Friday, November 28, 2008

Those Expensive Pens... Who is Buying Them?

Today's post introduces Glenn Marcus as guest blogger on the subject of fine writing instruments.

Glenn is an avid user of fountain pens, and enjoys the connection a fountain pen owner has with his or her pen, the selection of ink and quality of paper that maximize the writing experience. Visiting pen companies and pen stores, his web site is a directory and review of great pen stores, pens and ink. He enjoys correspondence with other pen users around the world.

As I read the current issue of Stylus pen magazine I notice advertisement after advertisement with a profile for a high-end, very expensive pen.

At my office, I hear the gasp when I tell someone that one of my pens is $500 or $600 or $900. I also hear a little voice going off in my head when I say these big numbers in terms of what I paid for a pen. So when I see advertisements for pens in the couple to many of thousands of dollar range, well it begs the question: who is buying these pens?

The pens range from classics, such as the Laban Diamond Storm — a black pen with 216 diamonds studding the body and cap, for a cool $3,000 - to the Harivamsa Victory pen at $14,000.

I have talked to a few pen store owners about the sales of the very high end pens. I am told that some models seem to fly out the door. Usually it is a specific customer wanting a specific pen. Other times orders are received by fax or e-mail. The pen is packaged and sent, but little heard back.

I am curious as to who buys the pens. I am told it is typically surgeons, lawyers and executives. For the stores, it includes repeat customers as well as the one-time purchase.

Do individuals who buy the very expensive pens actually use them? Or are the pens going to be found on an Ebay listing with the notation: "never inked" or "in original box with papers?" I would hope the pen is going to be one of those writing instruments that you can see have been used; used with the care expected of a fine writing instrument, but nevertheless, used and enjoyed.

So I asked questions like: How many come back for repair? Do you get specific requests when the order is received?

It seems that very few come back for repair. If repairs are needed, it may be a case where the owners send the pens back directly to the manufacturer.

Yes there are special requests. Generally, pens sent to customers in Asia tend to be requested with fine nibs... a hint that the pen may be used, or a reflection of consideration for resale. Europeans are more included to order pens with fine and medium nibs. Pens with broad nibs tend to go more to North American customers.

So if you use one of these limited-edition, high-end pens I would be interested in hearing from you: is the pen actually used? Is it retained for a future use? Send me an email. I would be interested in hearing from you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Thank-You Note Kind of Day in Small Town America

Today, I'm writing thank-you notes.

Yes, Mom, I'm writing thank-you notes and you didn't have to stand over me.

I'm writing thank-you notes because I'm truly thankful. Not that I'm not thankful when I've been treated to dinner, spent a lovely weekend at a friend's home, or given a necktie for my birthday.

Today I'm writing thank-you notes because I just received the first two donations toward Pownal's Spirit of Sharing holiday program. The wonderful faculty and staff of the Pownal Elementary School, along with a bunch of us in town, are raising money, and recruiting shoppers, wrappers and deliverers for holiday packages for children of families in need.

This year, we're not relying at all on state or federal programs. There are too few of those dollars to go around. Instead, this is a very personal initiative - neighbors helping neighbors.
Long before there were state and federal assistance programs, that's what we did here in Vermont. We helped our neighbors. We understood that a community is composed of all walks of life. That some would inevitably be better off than others.

But we are all neighbors. Nobody cares how much or how little money you make when you're both holding a fire hose; when you're responding to a medical emergency as an EMT; or singing a hymn in church.

That's who we are. That's what we do.

I'm looking forward to writing thank-you notes to my neighbors throughout the holiday season.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Personal Branding 101 with Gen Y's Dan Schawbel

Insider's Note: I spend a lot of time speaking and writing about stationery; how stationery plays a role in creating and communicating your personal brand. But since you're here, you get the idea that I'm a paper-based guy who's had to learn about the power of the Digital Age. I think I've done OK. I've got a Facebook page, write a couple of blogs, use photo-sharing sites and even know how to tweet.

