Helping out with the St. Louis Pen Show certainly has its perks. For example, I was recently able to secure a bottle of the exclusive ink that will only be available to purchase at the 2019 show! The show ink is limited in quantity with only 150 bottles made. The 2018 show ink sold out relatively quick, and I would not expect anything less to happen with this year's ink.
The ink is made by KWZ and is called, "Meet Me in St. Louis: St. Louis Pen Show 2019 ink," and will be available in their typical 60ml bottle. Unlike last year, which was a bluish/green teal color, the ink for this year is more of a burnt orange. Typically, I am not a fan of orange inks, but the more I write, the more I dig the color selection for this year. Being that this ink is to be released for the St. Louis Pen Show, you may wonder why the color selection isn't a "Cardinal Red" or a "Blues Blue" (side note: GO BLUES! They are playing in the background as I type). The simple answer is that in the fountain pen world, blue and red inks are boring! The creator of this year's ink wanted something fun and something that people would actually use once the show is over.
Having secured the ink, I immediately loaded it into my Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze age pen with a medium nib. The Homo Sapien is not one of my go to pens, however, I couldn't resist the pen-ink color combination. It just seemed like a marriage that was meant to be! For comparison purpose, the show ink looks a little similar to Diamine Ancient Copper. However it is a wetter ink, and I found it to be a little darker to write with. Being a darker orange, Meet Me in St. Louis, is an ink that can be used in the office, daily correspondence or for bullet journaling (I have used it for all of the above.) It is a well behaved ink that flows well throughout the writing session. On Clairefontaine paper, there is no bleed-through or feathering of any kind. It does not have much shading, if any at all; and there is zero sheen to be had. Being one who typically has a vintage pen or two inked up in my monthly rotation, I find sheen to be overrated among ink lovers (sorry/not sorry)!
If you are attending the St. Louis Pen Show, June 21-23rd, be sure to pick up a bottle of this year's ink! It will not be around for long.
Three years ago, I attended my first pen show. I had been collecting fountain pens for awhile, and since I have an obsessive tendency when it comes to my hobbies, I felt like a pen show was the next logical rabbit hole that I needed to jump down. I attended the Chicago Pen Show in May of 2017, and following that moment, my fountain pen hobby would take on a life of it's own. First of all, I began to make the transition away from modern pens and began to explore the wonderful world of vintage. Secondly, I fell in love with the pen show environment and pen community.
Since Chicago was my first show, it still holds a special place in my heart. It is usually the first show of the season for me, and the show that I enjoy more than any other. The Chicago Pen Show 2019 was no exception. Here are a few thoughts and highlights:
1. The hotel was the perfect place to host the pen show: If you have never been to the Chicago show, it is held at the Marriot hotel in Hoffman Estates. The majority of the show takes place in a large ballroom at the back of the hotel. This is where most of the vendors and tables are set up. The room is large, even with 100-plus vendors there is plenty of room to walk up and down the aisles, visit, and check out each table. In conjunction with the main ballroom, several vendors also overflow out into the hotel lobby. This allows more tables to be set up, and helps to disperse the crowds more evenly throughout the day.
2. The show contains a wonderful variety: Unlike some shows that seem to lean toward either vintage, modern, or custom pens, the Chicago show is perhaps the most well-balanced show that I have attended. Granted, I have not attended every pen show in the US; but I have attended enough to appreciate the variety of vendors who are present at the Chicago show. Although I am a vintage collector, I was very tempted throughout the weekend to purchase a custom made pen from one of the amazing custom pen makers. However, I was able to resist the temptation, stayed in my lane, and stuck with what I know.
3. Always attend the trader day on Thursday evening: So the show officially opened to the public on Friday morning at 9 am. However, weekend registrants and exhibitors were able to congregate and informally buy and sell on Thursday evening. This is a wonderful time to meet vendors within the fountain pen community, purchase and trade pens, all in a more relaxed and not so busy environment. Not many modern dealers or small businesses arrive on Thursday evening, but if you are into vintage, and especially if you are looking to sell or trade, arriving on Thursday is the way to go. As a matter a fact, I think I spent half of my budget for the weekend within the first hour that I arrived on Thursday (no regrets)!
4. The show organizers do a wonderful job: Laura, Roger, and Paul do a wonderful job each year coordinating the show, greeting the guest, and planning the schedule. The more I speak with them each year, the more impressed I become with the way that they run the show!
5. The Friday evening auction is fun: Although the pens that were in this year's auction were not as tempting as those in year's past, the auction is still one of my favorite portions of the show. As someone who is helping to coordinate the auction for the St. Louis show, I understand the challenges at making a pen auction successful. The Chicago show always does a wonderful job. It is fun, at times it is goofy, and usually you can even find a pen or two to add to your collection. I picked up two pens this year, however, one is a project pen that just happened to fall into my lap at just the right price.
6. When you attend a show, always socialize: Whether you attend the classes, go to the bar after the show has concluded, or just meander around the sales tables all day long, take the time to speak with people. Pen show people are the best! I have yet to attend a show where I did not feel welcome, did not learn something, and did not make friends within the hobby. The PCA (Pen Collectors of America) table always hosts a pen-related scavenger hunt for kids. I took my daughter around the show to find the items listed in the scavenger hunt (pen sacs, dip pens, lever-filled pen, ect.). My daughter can be kind of shy around those that she doesn't know and so every table that we went to, she was forced to step outside of her comfort zone and speak with the vendor. Finally, I told her that she needed to loosen up, because pen people love to talk. And it's true! If you attend any show, talk to people, ask questions, and have fun.
7. Sales tax at a trade show is stupid: This is by no means any fault of the show. However, this year vendors were required to charge a 10% sales tax by the state of Illinois. I heard a few of the vendors grumble about this change, which is a shame because otherwise it was a great show!
I left Chicago this year with good memories and more than a few pens (picture below). My family was able to make the trip with me and they also enjoyed the weekend. I look forward to returning to Chicago in 2020! But now it is time to gear up for my next pen show, The St. Louis Pen Show in June!