FLOAT ABOUT... © Copyright April 5th, 1999 Issue #19
Hello to Float Pen Collectors Everywhere... Ok, it's time to knuckle down and get Float About out to the masses. I've propped my office door open. Oh ... did I mention it's spring? No... I don't dare get off the subject. I've got a tall glass of club soda to quench my thirst. Now all I need is some keyboard-banging music. My favorite NRBQ cd will do just fine. And with that we're off......
Each year I meet with some of my closest gal pals for a Valentine's Day brunch in the downtown Carousel District. After our 1999 celebration, four of us ventured across the street to the Antiques Mall. Marilee and daughter Mandy found a display of float pens in the back corner of the basement. How did I miss them?
The pens were from our local Reformatory, which is no longer in operation. 'Noted architect Levi T. Scofield designed the Ohio State Reformatory to resemble medieval chateaux and castles. Spiritual and uplifting architecture was intended to provide a transcendent religious experience reforming the behavior of young male prisoners.'
This excerpt was taken directly from the brochure published by our local Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society. Society member and volunteer, Cass Kronenberger, informs me a float pen collector inspired the Society to have a custom pen produced. I asked if that collector might be Nancy Given and she said 'Yes.. I believe it was.' Way to go Nancy G!
Four motion pictures used this facility for filming: Harry and Walter Go to New York, Tango and Cash, Shawshank Redemption, and more recently, Air Force One. Infamous rocker, Marilyn Manson, also filmed a music video there. If you are unable to make the trip to Mansfield for the tour, but you want to see the building in all it's glory... the Shawshank Redemption story unfolds within the prison. If you haven't seen it... rent the video. It's highly recommended.
Their pen features a guard chasing a convict across the lawn of the prison. Cass is already thinking about possible new pen designs for the future. A brochure accompanies each pen purchase. The Ohio State Reformatory pen is on my list under Advertise, because the pen is used to promote tourism at the prison.
The Wyoming Territorial Prison .... set in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, was a place 'For evil doers of all classes and kinds', including bad boy Butch Cassidy. The beautifully restored building provides an authentic look at the history of law and justice in the West. Knowledgeable tour guides, in period costume, enthusiastically share the prison's colorful past.
The prison is situated in Laramie's Old West Park, just 125 miles northwest of Denver. The restored Frontier Town also features the National U.S. Marshals Museum and the Horse Barn Dinner Theatre. Special events are scheduled throughout the tourist season.
The best news is they have their very own float pens. The first pen has a convict floating over a nice backdrop of the prison. Two more convicts relax under a tree. Their second pen portrays a typical Frontier Town of the era in terrific detail. Both pens carry the Wyoming Territorial Park caption panel.
Before you pack the kids into the station wagon and head out for Wyoming... call first! 800/845-2287
The opposite of prison... would have to be sanctuary. The folks at Wolf Haven International, in Tenino, Washington, are dedicated to the protection of wild wolves and their habitats. Their publication Wolf Tracks and many interactive programs serve to educate the public about their organization and goals.
Three wolf pups float between parents. Find the pen under the Advertise column. Become a member. Take a guided tour. Adopt a wolf. Attend a Howl-in'and you can howl with the wolves, listen to educational lectures, music and storytelling.
Their gift shop is full of wolf wares and clothing. I am pleased to offer their float pen. For more information about Wolf Haven call 360/264-HOWL (4695) or 800/GIV-WOLF (448-9653).
The Universal Studio Store... is nestled in the heart of Hollywood at Citywalk. It an open-aired excursion that tickles your entertainment funny bone with a fantastic mix of restaurants, specialty shops, and America's biggest revenue generating cineplex. In a nutshell 'USS' has all of what Hollywood has to offer (without the drama and egos). If you are like me and can't frequent the store... that's ok! I have arranged to carry all seven of their new float pens.
