Tag Archives: vintage pens

How Do I Start Collecting Pens? Investing

“How do I collect pens for investment?” is probably one of the most difficult questions I have to answer. Like all the investment prospectuses out there state, “Investing requires a degree of risk with no guarantee of success.”

There are several strategies that can help an investor looking to profit on pens, but it is important to understand several key facts before investing.

• The market for pens is constantly changing.
• Cashing out for a profit can be difficult.
• Even the most reputable retailers on earth don’t pay full retail for pens they are going to resell.
• Like every good drug dealer knows: “Don’t get addicted to your own product.”

RULE #1: Buy low, sell high. Sounds easy enough, but it doesn’t always work that way.

MINIMIZE SELLING COSTS: Most people love the collecting side of this wonderful hobby. They love the hunt, or they love using the pens. Yet, the first thing any investor-collector should think about is how they are going to offload their pens while getting their money out of them.

All of the major retailers online, such as myself, are looking for deals like any investor. If you have a rare pen that sells for $2,000, retailers like me aren’t going to pay you $2,000 for it, just so we can turn around and sell it for $2,000. Clearly, that is all risk and no reward for the retailer. And unless you found this pen for $50, you might be really upset if the retailer only offers you $1,500 or less for a $2,000 pen.

Auction sites and payment-receiving companies such as PayPal and Square charge any number of fees and commissions. These can quickly add up and dig into a substantial part of your profits.

Your best bet might be to sell your pens one-on-one at pen shows, in free social media listing pages or some place such as our Trading Post. We charge a one-time $5 fee for a single posting. You keep your pen and handle the transaction as you see fit. There are no other fees or commissions when you sell the pen. Just tell us it is sold, and we’ll delist it.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH: If you are serious about investing in pens, knowledge is power. There are huge differences between why one pen might get an astronomical amount of money and why another pen that looks nearly identical wouldn’t. There are so many nuances that affect values. Plus, if you like modern pens…and even some vintage ones…you need to learn how to spot the fakes. Furthermore, it is critical to also research the trends in what is selling and at what prices it is selling.

Flexible vintage Waterman nibs such as these from the 1920s are in exceptionally high demand in 2018.

DAY TRADING: Okay. The market for pens doesn’t move nearly as fast as it does for “day traders” on Wall Street. However, if you know what is really hot on the market right now and know you can quickly find a customer who will pay full price for it, you can make a lot of money. The trick is to know the market really well and not hold on to the pen for too long.

For example: As of this writing in November 2018, really flexible Waterman nibs from the 1920s are in peak demand. Everybody wants a flexi nib! So if you can find a Waterman 52 with a “wet noodle nib” in an antique store or flea market for $25, fix it up and sell it in a few days for $150 to $200, you’ll have made a great investment.

The trouble is that what is popular can seemingly shift overnight. About 10 years ago, everybody had to have an impossibly extra-fine nib on their vintage pens. If the line was so fine that you couldn’t even see it, that was perfect. Modern Japanese nibs can get that fine, but most vintage nibs were made for fine to medium writing. Thus those vintage extra-fine nibs were hard to find. Then one day I showed up at a pen show loaded with extra fines and nobody wanted them. The fad was over.

THE LONG GAME: Most people want a blue-chip stock they can buy at age 30, hold for 30 years and cash out at 60 for a tidy profit. They exist, of course, but they are less obvious than most people might assume. Take a Montblanc 149 fountain pen. They retail brand new for around $1,000. People who aren’t into pens might assume it will only hold that price and appreciate with time…but it won’t. Gently used 149s from the 1970s through ’90s are retailing for around $400 to $450. However, if you bought it in 1979 for $150…you’re doing okay. Yet, given how little has changed about them during the past 40 years, it isn’t likely you’ll make a profit on a new one sold from an MB boutique today. Nevertheless, an early 1950s’ 149 is resurgent on the market and attracting serious money that isn’t likely to subside for some time.

Hand-painted Montblanc Mythical Creatures series pens are genuinely rare pens that might appreciate in value, as they only made 1,500 of each…unlike the Writers’ Series pens which are made by the 10s of thousands.

A lot of people invest heavily in “limited edition” pens, but I am beginning to question how long those prices will last. With the exception of the Montblanc Writers’ Series Hemingway, Poe and Agatha Christie, most of those pens aren’t holding their original retail value. The trouble is that they aren’t really limited. MB makes tens of thousands of them every year. Everybody who wants one gets one. Most people treat them gently or don’t use them at all. There will come a time in the next 10 to 20 years when everybody either starts selling them off to cash in or passing them down to their children who don’t want them and sell them. When that happens, there will be a glut on the market. Frankly, I’m already seeing signs of that now.

Yet, maybe genuinely limited pens of say 1,500 or fewer, like the hand-painted Montblanc Mythical Creatures series, will appreciate more because so few were made…and they were more handmade than the more common pens. (Although even these pens are a little down in price at the moment.)

LeBoeuf #8 fountain pens are among the rarest grail pens for vintage pen collectors. These were among the first celluloid pens ever made…and are stunningly beautiful.

Vintage pens are a different matter. Blue chips might include an oversized #8 LeBoeuf, senior-sized mandarin yellow Parker Duofolds, Nassau green Parker 51s with double jewels and vermillion Sheaffer Snorkels. Each is a rare color variant on a popular pen. Prices might fluctuate over time, but their values ought to hold.

Playing Devil’s advocate to myself, nearly impossible to find grail pens spanning 1900 to 1925ish are once again becoming much more available as the original collectors are beginning to pass on. Younger, newer collectors are not as familiar with those pens and likely haven’t the money at this stage in their careers to purchase them…and so those prices are actually crashing a bit. It is unclear at the moment if new generation collectors will ever have much interest in the earliest fountain pens. Speculators might be wise to let the prices keep coming down and snatch a few up at “bargain” prices to hold for another 20 years or so. BUT, there’s no guarantee it will pay off.

Younger collectors were laughing at me the 2018 Ohio Pen Show when I said they should hold on to their TWSBI Ecos. These are $15 pens that are a scorching hot fad in affordable fountain pens. But who is to say that these new pen users and collectors in their early 20s and early 30s won’t get nostalgic for them in another 30 years, when they start looking back on how they got into pen collecting. Who knew those 1970s and ’80s Star Wars action figures and spaceships I played with all the time would now be worth a fortune? If only I hadn’t sold them all in a garage sale at age 12.

In closing, you can make a lot of money by investing in pens if you carefully research what it is you are investing in, know well the market and trends in collecting, buy low and sell high and have an inexpensive way to sell your investments. Good luck!

Ohio Pen Show Bound!

Wow! What a whirlwind year! I can’t believe it is already time to go to Columbus for what will likely be our last pen show for the year. The Ohio Pen Show is always a great one.

These are just the repairs we’re delivering to customers at this year’s Ohio Pen Show. Just imagine the goodies you haven’t yet seen on this site that will be coming!

Look how busy we’ve been. These pens are just the repairs we’ve done to deliver to customers at the show!

Terry and his sons always put on a helluva good show, and I cannot wait to see them and all of my many other friends in Columbus. If you are going this year, please keep a look out for me. My table is in the main hallway, just outside the main entrance to the big room at the show. Be sure to stop by and say “Howdy.”

Well, I best get to fixin’ some more pens for you at this year’s show. See ya in a week!

Meet the Ink Test Guru

Several years ago I met Donn D. at the Chicago Pen Show. We got to talking outside of the main room afterhours, and he was the one who introduced me to Ink-Fast Tests. He had a binder of very organized ink swatches that showed what an ink looked like when protected from the light, what it looked like after it had been left in the sun for 3 months and after it had been left in the sun for 6 months.

As I was on a quest for the perfect replacement blue for my beloved Waterman Florida Blue, I began making ink tests for this site. I figured you would be as curious as I am about how ink holds up to UV light.

Donn and I got together at this year’s Washington DC Pen Show and resumed our inky discussions. I asked if he would be so kind as to share some of his tests on the blog, and he said, “Yes.”