One of my goals in life is to turn the tables; to make web-based members of Gen Y understand the power of pen on paper.

Having said that, I encountered a young man - a member of Gen Y - who really knows his stuff on personal branding. Dan Schawbel is the author of "Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 2009)". His Personal Branding Blog® is consistently ranked in the top 100 marketing blogs in the world. He publishes Personal Branding Magazine®, is the head judge for the Personal Brand Awards® and directs Personal Branding TV®.

Dan kindly offered to write a post about the foundations of personal branding in the Internet age. Now I just have to convince all those Ys out there that pen, paper and stamp add significantly to their personal brand.

Personal branding is how we market ourselves to others. Each and every one of us has a brand because we are constantly being judged based on first impressions. Also, we are forced to sell our ideas and unique abilities to all stakeholders inside a company or as an entrepreneur. The personal branding process consists of the following steps: discover, create, communicate and maintain. By going through this process, you will be able to build a powerful brand and have opportunities come to your doorstep, instead of actively searching for them.

Ten years ago, in a Web 1.0 world, your brand was hidden unless you were an executive at a leading company or a Hollywood celebrity. Now, with the evolution of the Internet into a Web 2.0 environment, every single person has a voice that can build or destroy their reputation and that of their company in an instant. Another major difference is that you needed a lot of mainstream press years ago to make a name for yourself. Today you can start a blog and join social networks for free.

Everyone - from hiring managers to admissions officers and even talent agencies - is scrubbing the Internet, either in search of their next hire or as a background check. According to, 22% of managers screen their staff using social networks like Facebook, and Kaplan says that 10% of admissions officers verify potential students using social networks. There is a massive opportunity for you to position yourself as an extraordinary brand and be recruited based on your passion.

Our brands are held in the minds of others, yet we have the ability to shape their perceptions by coming to terms with who we really are and letting our personal attributes shine through. If you fail to realize what your personal brand is all about, by way of first impression, someone will brand you based on what’s observable. The need for personal branding will continue to grow as competition for jobs heightens, the war for talent rages on, globalization prospers and job security diminishes.

The best bet you have is to start thinking and acting like a brand today!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Holiday Gift Guides Make Seasonal Recommendations

Every year I get calls from magazine editors asking for samples or photos of Crane stationery and accessories for their holiday gift guides. I was mulling over if there might be some trends over the years, but struggled to find any. But then it occured to me that I was taking the wrong perspective.

These editors are the arbiters of taste and style for their readers. They are mostly young, having grown up in the computer age, and they recognize that fine stationery, printed and written invitations and complementary lifestyle accessories are important to them and to their readers. It's not just pretty pictures. It's good solid advice from those in the know.
I was away for a few days and upon my return, there were several magazines in the mailbox featuring Crane products. In this batch there seems to be a preference for kate spade products.

Here are the most recent:

Philadelphia Style magazine with Crane's Cartography Notes.

Canadian House & Home magazine with, clockwise from top, kate spade word place cards, kate spade vintage cocktails invitation, Crane's Aqua Squiggle Printable Invitation, Crane's Regency Stars Thank You Note, and kate spade lobster printable invitation.

Lucky Magazine and kate spade playing cards.
Scottsdale Magazine and top, kate spade letterpressed elephant calling card; bottom, kate spade letterpressed awning stripe calling card.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Coasters from Crane's New Letterpress Weddings Album: A Transformational Design Challenge

I love letterpress. I love its three-dimensionality. I love the images sculpted in fluffy, bulky cotton paper.

Crane has just launched its new Letterpress Wedding Invitations album, which I will write more about shortly. It's beautiful stuff, and I hope all you nearlyweds out there will include this album in your deliberations.

