The Los Angeles Pen Show: Feb 11-14, 2010

Flying anywhere from Upstate New York in February is always a little risky, and I was lucky David Isaacson called me the evening before the big snow storm to update my flight plans.  Thanks to David, I got the last seat on a plane to Charlotte instead of flying out of Philadelphia which received two feet of snow in the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, David’s flight out of Syracuse was cancelled and he missed the show.  

Maybe it’s the break from a long winter (which starts around late November in Upstate New York), but the Los Angeles show is one of my favorites.  There are one-hundred and seventy-five tables full of pens to look forward to in the lobby and ballroom of the Manhattan Beach Marriott, and they start filling up on Wednesday.  Anyone who is undisciplined could easily empty his or her pockets quickly at a pen show like this, and by Thursday afternoon that’s exactly what I did this year.  I picked up a number of vintage pens including some nice Sheaffers, an Aurora Hastile, and a beautiful black Monroe with stepped caps…a fabulous pen!  As for new pens, I was able to zero in on a number of Montegrappas and Viscontis. (Yes, I’m partial to Italian pens.)

But the best part of any pen show, including LA, is the people- and I spent time with a number of them that I don’t get see regularly at other shows.  Paul Rosi and I shared three evenings together and worked out a plan to make more of his pens available.  Paul, of course, is one of our most gifted and respected artists.  His pens are hand crafted and limited and are highly regarded by collectors.  The next issue of EQPR will feature an interview with Paul and a few of his pens will be available through the quarterly.  Pen maker Bruno Corsini also showed up Friday with Steven Miller and it was a pleasure spending time with them as well.  There are a number of talented people making pens these days and I figure I may as well use Erano’s Quarterly Pen Review as a vehicle to find out more about this trend.  Look to future issues of the quarterly for interviews with pen makers including Bruce (aka Bruno Corsini), Paul Rossi, and hopefully Brian Gray, Joe Cali, Henry Simpole, and others.  

At LA, evening diner is easy within walking distance or a short drive and there is no shortage of very nice restaurants.  Exhibitors can even take a break during the show for lunch right around the corner.  After our evening meal, many of us gather outside by the pool for a cigar and drinks.  It is an LA show tradition, and we joke and talk pens and politics.  Not surprisingly, a big pen or two is brought out for show and tell (or sale) after a few drinks.  It’s a good chance for collectors to meet and get to know each other a little better.  

The Los Angeles Pen Show has its own unique flavor and I love it!  The hotel is spacious and accommodating.  Room rates are reasonable and meals at the hotel’s restaurant are varied and very good. I enjoyed their grilled tuna salad almost as much as finding some great pens this year, and the dish has become a traditional meal Isaacson and I look forward to each year.  Thanks to Stan Pfeiffer, Boris Rice, and Chris Odgers for another excellent show that has certainly achieved premiere status.  There was a great public crowd on Sunday, and with so many exhibitors and weekend traders arriving early it was a busy show all four days. Those who tired of walking around looking at pens had nine seminars to choose from:  Susan Wirth showed how fountain pens provide an unmatched  quality of the written line and explained the ins and outs of various nibs; John Mottishaw discussed Nakaya pens; Chris Odgers went into the intricacies of desk sets; Nancy Olson discussed the basics of good penmanship; Lynn Sorgatz talked about pens made in Wisconsin in addition to Parker; Cliff Harrington discussed the Wahl- Eversharp Pen Company; Sam Fiorella’s topic was Think Ink; Osman Sumer gave a repair seminar on Pelikan and Mont Blanc; and Yours Truly’s discussed techniques for buying, selling, and trading, and valuing fountain pens.

I know most collectors don’t get a chance to attend a pen show.  Frankly, are expensive and the money spent on flights, hotels, and meals can buy a lot of pens, especially when things are tight.  But if at all possible, collectors should at least give one a try.  Costs can be cut significantly for shows within driving distance and if hotel rooms are shared with another collector.  Think how much fun it is to actually touch and write with all those pens!  At LA, if each table has three hundred pens, collectors have more than half a million pens to choose from.  That’s half a million if my math and guesstimating is even close to being correct!  Compare that to eBay’s ‘look but can’t touch’ weekly listing of 40,000 pens. And what collector doesn’t have at least a few pens he or she would like to trade or sell?  Neglected pens sitting in a portfolio can often be traded for more desirable pens and perhaps at no additional cost.  But most of all, it’s the people!  Pen shows provide an unparalleled opportunity for collectors to learn, to share experiences, and to build relationships with other collectors. The next show coming up is Long Island.  I hope one day to see you there.