Included in this post are 4 pages of his tests of Pilot ink, Diamine ink, Noodler’s ink, Waterman ink, Parker ink and Pelikan ink…among others.

Donn described his methodology as such: “I exposed fountain pen ink samples to ultraviolet light from the sun for 3 months and 6 months.  The exposure method involved simply taping them to the inside of a patio door, which does not block UV very well.  I exposed all samples in the same manner, but not at the same time, and have no record of the number of cloudy vs. sunny days for each test.  The paper was standard office copy bond.

The inks in this test happen to be colors I like, rather than a general test of a manufacturer’s entire product line.

What surprised me most was how well green inks held up, and a chemist friend speculates a copper compound may be involved.

Note: Test sheet #1 shows 6-month results only.”

Thank you, Donn, for sharing so many of these ink tests. Everybody else, I hope these help you in your quest for the perfect inks.

Click on any of the images to see a larger, clearer representation of the inks tested. Please also note that these are not performance tests of the ink inside a fountain pen. Some of these inks are not as well suited to vintage pens as others. This is strictly to showcase how an ink will hold up to time and light. (For example, Noodler’s Ink often clogs the hell out of vintage pens. Beautiful inks but a pain to deal with unless you love spending hours cleaning pens.)

2018 Dallas Pen Show Round-up

Sometimes the biggest part of an adventure is just arriving safely. My trusty car, Penelope Apocalypse, was debating existential issues with herself, as her starter was giving out. A quick trip to the dealership the day I was scheduled to drive south turned into a prolonged exploration of the starter system. After 5 hours of delay, the dealership determined that her starter was dying and it had no spares to replace it. Thus, I hit the road with no guarantee of getting to Dallas…but I really wanted to go!

In one of our few sober moments, Three-Finger Frank and I visit at my table during the Dallas Pen Show.

Stopping only for gas near St. Louis, I made it to Muskogee, Oklahoma, by 4 a.m. the following day. Penelope graced me with a fresh start in the morning, and we made it to Dallas on a wing and an exhausted prayer.

Thank goodness for great friends. The awesome pen dealer Joe Lowe was waiting for me in Dallas, and he found a dealership just a mile from the pen show hotel! I unloaded Penelope at the hotel, and we took her to the dealer for a new starter. One classic Luby’s dinner experience later, Joe and I were fortified for the show starting the next morning.

Pete Kirby and Mike Walker did a fantastic job advertising the daylights out of the Dallas Pen Show this year. It was packed nearly shoulder to shoulder all day Friday and Saturday! They sure run a good show.

I was on the back wall, where I was last year and stacked more than 4 boxes worth of goods on a single table. It is a great location, and I was visited by tons of friends all day Friday and Saturday. Charles S. and his buddy Murray came to visit from Ft. Worth. We had fun shootin’ the breeze. Then came Three-Finger Frank and his lovely wife Kelly. We’d eventually get a great dinner together, catching up on a year’s worth of conversation and puns.

The show was so busy, I barely got a chance to see any other tables other than the ones next to me. It looked like a vintage heavy show, and from what I could see there were some really amazing offerings. The oversized orange hard rubber Watermans with sterling silver filigree had me drooling the most.

Friday night ran late. After dinner, Frank and I continued on in the hotel bar, joking and swapping philosophical musings. We were soon joined by Nik Pang, and the laughs and bull session continued. It was like being in college all over again. I’m surprised our livers didn’t explode.

Saturday started way too early, but it was another fun day of friends and pens. My favorite new friend is Miss Targa Slim. Mysterious, beautiful and hilarious. We met the day before and had a delightful time swapping stories for a second day. She said she’d keep in touch, and I sure hope she does.

Saturday night the pressure was off, knowing I’d have a starter that worked. Another dinner at Luby’s with Joe and a few other friends, and then it was off to Muskogee. The long ride home was way more relaxing and uneventful. Although Penelope seems like a new car to me, she crossed the great 100,000-mile mark somewhere in Oklahoma! She’s the first car I ever drove 100,000 miles on, and she feels powerful enough to go another 100k…now that she has a new starter for the task.