When I received my samples from the album I noticed something new; items not found in other Crane wedding albums - coasters. Coasters personalized with letterpress. Here they are:

Now, I have been known to use a coaster on occasion for its intended purpose, but seeing these I began to wonder what else they might become. How else might they be used in a wedding celebration? How might they arise from beneath a wine glass?

All you Martha Stewart fans - and I count myself among them - have seen such transformations as she employs her creativity, imagination and vision. Now it's your turn.

Here's the challenge: Create something to personalize a wedding using these coasters as your starting point. I can't send you all actual coasters to work with, so here's a link to my Photobucket page where you will find images. In real life, they measure 4 inches across.
There are two ways to send in your entries: via e-mail (jpegs or pdfs under 5 megs please) or if you prefer, you may mail your entry to me at:

Peter Hopkins
Crane & Co., Inc.
30 South St.
Dalton, MA 01226

Entries will be accepted until midnight on December 8. That gives you a month to play around. The winner will be announced just before Christmas, and the present will be 50 engraved social cards as well as the fame that accompanies the announcement of your victory here at The Crane Insider, of course.

If you have questions, and I'm sure you will, please leave a comment below and I will respond so that everyone will have the benefit of the answer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crane Paper, My Paper Crane

I spend a lot of time on Google using their various tools, but especially their keyword search functions. I've got to be up-to-the-minute on all that's happening with "Crane Paper."

Whenever I do a search for "Crane Paper," I get all these references about "Paper Cranes," a universal symbol of peace. And I also get lots of hits for "My Paper Crane." Finally, after several years of seeing My Paper Crane crop up in my searches, I decided to see what My Paper Crane was all about.

I'm glad I did. Heidi Kenney and her plushy creations make me smile. They are cute. They are clever. They are cuddly. Now I'm an addict. I have to stop by at least once a month to see what Heidi has come up with.

From Heidi's FAQ, here's what inspired her:

"The first time I tried origami, I was making a paper crane. When I was finished I was so amazed that a simple square of paper could be turned into something so beautiful! The name My Paper Crane tries to embody that thought, the idea of taking something simple (whether it be fabric, paper, etc.) and turning it into something amazing."

You should stop by. You'll be glad you did. Here are some of my favorites:

Clockwise from top left: Happy Banana, Burnt Toast, Surprise Mushroom, Cinnamon Roll, Used Tissue and Fortune Cookie.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Philately Will Get You to the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian National Postal Museum is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a special exhibit entitled "Alphabetilately."

ALPHABET + PHILATELY or Alphabetilately is the alphabet of philately.

Each of the 26 letters stands for some aspect of the collecting of stamps or the sending of mail. The stamps, ephemera, and artifacts exhibited in Alphabetilately graphically document the spectrum of the American experience, from historical subjects to popular culture, from actual events to important ideas. Be sure to follow this link to the Museum's site for a clever Flash treatment. Click on each image and it will enlarge and come into focus.

From all accounts (I haven't been able to visit yet) Alphabetilately is an appealing exhibition and a lively educational experience for visitors of every age. It provides an extraordinary showcase for selections from the Postal Museum's unparalleled collection of American postal and philatelic history.

Crane & Co. was a major sponsor of the opening reception in September, a double philatelic festivity with a definite designer twist.

Each of the 26 topics was presented with its definition, accompanied by a cinderella (a label that looks like a stamp but is not valid for postage) created at a different design firm in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1997. Almost 2,000 items vibrantly filled the 26 cases: stamps, envelopes, and 3-D objects. Crane sponsored the Correspondence Salon inside the Post Office at the Museum, providing guests with an array of Crane 100% cotton envelopes and notecards.

The newest Crane envelope size, A-9 was the big hit of the salon, since it could hold the largest quantity of vintage stamps.

The exhibit will be open at the Museum until October 2009, so there's still plenty of time for you and me to get there.

Here are some scenes from the opening reception, courtesy of my West Coast friend Alyson Kuhn, who provided writing and editorial direction for the exhibit: