You may have noticed that posts have been somewhat irregular around here over the past few weeks. As it turns out, I’ve been traveling, including my first pen show of the year, the Los Angeles International Pen Show. The travel is not going to end soon. Quite a few people have asked me which other shows I’ll be attending. So far, they are:
Baltimore Washington International Pen Show (March 1-3, 2019). I will once again be behind the Vanness Pens Table this coming weekend! If you’re at the Baltimore Show, stop by and see me.
Arkansas Pen Show (March 15-17). I’ve never attended this show before, have been meaning to go for the past few years, and I’m not going to miss it again! Especially not the open house at Vanness Pens and the $10 weekend pass.
Atlanta Pen Show (April 5-7). After a little bit of a break, I’ll drive to Atlanta for what’s basically my “home show” since it’s only about four hours away. It’s also the site of the annual Pen Addict Live show. The Kickstarter is running now, with some great rewards and extras if you back.
Washington, D.C. Fountain Pen Supershow (August 1-4, 2019). In all likelihood there will be no planned pen show trips between Atlanta and D.C. That’s a busy time for me in terms of family vacation and work, but I’ve attended D.C. every year for the past several years and for all its “challenges,” it’s still the Big Show.
San Francisco Pen Show (August 23-25, 2019). This one is a stretch, and will depend on how busy my August is at the Day Job, but I’ve heard so many good things about the SF Pen Show (aka “The Fun Pen Show”) that I’m going to make every effort to be there.
Other shows that I consider attending every year include the Chicago Pen Show from May 2-May 5, the Triangle Pen Show from May 30-June 2 (Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina), the Dallas Pen Show from September 27-28, and the Ohio Pen Show (Columbus, Ohio). Most of these are last minute trips, and I currently don’t have concrete plans to go, but hey, you never know….
Whenever I publish pen show recaps, I end up getting a lot of questions about how to prepare for and best enjoy a pen show. Here’s a quick summary of the advice I always give people:
Pick the right show. My first pen show was the Ohio Pen Show in Columbus, which was just the right size. It’s a mid-sized show, but definitely bigger than anything I imagined could exist at that time. I attended a couple of other smaller shows before I tried a larger show like D.C., which can be overwhelming and take you three days to fully explore. Bigger shows also attract large crowds, especially on the weekends, and I actually enjoy the smaller and mid-size shows because it’s MUCH easier to talk to people.
Don’t try too hard and take your time. It’s supposed to be fun. You don’t need to see everything at a show, and even that’s probably an impossible goal for your first excursion. Pick out 3-4 pens you want to see/look for and make those your focus.
Don’t spend too much money. Set a budget. In addition to getting overwhelmed, it’s easy to get carried away and purchase stuff that you don’t really want or need “just because it’s there.” Know yourself. If you’re prone to overspending, leave the credit cards at home.
Eat. Somewhat self-explanatory, but it’s also easy to get caught up in everything, miss lunch, and the next thing you know you’re crashing mid-afternoon.
Socialize. I waited far too long to take advantage of the opportunity pen shows present to hang out and meet people who you may only know via the internet. Don’t miss the chance to put faces with names, it’s one of the best parts - if not THE best part - of the pen show experience. If you’re staying at the show hotel (something I recommend), after-hours at the bar is a great opportunity to try out different pens and ink that people bring with them.
Take Advantage of the Opportunity to Get Work Done on Pens. Maybe you have a nib that doesn’t write well, or you’d like to try a custom grind? Pen shows are a great way to get pens worked on by a “nib doctor” in person, which is much more efficient than sending pens back and forth through the mail. Plus they can see how you write with the pen and adjust the nib accordingly, which makes a huge difference.
Bring a Pen Case with Room and Plastic Bags for Ink. For shows, I travel with one of my Aston Leather 10 Pen cases, as well as a bunch of Ziploc sandwich bags (heavy duty or double seal) to wrap ink in for the trip home. Most ink bottles are less than three fluid ounces, which can go in your carry-on bag, but some TSA checkpoints enforce the “all-liquid-in-a-plastic-bag” rule so be prepared!
This post just scratches the surface. Over the years, I’ve written several detailed pieces about attending shows, and don’t really have too much to add to them. Check out Pen Show Primer, Volume 1: Why Visit a Pen Show; Volume 2: Getting Ready for a Pen Show; and Volume 3: Tips for Surviving the Pen Show.
Give me a shout if you want to meet up in Baltimore or at another future show!
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