When I first opened the boxes I released a sigh of disappointment. Every pen is in the twist 'n' click style. However, my disappointment was soon washed away by the delightful artwork. Under the Cartoon category you will find three playful Curious George designs.
There are two bright and colorful Woody Woodpecker pens: Mad Chemist and Dive!. Yet another pen hails from the animated children's film, Land Before Time. All of them are sure to please fans of all ages. These pens were purchased through a retail store so do not get sticker shock when you see the $4.50 price tag. They sell for $3.95 at the site.
Perhaps the most exciting pen is the seventh. A red silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock floats over a backdrop collage of black and white clips of Mr H. The quote in the caption panel reads: 'Drama is life with the dull bits left out.' A must for any film buff or Hitchcock groupie. Find it under Celebrity. I am proud to offer you the entire collection.... while they last!
IN THE MEDIA... London collector, Amy Cook, was invited to appear on Britain's Collector's Lot. The program is similar to the canceled Personal FX show that aired in America. Amy, anxious to share her float pen knowledge, was pleased to accept their invitation. On February 23rd Amy, Rick (hubby) and their three children... Daniel, Lauren and Patrick, made their way to Norfolk, England. Amy describes it as a 'quiet, extremely rural, agricultural region'. The production company was kind enough to put the entire family up for the night in a hotel.
The interview took place on the 24th in a quaint English home that had been converted from a schoolhouse. Now it is filled with antiques and collectibles. With make-up, camera close-ups and waiting, the segment took about three hours to film. Amy found the interviewer to be 'all business' and seemingly disinterested in float pens. Amy briefly touched on the subjects of history, the superiority of Eskesen products over the new copy-cat versions, and the largest known collections.
Her collection of 600+ pens covered an entire table. They were arranged in a fan-like pattern. The staff that prepared the set and handled the pens seemed to have a better understanding and appreciation for her collection. These were some of the pens Amy chose to highlight: Abe Lincoln, Tijuana/Mexico, Winnie the Pooh, Chicago/Windy City, Bill Clinton/Running the USA, the Millennium twist 'n' click, and of course ... a classic tip 'n' strip.
The four-minute segment is scheduled to air in May or June. Amy has been promised a video tape. If you would like to congratulate Amy, or perhaps you would like more details? Let me know.
Ginny Hamme.... forwarded photocopies of theMonet pages taken from a recent Museum of Fine Art, Boston catalog. The MFA Kids section has a brief and entertaining introduction to Claude Monet and his paintings. The intro is followed by items that reflect Monet's work that are offered for sale in the museum's gift shop. The Philippe in Monet's Garden float pen is available. In addition, Philippe has his own children's story book, a plush toy, and a mini kaleidoscope.
It isn't unusual to find float pens in museums of all kinds. Don't overlook them in your travels. I still have a handful of Philippe pens in stock if you missed it the last time around (under Mass/Boston).
Collectors Beverly Broadstone and Linda Sienkiewicz... have more than a pen collection in common. They each have two teen boys that are television fans. On February 3rd Beverly sent this media alert: 'That new clay animated show called The PJ's with Eddie Murphy's voice-over, showed one of the tenant's arriving at a tenant meeting with a tip 'n' strip. I guess that should be considered ground-breaking... think of how the clay animators had to shape/mold the clay into a tilt pen!'
Just a few weeks later Linda offered a similar report about a claymation show on MTV called Celebrity Death Match. Linda thinks the show is pretty 'mindless' and fails to see the attraction, but she also know her boys won't be teens forever.' The program pits two famous figures, recreated in clay, against each other in a competition similar to a wrestling match. This one matched Genghis Khan and Ghandi. Before the match, two announcers were chatting and one pulls out a pen. It's a tip 'n' strip and they get off on a conversation about the pen.'
So a float pen made it into the world of claymation, not once... but twice. And both times they chose a tip n strip. Hey Linda... maybe that explains part of the attraction? Thank you both for sharing the news.
