Experience A Pen
A pen show is a kaleidoscope of
experiences. It’s like walking through a museum with fascinating art
from diverse eras of the past. It’s like going to a library and
finding books you never knew existed on subjects of surprising
interest. It’s like visiting a zoo and being amazed at the color,
size, culture and variety of the animals from some unfamiliar part
of the world.
Many persons today are under the impression
that fountain pens are a thing of the past and are quite shocked to
see the displays of modern pens for sale…not just ballpoints and
rollerballs, but fountain pens as well and mechanical pencils that
match them. Far from being a thing of the past, numerous companies
are producing beautiful quality fountain pens today, in a dizzying
array of colors and styles. And there are vintage pens in great
numbers still around from the past 100 years.
At a pen show you may be able to find a
fountain pen just like the one you saw your grandfather or
grandmother write with, or like the one you received as a gift for
graduation, or like the ones you see in period movies. At most pen
shows there is a high likelihood that a pen like these will be
around, and perhaps for sale.
Some folks come to a show bringing a pen
that is an heirloom, or one that has sentimental value because of
its attachment to one they loved. They bring the pen to see if it
can be repaired, or if it has any value, or to find out about its
age, maker or history. Some bring such a pen to find out how it
works, or how to fill it, or how to find ink for it.
Others come to shows bringing a handful of
old pens they have accumulated from garage sales or antique
auctions, asking if anyone wants to buy them. Often these pens are
dirty and scratched up, usually not working, but occasionally a real
rare gem walks in this way. While many are of little interest or
monetary value, every collector at the show is excited when a
special and desirable pen shows up unexpectedly.
At a pen show there is a lot of buying and
selling, but a pen show can also be an adventure in discovery, where
one can see, handle, use and learn about vintage and modern writing
instruments. One can browse through hundreds of pens of all colors
and shapes, worth from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. In a
way, a pen show is a museum of writing technology, or a supermarket
of pens. You don’t have to be a buyer to have fun at this.
In this setting one learns that pens are
still exciting in the computer age; that some are things of beauty
and works of art as well as utilitarian instruments. Here one can
learn about the major pen makers, the different eras of fountain pen
technology, the amazing variety of designs and materials. Some
collector/dealers at the shows will be experts on certain
manufacturers or pen models. Most are eager to talk with collectors
or interested persons about a particular pen or era of pen
The engineer can enjoy the changing
technology reflected in the successive improvements and inventions.
This historian will occasionally find a pen used by a famous person
to sign some historic document, or to pen significant letters or
documents. The artist can plot how our changing tastes influenced
the design of these writing tools. The entrepreneur can find how
passionate inventors marketed their products and built massive
production and distributions systems into major companies.
Primarily, people make a pen show. Pen
lovers come from all vocations. And the ages vary too; children
mingle among the tables as do the retired. There are the tirekickers
and the thoughtful inquirers, the quiet eccentric introvert and the
personable outgoing extrovert. The PhD, a business tycoon, a
student, an artist or writer, a computer programmer, a garage sale
king…all exploring the world of pens. Some are buying; some selling.
Some are just looking. Some are trying out a pen’s writing “feel.”
Some are bargaining for a better price; some are examining carefully
for tiny flaws. Some are novices, while others have been collecting
or using pens for a long time.
Pens create a wider culture: packaging,
advertising, display cases, replacement parts, inks, and promotional
items. At a show, you will find not only pens, but some of this
ephemera that other pen lovers have accumulated. Some of it will be
for sale, and often comes with stories about its origin or use.
Are you a lover of beauty, ingenuity,
writing, history, or technology? Then a pen show is for you. The
nostalgic and the creative will find it interesting. The practical
or the innovative will not be disappointed. Spend a few hours at a
pen show. There are ten to twelve shows around the country each year
in major cities. There’s probably one near you. Start the adventure.