FLOAT ABOUT... © November 1996 Issue #6

Holey Sheet!... Halloween is over already! What happened to September? Bill and I have been subjected to a wicked craft season, but amazingly enough, we are still standing. Details remain sketchy, but we are planning a trip to the West Coast in May. We will hit San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. I want to make arrangements to meet with as many float pen collectors as possible. If we are lucky, you will be one of them. Details will follow in future issues.

To avoid aggravation and undo frustration, you need to know we will be out of town from November 8-14th, weather permitting. We are going to take a mini vacation full of fun with a few chips of wood business mixed in. You can reserve pens via answering machine, fax, email or snail mail. I will arrange the requests in order of receipt and fill them accordingly.

We recently traveled the PA turnpike on our way to the Gaithersburg Craft Fair. Bill was kind enough to stop at every travel plaza. Just another reason why I love him! I am pleased to announce that every pen we found was made in Denmark.

The Book... Many have inquired about the progress of the coffee table book that will be devoted to float pens. It is in the works. It is being compiled by a manager at the factory in Denmark. I promise it will not be on the shelves by Christmas. Like any important publication, there will be problems to over come along the way. Yes, we are all anxious to see it, but we must be patient. We also want it to be perfect. The minute I receive any news I will be elated to share it with you.

What Exactly is a Float Pen?... In my opinion, if the item is a pen (or pencil) with something floating or moving inside, it is a float pen. Right? Do you think the famous Tip 'n' Strips qualify? I do, on both counts. While the action in the Tip n Strips style differs considerably from the photoramics, there is definitely movement. What do you think?

Eskesen's photoramic float pen is perhaps the most famous float pen, but there are many other types available. Even Eskesen has made pens with rocks and other objects captured in the barrel. The Pocahontas set is the first that springs to mind. You have no doubt found advertising pens/pencils with a truck, car or boat afloat? These are typically available at antique shows/shops and flea markets. The window is generally shorter and appears in different positions on the writing instrument. My database structure includes a field to indicate the pen manufacturer. This allows me to include or exclude any manufacturer from a count or list procedure at any time.

Personally, I seek primarily old and new pens made by Eskesen. I find myself increasingly attracted to their clicker style pens that utilize the conceal/reveal action. I was so surprised to find so many clever clicker style pens beyond the Tip n Strip classics.

Recently a friend gave me the wildest float pen. A large black plastic pen with a clear upper barrel. Six floating yellow happy face beads stacked atop one another are showered in glitter. A tribute to the 60's and an attempt to capitalize on the recent retro movement. Must admit, it's very cute!

Good News!... My Rocky and Bullwinkle pen arrived. Rocky moves across a stage where Bullwinkle stands to the right. Despite the small images, I will always treasure this pen. Disney is supposedly making a pen for Disney World's 25th Anniversary. Nancy Thomas will keep us posted.

We are fortunate to have two wonderful postal clerks at our local branch, Oscar and Rowland. They are the sweetest part of my daily routine. Oscar translated a letter from a French collector for me. Andre' Perrin has over 2,200 or so float pens in his collection. His first pen was from Hong Kong and it remains one of his all time favorites. I'm not sure, but I think we are working on a trade.

Psychology of the Float Collector ... Kim Newell offers an opinion about why we float... 'the idea that collectors are drawn to the relaxing motion of an item in the floaty pen is correct -- however, I believe that the feeling is part of a bigger philosophy that we share in appreciating and enjoying the simple -- and the slightly kitchy and different -- things in our over programmed and largely generic society.' Don't miss Kim's poem printed on the last page.

In the last issue, Micale Maddox wondered how many float collectors fall under the water signs of the Zodiac. Well the results are in. 33 people responded. Water signs are CAPPED.

And what does this mean? I'm not really sure, but it looks like the water signs have it!

The Wedding Tale... In September Nancy Nerenberg and I conducted a serious trade. When the pens arrived I visually scanned the artwork and captions. There was one pen that really got my attention. Two people floating together in front of a vibrant sunset. I read the caption 'Nancy and Joan August 1996'. My initial thought was 'WOW! My first wedding pen and it commemorates a gay union! How contemporary! How unique! How cool!' Later when I cataloged the pen, I read the caption a little more carefully. 'Nancy and JON August 1996'. Now my thoughts turn to poor Joan, all alone.

Those Troublesome Bubbles!... The factory assures me that when the pens leave their nest they are bubble free. Exposure to extreme temperatures, especially cold, will cause bubbles to form. It is advised to store your pens in moderate temperatures to avoid this problem.

