Washington DC Pen Show 2015


Let me warn you in advance, this will not be one of those posts filled with awesome pictures of pens and people that you sometimes get from pen show recaps. Despite my best laid plans, I only took two pictures at the DC pen show and they were just boring wide shots of the main ballroom. Anyway, here goes…

Since I worked the pen show into a family trip to DC, I only attended the festivities on Saturday. I did my best to take it all in during this one full day but I still felt like I was rushed. As weird as this may sound, 7 hours is not enough to take in all there is to see at this largest of pen shows. I have been to the rather small Long Island and Philadelphia pen shows in the past couple of years. To make some size comparisons, the LI show occupies an area roughly equivalent to a small town middle school gym from the 60’s. This is a total guesstimate, but I would say there are about 25 vendors at the LI show. I live about 80 minutes from the LI show so it’s worth my travel time. The Philly show is about three to four times the size of the LI show so it’s worth a noticeably longer travel time for pen folks. While it’s not much larger in terms of floor space, the Washington DC show is a lot more tightly packed than the Philly show. In terms of the numbers of vendors, DC may come close to doubling Philly. So, the Long Island show is worth an afternoon’s worth of time, the Philly show is worth a full day and DC might be worth two full days.

Back to the DC show itself. It was an easy 20 minute drive from my hotel in Arlington to the DC show. (Side note – if you ever stay in the Arlington area, be sure to check out a place called Nice Cream Factory. Holy cow was their ice cream good.) Parking at the hotel was a little tight, but I found some free spots around the back. There is paid public parking in the area but thankfully it was not needed. I arrived shortly after 9:00 and the line was already double-backed on itself but it only took about 15 minutes to get through it. Apparently, people with some super special postcard could get in at 9:00 and the general public needed to wait until 10:00. Well, I didn’t have a postcard and the folks at the counter took my admission money just fine around 9:20. To the right of check-in was a fairly large ink sampling table (didn’t have time) and you entered the main show on the left side of the lobby. I would guess that there were 15-20 vendors in the lobby area. So, add another 10-15 vendors and you have yourself the Long Island Pen Show. Save for a few vintage folks and a repair booth, most of the lobby was filled with modern pen vendors.

Shawn Newton of Newton Pens was in the lobby area. Shawn did not have a huge selection, but what was there was impressive. I spoke with him for about 5 minutes and he could not have been nicer. Pen Addict Brad Dowdy was working the Vanness table. I had the chance to chat with Brad shortly after arriving and just before leaving – good people. Mike and Linda Kennedy of Indy-Pen-Dance (thanks Gordon!) were in the lobby area doing pen repairs and nib work. I had Linda work on one of my nibs. It was a Platinum 3776 in fine which has trouble dealing with my slight lefty hook. Linda did a pretty good job of making life a bit better but I’m not sure this pen/nib is long for my collection. I really like the weight, balance and ink flow, but sometimes the nib and my left hand don’t play nicely. Too bad because I wanted a Japanese fine nib to work for me but I may be in the market for a different nib on this pen soon enough.

This post is getting a bit long already so I’ll just hit a couple more highlights. In addition to the aforementioned folks, I also had a chance to chat with Mary Collis of From the Pen Cup, Matt Armstrong of The Pen Habit and Tim Wasem and Johnny Gamber of Erasable. Sorry for all the goofy name dropping, but everyone was exceedingly nice and enjoyable to chat up. I look forward to chatting some more with everyone in person should the chance arise.

Purchases. I made three purchases but I’m only going to go public about one of them right now. As you may know, I’ve been trying to reduce the number of pens and pencils in my possession so going to a pen show and adding 3 more to the collection is not helping. That said, I know I’ll be keeping the one I’m about to mention while the jury is still out about the other two. Anyway, one of the pens I got was an Edison Menlo with a fine steel nib in a blue swirl finish. The weight is great. The balance is nearly perfect and the steel nib, after Brian Edison did a bit of tweaking, works great. Surely I’ll do a review of this pen in the days/weeks to come but I want to spend more quality time with it before doing so.


That’s it for now. I’ll end with my favorite picture from the DC weekend.



