Pen Shows: The 2013 LA Pen Show Review

It’s hard to believe it’s been a week since the LA show has come and gone.  We left on Tuesday evening around 6:30 pm and made our way to the hotel in Manhattan Beach around 1:30 am local time Thursday morning, so about 33 hours of driving non-stop. What a difference it made to not be completely exhausted going into the departure!  The scenery in Colorado, the Rockies, and Utah was beautiful.  All tolled, I took about 300 pictures from the car and everytime I said I had taken enough pictures of “silly rocks”, I saw something even more stunning I wanted to capture on film.  We were able to get several hours of sleep before getting up and getting down to the ball room to setup for Thursday morning festivities.  Since we’ve streamlined a portion of our setup so as to make it easier and get moving quicker, it really helped, cutting about an hour of time off setup.

Utah Scenery

Utah Scenery – Click on the image to see full size.

Thursday proved to be busier than we expected, and all things considered, it was a good day.  It wasn’t too busy so it was nice to be able to just sit and chill with some of the other dealers and weekend traders.  Rich Lott was behind us, so in idle moments I was able to browse parts without even leaving our table!  I did manage to pick up one pen for the day, and it was found on Rob Lott’s table, a #8 sized Salz Brothers BHR eyedropper.  This is an unusually large sized Salz, and unexpectedly, I managed to find a matching #8 pen in mottled HR as well.  But the price on that pen was a tad more than I wanted to pay at the moment so I let it pass.  Someday I have a feeling I’ll regret that decision.

We had a lovely lovely visit from Philip Wang, President of TWSBI, who came to the show, just to see us.  It was so awesome to meet him in person, and he was there for quite a while.  We had a great chat about business, upcoming products, and he brought along several prototypes for us to see & play with. THAT was fun!!

Some great pens were to be found Thursday, including a Waterman 420 sterling filigree over Cardinal RHR, a Waterman sterling tree trunk overlay, a Parker 39, with jeweled stones, garnets I believe, one of three known to exist, a gold filled Parker Aztec, a full gold filled overlay tapercap Aikin Lambert (serious eye candy for me there!), a nice Carey sterling filigree overlay, and more.

Pen Show Floor

Pen Show Floor – Click on the image to see full size.

Thursday night we had dinner at the hotel restaurant with Eric Schneider of FPGeeks fame, and the hotel staff laughed at us when we asked if we needed a reservation on valentines day.  We had pretty much our pick of tables at the restaurant that evening and had great appetizers, and pretty good burgers too.  Eric was Waiter Baiting, as Lisa called it – asking the waiter all sorts of questions that were truly funny – we have NO idea how he did it with a straight face.

Friday morning started out early as usual, and since we were required to break down every night had to set up all our pens once again. We had it down to a science, except for the part that I couldn’t remember where I put everything the previous day.  Thankfully we didn’t need to reset up the ink display as that would have been sheer madness.

Friday proved to be a much busier day with a lot more traffic.  This also meant there was some money in the kitty to purchase a pen.  I was looking for an affordable Montblanc 149 and Lisa an Aurora Sole or Primavera, but despite finding several examples of both, weren’t able to lock down any of them in a price range we were comfortable in.  Since all three of those pens are reasonably common, it was good just to be able to shop around and learn a little more about what prices were on these pens.  We’ll both find them some day at a price we are comfortable with so I call this research.

Despite the lack of a 149 residing in my pocket from a purchase, Eric Schneider was kind enough to have lent me his pen for the weekend. In hopes it would dissuade me from wanting one.  It did the reverse, however, and secured my longing for this iconic pen.  I did manage to grab pen number 2 at the end of the day, a Waterman 14 SF Sleeve Filler with a nice gold filled band.  This pen had an issue in that when originally purchased at an antique store, the shop owner apparently cracked the sleeve trying to figure out how it worked.  Despite this problem, the rest of the pen seemed in reasonably good shape, and when the price of the pen dropped $100 without me even asking, I decided it would be a great space filler if nothing else.

LA Pen Show Finds

LA Pen Show Finds

I managed to sneak in a few minutes of time at the end of the day discussing nib straightening and nib blocks with the nib master himself, John Mottishaw.  Amazing how in such a short period of time I was able to grab so many great tips.  I even had to write them down on a piece of scrap paper so I didn’t forget them.  That and the lovely IPA beer he had made me want to make sure this knowledge wasn’t lost.

We hadn’t had lunch, so we headed down to the bar for a drink and some food.  John joined us there, as well as Scott Franklin, Jim Rouse, and several other people.  Lisa ordered a salad and it was HUGE, and I ordered the linguine with squash which sounded great but was a really tiny portion. By the time I was done, I ordered an appetizer of wings as well, which I think was larger than the entree.

We eventually migrated over to some interesting discussion with Eric Schneider, Michael Ward, and Ryan Kusac, and Troy Ringle, and talk of bath mat design, AK-47’s, and other topics intermingled with fountain pen conversation. We are totally going to stop at Ryan’s for a Mar-me-que and target practice on our way back from the Atlanta Show this year!

