So this year's D.C. Pen Show was a completely new experience for me: I got to see the show from behind the vendor's table, working for my friends at Vanness Pens. How was it? Awesome. Don't get me wrong, it was the hardest "real work" I've done in a while, coming from someone who usually finds himself plopped down at a desk for 8-12 hours per day, but I enjoyed meeting customers and getting some real world experience in the pen business. My time behind the table meant that I didn't have much of an opportunity to browse the show itself, but on the flip side, lots of readers were kind enough to come by to visit. I enjoyed meeting all of you, and I apologize if I couldn't talk long. We had a crush of people at the table at times, especially on Saturday. So on to the daily recaps and photos, along with my impressions of the show.
I arrived Thursday afternoon, and helped the Vanness team unload the "Ink Van" and set up the tables. Thursday is the true "trader day," when the vintage collectors take over the smaller ballroom and trade among themselves. This can be a great opportunity to pick up rare vintage pens, sometimes at great prices, before the show officially opens. I didn't partake, but did spend Thursday evening going to dinner and visiting with friends before the insanity started.
Friday at the D.C. Pen Show is the first "full day" of the show, where it's open to weekend pass holders only and when most of the vendors are set up. I always recommend that the true "pen addicts" attend the show on Friday, because its less crowded and because you get first dibs on the best stuff before everything starts to sell out. For example, I made my biggest show purchase on Friday: a Kanilea Hanauma Bay in the "Classic V" shape with a clip! Kanilea is one brand that I like to buy in person - all of their pens are unique due to variations in the acrylic, so if you can, try to visit Hugh and Karol in person and pick out the pen that speaks to you.
One word to describe Saturday at the D.C. Pen Show, pretty much every year: insane.
Being behind the table compounded the insanity. I didn't even get a chance to walk into the main ballroom and see how crowded the show floor actually was, but based on the number of people we saw out front at the Vanness table, and how well most vendors claimed to be doing, I suspect attendance was excellent. Saturday night I was so tired that I crashed right away after dinner and missed most of the fun at the bar. I had intended to come back downstairs and visit after calling home to check in, but it just didn't happen. Good thing, too, because I still had another full day of pen-showing to do.
So what did I do all day Saturday? Sold pens and talked to people! Here's what was selling at the show:
- Opus 88 Fountain Pens. The Koloro and Fantasia models sold like crazy. Once people had the chance to handle these pens in person, more often than not they bought one. These Japanese-style eyedroppers make great daily writers, especially at the price point. Vanness loaned me a Picnic and Fantasia for review, so look for these in the future, perhaps as a new installment to the "Workhorse Pens" series.
- Colorverse Inks. Everyone is still going crazy for Colorverse, especially the Season Three and Four Inks (Schrodinger/Cat and Felicette), as well as the new limited edition Hayabusa purple. Several of you bought four-plus boxes!
- Benu Pens. Another unique brand out of Russia that people fall for after seeing the pens in person, especially if you're looking for something sparkly with an uncommon shape. And we sold the glow-in-the-dark pen!
- Kaweco. Kaweco pens continue to be extremely popular with both new and experienced fountain pen users. Everyone loves their Kawecos, and we even sold a few of the newly released Art Sport series.
- Aurora Optima Flex Pens. Buy your Optima Flex pens in the limited edition colors now, because once these pens are gone, they're gone. The bright orange one went quickly, though that yellow is calling my name...
- Ink in General. Vanness brings a huge selection of ink to shows, and in addition to the Colorverse, I can't tell you how much Akkerman, Robert Oster, PenBBS, Bungubox, and KWZ ink we sold throughout the weekend. Let's just say the Ink Van's going to be much lighter going home.
And, for all of you who asked, those Wing Sung "tester" pens that we had on the table are the Model 3008, which can be bought in packs of four online.
As always, Sunday around the table was quieter than Saturday, and Lisa was kind enough to cut me loose for an hour so I could make the rounds and see some of what other vendors and manufacturers had to offer. Here were the highlights:
- Syahi Pens. Before I left for the show, I was contacted by Syahi, a new brand out of India that has introduced a range of wooden pens with flex and semi-flex nibs, both of which I got to try out. I took a semi-flex Syahi Monarch home with me, so look for a review.
- New Esterbrooks. Ever since Kenro purchased Esterbrook this past Spring, I've been waiting to see their new models (photos above). They didn't disappoint, and the new pens that will be coming soon are much more in line with vintage Esterbrook design than the pens that caused so much controversy a couple years ago.
- Penlux. I picked up a nice ebonite pen from Penlux, a Taiwanese company that I hadn't seen before at previous D.C. Shows. Look for shops to start carrying them soon - I suspect they were there to meet with retailers and showcase their wares. Overall, the pens looked nice and well made, with a price point similar to Opus 88.
Final Thoughts and Takeaways from 2018
This was a great D.C. Pen Show - one of the best I've attended - and a marked improvement over last year's logistical nightmare. I still prefer the old venue, but the new location might be permanent due to rate increases. So it goes. Look for plenty of new review material starting this weekend as I get back on track. In the meantime, enjoy everyone's show recaps, which should be hitting the blogs and instagram this week!
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