For my third time, i made the trek to Los Angeles to indulge in that ritual of vintage pendom known to penlovers everywhere as.... The LA PenShow. Your reviewer journeyed well rested (for a change) and left Syracuse NY for the left coast. Jet Blue did an admirable job delivering him to the penumbra of one of pendom's largest pen shows. Unfortunately, returning to work at the end of the show would prove more challenging but that tale will hold for now.
As you have seen before- if you've tortured yourself with previous pen show reviews- your reviewer strongly advocates the notion of attending these sometimes carnival-like events. Whether one likes a bazaar, or rather enjoys the bizarre, he will find the penshow to be an intense immersion into the culture of pendom and undoubtedly will experience sensory overload. The usual situation remains "guesstimate your budget, bring twice as much, and plan to run out earlier than you'd expected".
The LA Show, a keystone pendom event each February, is amongst my favorite shows. The hosts are gracious, the climate is a welcome change from East Coast weather, and attendees include a fair number of well-known folks in pendom who often don't make it to other shows. Heck, the chance to share beer, sushi and cynical, sardonic, running-dog repartee with Bill Riepl is almost worth alone the price of admission.
For the big shows-- with LA, Chicago, Washington and Ohio constituting the "big 4" for those who hunt "vintage"-- it is suggested that the show attendee consider coming for the (in)famous Early Days. The Early Trade experience on Thursday and Friday enables collectors to get first crack at the latest vintage finds, to chill with your pen buddies and to have chance to meet senior collectors and dealers when things are less frantic. Once one gets really serious about the vintage-buying side of the Show experience, he might find (if he is not also a seller) that he pops in thursday and friday, perhaps stays saturday, and doesn't bother to stick around for the so-called public day on Sunday. Really, any reader enough into pen collecting to be reading Stylophiles, should consider investing in the nominal fee ($30-50) to become an early trader and hang out with the gung-ho contingent.
Of course, one may choose any/several of many goals in attending a show. Some wish to find a good deal on a modern pen. Others hunt that hard-to-find vintage item. Some of us of course play hobby-dealer and try to do some selling. Others plan to buy/sell very little, but wish to learn more about their chosen hobby. Some wish to meet people previously known only as pen-pals, pun-intended.
Many folks choose to share crash space with pen friends, partly to minimize the hefty costs associated with traveling to some shows, but also to increase the pen-shmooze factor at such shows. Of course if one wishes to pursue pens in a well-prepared fashion, it is important to don the proper battle-gear. Your reviewer and frequent pen-show roomie, Mike Dvoretz demonstrate the latest pen-show fashion after donning battle-gear to dive into the bourse. Mike has a good eye for pens, and has been working back from his penchant (pun intended) for Parker 75-era stuff, toward a disturbing interest in pens with stripes....
Many collectors of vintage pens tend to focus on the "Big-4", meaning Parker, Sheaffer, LE Waterman and Wahl-Eversharp. Others appreciate pens from smaller manufacturers who made pens of quality at least as good as that of that of the Big-4. Companies such as Conklin, Carter and Chilton made fine pens indeed, and today such pens can cost as much as anything made by the Big-4.
Still other companies exist which are viewed as second tier manufacturers. They produced decent serviceable pens, but usually (not always) such pens featured somewhat lesser production values and often featured smaller nibs for a given pen size. These pens often go underappreciated by today's collectors, who might be familiar only with the big guys. One such manufacturer is Diamond PP (Diamond Period Period, Point Point? I have to check on that).
Your reviewer had chance to shoot a nice agglomeration of Diamond PP pens at the LA show. Some have earlier "flat-top" character, others are more like a Conklin Symmetric in shape. These are extremely eye appealing pens and can be found quite reasonably- these are great pens for to hunt- not common but not too expensive.
Sometimes the show was busy. Trick was to get there early
in day to grab a table. As we know, the huge "goldman" pen auction
is due to take place in couple days. Featuring some very fine pens, i
peeked at but a couple Parker Vacumatic lots which were brought to the
LA show for perusal. As always, it is important to examine items before
bidding. as a "full excellent" and "fair-good" version
of same pen will command different prices. Steve Overbury was present,
running an auction of his own, with some quite nice pens as well. It will
be interesting to see how his experimental auction model shapes up.
of folks enjoyed the pen show scene. Lunches were are local Sushi Bar's
and Italian restaaurants. I had the happy good fortune to spend one dinner
with several collectors who have avidly collected Parker pens for many
years. Great learning experience. After dinners, people tended to congregate
in the lobby/bar of the hotel.
What makes a successful pen show for any given attendee? Of course, this depends upon one's goals. Last year both my roomie Mike Dvoretz and I found some nice pieces for our collections, and i know i found a bunch of stuff for resale or for trade.
This year, neither of us found as much to redistribute, though we both found several nice items for our own collections. I have not had time to shoot the ones i found but a couple key items were a Parker Vacumatic with "Vacumatic Capband" in true Slender Maxima size. This is the first such pen i've seen in several years of hunting, in this model with this scarce Cap-Band.
Psychologically, that find made the trip worthwhile. Mike Dvoretz picked up a Mint Stickered Parker Vacumatic Maxima in emerald green. I found a nice Diamond-Medal pen set done in the Golden Web plastic normally seen on the Parker Vacumatic. Certainly, extremely nice pens were available.
However, an east-coast storm bombed NY City about the time i had to leave (sunday night). Jet blue and Kennedy airport shut down. Jet Blue promised a THURSDAY flight. Yow.
Happily for your reviewer, i was invited by Andy and Mary to Classic Pens' office and after having chance to peek at 300 or so items from Andy Lambrou's pen collection. They provided a great tour of LA and i guess Part of Hollywood. After securing a three-way trip back to syracuse in time to get to the hospital just a day late, LA was finally left behind to be replaced by the too-chilly east coast.
The LA show was great fun- not a surprise. Hope to be there next year. If you've never gone, do give it a try.