LA Pen Show Finds Open

LA Pen Show Finds Open

Saturday morning came early and we were at it once again, set up and get ready for the day.  We did start off the day with an amazingly fun FP Geeks appearance on FPTV, after helping Eric with some technical difficulties. I believe Brian Gray eventually solved the problem by lending Eric their iPad Mini.  Despite having tested the wireless connection the day before it was not cooperating that morning, and the computer wasn’t either.  However, in Eric’s typical unflappable fashion, he made do. It was fun!!

Saturday was even busier than Friday but despite the increased traffic at the show, I did managed to find some time to browse some of the surrounding tables.  At Chuck Kohn’s table I spotted my last two pens for the weekend.  The first, an Esterbrook SJ pen in black with a cross engraved in the cap.  Sometimes referred to as a “Clergy’s pen”, I wasn’t sure if I had this particular variant, but at the price it was offered, just had to grab it.  Then the moment of triumph, as I was perusing the table, I spotted a couple of ringtop overlay safeties.  One in sterling, the other gold filled.  I picked up the first one and noted it was a 42-1/2v safety, then the next.  Gold filled, but unmarked, looking identical to the sterling pen, no marking on the barrel end, so I turned the knob and up came the nib.  Heavily patina’d, so I took a closer look to read, “Aikin Lambert”.  There it was, the much sought after Aikin Lambert safety pen!  Now the funny thing was there was one on ebay that ended that same day, and I had a high bid in on it, but was outbid at the last minute.  My streak of losing every ALCo safety on ebay continues, but I was pleased as punch to find this one.  Chuck didn’t even know he had it in the first place.

I sat in on John Mottishaw’s seminar on Flexible nibs, which was awesome, and was planning on attending Osman Sumer’s German pen restoration seminar, but it was mis-announced and I missed that one, which is such a shame. Osman is incredibly knowledgeable, and a nice guy to boot.

Lisa spotted a number of Sole pens, but just didn’t feel up to pulling the trigger.  There were some nice Primavera’s as well but the timing didn’t seem right.  I did find a really really cool Sheaffer Skripsert desk pen and base,  and if not for the price tag, it would have come home with us, to add to Lisa’s fairly extensive Skripsert collection.  Neither of us even knew a Skripsert desk pen was made.

We had a chance to have Michael Sull write our names in his beautiful Spencerian script, and he even made a special sign for us. We walked away with some of his cursive handwriting books and even an oblique pen holder.  I had to laugh when he asked me if I wanted him to write my name “fancy” or “simple”.  “Life is too short”, I said, “Make it Fancy!”  Ask for Fancy and you get Fancy.  The amazing thing is it took him only two dips of his dip pen to write my entire name.

Saturday evening we had dinner with a long time customer and friend and had some interesting discussion on Wirt, John Holland, and Edison of Petersberg Va. We hit the sack early to get ready for the big day.

Sunday. Yikes. Sunday. They call it the running of the bulls for the 1st waves of attendees through the door.  Yafa was there, and had sponsored some cool goodie bags, which our rep gave to us.  Cool stuff inside, including an awesome double walled cup.

We hired a helper for the table, and Karim was a huge help.  Sunday was also fun, because Lisa’s cousin Elaine showed up to surprise her.  They had all of about 6 minutes to chat, in between customers, and they decided they probably had not seen each other since they were about 18. That’s 11 years, right?

We were behind Sarge & his delightful wife Jaz, so in the few moments in between customers, we had some great conversations.  Eric Schneider installed a camera above one of the doorframes, to capture the action.  Unfortunately due to battery failure, it only recorded a couple of hours of footage, but I didn’t know that, so found myself at several points during the day staring at the camera waiting to see if it was going to go off, which of course, it didn’t.

We had the awesome opportunity to meet a very special person on Sunday amidst all the madness. Sam Fiorella came up to us with a special guest. We read his name badge and practically screamed. I mean, total Fan Girl scream.  There he was, in the flesh, Paul Hoban, the author of the first book on Esterbrook and one of the most influential people in both of our early collecting days.  We had a few moments to chat and show off some cool Esterbrooks, and then he was on his way.  Such a surprise and I had not even thought that he would have come to the show.  It was so cool, and he was super gracious to let us be a total fan & ask to have our picture taken with him.

We had the opportunity to pick up several new products which will make their way to our virtual shelves soon, including new pens and ink!

Luiz Leite kept making the rounds all the way until Sunday afternoon, stopping to get a picture with us.  I don’t know how he does it, but that man will unnearth some of the greatest pens at a pen show.  The best one in my opinion, was a Waterman 452 1/2v in the rare art deco pattern, only found in the shorter ringtop size. I had never seen one in person until then.

Other dealers in attendance in no particular order were Gary Lehrer, Pendleton Brown, Tim Pierson, Carmen Rivera, Susan Wirth, Penopoly, Pendemonium, Joel and Sherrel from Ink-Pen, Fred Krinke giving away NOS BCHR pens from the Golden Rule Pen Shop, Francis Bulbulian, Bob Nurin, Bob Novak, Syd Saperstein with his new Wahl Eversharp pens, Brian Gray, Kenro Industries, Mario Campa and Angelica from Toys in the Attic, Taccia, Paul Erano, and probably a bunch more I’m forgetting.

We left immediately after the show and after 37 hours finally made it home.  It was a wild ride, and we look forward to the 2014 LA Pen Show!

Brian & Lisa