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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Retro 1951 launches licensed Kiss Tornado rollerballs at NSS

Retro 1951

Retro 1951's Ross Cameron at NSS

Pen supplier Retro 1951, maker of the collectible Tornado capless twist-top pen line, brought a pair of new licensed rollerball pen styles to this week’s National Stationery Show (NSS) at New York’s Javits Center.

Launching at the trade show were three Kiss rollerball pens--the color-illustrated 1978 and Rock Poster, and a metallic Heavy Metal model with the band’s logo and facial symbols etched in. All come in a Retro brand graphic tube that doubles as a pen stand.

Also new at the show was the first design in Retro 1951’s new Smithsonian collection, the Corona. This rollerball pen--each numbered on the top ring--features a deeply etched barrel resembling the ornamental bronze-colored metal lattice covering the outside of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture building. The design depicts a base and shaft, topped by a capital--or corona--inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa.

As Retro 1951 tries to donate a portion of proceeds from pen sales to appropriate charities, some of Corona’s sales will go to the Museum in support of its educational endeavors.

According to company rep Ross Cameron, Retro 1951, where “Life is too short to carry an Ugly Pen,” has licensed designs for some of its pen product lines, but these are the first for its signature Tornado shape.

Such licenses, he added, must jibe with Retro 1951’s philosophy and Tornado’s design in that they be “historical, fun, or both.”

As an example, he pointed to the Dmitri Tornado mechanical pencil--like the pen, featuring a capless tapered barrel (but with an eraser top). Named after Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev--the first to publish a recognizable periodic table in 1869--the pencil barrel does in fact bear the periodic table, and is called Dmitri “to give it a cool name.”

The Tornado, which also comes in capless ballpoint and capped fountain pen versions, was introduced in 1997.

“We look at every barrel as a blank canvas,” said Cameron, speaking primarily of the capless Tornados, which extend and retract the pen’s ink cartridge by twirling the knurled top. Retro 1951, he said, produces about 20 new Tornado models annually, not counting exclusives for major pen dealers like New York’s Fountain Pen Hospital (which has an exclusive Tornado fountain pen) and Fahrney’s Pens in Washington, D.C. (a Presidential Signatures Tornado rollerball).

“We keep the collection small and special,” added Cameron, noting that older models are retired as new ones are added. He said his current top sellers are the Dog Rescue and Cat Rescue entries from its Rescue Tornado series of twist-top ballpoints, with proceeds going to a related nonprofit group: Sales of both pens, which feature printed pet graphics on the barrels, are accompanied by donations to Operation Kindness to further its mission of saving homeless dogs and cats in a no-kill environment.

But the best-seller at NSS was the new Buzz Rescue Tornado featuring an acid-etched honeycomb texture with printed bees and antique copper accents. Its sales generate donations to NW Honeybee Habitat Restoration.



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