Pen Shows: The 2013 Philadelphia Pen Show Review

Thursday

We left thursday afternoon after a late night Wednesday packing session.  I got up early and Lisa drove me to work, and I finished off my very last day at my job by getting picked up by my beautiful wife and heading off to a pen show.  🙂  Lisa picked me up around 3:00 pm and we got on the road and drove through the night, stopping about 4:00 in the morning to pull off and sleep for about an hour.

Friday

We pulled into the hotel around 9:00 am, but not until we ended up driving around some of Philadelphia’s one way streets a couple of times.  It was a little cumbersome getting our car unpacked, up the ramp, over to the elevator, and up to the second floor where the trading room was.  When we got there, we saw Bert Oser at the table getting people sorted out, and I peeked in to the ballroom, thinking this looks big!!  It was much to my surprise that not only did the trading floor have one room, but two!  This was a BIG area and very spacious with plenty of room in between aisles, and a ton of room in between dealers.  If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s having to squeeze two dealers back to back so close you can’t move around.

We started set up right away in hopes of being done by opening at 11:00, but we didn’t really get set up until around 3:00 in the afternoon.  Traffic was heavy almost from the start and before you knew it the show was over and it was 5:00.  We looked at each other and realized that in addition to basically driving through the night and having worked the entire previous day, we had missed breakfast, and completely skipped lunch.  We grabbed a few things, took them up to the room and proceeded to head down to the lounge for a beverage and some food.  Lisa had a salad, and I decided since I was in Philadelphia, I needed to have a Philly Cheese Steak.  We had wings for an appetizer.  Wow, really good food, and the beer wasn’t bad either, but then again we could have eaten cardboard and it would probably have tasted good. Sam Adams seasonal lager was yummy.

Overall the show traffic was brisk Friday and we were pleased.  We got to see Dan Kircheimer, who showed me some really neat early Waterman lever fillers as well as a potential cross over with Aikin Lambert early lever fillers.  We talked briefly as it was closing time.  it was so nice to go to bed, and the fact the beds were very comfortable was even better.  Saturday morning came early, but it was soo nice to have been able to stretch out, sleep, and just not move.

Saturday

Saturday morning we awoke refreshed, ready for the big day, and as part of the dealer table fee were given the breakfast buffet in the restaurant.  A terrific breakfast with Ron and Robin Zorn from Main Street Pens, included hot eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes with onions and peppers, fresh fruit, orange juice and coffee.  It was much needed, and delicious!

Since we were pretty much set up all we needed to do was straighten a few things out and restock some items we had sold on Friday. It’s really a nice way to start a busy day, by just straightening up & restocking.  Bert does a good job with his shows, but not making the dealers break down each night – we really do appreciate that!!  I managed to get around to a few people’s tables early, and made my first purchase at Jerry Adair’s table, a cute little ringtop screw cap eyedropper with two gold filled bands.  It was so cute and his price was so fair I thought it maybe was missing a digit.  I spotted a few more items on his table I was interested in, but wanted to wait, as it is always good to wait because you never know what may come through the door.

Small Ringtop Eyedropper

Small Ringtop Eyedropper

A few minutes later, I spotted one item from my wish list, the Lamy 2000.  I hadn’t seen them anywhere else, and here they were, every nib size from XF to OBB.  Unfortunately, on the first pass, the dealer was not there, on the second pass, I discovered it to be Bob Nurin’s table, a well known vintage dealer, but he was deep into discussion with another collector and I did not want to disturb him.  A little bit later, I stopped back, this time with Lisa, asked the price on the 2000, and selected the OB nib and took it home.

Lamy 2000

Lamy 2000

The doors opened at 10, and people slowly made their way into the second room where we were set up.  We ran into some small problems with cell phone reception in the second room, but overcame them as we had a bit of a contingency plan in place.  Traffic was brisk and around 11:00 I had to step out of the room for a phone in by the FPGeeks for their morning podcast.  A quick ten minutes later I was back in the room helping out at the table.  It was crazy.  All of a sudden I get pulled aside by another dealer who tells, me, “I need you now”.  I quickly motioned to Lisa that I had to go and we made our way through the crowd through our trading room, the second trading room and out the door.  There were Esterbrook nibs involved and that’s all I knew.

I got out in the lobby area where there were some chairs and a few tables.  There sat an older man, tall, graying hair and mustache, and a rather large box at his feet.  We shook hands, introduced ourselves and sat down to talk.  Turns out he had accumulated this collection of Esterbrook renew-points and decided it was time to sell.  He had taken them to the Washington D.C. show last August, offered them to one dealer, and was given such a low ball bid that he was insulted and walked away.  I was told that he would accept a fair wholesale offer and they would be mine.  He opened the box to discover not only was there a plastic container full of nibs, but an entire original wooden display case with two trays of nibs.  My head was spinning, wondering how I was going to value these nibs when he pulled out two sheets of paper, copies of an esterbrook advertisement showing all the nibs available, and had written the amounts down on each sheet, one for the plastic container, the other for the case.  Just under 500 nibs in total, at least one of each in the series 1, 2, and 9.  We talked a bit, I brought him back to our table where we placed this massive box of nibs behind our table and while he made his way around the show, we looked over the list.  He came back a couple hours later, we made a fair offer, and to our surprise took it without haggling, and we had a big huge bunch of nibs in our possession! What you need to understand, is that this is one of those types of deals that you hear about – a guy walks into a show with a big box of pen stuff, more than you expect to see in a lifetime all together in one package.  This was a killer deal & we are over the moon to have stumbled onto those nibs.