Philadelphia Pen Show

I spent this past Saturday at the Philadelphia Pen Show.  It took a bit over 2 hours to get to Philly from my northern NJ home.  Save for a bit of snow, the trip was uneventful and finding the Sheraton  hosting the show couldn’t have been easier.  I got to the show around 10:20 am so I was among the early arrivals for Saturday.  The show took up two large rooms which made it a bit larger than I had imagined in my mind but I hear that the Philly show is only about half as large as the one in D.C..  I was more than impressed by the options available in Philly so I’m a little frightened as to what could be going on in D.C.!

I decided not to take any pictures because I wanted to take it all in and fly under the radar.  During the 4 hours or so I spent at the show, I circled the room several times visiting different vendors multiple times trying to get a handle on the offerings and prices.  Generally speaking, the prices were comparable to what you could find from pen retailers online but I certainly overheard plenty of haggling at a number of tables.  Since I was mostly in the market for modern pens, I wasn’t on the hunt for deals (although I did get one) and spent my time really just trying to take it all in.

So, what did I learn going to my first pen show?  First, there are wwwaaaayyyy too many pens in the world.  When you’re at a pen show, the absurdity of tracking down particular pens and having a collection of more than a couple of decent pens can hit you square in the face – at least it did for me.  That’s not to say I’m going to slow down my pen collecting, but you are forced to come face to face with your obsession in a rather stark way at a show.  I knew to bring cash and I knew plenty of people would be spending mad amounts of cash.  Still, I wasn’t fully prepared for how quick and easy it would be to spend money.  One gentleman dropped over $1K in the span of about 2 minutes on 3 Parker pens while I was browsing a table.  Again, I knew the money would be flying but to see the cash move in person was quite a spectacle.  I think I’m going to start a pen show cash stash to be better prepared for the next show.  Selling some old pens and bodily fluids to fund future pen show trips may also become an option.

I also learned that pen vendors are a patient and polite bunch.  It was nice to meet Lisa and Brian Anderson in person.  Turns out they’re as nice in person as they seem in their weekly podcasts.  I spoke with several other vendors and they were all, to a person, very accommodating.  In addition to the Andersons, specials mention goes to Susan Wirth.  I talked Parker Jotters with her for a good five minutes and she was simply delightful.  I’m not the kind of guy who uses the phrase “simply delightful”, but that’s the best way to describe Susan.  She was a hoot and very helpful.

Lastly, I learned that Richard Binder and nib adjustments are the real deal.  I never had a pen adjusted before but I do have a few that write less than ideally so I made sure to get on Richard’s list as soon as I arrived.  I was #10 on his list for that day and it took about 2 hours for my number to come up.  I ended up having him smooth out a fine nib for my TWSBI 580.  Nothing fancy as far as nib work goes and it took Richard less than 5 minutes to produce a result I was happy with.  The man knows what he’s doing and he seems like a thoroughly fine fellow to boot.

What will I do differently at my next show?  I went into the show with a list of 10-12 pens to check out.  Turns out that the list went out the window about 20 steps into the show room.  Next time, I’ll go into a show with fewer pens in mind.  I’ll then start by circling the show two or three times to see what’s what and then focus on pursuing these preplanned pens for a time and leave the rest of the day in search of a few surprises.  I would also set aside some time to take in all the ink options.  While I did buy a bottle of ink, it felt more like an add-on than a well-considered purchase.  As part of a future plan to leave more time for surprises, I will definitely play with more pens next time.  I spent a lot of time looking at the Philly show.  Next time, I’ll leave time and space to play with more pens.

What did I get?
Kaweco Blue Al Star Sport(M nib) – Paid a fair price, but by no means a bargain
Early ’80s glossy green Parker Jotter – Probably overpaid a bit, but I really connected with the color
Monteverde One Touch Engage – I got a very, very good deal on this directly from the Monteverde representative.  It’s going to make a great test grading pen for years to come.
Organics Studio Neon Ink – List price

All in all, I’m happy I went.  It was a lot of fun and even though I didn’t get the best bang for my buck in all cases I learned a fair amount.  I live about 90 minutes from Hofstra so I suspect I’ll be going to the Long Island show in March.  When I do, I’ll be a bit wiser and better prepared to take advantage of the day.

(Updated – forgot to include all the links in earlier version.)