Because mineral oil has the ability to expand and contract... bubbles may appear and disappear! Warming the pen in your hand will often cause a small bubble to dissipate. I recently received a bundle of pens from Klaus in trade. Every pen had a tiny bubble inside, exactly the same size. The bubbles have since vanished. Ron reported a pen with warped film. Has anyone else had the same experience? News to me.

Barrel Switching... is becoming common practice, but is it always a good idea? Most pens are created and offered in an array of barrel colors. The most common US colors being red, black,royal blue, light blue, green, pink and white. In the US we seldom see yellow, orange or gray.These colors are more prevalent in the European market.

Why would you switch barrels? Perhaps to code your collection. More commonly, people change barrels to better compliment the artwork within the pen. Ron Lanyi refers to this practice as framing.

If the pen was released in a variety of colors, I see no harm in exchanging barrels. However, if the pen was created and framed by the designer in one color exclusively, I would hesitate. To my knowledge, Felix the Cat in a hot air balloon, was framed in yellow only. If I change the barrel color, I have altered the original design. From a collectors stand point, I have also tampered with the authenticity of the product. As a precaution, I suggest a note in your database that indicates the original color. On the other hand, how anal do we want to be about this?

Cross Trading... is suggested by Nancy Thomas. Buy or trade for pens you may already have in your collection to satisfy another collector you are trading with. Build trade power!

The Importance of Captions... for identification purposes. Like you, I have many trade lists from fellow collectors. As my collection has grown to 1,300+ I have come to appreciate and rely on the caption panel on the backside of the pen. It helps me determine if the pen offered for trade is already in my collection.

While several pens might share this generic description... 'Male lion approaches mate in jungle'... the caption will help distinguish one from another. It might simply read 'LIONS!' or 'LIONS' followed by 'San Diego Zoo', or even include artwork.

Try to document the captions exactly as they appear on the pen. Pay close attention to the arrangement of information, use of upper and lower case type, punctuation and include notes about any artwork or illustrations that appear. I use quotes to indicate a line break. Example of a picture followed by three lines of caption:

Lion + 'LIONS!' 'Lord of the Jungle' 'San Diego Zoo, CA'

Shipping Advice... I can tell you from experience that pens dropped into a standard letter envelope are in danger of never reaching their intended destination. These packages will not go through the postal machines and pens are often lost or destroyed in transit.

So how do you safely ship your pens without great expense or inconvenience? Until recently, I would have replied with confidence 'just drop them in a padded envelope'. But that was before I received a small padded envelope, seemingly free of damage, from Nancy Thomas. Imagine my dismay when I opened the envelope to find all three pens bent in half! The bottom barrels were destroyed, but luckily, only one of the float components leaked.

Rowland, at my Post Office, speculated the edge of the envelope had been caught in the conveyor belt and incoming packages piled up behind it until the envelope and pens surrendered to the pressure. Since the package was uninsured, the Post Master was under no obligation to cover the damages. They apologized and politely reimbursed the postage.

This was not Nancy's fault. The Post Master admitted there wasn't any excuse for the damage this package sustained. I continue to use the padded envelopes, but I now make it a point to include something stiff inside for added support. Pens are now secured between two pieces of matboard and then rubber banded.

NHL Pens... have surfaced at antique shows/flea markets. Jeffrey Glatt tells me the prices range from $8-$20 each. Sports fans, keep your eyes open. I haven't seen them in the Ohio area, but I know they are out there somewhere.

Media Mention... Kristen Langness reminded me of a Murphy Brown episode now in rerun. Frank is leaving on assignment without Murphy. He promises to bring her one of those 'souvenir pens with the ???? that floats inside.' Neither of us could remember the exact quote. Let me know if you see or hear anything about float pens in the communications media.

Display... Shirley Glaettli buys plastic grid holders, called FLAX, from an art supply store. She claims they are wonderful for displaying float pens. Check it out.

Future Issues... With any luck the next issue of Float About will be ready by Christmas. In the meantime, I wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season. I hope you all find the float pen of your dreams under the Christmas tree.

All wet, but still floating,

PS... continue on to next page to enjoy Kim Newell's floaty poem.

Ode to F.P.
by Kim Newell (copyrighted 1996)

Gliding slowly,
In crystal clear confinement.

Lubricous motion.

Clearly labeled destinations
Frozen in stagnant frame.

Practical tackiness
Signifying a relevant whole,
Ready to glide
Across the page.

Take me to Issue #7 of Float About please
Time to go shopping... Pens for Sale
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