed over. I expect this news to spark a flurry of activity. Many photoramics will be changing hands over the next few months, at least until things settle down.
In 2006 Eskesen celebrates it's 60th anniversary. It also marks the year that E changed forever. In a factory, major change overs like this are expensive. Eskesen is committed to the new digital four-color imprint process. You can boycott E pens, sign a petition, fire off a letter, send as many emails as you like. The truth is, like it or not, Eskesen will not go back to film. It's a monumental moment in floaty pen history.
As for the floaty future, only time will tell. Some goodwill and encouragement would go along way about right now. For the record, when E changed the plastic they use for the barrels... they didn't look so good. Today they are fine. Personally, I share your concerns, but I sincerely hope Eskesen can pull this off. The alternative is just too depressing.
Follow-up to Issue #51...
In between issues of the newsletter... I have been refreshing the duplicates list on my website. I am also trying to keep pen auctions going on eBay at all times. It's a challenge, but it has it's reward. The auctions have been successful and the timing couldn't be better. Thank you all. Once our craft show season begins I know pen biz will fall by the wayside. My attentions will have to turn to production. In the meanwhile, you can always check eBay to see if I have pens posted.
The kidney shaped displays... are back in stock. The temperature in the workshop finally reached a comfortable level. Bill stepped aside and allowed me to monopolize the mill for several days. At the end of the work week I had thirty three displays drilled. That should be more than enough to get us through 2006.
Durenda Wood found an... Olympic Paris-1900 pen in the bottom of a box that she purchased at auction 21 years ago. That is puzzling because the history of the pen indicates it wasn't produced until the 1996 Olympics, just ten years ago. After contacting my distributors and pleading with my fellow collectors for information... I give up! Outside of Durenda's pen, I can not find any tangible evidence that this pen was made before the 1996 Olympics. Sorry Durenda, your pen goes in the unsolved mystery file.
Pens Out and About...
Ohio has been referred to as the... Mother of Presidents. That's because eight Ohioans became Presidents of the United States. Ohio is rich in all facets of history, especially politics. Just east of us, in Canton, is the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. McKinley served as the Governor of Ohio for two terms. He went on to become a Congressmen and finally a well-loved President. Tragically, President McKinley was assassinated. To commemorate his legacy, The McKinley National Memorial was completed in 1907. Today it is a major tourist attraction in our region.
For the amusement and education of it's visitors, the Library & Museum offers changing exhibits, lectures, programs for adults and children. The facility houses a science center, planetarium, life-size indoor village street of shops, galleries and the float hunter's favorite spot.... the Museum Shoppe. It is there you will find this fantastic photoramic floaty.
You may purchase the pen directly from the Museum via mailorder. (Sorry, pens sold out years ago. Link removed May 2015). Address: Wm McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708. A limited number of McKinley pens WERE also available on my New Arrivals list for $4 each (standard shipping charges apply).
If you can make your way to the Wm McKinley Museum, you will surely enjoy your visit. The Smithsonian traveling exhibit, that features White House photographs, opened on May 19th. Hours are Mon-Sat 9am-5pm and Sunday from Noon-5pm. Admission is $7 for adults (discounted for seniors and children). Use exit #106 off of I-77. If the site is simply too distant, you can take a virtual tour. Wm McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.
I received a sample of... Ray Wilk's latest floaty design. This third endeavor celebrates the sport of tree climbing and it is a digital design. You may purchase any or all three of his designs directly from Ray. He sells his pens for $6 each. First class shipping to any US address is included in the price. Orders to international addresses are just $7 per pen. Place your orders here... (Note: Website and pens long gone.)
An NYC collector reports... “the Darwin Exhibit at the New York Museum of Natural History has a floatie! It has the Beagle (his ship) floating from side to side.” The scan is small, but representative. The news came to me late. Sorry I don't have any more details. I am unsure if this is a photoramic or digital design.
Kim Dougherty, in California... had a tale about a pen from the Whaling Museum in Nantucket. She describes the artwork. “The scene is of Nantucket Harbor with a whale going into the museum. A giant whale skeleton is a major attraction at the museum.” (Links removed; Pen sold out long ago.) Kim was charged $4 for her pen, plus $2 shipping. Thanks Kim!
Craig Wilson tells me... “ The movie How to Deal was just on the WB. I snagged a little clip of the 4-second appearance. It comes almost an hour and a half into the film.” Craig attempted to capture a still shot, but it was dark. In the scene, a young man presents his girlfriend with a handful of floaty pens. No explanation is given, but Craig thinks the pens are offered as an apology. The movie was released in 2003. The DVD is likely on the rental shelf at your local video store. Thanks for the report Craig. I have yet to see the film.
Connecticut collector, Andy Balbus reports... a sighting in Ellen, a sit-com series starring Ellen DeGeneres. “ In the episode All Ellen, All the Time, Season 5, Episode 10 (original airdate December 3, 1997), Ellen takes a job on a radio talk show. On her first day, radio host Chuck (played by Kevin McDonald) attempts to impress Ellen by giving her a tip n’strip pen, allegedly of him. Ellen plays with the pen when she receives it from Chuck and again for a few minutes when she is on the air. Ellen is rebroadcast endlessly on the Oxygen Network.”. This episode may have been mentioned in FA before. I wasn't sure. No harm in mentioning it again. It is a funny episode. Thank you Andy B.