Dallas Pen Show Here We Come…I Hope

We’ve got four boxes and a whole lot more filled with vintage and preowned modern luxury pens to tempt you with at this weekend’s Dallas Pen Show!

Do you think I have enough pens for the Dallas Pen Show? We’ve got a tower of swag to bring to our southernmost pen show. A new cache of Omas, Parker, Namiki/Pilot, vintage pens and factory-fresh Lamy pens.

There’s only one snag. The car won’t start! We are headed to the shop the first thing in the A.M. to hopefully get this show on the road. The hotels and the tables are already paid for. We just gotta get the ol’ jalopy firing on all 4 cylinders. Last week she required $1,200 in repairs. We hope this week is easier going.

In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Dallas, be sure to check out this huge show on Friday and Saturday. There will be two rooms filled to the rafters with pens and some of the friendliest folks you’ve ever met.

We’re keeping our shoelaces crossed (it’s too difficult to type with crossed fingers) that we’ll see you in a couple days!

Man Saves a Life Using Pen

We’ve all heard the cliché that the pen in mightier than the sword. Typically it refers to truth, ideologies, satire and propaganda changing the world. Rarely is the pen thought of as a tool for physical action and derring do.

Buuuuut, today’s heroes are one tough pen and the man who wields it to save lives. Meet Colin M. a paramedic with a passion for pens. A longtime customer of ThePenMarket.com, we’ve struck up a friendship via e-mail, and when he told me what you’re about to read I couldn’t keep it a secret.

TPM: Hi, Colin. Welcome to “Drippy Musings.” I know that confidentiality prevents you from saying anything that would identify your patient, but please tell us about how you used a pen to save somebody’s life.

Our friend and customer Colin M. is a paramedic and used this trusty brass Delike Alpha fountain pen to save a woman’s life.

CM: A few months ago, my partner and I were responding to a 911 call about a car that had ran off the freeway and crashed into a tree. We arrived before the fire engine, so I decided to head in and assess the scene while waiting for fire and rescue. I approached the car down a fairly steep embankment. It was not heavily damaged, but it was wedged tightly into the brush and the doors would not open. I attempted to contact the driver and noticed that the patient, a woman in her mid 40’s, was not conscious. I banged on the window, hoping to rouse her, but when it was clear that she was unconscious, I checked to see if she was breathing and did not notice any chest rise. I reached for my spring glass breaker (We try to avoid popping glass, as it goes everywhere and can injure a patient, but when the patient isn’t breathing or conscious, the decision was made for me) but when I brought it to the window, the mechanism jammed and I could not get it to fire. There were no large rocks nearby, and we do not carry heavy rescue tools in our ambulance. I was down a steep embankment, my pocket knife was not a safe tool for the job, so I grabbed for the only thing I had available, the brass Delike Alpha in my pocket. I didn’t know if it would work, but I had to try. I pulled it out and placed the diamond tipped dome shape in the lower corner of the window and struck it several times as hard as I could with my hand. (Wearing duty gloves, this still hurt like hell.) On the eighth or ninth hit, the glass gave and the window shattered. I was able to climb in through the window, and when I opened the patient’s airway, she began breathing on her own. I held her airway open until heavy rescue arrived, and we were able to extricate her by cutting the doors, themselves, off. We wound up transporting her to the local hospital, and so far as I know, she survived the accident. I did not expect my pen to even work, much less survive, but much to my amazement, the thing still caps and uncaps just like normal and writes just fine!

TPM: Why did you originally get that pen? How did it become your daily work pen?

CM: Originally, I got it because I saw Chris on his youtube channel, Chrisrap42, showing it off. I liked the “bent nib” it had and was curious. I had a Kaweco Sport and really hated how short it was when unposted, also didn’t like the nibs much. I wound up really loving how hefty it was, the quick cap/uncap, the smooth pseudo-architect nib, it could take a proper converter and that it could be used posted or not. That extra centimeter of length really improved on the design that was obviously stolen from Kaweco, and the fact that it was rounded made slipping it into my uniform pocket very easy. I drop my pens from time to time on duty. I get into wrestling matches with crazy patients and have been kicked squarely on the breast pocket pen before, which resulted in a ballpoint ruining a shirt. The Delike really took the beating and kept coming back for more. It’s got a plastic insert for the threads, but it’s smooth and has proven to be able to survive multiple full-force strikes when held against glass, so I genuinely can’t think of a better pen for the job.

