It's that time of year again, folks! The Washington, D.C. Fountain Pen Supershow will be held this coming weekend, and I'm in the throes of Pen Show Prep. If you're completely unfamiliar with pen shows, you can check out the three-part "Pen Show Primer" series I did earlier this year:
Packing for a Pen Show
The essentials are comfortable shoes, a camera, and cash. Since I'm going for all four days this year (getting my money's worth out of that $45 weekend pass), I'm probably going to have to pack differently than I normally do. I'm not about to check a bag on the way there (airline fees = less money to spend at the show), but I'll have to be smarter about what I choose to take with me in order to account for extra clothes and some work I'll have to bring along (bleh). Some other things you don't want to be without:
- Backpack. Better ergonomics than an over-the-shoulder messenger bag. (I like my North Face Surge because it has lots of pockets). You'll have a bag with you all day walking the show floor so make sure whatever bag you bring isn't too big and has comfortable straps. You can always opt for a fishing vest. Or maybe just a fishing vest pin.
- Expandable Rolling Duffel. Expandable because I'll almost certainly come back with more stuff than I left with, and depending on how much ink I purchase, I may have to check a bag on the way home. For the record, people worry about packing bottles of ink in a carry on, but in years of pen-related travel, I've not had an issue with the TSA. Most bottles of fountain pen ink are less than 3.4 fluid oz/100ml. Still, don't push your luck if you decide to buy the entire line of Iroshizuku.
- Paper. Some vendors will have paper that you can use to test pens, but it's always a good idea to bring a sample of your own paper - preferably the same paper that you will be writing with at work or home. Some people recommend that you bring a bottle of "safe ink" to dip pens to test how they write, but I've not done this in recent years because (1) most vendors of modern pens have "tester pens" for you to use and (2) many vintage dealers won't let you dip pens.
- Pens to Share. The hotel bar is an active scene every night, and the D.C. Pen Show Sheraton is no exception. For the last few years, they've had a few long tables where people gather to show off that day's finds or share pens from their collections at home.
- Pens and Ink to Sell. If you know other collectors/enthusiasts who are going to be at the show, it's a great opportunity to sell or trade pens. Note that it's not always the best deal to try to "trade" or "sell" pens to dealers at the show, because they are typically looking to buy for resale, not for their own use, and therefore won't offer the best price.
What to Buy at a Pen Show
I've slowed my pen acquisitions/purchasing substantially, and I want to limit show purchases to no more than one or two pens. Here's what's on my radar:
- Visconti. I've had my eye on a Homo Sapiens for a while now, but I'm not sure which model. If I could find a gently used pen in decent condition, I'd jump at it.
- Diplomat. Everyone is raving about the Diplomat Aero. I've been tempted by this pen before but have never given serious consideration to this less well-known German pen company.
- Ink and Paper. Pen shows are a great way to save on shipping for heavier items, such as ink and paper. Both Anderson Pens and Vanness Pens will be in attendance at this year's DC Pen Show, and both bring a massive selection of ink to browse. Every major ink brand should be represented.
- Nib Work. I don't have any pens that necessarily need work done this year, but if I end up buying new pens (and I'm sure I will), they'll likely need to be tuned. Dan Smith of The Nibsmith is working his first D.C. Pen Show, so I'll try to get a slot at his table.
Contact Info and Events I'm Attending
If you're going to be at the show, I'd love to meet up. I can be reached through the "Contact Me!" link on the site, via Twitter (@vintagegntlmn), or instagram (@gentlemanstationer). I will be attending Thursday, August 4 through Sunday, August 7, and will be at most of the major events. You can find the official show schedule here. Highlights include a beer and wine welcome party and a meetup organized by the Pen Addict, Vanness Pens, and Fountain Pen Day on Friday night.
Seminars will be offered throughout the weekend, including a Copperplate Calligraphy workshop with Deborah Basel from 9am to 1pm on Friday, Richard Binder's nib-smoothing workshop at 8:30am on Sunday, and the Pens for Kids Workshop at 2:00pm on Sunday.
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