The Floaty Pen Page

Life's more fun if you tilt things now and then.

Welcome to the Floaty Pen page, a site dedicated to those affordable yet functional souvenirs most of us have seen but never knew what to call, the "Floating Action Pen." While I'm working on getting some more images scanned, I offer a brief description of the basic Floaty Pen.

Also called "Tilt Pens" or "Photoramic" ® pens, floaty pens are plastic, retractable ball-point pens that usually illustrate a tourist attraction, advertising theme, or other interesting subject. (You might recall the older pens from the 1940's that offered revealing views beneath bathing-suited beauties.) The lower half of the pen is made of opaque plastic with a twisting-tip retraction mechanism. The upper half is composed of an oil-filled, transparent plastic section (the design barrel) that contains a colorful and surprisingly detailed background scene with a moving design on film (the glider).

The Creators of Floaty Pens

The company responsible for manufacturing more than 90% of the floaty pens available today is the Eskesen company, founded in 1946 by a local baker, Peder Eskesen, located about an hour's drive from Copenhagen in St. Merløse, Denmark. Other countries such as China and Italy also manage to produce similar pens but their quality and construction differs from the standards set by Eskesen. You can identify an Eskesen-made pen usually by the impressed "E" on the pen's metal clip. Other souvenir items such as key rings, letter knives and toothbrushes that incorporate the floating action design barrel are made by the Eskesen company as well.

Floaty Pens were the subject of an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine section of the Los Angeles Times Sunday newspaper from November 17, 1996. The fact-filled article, written by Mary Melton, describes the first pen produced by the Eskesen company as being a commission for Esso, the forebear to Exxon, depicting a bobbing oil drum. Ms. Melton also notes that among the more than half billion pens produced by Eskesen in its fifty-year history are family portraits for the Shah of Iran and "Yellow Submarine" pens for the Beatles film of the same name.

Collecting Floaty Pens

The first exhibition of Floaty Pens in the United States was held at the Idaho Center for the Book at Boise State University, Idaho. More than 600 different pens selected from twenty U.S. and European collectors and distributors were on display from October 17 through November 9, 1997. In addition to presenting floaty pens as practical and entertaining collectibles, the "Fabulous Floaty Pens" exhibition also produced a commemorative edition floaty pen in honor of the event, as well as an exhibition brochure and postcard. Make sure you visit the Idaho Center for the Book, "Fabulous Floaty Pens" exhibition page, the web site for America's first exhibition on the Floaty Pen.

I've been collecting these pens for more than ten years now and thanks to my kind-hearted friends and colleagues, have amassed over 900 different pens from all over the world. Even the Eskesen company could not tell me how many different pens have been created or what their themes might be, so I submit a list of the pens in my inventory divided into geographic region or thematic category and organized by subject to provide a starting point which will hopefully evolve into a more complete catalogue in the future.

In an attempt to unite fellow collectors who may not know that there are many of us who buy, trade and discuss our pen-hunting discoveries with each other on the net and in the non-cyber world, too, I offer to post Floaty Pen contacts and other related information here.

Feel free to send comments or contact me, Elizabeth Spatz, at:

Last update: August 3, 1999