I don’t know where to begin with this 2019 Atlanta Pen Show Recap. Everyone always remarks that the Atlanta Pen Show “feels like family,” to the point where it seems cliched, but it’s not - that’s the best way to describe it. Alongside Baltimore, Atlanta puts on one of the friendliest, most open pen shows of the year, somehow managing to keep the physical size of the show relatively small while attracting a high-quality group of exhibitors and vendors. Be warned - this will be a lengthy recap. This year’s Atlanta Show had so much to offer in terms of new products and new vendors that I’m still not sure I managed to catch everything.
Show Setup and Venue
For as long as I’ve been attending, the Atlanta Pen Show has been held at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria. The location is fine - the hotel is clean, outside the center of Atlanta so traffic is as much of a non-issue as it can be in Atlanta, and there is a reasonable variety of restaurants within walking distance or a short drive. The main drawback to this hotel is that the staff seems anywhere from indifferent to annoyed at big groups, which limits the after-hours activities somewhat because they always try to shut the bar down by 11 p.m. and this year even turned the lights off on everyone Saturday night to try to make them leave. Given this, and the fact that the show itself has now outgrown available ballroom space, I wouldn’t be surprised at a change in location over the next couple of years.
Top Five Takeaways from the Atlanta Pen Show
I’ll run a vendor-by-vendor breakdown later on in the recap, but while I was taking some time to collect my thoughts on Sunday night, I put together the following list of “show highlights,” which are, of course, highly subjective.
Leonardo Momento Zero. Dan Smith of The Nibsmith now carries Leonardo, and while the pens aren’t yet up on the website, I understand they’re coming soon. Dan basically had the entire line set up at his table, and I added yet another Momento Zero to my collection, this time in matte black. It’s early, but at Leonardo’s price point, this pen has the potential to kill the Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black.
Pilot Iroshizuku Inks (100th Anniversary and Standard Colors). Much of the pre-show buzz focused on the release of two new series of inks: Pilot’s 100th Anniversary Iroshizuku colors, and the Lamy Crystal inks. I picked up two of the Iroshizukus (Hoteison, a dark green, and Bishmonten, a pinkish red), and one Lamy (Topaz) from Vanness Pens. Look for reviews of these inks soon.
Newton Pens. Shawn Newton has gotten me bad at these last two shows, Little Rock and Atlanta. Since he added some new machinery and lowered the price point on certain production-line pens, it’s become increasingly difficult to walk away from his table without buying something, and this show I acquired three (!?!?!) pens from Shawn: a Prospector in blue and gray ripple Japanese ebonite, and two Orvilles.
New (to me) Vendors Matthew C. Martin Custom Pens and Truphae. Matthew Martin’s machined metal pens are about to take off big time, and he was clearly the sleeper hit of the Atlanta Pen Show. And while I had heard of online retailer Truphae, mainly on account of their “Inkredible” subscription box, I had not seen their collaboration with Visconti on two gorgeous Opera Masters: Stardust (featuring ruthenium trim) and Corvina.
Conid. While Conid wasn’t officially present at the show, a group of enthusiasts who collectively (and maybe individually) owned ALL of the different models of the Bulkfiller set up tables to show them off and let people test the pens. Once again, I’m blown away by the generosity of the pen community, since I’ve been considering a Bulkfiller and these tables were incredibly helpful in deciding which one I want to order.
Other new discoveries included PK Custom Goods pen cases and wraps, which you can purchase from their Etsy store. I picked up Star Wars and Harry Potter-themed versions, and you’ll see a review up on the site at some point in the future. Here’s a further run-down of some other things I saw at the show, by vendor:
Total Fine Writing/The Pen Show. Jimmy and Suzanne Dolive once again organized a great show, and they also attended as vendors with multiple tables that included one of the show’s largest selection of Montblanc limited edition pens and inks (as well as the Penlux Snake).
Papier Plume. Patrick always attends the show from New Orleans, with the full range of Papier Plume’s hand-mixed ink, wax seals and stamps, and fountain pens from brands such as Cleo-Skribent that you don’t see very often. I also picked up two bottles of the exclusive inks that Papier Plume always makes for the Chicago Pen Show, which I won’t reveal quite yet.
Nock Co. Instagram is on fire with pictures of the “Coleman” tall-boy cozy - I mean pen case. I’m not sure whether or not Brad and Jeff plan to make these available on the site or whether they will be show exclusives, but they sold well and I definitely saw dozens of them walking around (mostly used as actual pen cases).
Tactile Turn. Will and his team are now attending more pen shows, and he has, IMHO, perfected the design of the Gist fountain pen, now available not only in Titanium and Delrin, but in “fireblue” Titanium! Look for a review of the “Gist 2.0” soon.
Carolina Pen Company. Jonathon Brooks brought tons of pens turned from his “Primary Manipulation” acrylics, and they went fast. Somebody picked up the pen I had my eye on when I was taking an initial turn around the room - one of the perils of hesitating at a pen show!
Franklin-Christoph. It wouldn’t be a pen show without a mad dash to the Franklin-Christoph table first thing after opening to grab the latest prototype acrylics. This year I finally picked up a Penvelope 6 pen case, which was long overdue.
Dromgooles. These guys can cost you a LOT of money. Dromgoole’s brought an expansive selection of Danitrios, Graf von Faber-Castell Pens of the Year, Pelikan, and Montblanc, a few of which featured custom urushi and maki-e work by Studio Bokumondoh.
Vintage Pen Shop/Jessica Coles. Jesi was set up directly behind the Nock Co. table with her vintage Esterbrook pens and nib testing station. If you’re interested in testing the waters with Vintage Pens, Esterbrook is THE place to start, and Jesi has you covered.
Kenro Industries. Cary attended with samples of Esterbrook’s upcoming line of pen cases, as well as Loclen, a new line of machined metal pens out of Italy that feature a unique design incorporating an integrated converter/piston.
Luxury Brands. The distributors of Platinum, Noodlers Ink, and Benu Pens had a table, where a display of updated Platinum Mix-Free Ink bottles caught my eye. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, the Mix-Free Inks are designed to - wait for it - be mixed together to create your own ink colors. Apparently Platinum is releasing these inks in new bottles and as part of a set.
I spent time at the show during all three days this year, and traffic seemed pretty steady in all three ballrooms, with most vendors reporting brisk sales skewed towards entry-level pens and inks. The friendly, open atmosphere of the Atlanta Show lends itself to beginners, and many people I met described how they were attending their first pen show. Their excitement is always contagious, and there was a lively after-hours crowd in the bar every night (at least until the hotel staff kicked us out by turning out the lights). You can bet I’ll be back next year!
Note: I missed the live podcast recording this year, since my family joined me in Atlanta and I spent some time with them on Saturday, visiting the Georgia Aquarium and going out to dinner that night. I did listen to the show afterwards, and you won’t want to miss this year’s special guests!
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