Jim brought up going to the Triangle Pen Show (TPS) a couple weeks ago but we dithered for a while, only deciding to go on the Thursday before. The drive wasn’t too bad, we were lucky to not hit traffic on the way down — we hit all the traffic on the way back up, though.
We made it to the show around 11:30 am. Finding out masks weren’t required surprised me. Being fully vaccinated, we decided to try going maskless and see how we felt. I’m not going to lie, it felt a bit naughty. I felt almost naked. But it was nice to breath freely. And since the room wasn’t packed, I was OK without a mask and enjoyed the taste of pre-COVID life.
The best part for me was just being at a pen show again. Getting to see Carey from Kenro, Damien of All in the Nib, Bert of Bertram’s Inkwell — although we see him often — and some pen friends was great. I’ve missed the pen camaraderie. It’s such a social battery recharge to see people, talk pens, and be able to see/handle things in person before buying them.
I decided ahead of time to get a new pen case if they were available. Federalist pens had the Girologio 48 pen case in several colors, and I picked one up in black.
I also got a gorgeous pen I’d seen a while ago on Instagram that I’d assumed had sold ages ago. River City Pen Company had this beauty sitting out, and, while I resisted on my first pass by, when it was still there on my second pass, I caved.
A stop at the Pilot/Namiki table resulted in a lovely conversation with Shawn, and the discovery of a new pen to put on my want list: Namiki Yukari Maki-e Rock Garden. The stones are 3D, and I love it!
I spent most of my show time talking to table staff. It was so good to socialize. And once I’d finished my rounds, Jima nd I sat out in the socializing area and caught up with old friends and made some new ones.
Anyway, the TPS gives me hope the DC Pen Show will be fabulous. I can’t wait, and hope that it will be well-attended.
I can’t say what the TPS is like in a “normal” year. This year, it felt slightly empty. It’s certainly not a bustling show, but I think it was a good turn out for COVID transition times. Keep that in mind when considering my thoughts and scores below.
I will say that, based on my experience, it’s an excellent show to really talk to vendors and handle pens. The lower show attendance means vendors aren’t rushed and can really spend time with customers to offer a “concierge service” when it comes to the pens they have available. Everyone seemed friendly and happy to talk pens, whether just sharing a love of the hobby or taking a deep dive into a specific pen you’re considering or upcoming releases.
For the most part the aisles between the tables were roomy. However, the row nearest to the entrance had a couple of spaces that created bottlenecks. I don’t think the show organizer(s) were expecting anyone in that first row to have chairs/seating at their table. The chairs narrowed the aisle space and made it difficult to get past if anyone stopped at the table on the other side of the aisle.
By contrast, the aisles where the nib grinders were (where chairs were expected) had extra space, making it easy to get past, even if someone stopped at the table on the other side of the aisle.
The table staff appeared to have plenty of space for themselves. They didn’t seem to have to squeeze in.
It’s a highly vintage-skewed show, but there were a handful of indie makers, and some modern/big brand sellers. The handful of people I spoke to about the show itself said that was pretty standard, verifying that the show is typically heavily vintage-skewed.
Overall Score: 4.4 / 5
Organization: 5 / 5 – It seems well-organized. There were spaces to sit, the intake area was roomy and easy to move through. I’ve never heard any complaints from attendees or vendors about the TPS.
Layout: 4.5 / 5 – I don’t want to deduct an entire point for the bottlenecks in the first row, but I think the show organizer(s) could have asked those tables to remove the chairs due to space.
Price: 5 / 5 – At $10 for the full weekend, I have no complaints. And there were some pretty impressive door prizes you could sign up to try to win.
Selection: 3 / 5 – The selection wasn’t exactly to my tastes. If you prefer vintage pens, then this would probably be a 5/5 for you. But if you’re a modern person (as I am), it’s not exactly a great selection. And paper and ink options are minimal.