Pen Shows – It’s All About the Prep.

I know when some of you think about going to a pen show you think about getting your pen show shopping list, what time to get up in the morning, the GPS map of the venue, and your spending money.  I used to be that way too.  That was when I did one show a year, and then I met Lisa.  I somewhat reluctantly moved to the other side of the table as a dealer.  Well, actually, I had too much stuff and needed the money, so buying a table seemed to be the way to go.  The first “dealer” show for me was Atlanta 2009, and maybe it was just an excuse to get to visit Lisa in Florida.  🙂  Well, the rest as they say, is history, and I’ve been stuck on the other side of the table ever since.

As we near next week’s Baltimore Pen Show (our first time at this show), we are once again into prep week, or as Lisa sometimes calls it, “hell week”.  We thought it might be interesting to some of you to show just what goes on to get ready for a show for someone on the other side.

Our show prep takes the better part of a week to ten days before our departure date.  Since we drive to all our shows (paper is heavy!) we end up packing, repacking, then repacking again.  Eventually over all the shows, we’ve got it down to a bit of a system, but we’re still learning and finding new ways to do things.  (That, and we have a really small Saturn Ion we have to cram all this stuff into).  Pen repairs need to be finished, paper printing and padding needs to be finalized, and we need to make sure we have enough inventory on hand of everything to last the duration of the show.  Outside of the actual for sale goods, we have to do the usual trip planning type exercises such as clothing, toiletries, food and snacks, vehicle maintenance (Always Rain-X your windshields!), GPS and electronics updating and charging, and a host of other items.

The living room in our house is quite long, and I like to refer to it as the “bowling alley”.  We decided to split it up and half is entertainment, and the other half has been affectionately coined, “the lobby” as our front door opens up into this generally unused space.  This becomes our staging area.  All our stuff ends up here.

The Lobby, and this is only about half of what it will end up looking like

The Lobby, and this is only about half of what it will end up looking like

Part of the planning process also involves deciding how we will be laying items out on the table.  Often times we are rolling into the show hotel after having driven through the night and we have to start set up immediately.  Since we have taken on a number of new items this year already, we felt the need to plan it out ahead of time.

The Third Table, Edison, Noodler's, J. Herbin, Repair Supplies and More!

The Third Table, Edison, Noodler’s, J. Herbin, Repair Supplies and More!

Generally speaking, we reserve three tables.  One for paper, one for vintage pens, and the third for repair supplies, modern and vintage boxed pens, desk sets, and everything else.  Since modern pens are taking over, we decided the desk sets would be staying home this time around.  To see what we could fit on our third table, we taped off the same space as the table size and set everything up.  Much to our surprise everything fit quite well, with a little room to spare.  While it’s nice to get as much as possible on the table, a little space is good too.

Once everything is packed, we get out the pictures of the previous show’s packing job, and play some Tetris to get everything in the car trunk successfully.  Even though we have pictures it’s often a pretty tight fit.  We like to have as much room in the back seat of the car as possible, so we can stretch out and try to relax for the long trip ahead.

So that’s how we get ready for a show.  What do you think?

Brian & Lisa