TPM: What was it that first got you into pen collecting?

CM: I remember being 8 or 9 years old at an office supply store, seeing a row of Waterman Phileas’s in the case. I begged my dad to buy one for my mom’s birthday (They were around $80 back then.), and she used it for years. I used dip pens in art during high school but never really got into fountain pens myself. I started making pens in my dad’s wood shop and selling them, and kept a nice little one I made from some thuya burl and would use it on occasion, always growing frustrated with the fact that it would dry out and skip constantly. But when I started back in school, I was bored one day browsing Amazon and noticed that I could get a Pilot Penmanship for about $5. So I bought one. And it didn’t skip. It didn’t dry out. It wrote amazingly. Then I bought a Pilot Metro and shortly after bought my first two vintage pens from you, a 50’s Sheaffer Craftsman and an American Pencil Co. Venus. I’ve been spending more money than I should ever since.

TPM: Off duty, what are your favorite pens? Why?

CM: The pen I reach for on a daily basis more than other is probably a heavily customized TWSBI VAC700R made by Pablo at FPnibs.com. It’s got a monster flex XXF 14k nib and custom feed, and I love using it. Also like to take my Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age around. When it comes time for a final exam, my “good luck” charm is my mom’s old Waterman Phileas. It’s battered. It’s brassed. It needs restoring. But it writes like hell after over 20 years in her purse (I’ve since upgraded her to a Pilot Custom 74 with a 14k music nib). If I am going somwehere and need to show off a little, the Mont Blanc 149 I purchased from you.

TPM: What do you like to write about? Why?

CM: Right now, most of my writing is either in patient charts or writing extensive notes in class. I find it a good experience to help practice my handwriting and cement concepts from class. Right now I’m reviewing EKG interpretation over the summer. I also practice learning Spencerian and more ornamental penmanship using dip nibs and my monster flex TWSBI. This thing is genuinely about as soft as a Comic G nib.

TPM: Tell us some of your favorite inks. What do you like about them?

CM: I like inks that don’t smudge. Smudging drives me nuts. My favorite is hands-down Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses. It was my first bottle of ink. It’s both vibrant yet professional, and the black component to it is Bulletproof. I’ve got about 120 bottles of ink these days, not including samples, and it’s hard to choose favorites. I love Noodler’s Dark Matter because of its historical roots. I love Pilot Blue/Black because it’s 350mL for $20 and just always behaves, and I love good old Waterman Blue because it’s a lot more vibrant than people believe. Lastly, there’s the Goulet exclusive, Liberty’s Elysium, a permanent ink that I don’t think could possibly be more blue. I am honestly more into inks than pens themselves, I use them in all sorts of projects and recently used three to stain some shelves for my wife.

TPM: Thank you for sharing your story with us and for keeping us safe with your pen collection!

2018 DC Pen Show Proves a Success

To be honest, a lot of us had our doubts about the 2018 DC Pen Show. Last year’s show was a near train wreck at the start. So, we waited with baited breath to see if it was a harbinger for a disaster for this year’s show. It was NOT.

Here’s ThePenMarket.com table in action at the 2018 DC Pen Show. Check out our killer location on the wall by the side doors to the ballroom!

The 2018 DC Pen Show was a fun, well-oiled machine! Well organized and well advertised, this year’s show dazzled. Members of the pen community, old and new, hobnobbed and shared in 4 full days of inky geek love.

But, I’m getting head of myself.

The drive was actually uneventful for a change. No blowouts, thunderstorms or tornados. It was really challenging driving in dry, sunny conditions.

As no show would be complete without a battlefield visit, I returned to Manassas/Bull Run for the first time in more than 30 years. It seemed much bigger when I was a kid. While the first land battle of the Civil War did range over several miles, the park focused on the epicenter of the battle. The gently hilly terrain really played a significant part of the battle…as did inconsistently colored uniforms. I remember marveling up at the big bronze statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson as a kid. It really commands the view of the battlefield, but as an adult the statue looked comical, as Jackson’s biceps are seemingly 3 times larger than his head. Not even Superman is that out of proportion.