Jane Fischer told me ... the Spring '99 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Home Ideas magazine included float pen photos. Sure enough. The article is entitled Putting Pen to Paper. It claims keeping a journal 'allows you to document your life while working wonders on your psyche'.
The first float pen photo appears on page 2, below the contents. The same photo is repeated on page 103, where the article begins. The pen is standing in a silver pencil cup among an odd assortment of writing instruments. Another float pen rests on an open journal on page 106. Both pens are products of Floaty. The first pen pictured is I'll Shout it from the Rooftops, the second is Floaty's graduation pen, which reads very well done!.
This instructive and informative article was written by Alyssa Ettinger. Pick up a copy at your newsstand or library. It's a nice read and it's always fun to see float pens in print. Thanks for the pointer Jane.
Ann Rawlins reminds me... about a Cosby show, now in re-run, that featured a float pen. In this episode, Denise (Cosby's daughter in the series) has just married. Her new Navy husband brings his daughter, Olivia, into the family. An excited Olivia jumps up on Dr. Huxtible's (Bill Cosby) lap to show him the pen that has her daddy's ship floating inside. A float pen of course. Thanks for reporting the sighting Ann. It's an oldie, but a goody.
COLLECTORS NEWS ... I'm going to step aside and let Debbie Barnes say a few words. “I have a great little story to tell you. As you might recall, I work for a seismological research group. We recently sponsored a meeting for one of our international committees to which several foreign visitors attended. Two of the visitors were members of the global nuclear monitoring group of the U.N.”
“Well, as it so happens, I have a friend who is working for this group in Vienna and when he heard that two of his colleagues were coming to the US for this meeting, he sent along his greetings. As it turns out, they had both recently accompanied my friend on field expeditions to Malaysia and Bolivia and they both had tales to tell me about my friends insistence that the field parties look for floaties for me!”
“Imagine my chagrin when the UN head of nuclear monitoring comes to tell me, in his very heavy European accent and swaggering importance, that he was dismayed at not having found a floaty pen for me on his recent diplomatic mission!!!! This same diplomat was recently in Paris and came back to Vienna with floaty in hand.”
“My little hobby has now become part of the agenda of the most powerful organization in the world! I feel so important!! I thought you'd get a kick out of that one. Cheers, Debbie”
And people dare to suggest that float pen collecting is simply a trivial distraction.
Damon Zilly of California... tells me he has detected a sweet odor emanating from some of the clear barrels on his Eskesen pens. He even claims some smell stronger than others. I had a cold at the time, but even a week later I couldn't pick up any odor... sweet or otherwise. Can you?
We also had a conversation about Damon's magic air vent. His apartment has forced heat via a near-the-ceiling air duct. By placing pens with bubbles near the vent he has always been able to chase the bubbles away. Pens stored near this vent remain bubble-free. But uh oh... Damon is in the process of moving into a another apartment. Will the bubbles return? I'm hoping the magic will follow Damon to his new address.
With Miranda Wittebol's direction and assistance... I was able to procure several foreign pen designs for resale. There are only 10-20 of each pen is available, so if you are interested... don't hesitate. They won't last long. Some of them I will be able to restock, others will be gone forever. On the hardcopy pen list, foreign pens always appear just after 'Trains' and before 'Glitter' pens. Foreign pens appear at the top of Weblist Part II in the online version.
Jennifer M. ... called to introduce herself early in the new year. She shares her passion for float pen collecting with her sisters. They frequently go a hunting together. They have entertained the idea of taking a float pen tour of all the pen manufacturing plants in the world. Their trek would include China, Italy and of course... the Eskesen factory in Denmark. What a journey that would be.
Jennifer is intrigued by the idea of a Pen of the Month Club. Members would pay a flat fee per year. Each month they would be guaranteed receipt of two unusual pens. Details are sketchy. She's interested in your thoughts before she proceeds. (Jennifer's address and email removed by request 01/04/06).
