The beginning of the year is always an exciting time for me both because of the promise that a new year holds and the fact that the Philadelphia Pen Show is held in mid-January. Unfortunately, we all are not so lucky as to have a pen show right in our backyard. Pen shows are held across the country and even internationally throughout the year. Some of my most interesting and unique Pelikan pens and some of my more esoteric knowledge has been acquired at pen shows. They provide an opportunity to see a wide variety of pens and paraphernalia up close and in person, interact with like-minded members of the community, have repairs/adjustments made on pens, and they are a lot of fun. Whether you have never attended a show and are wondering what the fuss is about, have been to several, or are anticipating your first, I hope to provide some good reasons to go and some helpful tips about what to expect.
Attending a pen show is very exciting and just a little bit overwhelming. If you’re not sure why you should bother, here are some of my thoughts;
- A pen show provides an opportunity to travel and can be incorporated into a family outing or a mini-vacation.
- It’s a chance to try out a large variety of pens, especially as there are fewer and fewer brick and mortar stores around these days.
- Many dealers offer show specials and discounted pricing. While it’s not always dramatic, the discount can be enough to trigger that purchase you’ve been holding off on.
- You actually get to see, feel, and test merchandise before purchasing. This can be reassuring when so many of our pen purchases occur over the internet these days (often times based on blurry eBay pictures).
- There are many knowledgeable people at shows and you can learn a lot if you’re genuinely interested.
- There are opportunities to take courses about things such as handwriting as well as a chance to sit in on different seminars (depending on the show).
- Many shows offer extras such as an ink testing table, raffles, and more.
Now that I’ve hopefully piqued your interest, here are some tips to keep in mind in order to maximize your enjoyment and make the most of your experience;
- Dress comfortably, especially when it comes to wearing comfortable shoes.
- If you intend to make a purchase (we usually do), it is always advisable to bring cash. Some dealers accept check or credit but don’t count on that being the case. If you come up short, ATM’s are usually nearby. That said, have a budget in mind and stick to it.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate a price. There is usually always some room to haggle.
- Walk through the show in its entirety before deciding on a purchase or negotiating any prices. A better deal could be on the next table over. Take notes if you must so that you can find a pen that you’re interested in later.
- Have a plan of attack. It helps if you have an idea in mind of what you might be in the market for before going or else it can get very overwhelming. I usually come up with a list of a few things that I’m looking for and that really helps focus my search.
- I always find it better to be respectful and ask before you handle a vendor’s pens.
- You often won’t see all of the vendors of a show set up on a Friday. Friday is more of a low-key day for dealers which allows for great conversation with the vendors who do make it in. If you only have one day to go though, pick Saturday or Sunday but know that those days will be busy.
- If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask. It sounds simple but I’ve picked up some great bargains from items that were under the table, not on top of it. If I didn’t ask, I would have never known they were there.
- Most of all, relax and have fun!
Nibmeisters deserve their own special discussion. Many travel the show circuit and offer their services in real-time rather than having to wait several weeks to months for a turn around via the mail system. If you want to employ the services of a nibmeister, get there early and get your name on their list. Each will have a list which can fill up quite quickly. Check back regularly as someone might not show up allowing you to move into their slot. Also, each new day usually brings a fresh list so don’t expect the previous days list to carry over. Some well-known nibmeisters frequently found at shows include;
Hopefully there will be a pen show located near you. If you’re not sure, here is a listing of many of the 2015 shows.
United States of America
- January 16-18: Philadelphia, PA
- February 12-15: Los Angeles, CA
- February 27-28: Little Rock, AR
- March 6-8: Baltimore, MD
- March 14-15: Long Island, NY
- April 17-19: Atlanta, GA
- April 30/May 1-3: Chicago, IL
- May 28-31: Raleigh, NC
- July 17-19: Miami, FL
- August 6-9: Washington, D.C.
- August 28-30: San Francisco, CA
- September 25-26: Dallas, TX
- October: Denver, CO
- October: Troy, MI
- November 5-8: Columbus, OH
- February 1: Bristol, England, UK (South West Pen Show)
- February 21: Milano, Italy
- March 1: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK (Eastern Pen show)
- March 14: Barcelona, Spain
- March 21: Köln, Germany
- March 28: Florence, Italy
- April 11-12: Katowice, Poland
- April 19: Lytham, Lancashire, UK (North East Pen Show)
- May 23: Nuremberg, Germany
- June 21: Guildhall, Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK (Midland Pen Show)
- September 26: Tilburg, Holland
- September 27: Waterloo, Belgium
- October: Torino, Italy
- October 3: Hamburg, Germany
- October 4: London, UK (London Writing Equipment Show)
- October 26: Vienna, Austria
- November: Paris, France
- November 8: Melbourne, Australia
- November 13-15: Madrid, Spain
- November 29: Sheffield, South Yorkshire (Yorkshire Pen Show)
All very good advice. I wish everyone at the shows wore name tags so we could recognize our online friends more easily.
It would indeed be nice to put a face behind a screen name/avatar.
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Thank you so much for this list. I can’t believe I was in Philadelphia yesterday–to see some art–and missed a chance to go to my very first pen show! Now that I know about this, I’m planning on attending the Long Island one this year. Hey, maybe I can make it to DC, too!
If you can only make one show, I would highly recommend D.C. It’s massive and a lot of fun. Can find just about anything and anyone there.
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