Overlooked is the battle of 2nd Manassas, which took place a little more than a year after the first. Just down the road from the original battle site, the second battle was another victory for Jackson and the South, setting up the battle of Antietam a short while later. A little more isolated that first Manassas, the battlefield seems better preserved and very soothing to visit on a sunny afternoon with all of the cicadas and grasshoppers warming up for the evening, as tall grasses and wildflowers sway in the breeze. Hallowed ground for certain.

I love these chandeliers hanging in the ballrooms of the hotel at the DC Pen Show. It has a certain jellyfish quality to it.

The pen show was great. My friends and I arrived to be among the first to set up Thursday morning on the free-for-all no table assignments day. As the day sped by, more vendors set up temporary shop and weekend pass holders got first crack at some phenomenal pens. This is the day to be there for vintage pen fans. About 2 hours before tear down, it was like a huge family reunion, as I met with and talked to friends from all over the U.S., Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic and Russia. It is quite possible I left out a few countries, but it is unintentional.

Friday got an early jump. My fellow vendors started arriving around 8:30 in the morning, AND we already had table assignments waiting for us. It was great to set up before the crowds rushed us. But, rush us, they did. I got so busy setting up and helping early customers that I totally forgot to move my car from under the portico to a real parking space! Thank goodness the hotel didn’t have my car towed! My roommates and friends gave me well-deserved hell for it for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was a blur, but, at one point, I got to host my first repair seminar with pen tool genius Dale Bebe. We had an hour to explain the fundamentals of restoring a lever-filler pen and what tools to achieve our goals.

How busy does the DC show get? This is how full it was before it officially opened for the day!

As I did that my friend Neal S. watched my table with stunning success, really helping me while I was away. That night, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Black Pen Society meeting. Yay, scotch and cigars.

Sunday was a busy morning, and then–just like that–it was all over. It was time to say farewell and pack up all my troubles in my old kit bag.

Monday, I finally got to play tourist in our nation’s capitol. I took my first Metro ride downtown to the National Mall. (The Metro is way cleaner than the El in Chicago…smoother riding, too.) My destination was a 30-year bucket-list museum: The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Howard Hughes broke both speed and distance records with this graceful, slick art deco wonder with wings.

FIRST, it looks nothing like “A Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller and Amy Adams. I was very disappointed about that…and no Amy Adams-portrayed Amelia Earhart flirting with me. Once I got over that, I enjoyed the surprisingly small museum. Impressive were the original Wright Flyer, Glamorous Glennis (the first plane to break the sound barrier), authentic V-1 and V-2 rockets and missiles from WWII and myriad other aircraft. Yet, what really spun my prop was Howard Hughes’ HB-1 plane circa 1935 that broke all of the then-known speed records. A precursor of the Bee-Gee, this plane was as fast and sleek looking as any plane on display! I loved it and a 1930s plane that was the first to fly across all of Antarctica.

To my greater surprise, my favorite exhibit looked at the history of navigation! I actually learned how to use a sextant and a chronometer to find my global position using stars at night! Now I kinda wanna roam around the country with a sextant and calculating my position on earth. The display moved through the years, also discussing how early pilots had to use the sun and a modernized sextant to navigate before radio beams could be used and then, ultimately, satellites.

Another great trip in the books.

2018 DC Pen Show or Bust!

After last year’s chaotic but successful pen show, we are hitting the road for the 2018 DC Pen Super Show!

We’ve spent the past month cleaning, polishing and organizing more than 300 vintage and modern pre-owned luxury pens not yet online for this show. This photo shows only a tiny fraction of what we will have available.

This is just a tiny fraction of the more than 300 vintage and pre-owned modern pens not currently on our website that we shall carry on our table at the DC Pen Show this weekend.

