Welcome to Fountain Pen 201! You’ve bought a few pens, some bottles of ink; basically, you’ve jumped head first into the fountain pen rabbit hole. So what’s next? I expect Fountain Pen 201 to be roughly the same length as Fountain Pen 101, so if you enjoyed that, make sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss an issue of 201.
For this inaugural issue of Fountain Pen 201, I’d like to discuss pen shows. I’ve been to two so far, the Washington D.C. Collectible Fountain Pen Supershow in August of last year, and the Baltimore-Washington International Pen Show this past March. I’ll be at the DC pen show again next week, and am very much looking forward it.
For those completely new to pen shows, they’re basically pen conventions. You’ll find a huge selection of fountain pens, paper, inks, etc. If you have an opportunity to go to one, I highly suggest you do so. Check out the schedule of pen shows at the end of the article.
Have a Plan
Now, the main thing to know about shows is that they can get overwhelming, so make sure you have a plan. Whether it’s a detailed listing of what you’re looking for and from who, or something as simple as “I’m only going to spend X dollars” doesn’t matter. It’s just good to have a plan.
I suggest researching who will be at the show. If there’s someone you really want a pen from, visit them first, so you have access to the best selection.
If your plan involves buying a specific pen, do a little price research. Check with a few different people/stores to make sure you’re getting the best deal. The pens will not be the same price at each table. But, DO NOT try to get people to price match. That’s just a dickish thing to do.
Have a Budget
Next, have a budget. A pen enthusiast at a pen show is like a kid in a candy store. Speaking from experience, it’s really easy to get caught up in the pen show atmosphere and deals and overspend.
Having a set budget helps. If you can, just bring cash. Not only will it help you stick to your budget, but not everyone takes cards. Even those that do are reliant on wi-fi and cell signal, neither of which are fully reliable at shows. Cash will get you through the line quicker.
Enjoy the Show
Most pen shows encompass Saturday and Sunday. Some include Friday, and maybe even Thursday. Thursdays are guaranteed to be “industry days” meaning you’ll pay more to get in, if the public is allowed to enter at all. Fridays may or may not be industry days. Saturdays tend to be the busiest, but are also likely to boast the best section.
I’ve yet to make it to a show on Sunday, so I don’t know if pen shows mirror other conventions in having really good deals on Sundays. Leave me a comment if you know.
Other than that, have fun! Stay for the “Pen Show After Dark” activities. Chat with fellow pen nerds. Take the chance to get to know the pen makers. Enjoy the pen shenanigans — they’re the best type of shenanigans, really.
So, will you be going to a pen show this year? Check the schedule to see if there’s on near you and when it is. I don’t know much about pen shows around the world, so if you know of a show I’ve missed, please drop the link to the comments and I’ll add it.
I’ll see you next week for an issue on indie pen makers.
Pen Show List
NOTE: Starred items are within the United States.
South West Pen Show (UK)
Eastern Pen Show (UK)
Northern Pen Show (UK)
Triangle Pen Show (North Carolina)* – May/June
Nürnberger Füllhalterbörse (Germany)
Midland Pen Show (UK)
St. Louis Pen Show* – June/July
Commonwealth Pen Show (Boston)*
Scriptus Pen Show (Toronto)
Yorkshire Pen Show (UK)