Wedding pens qualify as unusual... and they share a personal touch. These pens often include the names of the couple, the wedding date, and sometimes even more detail. It stands to reason that wedding pens are issued in small quantities, making them very desirable in a collection. The absolute minimum for a custom order is 550 pens. Feel honored if someone has shared their wedding pen with you. These pens are very special.
FISH BONE... more than just a curiosity. Has yet another competitor entered the floating action market? Nancy Nerenberg forwarded this very odd Fish Bone float pen my way. It does not resemble pens from any of our familiar Italian or Chinese producers. However... in many ways it does look like a copy of Eskesen's twist n click.
I tracked down a rock band called Fish Bone. To the best of my knowledge the pen is unrelated to the band. There is a fish skeleton stamped on the pocket clip, so it's possible Fish Bone is the company that manufactured the pen?! It is equally possible the pen was manufactured for a business by that name.
On April 2nd yet another foreign pen, this time from Hong Kong, arrived.... compliments of Andy Balbus. This one features a very futuristic clip. But note all of the similarities between these two pens.
They both have the same twist mechanism. The clear window is without a tip on top. The length and diameter of the pens are the same. The bottom barrel is made of plastic. The tip at the very bottom is metal. The belly band is extremely narrow. The pocket clips are simply clamped over the windows, rather than permanently affixed. The artwork remains inferior to the standards we are accustomed.
Now let's explore the differences (these may not be clear in the scan or photo copy). I will do my best to describe them for you. The Fishbone pen has glossy metal parts and an almost translucent bottom barrel. The metals on the Hong Kong have a matte finish and the barrel is truly opaque white. Get a load of that Hong Kong clip! It's certainly has a Millennium flare. The Hong Kong pen is void of a manufacturer's mark. By examining the two pens side by side, I am guessing they are both of Chinese origin and likely from the same factory. What do you think?
Josie Brugada confesses .... she has been a collector since childhood. Even at age 7 her daydreams included a house with 100 rooms, one for each of her collections. She's unsure if surrounding herself with collectibles is her version of a security blanket or maybe a means to satisfy her inner need to organize things into like-groups. She once worked in a truck repair shop and was charged with the task of organizing the parts department. Josie found this challenge to be 'Heaven'!
Josie asked me to tell you about a product called DeSolv-it. It's a non-toxic, bio-degradable substance that removes adhesive residue. It is available at discount stores and also where janitorial supplies are sold.
I must admit, in addition to the hunt for collectibles, there is also the joy of organizing and displaying my treasures. I bet many of you feel the same way? Afterall, if your pens are just tucked away in boxes... what is the point?
Plastic egg crate gridwork... is sold in panels and used to diffuse overhead lighting. It comes in a couple of colors and configurations. I purchased a white panel for about $7 at a home remodeling store. For those without power tools, this material cuts nicely with a fine-tooth hacksaw blade (no handle). Just wrap duct tape around one end of the blade so you can safely handle it.
This display measures 16 inches deep and 24 long. Even if I use every other hole in the grid I can display 300+ pens. It's great for new collectors that have just a handful of pens per category. Related props help separate groupings. The uprights are white plastic pieces from the plumbing department. Black plastic knobs serve as feet and decorative tops. The display is drawn together with all thread hidden inside the corner tubes.
La Nea Conner was able to retrieve ... an unwanted card display. Unlike the one I featured in issue #18, La Nea's display is the same shape and basic size, but composed of wire. The rack consists of 84 wire framed baskets. Her husband, Rusty, cut white cardboard into perfectly sized pieces. She clips her pens onto the cardboard, 10 pens per card. Each basket will hold 2 cards. This calculates to 1,680 pens when loaded to capacity. The pens are easily accessible and very visible.
While arranging her pens by category, La Nea noticed an Environmental category was needed. It would provide a home for Save the Oceans, Recycle, Save the Planet and the like. She's right.... and I've added the heading to my list too.
