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How To Pen Show



One of the things I've been thinking about for a long while is starting a How To series of videos over on my YouTube channel. They'd cover basic things like "What are the parts of a Fountain Pen?" or "How do I fill this thing now that I have it?" With a series of big pen shows coming up soon, though, a friend asked me if I have a video about Pen Shows. I have lots of videos about pen shows! Just...not a How To Pen Show. So I made one of those. You'll find it at the bottom of this post. 


But, really, it would also be a good idea to have a blog post about it with the same advice. Well, here it is! 


Before the Show:


A little preparation can go a long way when you're getting ready for an event. If you haven't been to a show before, then you might not have much idea what you're getting into. Watching some of my pen show live streams from past years might help out with this, but so will: 


Making Lists!


Yep. Use that stationery. Make some lists. Get your mind settled on some paper so that when you get to a show, and get overwhelmed by the variety of things you'll see, you have past-you's calm reflection to lean on. 


A list of things to buy: 

  • Stuff you're sure you want to find. 
  • Nibs you want to get ground. (Do this first thing!)
  • Pens you want to have fixed. 

A list of Things to Try

  • Things you've heard about or seen online, but you think they really need to be held. There are lots of pens like this. Pilot Vanishing Points, for example, are great pens, but they don't work for everyone. Maybe something looks too heavy or too light in videos or pictures. Find it. Hold it. Try it out. Figure out if it's for you.  

A list of People to Meet

  • Pen shows have pens, but they're really about people. Meeting and talking to fellow pen nerds is something that most of us don't really get to do all that often, but pen shows are the perfect time for that. 
  • Some of your favorite bloggers and others in the community will be around pen shows, and we love to meet people who have appreciated our work.  



  •  Get snacks. Have a water bottle. Keep your body fueled!
  • Wear shoes you can walk and stand in for long periods. 
    • Most shows don't have a lot of seating around the show, so you're going to be standing or walking a ways to find a seat. Don't ruin your feet. 
  • Have an appropriate bag. 
    • You don't want anything too bulky, but you do want to be able to carry some stuff with you without making constant trips to your room or your car to drop things off or grab things to show to people. 
    • I'd recommend a small backpack or a slim messenger. 
  •  Bring your own paper. 
    • You'll want to try out pens and inks on papers that you know. Vendors will have some paper, but it might not be like what you usually use, so bring your own to make sure. 
  • Make a budget.
    • Or not. That's up to you.  
  • Bring some cash. 
    • Not every vendor can take a card or PayPal.
    • Cash lets you know what you've spent if you have a budget. 

At the Show:



*Eat a snack!

*Take care of yourself!


Be Polite:

  • Give people room.
  • Be aware of your space.
  • Ask before you touch things. Don't be Grabby Hands. 

Ask Questions:

  •  Vendors know stuff. 
  • Most of them want to tell you about their goods. 
  • You'll be happier if you know more about what you're getting. 
  • You'll avoid buyer's remorse.


Should I Buy It Now?

  •  Modern pens from an authorized vendor?
    • Mostly you can take a lap and come back. Prices will be about the same between vendors, but some might be other colors and nib sizes. 
  • Small Maker pens and goods: 
    • Lots of their products are one of a kind. If you find something that really calls to you, and you take a lap, it might well be gone when you get back. 
    • This is a bit of a double-edged sword. You can be happy that it went to a loving home and  you saved the money on it to spend on another thing. Or you might be really sad about the one that got away. I've experienced it both ways, so know yourself. 
  • Vintage Pens:
    • This really depends. Is it vintage and common? You can probably take a lap and find something like it again. Is it really rare and something you've been looking for? Is it a great price? Probably snag that thing.


After Hours:

 Hang out with people. Make a new friend. We might all be strangers, but we've got at least one thing in common. 

Show them what you've got. Look at what they've got! Try out some things you wouldn't be able to otherwise. 


Pen people are generally very happy to share their pens with you so that you can try them out and see what it's like to write with something exotic or unusual. Just remember the Grabby Hands rule. Ask before you grab. 


Pen shows are fun. Seeing new things, meeting new people.I hope this little guide has been helpful. Check out the associated video below.

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