Los Angeles: It’s amazing to think that within the period of a month I participated in three pen shows as different from one another as can possibly be. The first, Los Angeles, held at the end of February, is a special show. It is huge in scope and offers a variety of activities and seminars- and it’s in LA, a location whose climate is considerably milder than what I have to look forward to in Upstate New York in February. With approximately one-hundred and seventy-five exhibitors, the show can easily consume a full week of a pen collector’s life. There are good restaurants within walking distance, and the Manhattan Beach Marriott is very accommodating with clean, spacious rooms, friendly staff, and plenty of areas for show goers to congregate in small or large groups for conversation and show and tell.
Long Island: The Long Island Pen Show (LIPS) is at Hofstra University’s Student Union in Hempstead the first week of March. It is small with about twenty to twenty-five exhibitors. I look forward to the LIPS to visit friends and because I never come back home without at least a few really good pens. There are many opportunities to buy, sell, and trade- even if it isn’t a mega show like Los Angeles. Considering the ratio of exhibitors to show goers walking through the door, one begins to realize that smaller shows can be very good venues for buying, selling, and trading. In addition to the pens and people, one of the highlights of the show was lunch on Saturday. My friend, Richard Fernandez, brought back enough food from a local Dominican restaurant to feed everyone who walked through the door. For a look at the Long Island Pen Show visit the Long Island Pen Show website.
Little Rock: My friend Henry Simpole called to tell me he was participating in the Little Rock Pen and Watch Show, so the week following the Long Island Pen Show I got on an airplane again and headed to Arkansas. I had never been to the Little Rock Pen and Watch Show and I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I knew I made the right decision the minute I walked through the showroom door- I can’t remember a pen show with a friendlier, more accommodating group of people. The Little Rock Pen Show is small: it is organized by the Arkansas Pen Collectors, has roughly the same number of exhibitors as Long Island and is operated much the same way. A silent auction helped the pen club with expenses and it is a good tool for other pen clubs to consider organizing a pen show of their own. Frankly, I like the idea of shows this size. Smaller shows are low key (not necessarily for the organizers) and they allow time for informal interactions so people can establish relationships. I also appreciated that the doors were open to the public all three days. (Days open to the public is an issue at many pen shows, especially those that offer a weekend trader rate that is much higher than the cost to attend on the public day(s). This practice may help show organizers financially, but it does not allow the public a choice as to when they can attend and it penalizes exhibitors who play a large role in making pen shows possible).
Henry was the show’s main attraction. His exhibitor’s table is where he demonstrated the work involved in creating his beautiful silver overlays. Show goers got an enlarged view of his work by looking through the illuminated magnifier at his table (pictured). Henry’s beautifully crafted overlay pens also got a lot of attention. Perhaps the most unusual pieces were the two Esterbrook Relief pens, a lever fill pen and a rarer button fill pen he made silver overlays for. I’m sure any Esterbrook collector would give his or her eye teeth for either of these pens! As for me, I plan on returning to Little Rock next year!