Didier Desniou's cabinet ... was far from ready-made. Two upright panels have been slotted from front to back. A tray slides into each slot. Each tray is divided into compartments that house the maximum number of pens. Didier's case provides massive storage while protecting the pens from sun exposure.
Golden bowl neatly organizes ... a collection of cruise line pens. It's difficult to tell from the photo, but there is a golden cruise ship mounted on a small marble slab in the back. I borrowed the prop from a trophy. The bowl is full of polished aquarium gravel for stability. A disc of egg crate gridwork helps organize the pens, but it is not at all necessary. I left the crate visible for the photo, but I may cover it with gravel after the pens are permanently arranged. The backdrop photo is from the cover of Hawaii Cruises Lines brochure.
NEW PENS... The online list carries a picture of every new design that I have to offer. I included as many photos in the hardcopy as I could. In addition, Bill scanned at least 30 older designs. The ultimate goal is to have a photo for every pen. We're working on it. These are pens new to the list that I have yet to mention:
Advertise... A.I.M.D. Naval Air Station, Blossom Hill School, and Purrsnickety.
Animals... The new African Elephant pen and Forest Friends are both nice designs. Their caption panels are so pretty Bill included them in the jpg.
Casino... Nevada/Las Vegas/Dice has a large pair of red dice floating over a backdrop of Las Vegas at night. Glitter pours over a backdrop of playing cards in the second new Las Vegas pen.
Glitter additions... An Alaska pen features a seaplane followed by 'Ketchikan' in a bright yellow and red font. The new Georgia/Atlanta glitter includes a peach. The very green Washington state pen is dressed up with Evergreens. The latest New Jersey glitter has a blue font with blossoms growing on the bottoms of the letters. A purple/blue skyline appears in the font of Seattle's newest glitter pen.
Politics... it had to happen. Monica L crawls across the floor of President Clinton's office in a Floaty pen appropriately titled 'Earning your presidential kneepads'.
Foreign Location .... pens from the Netherlands: Ameland/Ferry, Friesland/Sailboat, Texel/Ferry, Volendam/Women, Holland/Wooden Shoe, Terschelling/Ferry, Vlieland/Ferry, Zeeland/Ferry, Zeeland/Seagull, and Zeeland/Sailboats. A bundle of foreign beauties!
TRADING ETIQUETTE... When you approach a trader for the first time be sure to introduce yourself and include a list of pens that you have to offer in trade. Lisa Carl asks if 'the condition of the pen should be disclosed?'. Yes! When you prepare your trade lists be sure to mention if the pen has a bubble, or missing parts, or the item is in less than mint condition. It is important to remember that not all traders are experienced. Take nothing for granted.
It will also save time and energy if you state up-front the criteria that are important to you. My list might look like this:
ABOUT EBAY ... Some of you have noticed that the pens I offer on Ebay frequently sell for more than what I normally charge. I assure you when a first-time buyer bids too much for a pen they are offered a credit for the difference. The credit is good towards any item on my list.
I PULLED the PLUG... on our vacation plans. I made the mistake of taking a good look at the calendar. Our vacation window was very short. The realization of all that must be accomplished before we could possibly leave, took my breath away. There isn't anyone on this planet that could be as disappointed as I am. Several collectors and friends have recently had to cancel their travel plans. Now, sadly it is my turn.
I am determined to make good use of the time saved by staying close to home. Tatting shuttles, bracelets, and needlecases must be made. Bill and I have a re-organization project on the drawing board. At 5am, when I made the decision final, I was actually relieved. So, I refuse to be depressed about it. I can always find wonderful and exciting things to do in my own backyard. And with that said, I can...
SMILE... because it is spring! Float pens are making their way into tourist traps all over the world. I wish you all a successful hunting season. It will be early in June before the next issue of FA is released. Until we meet again... maybe you should pack your travelin' bags?! Somebody should be out there Floating About.
Continue on to Issue #20
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