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2019 LA Pen Show

Posted in Pen Shows

The Los Angeles Pen Show was the fourth show location I’ve attended (DC, Baltimore, Philly, and now LA). There were a decent number of tables, but the layout was appalling.

We arrived around 10:30, assuming that would allow us to avoid the opening crush of people we’d heard a lot about.

The exterior line at the LA Pen Show
The half of the line outside…
The interior line at the LA Pen Show
… and the half of the line inside.

Unfortunately, we arrived to find a line that wound down the corridor, out the door, and about half way down the building. Surprisingly, the line moved fairly quickly, but getting into the show was less than half the battle.

An unconsidered side-effect of arriving after the show had started was a lack of street parking. There wasn’t much to start with, but it was all taken by the time we arrived. Parking at the hotel ended up costing us around $20 for the little time we were there. I don’t want to know what people who stayed the whole day paid.


Once inside, we found ourselves in a crush of people. It took us over ten minutes to make it to the far side of the room. Had the room been empty of people, it probably would have taken 20-30 seconds.

LA Pen Show Selling Floor

In an effort to fit in as many tables as possible, the aisles between the rows were about two people wide. As in, two average people could have probably stood shoulder-to-shoulder. I don’t think there would be any extra room.

When you have people on either side of the aisle standing facing the tables, there is barely enough space for an average sized person to pass through. When there are people wanting to go both directions down the aisle, it causes problems.

The table layout also resulted in a couple of dead ends, which didn’t help any. The crush of people was bad enough that I heard several conversations about what would happen if someone called the fire marshal. From what I’ve since heard, the only reason no one did is because no one wanted to be the person that ended the show early.

I couldn’t help but notice very few people had any form of marquee or signage. Unless their table was against a wall, there simply wasn’t any space for one.


The selection was fair. It wasn’t really to my personal tastes, but there was a decent range from cheap to expensive and vintage and new, although a bit heaver on the vintage and expensive pens. There were also a fair number of indie pen makers alongside the larger brands.

There wasn’t much ink, though. Most of it was at the Vanness and Anderson tables.

General Thoughts

Typically at shows, I’ll make a quick pass through the room, then go back and revisit tables that caught my eye. At LA, though, I knew by the time I’d turned the first corner that I wouldn’t want to go back through. After I’d made my way around the room, I was sweating and exhausted. I just wanted to get out of there.

We found out afterward that a tray of pens was stolen on Sunday, as well as an individual Montblanc Writer’s Edition pen. If the show had a better layout or was in a larger room, it would have been much harder to get away with that. But it just wasn’t possible for a single vendor to keep an eye on everyone going by their table at once. The crush of people was too tight.

I absolutely will not be venturing to the LA show again.


Overall Score: 2.75 / 5

Organization: 2 / 5 – While the intake line was fast moving, having the event in such a small space (leaving no real room for signs or marquees), with only one day available to the public was just a seriously poor planning.

Layout: 1 / 5 – I’m tempted to give this a zero, honestly. The rows were too narrow, the dead ends were inconvenient (and, in an emergency, potentially deadly), and the lack of a center aisle made getting from one end of the room to the other a complete nightmare.

Price: 4 / 5 – At $8, the show was a good price, but, for how miserable it was inside, I don’t think it’s worth it.

Selection: 4 / 5 – There was a decent selection, but I would have like to see more inks.

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