Later that afternoon we also had a visit from George Ramakis who stopped by the table to say hi and show off some of his pens.  He had a fantastic early Conklin crescent filler with a Van Valkenberg clip.  Cool stuff, but I just couldn’t buy it as it was a bit out of my focus.  I did grab an Aikin Lambert lever filler he had and was pleased to add it to the collection.  It was very clean and an early lever just like the ones Dan Kircheimer had shown me the previous day.

Early Aikin Lambert Lever Filler

Early Aikin Lambert Lever Filler

I also managed to pick up an very rare Esterbrook renew-point display which shows the various steps of manufacture.  So hard to find these complete, and this is one of the rarest pieces out there.  Very happy to have this in the collection.

Esterbrook Renew-Point Display

Esterbrook Renew-Point Display

All in all, the show Saturday was really busy and we did really well.  We were more than pleased.
Saturday night was auction night. Lisa helped out at the front of the auction, keeping track of final bids & calculating the totals. Up front was also Jon Veley, and we had a lot of fun.  Gary Garner was the auctioneer, and Terry Mawhorter was keeping the inventory straight.  This was the same crew that worked the auction in Raleigh, and it seems that this will be the A Team for auctions with Gary now.  We will do it again in Baltimore.  Before the auction got underway, Lisa had mentioned that I could get one pen, and I ended up with 5.  A couple of times, Gary & Jon were teasing Lisa about me bidding on more than 1 pen.

Well, there were a few auctions with proceeds going to a breast cancer charity, so if there’s a cause to support, I do my part and bid on those items.  It just so happened they were pen books, and we didn’t have some of them so I ended up winning an Andy Lambrou book, Fountain Pens Vintage and Modern, and one by Jonathan Steinberg.  What was really funny was just before the books were auctioned, a nice blue lifetime first year touchdown with triumph nib came up.  It looked ok, but just needed some TLC.  The bidding was at $10 with no reserve, so I put in a bid at $15 and too my surprise won the pen!  At this time, Jonathan says to me, since I was only “allowed” to win one pen, “That’s your one pen??”  We all got a pretty good chuckle out of that.

I managed to pick up a few more pens for the table as well, including a couple of hard rubber Parkers with flexible nibs, and a blue vacumatic with a two tone nib, all at very reasonable prices.  The piece I really wanted to win, came about two thirds the way through the auction.  An early Paul Wirt eyedropper with over feed, two interesting GF barrel bands, and a really cool chasing pattern.  Best part, perhaps, other than the near mintiness of the pen, was the one line imprint on the barrel, Paul E. Wirt, Pat Feb 85.  Overall an outstanding pen and we took it home at a more than reasonable price.

Wirt Eyedropper

Wirt Eyedropper

The highlight of the auction, however was the famous Waterman’s World’s Smallest Pen, complete with the original box, this tiny, tiny eyedropper filled pen even had a clip on the cap.  Lively bidding ensued and the pen sold for $1800, which many agreed was a very fair and reasonable price for such a rare pen.  The winner must have been very happy with their purchase!

Sunday
Sunday started off nicely – we could sleep in a little, but then got up, started to pack up since we were leaving that evening, and then we headed down for breakfast. What a great touch, a nice hot breakfast buffet is just heavenly when you are on your feet and busy all day.  Our waiter had an obsession with prune juice, which was weird. He kept offering it to everyone who sat down.  We declined and opted for orange juice and coffee.

Some more buying ensued Sunday morning, and despite having spent so much the previous day I just could not leave these deals sitting on the table, and grabbed a couple more esterbrook pens to add to Saturday’s esterbrook buying (which also included a couple pens across the table from a customer), and another hard to find Esterbrook nib.  Since I was buying pens that were $30 each of 5 for $100, I just had to throw in one more hard rubber eyedropper, this time an offbrand model called the “Rival Pen” with two nice GF bands on the barrel and an interesting gold nib.

The Rival Pen

The Rival Pen

As I was leaving the table something caught my eye.  It was one of those times when something was so out of place it looked odd.  I looked closer and instead of it just being an Esterboook dipless pen, it was an esterbrook bill signer, one used by President Johnson himself on August 11, 1965 for signing an act for saline water conservation.  Still in it’s original box (which was unique to the bill signer pens) and had the sheet indicating the bill it was used for, and you can still see the dried ink from when it was used to sign.  I asked the price, almost did a double take and pulled money from my pocket to take it home.  A nice piece of history that had sat out on someone’s table for over two days before I got to it!

Esterbrook Dip-Less "Bill Signer"

Esterbrook Dip-Less “Bill Signer”

We closed up on Sunday, took about 2.5 hours to tear down and load up the car and got back on the road, pulling in our driveaway around 4:00 pm on Monday after a very long and tiring drive!  We get about a month off between Philadelphia and L.A., but we’re glad to back into the pen show season again after two months off.  We’ll see you in L.A. in February!

Brian & Lisa

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