Janet Novak provided this tid-bit.... after reading the Sunday paper. “This is a major floaty sighting, but not in a 3-D format. The Sunday New York Times has a huge illustration of a floaty on the cover of the Real Estate section. The theme is people walking by tall buildings. The caption reads... looking for a place to live in NYC?. Very cool! ” I would have missed this one for sure. I rely on the online version of the Times. Thanks for sending notice Janet. Looks like I will be making a trip to the bookstore on Monday.
Heads up... this media sighting is still in-the-making. Miranda Wittebol has contacted the Guiness World Book of Records. She hopes to achieve recognition for the world's largest collection of Eskesen floaty pens. Miranda lives in Holland. She has been cultivating her collection since she was 12 years old. Earlier this year, Miranda cataloged pen number 10,000. Quite an accomplishment. Best wishes in your reach for the world title Miranda. Is there anything we can do to help?
Norwegian collector.... Rune Staxrud, has a new floaty site with an extensive trade list too. You will find a link to Rune's website and many others on Float About's websites page.
Finn Sørensen, of Denmark... is proud to announce that he has acquired the entire collection of Diddl pens. Diddl is a German animated character fashioned after a spring mouse or jumping mouse. Beginning in 1990, Diddl and supporting cast members were represented in a series of four floaty pens. During the 90's six more groups of four were released.
That would be 28 designs, but one was repeated. A total of 27 different designs were created. When the German health authorities determined the oil in the pens might be dangerous to children if swallowed, the production of Diddl floaty pens came to an end.
Note the unusual bottom barrel. This style was created exclusively for Diddl pens. Finn provided most of the history above. You can read more about Diddl and see pictures of Finn's collection on his website. Finn's site and many other related links are listed alphabetically on my websites page.
Marjorie Fox adds a literary slant.... to floaty pen collecting. Many of us gather pens from places we have visited or limit our collection to pens that fall into specific categories. Marjorie has a fancy for pens that reflect the theme or locations depicted in books that she has read. She recently purchased the Canterbury pen with the obvious Canterbury Tales connection. Then there is the Hounds of Baskerville and the Scottish Isle of Skye pen. Can you think of others?
Are you aware of any pens... with a ferret theme? Any and all leads appreciated.
I wish I could end Collectors News on a happier note... but we have lost a precious member of our floaty community. It was April of 1998 when Sarah James introduced herself to me via email. She was a traveler and had a real appreciation for floaty pens. Like the rest of us, she felt they were the best souvenir ever! We were thrilled to find one other.
I never had the privilege of meeting Sarah face-to-face, but we communicated on a regular basis. She shared many of her happiest moments with me through photos and email. Sarah and David had custom floaty pens made for their wedding. Sarah had many passions, but it was obvious she adored her husband and son. Her husband, David, has posted Sarah's obituary. (Note: Obituary no longer posted.) Sarah Garrett was an extraordinary young woman and she will be missed by everyone that ever had the fortune to know her. Our deepest sympathy to Sarah's family and friends.
Pens Past, Present and Future...
I must admit, I was cautious... about investing in the new digital designs. For this issue I added every new pen I could get my hands on. Even so, the yield was paltry. Hopefully things will get better as tourist season progresses. I intend to buy digital designs, but only after I see an actual sample. To compensate or the lack of new designs... I will continue to dig through my pen drawers and boxes. Hundreds of duplicate pens await scanning.
Pens in the Duplicates Category are priced based on availability, demand, condition and my initial investment. I also have to take into consideration the time I spend scanning a single pen. Any one that has attempted to scan floaty pens knows it is a tedious task. Within the Duplicates category you will find some of the pens are marked ‘from the Silver Package’. I do not know the history behind these pens. Many of the designs are current, but that doesn't mean they are common. These are pens you will not find on-the-shelf.
Assume that pens on my list are Eskesen and photoramic unless otherwise marked. Digital designs on the list will be identified as such. Items on your invoice that are digital will be designated with a '(d)' after the pen's description.
The Main List is composed of all pen categories outside of New Arrivals and Duplicates. Be sure to browse the entire Main List. I have reinstated a number of old designs that were collecting dust in the pen room. They are all photoramics!
The reorganization of the list... continues. For now, the Singles category has been eliminated. Other small categories have been combined. Art & Celebrity, Politics & Religion joined in earlier issues. This time around I shoved flight/space pens into the Transportation Category. I think you will like the changes. There are fewer hoops to jump through when you browse the list.
On the Homefront...
Bill and I are headed West... again on June 11th. Our flight leaves so early in the morning we will have to shut down on the 10th. The March Probate hearing, to settle my brother's estate, did not go well. June 13th is my next shot. We will be spending that entire week in Hemet, CA and the surrounding area. We will both be back in our offices on Tuesday/June 20th. Orders that arrive during our absence will be handled on a first come - first served basis upon our return.
Issue #53 is scheduled to post... on
July 30. That seems unlikely. Bill and I have scheduled four art fairs for 2006. July - Labor Day we will both be pushing our production schedules to the max. If I am able to post #53 mid-July, I will. If I do, you can bet it will be brief. Time sensitive news will post in Float Along. Be sure to check there once a week or so to keep up-to-date.
Summer is upon us. Happy hunting!
FLOAT ABOUT... Diana Andra, 1676 Millsboro Road, Mansfield, OH 44906-3374
phone 419/529-8876 (11 am - midnight EST)
Copyright © May 2006 Diana Andra/Float About.com