Preparing For Your First Pen Show

Scriptus is this Sunday and if you are in Southern Ontario, you really should make the effort to go. If you have never been to a show before, I've made a list of things to consider that might help you get the most from the experience.

Items to take to the show:

Paper money. It makes life easier.

A small backpack or satchel. Having a bag that leaves your hands free will be a big bonus, your items will be secure and it is a lot harder to forget them if they are around your torso.

A small bottle of ink. Having your own ink on hand will allow you to dip test a pen with an ink that has properties that you are familiar with. Rather than bringing a bottle from your collection, decant some of your favourite into a 5 ml sample vial or other small container so if you feel that it has been contaminated, you can toss it out without incurring a significant loss.

A pad of fountain pen friendly paper. We all have a favourite paper and if you are going to try a pen out, you should do it on a pad of something that is familiar to you.

An ink cloth. This can be as simple as paper towel, but have something on hand to clean off an inky pen nib.

Magnifying glass or loupe as well as a flash light. If you will be purchasing previously owned pens, it may be prudent to look at the nib as well as confirm that the body is sound. Some sort of magnifying device, whether it be a loupe or a simple magnifying glass will help you with this. Depending on the room lighting, having your own source of light could be beneficial too.

Ziploc bags. Having a few bags in your kit is always handy if you plan to purchase spare nibs or other small pen components. These bags are especially handy for ink samples and other items that could make a mess if they got bumped too hard.

General Advice:

Are there specific items that you want to pick up at the show? Do you know who sells them already? Order them in advance of the show and pick them up at the booth. It makes the retailer's life easier because they know what to pack and you know that you will come home with your item.

Are you hoping to have a pen serviced while at the show? If so, be there when the doors open and make that your first stop of the day so you can be near the top of the list.

Are there any specialty products that you want to pick up? Slotter boxes? Mailing tubes for pens? Micro mesh or other nib tuning supplies? Replacement sacks for vintage pens? Put these on the list now because once you see all the shiny pens, these more mundane items will be forgotten and they can't be picked up just anywhere.

If you have pens to sell, there may be an opportunity to do this offline with other attendees of the show. Bring the pens as well as any boxes, etc. and be willing to allow prospective buyers to ink them up and try them out on the paper that you have brought just for this purpose.

If you are at the show and see a pen that interests you but you can't pull the trigger right then and there, get the seller's business card and note the pen and its price. You may be in a position in the future where you can contact the seller and see whether the pen is still available. Having a photo of the pen can help out too if you feel that you want to research the pen a little more before committing to purchasing it.

So You Have A Specific Pen In Mind:

Make a list of the pens that you are considering buying at the show and do your research in advance. What are the prices for the pens in the general market? If you can only find published prices outside of Canada, be sure to factor in International shipping as well as Customs and Duty.

If the pen that you are lusting after is particularly expensive, there is a chance that there are counterfeits on the market, educate yourself on how to spot one. When I was at the DC Supershow this year I came across a Montblanc 146 sized pen, complete with snowflake on its snap cap, that was fitted with an IPG nib and cheap twist converter. Obviously this was not a Montblanc 146 or 147. SBRE Brown does a video on what to look for on one of these fakes. If Lamy Safaris are your passion, Lori Arrowood of The Desk Of Lori has been stung and has written about her experience.

One Final Word Of Advice:

Probably the most important piece of advice is to go slow, take in the show, chat with the vendors and other show goers, learn something new. The pens are the reason we go to show the first time but the sense of community is the reason why we go back year after year.