Omas, Delta, S.T. Dupont, Namiki, Montegrappa and rare Pelikans will make a splash. Plus, we’ve loaded up on Montblanc from the 1970s and ’80s. In addition to that we’ve been adding a dozen ultra-rare Esterbrook pens, rare vintage Waterman pens and many great vintage Parker and Sheaffer fountain pens.

Naturally, we are returning with our Lamy nib testing station that was a huge hit last year. It will be loaded with this year’s limited edition Safari and Al-Star designs, as well as many great traditional colors. We’ve restocked Lamy ink, too!

We will have something for everyone. With a total of more than 600 pens in every price range on our table, if you can’t find a new treasure to love…you just don’t like pens.

One Crazy Summer!

Since last writing, I’ve been to the inaugural St. Louis Pen Show, moved secret underground workshop lairs and hosted visits by many members of my college fencing team!

The first St. Louis Pen Show was a monster success and a ton of fun.

First to the exciting and wonderful new St. Louis Pen Show. More organized than several already established pen shows, Anne and her crew have spent 2 years advertising and promoting this incredible show. Many of us vendors were worried no one would attend, aside from vendors. But no! A city’s worth of people who had never previously attended a pen show filled the venue for 3 days!

The trip down was uneventful…until we almost got run off the road by a tornado! About 2 miles from the venue, a huge cell of storm clouds began blowing across the interstate. Wind was howling debris across the highway, even bowing flag poles. A native-born Midwesterner, I didn’t worry until the clouds turned green and sirens started going off. Talk about bad times to be stuck in rush hour traffic.

Luckily, I only got rained on. No funnel cloud formed near me to whisk me away to Oz.

Many of the vendors were regulars on the show circuit, and we were all excited to catch up and discuss the past month or two since we’d last met. During the days of the show, nearly everyone who came to my table gushed about attending their first show. And most of the folks were 40 and younger! Heck. We even had a lot of kids collecting their first fountain pens. It was super encouraging to see.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all fun and games. After a very nice auction on Friday, one of our longtime friends passed away. John F. and his wife were among the first to welcome me into the pen show scene after a particularly bruising first or second Chicago Pen Show for me about a decade ago. John was a retired newspaper editor, and I was freshly out of newspaper work in an era that has seen the decimation of newspapers across the country. We commiserated and bonded over our journalistic past. We’ve talked at nearly every pen show since. This night was no different, as he recounted his recovery from a rather severe stroke a few months earlier. Little did either of us realize our conversation just before the auction would be our last. All of the vendors were upset to hear of his passing just as the show opened for Saturday.

Among the things this show got so right was the ceaseless promotion that included heavy media promotion to reach out to new showgoers. Plus, they had cell phone aps to help people navigate the show! AND, they had a break room for the vendors that was loaded with soda, sandwiches and snacks! Like other shows they had table watchers, a great bar scene for after-hours meetings and catching up, loads of free parking and a very nice hotel.

If you didn’t go this year, be sure to attend in 2019.

Here’s a quick peek at our new workshop as it comes together for many more great vintage pen repairs.

Soooo, in other news, we’ve moved! Well, we still have the same P.O. Box and Website, but the secret underground workshop is now much larger and better suited to fix all of your favorite vintage pens. We’re not 100% unpacked but close, as you can see from this top secret photo.

This will be a temporary home, hopefully, for only a year or two. Because after this, we want to buy our forever, permanent home.

Good Lord. I hate moving! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! It is stressful as all get out, moving a small business and home at once. Luckily, the new place is much nicer and all of the business items have been unpacked and accounted for. Sorry for the lack of updates for so long.

And while all that transpired, I had three lovely visits from Blue-Hair Cathy, Chewbacca and The Chihuahua. All teammates from my college fencing team…an unspecified number of years ago. All arrived separately on different days. Two from Montana and one from Antarctica! It was great to catch up on all of our current lives, while reminiscing about all of the people we impaled together.

And now we resume your regularly scheduled vintage pen and pre-owned luxury pen mania.

Pen Show Revolution in Chicago

There was something new in the air this year at the 2018 Chicago Pen Show, and I liked it: new blood, innovation, advancements on the writing experience.

This year’s Bootlegger’s Sacrament and last year’s Chicago Blue are great examples of city-themed ink from Papier Plume and KWZ, respectively.

Long-time readers of this blog know there has been a rift between the generations of pen collectors for some time. The past few years in Chicago have attempted to address those issues and bridge that divide. This year seemed to succeed in many ways.

Alcohol helps. Really tasty expensive alcohol helps even more. Building on the success of last year’s scotch and bourbon tasting, this year saw about three times as many pen collectors (and some curious car collectors from a nearby auction) trying out top tier scotches and bourbons. The bottles ran from $50 to $120 or more a piece, but all were welcome to try. Many dealers brought in a bottle, but it was Mario Campa and a friend of his who curated a considerable tasting collection. They even brought in mini GlenCairn Glass snifters for us to use and keep! (Thanks to everybody who shared a bottle!)

With liquor to keep everyone together, the lobby of the hotel was filled with vintage collectors and new pen users rubbing elbows and having a great time sharing stories and pen passions.

If you are a pen show circuit regular, you will have been pleased to see and chat with most of the regular vendors who specialize in vintage pens and preowned luxury pens. However, what impressed me about this show were all the new vendors who seemingly came out of the woodwork. A young man named Ralph Reyes came selling custom-made nibs, the likes of which none of us had ever seen before. His triple-decker music nibs were the hit of the show. Yes, three music nibs stacked one on top of the other! They were easily the smoothest, wettest things I’ve ever written with. He sold out long before I got to him, and nobody on the vintage or modern side of the show had ever heard of him before.

This is the handmade Musubi journal I purchased. The cover is woven and the Tomoe River pages are hand stitched in the binding! That’s also a Pelikan 620 Stockholm pen before it.

Also coming out of seemingly nowhere…although Singapore is hardly nowhere…was a man named Darrell representing a company called Musubi. Musubi makes hand-stitched journals with hand-woven covers. Foregoing the modern use of book-making technology, Musubi uses centuries old bookbinding traditions for what amount to custom-made journals using Tomoe River paper! I had to have one.

Renso, of Papier Plume fame, made two new inks exclusively for this year’s Chicago Pen Show. Those were “Da Blue” (think the deep blue-black of the Bear’s helmets) and “Bootlegger’s Sacrement.” To my great surprise, Renso told me I was the “inspiration” for Bootlegger’s Sacrament. In September, at the Dallas Pen Show, I told him what a kick I got out of 2017’s Chicago-themed inks “Ivy Green” and “Lake Michigan Blue.” I told him there were countless themes and colors for the city, and that I really hoped he’d try for a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Red. Sure enough, he decided to give it a try. Although he didn’t quite get the blood red that he wanted in time for this year’s show, he did create this beautiful red-wine-colored ink, which became Bootlegger’s Sacrament.

These were just a tiny sampling of the new vendors or more traditional vendors bringing entirely new products to market. It was exciting to walk the show and find all of this great stuff.

Of course the regulars to the show had great hidden gems, too. One friend discovered a Sheaffer Snorkel with an exceedingly rare music nib that most of us snorkel fans would have killed for.

My absolute favorite event of the show was Lisa Vanness’ Cinco de Ink-o party on Saturday night! It was like speed dating for pen geeks. There were 7 or 8 tables set up with an expert at each. The partygoers sat at one table for about 15 minutes learning from the expert. When time ran out, they’d get up and move on to the next expert. Anna of the Well Appointed Desk taught the joy of developing ink color rings, Nick Pang taught the basics of copperplate history, Paul Erano introduced people to vintage pens, Ralph Reyes and the folks from Franklin Christoph each showed off their nibs, Darrell from Musubi taught how to identify and grade paper quality, a Philippino woman whose name escapes me had a beautiful class teaching how to make your journal a work of art instead of just a written record of your life and there were several others who I didn’t get to visit, as I was asked to replace one exhausted teacher with an impromptu class about vintage pen filling systems. The entire event was a great opportunity for all to slow down and get to know each other and learn new aspects of the hobby they never knew before. It was wonderful!

If this is the future of pen shows, I can’t wait for more.