Cajun Pen Man

A First Time Attendee’s Guide to Fountain Pen Shows

February 26, 2024 | by

IMG_1658 (1)

History of Fountain Pen Shows

Fountain pen shows have a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. Initially, these events were organized by manufacturers as a platform to showcase their latest products. Over time, they evolved into a gathering place for fountain pen enthusiasts, collectors, and retailers. The first official fountain pen show was held in the United States was at Chicago in the 1980s. Since then, these events have spread across the globe, with shows being held in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Importance of Fountain Pen Shows

Fountain pen shows are more than just a marketplace for buying and selling pens. They are a celebration of the art and craft of writing as well as the people who enjoy them. These events provide a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to connect with like-minded individuals, learn about the latest trends, and even discover rare and vintage pens. They also serve as a platform for manufacturers and retailers to interact directly with their customers, gathering feedback directly from end-users. Visitors also get to learn about new products and market trends within the industry.

How To prepare For Your First Fountain Pen Show

Research the Event

Before attending a fountain pen show, it’s crucial to research the event thoroughly. Understand the schedule, the list of exhibitors, and the workshops or demonstrations that will be held. Some pen shows focus mainly on vintage fountain pens while others-mostly the larger shows-focus on a mix of both new and vintage pens. Contacting the show organizer with questions is also a good way to find out more about the show. This will help you plan your visit effectively.

Make A Checklist Of Supplies

Prepare a checklist of supplies you might need at the show. This could include a notebook for taking notes, a loupe magnifier for examining pens, a small cloth for cleaning pens, some paper of the type you regularly use to try ink samples on, and a fountain pen to dip test the sample inks. Don’t forget to bring a bag to carry your purchases as most vendors do not provide them.

Set A Budget

Fountain pen shows can be overwhelming with the variety of pens on display. It’s easy to get carried away and overspend. Therefore, setting a budget beforehand is essential. As you go from table to table, you’ll see pens you have dreamed of owning or ones that catch your eye. Setting a budget and sticking to it will help make your experience less regretful in the long run.

There will be items like this screaming "come buy me" to you

Plan Your Schedule

With so many activities happening simultaneously, planning your schedule is helpful. You can usually find maps of the show floor on the shows website. This provides an opportunity to prioritize the exhibitors you want to visit, the workshops you want to attend, and allocate time for networking. Sign up for seminars in advance, if possible, as many tend to fill up before the show starts. Don’t forget about the auction that many shows have. It’s a good way to get pens at a lower cost.

Navigating a Fountain Pen Show

Arrive Early

Arriving early at the show gives you the advantage of having the first pick from the exhibitors and avoiding the afternoon rush.

Understanding the Layout

Familiarize yourself with the layout of the venue. Knowing where the exhibitors, workshops, and restrooms are located can save you time. This is where the above mentioned tip of downloading the showroom floor map is helpful.

Interacting with Exhibitors

It’s easy to feel a bit intimidated, but don’t hesitate to interact with the exhibitors. They are usually very knowledgeable and passionate about their products. Most love telling you about the pens, their history, etc. Ask questions, seek advice, and don’t forget to negotiate prices.

Attending Workshops and Demos

Workshops and demonstrations are a great way to learn about new products, techniques, and trends. They also provide an opportunity to interact with industry experts. It’s one of the events I like most. Topics range from smoothing & grinding your own nibs, learning calligraphy, history of specific brands, and many more. It’s a great way to increase your fountain pen knowledge.

Networking with Other Attendees

Networking with other attendees can enrich your fountain pen show experience. Sharing experiences, tips, and recommendations can be very rewarding. “Fountain pen after dark” is a non-posted event of almost every pen show. Attendees gather, usually in the lounge, and share pens to try, inks to sample, and stories to tell. It’s a less hectic setting to talk with everyone than the show floor.

Maximize Your Fountain Pen Show Experience

Trying Different Fountain Pens

Take the opportunity to try different fountain pens. This is the best way to understand what pens and nib types suit your writing style and preferences. With pen store locations being sparse, most purchasing is now done online. While convenient, it does’t allow for the opportunity to try the product first. Refund policies vary greatly, making online shopping purchases without trying the pen dicy.

Exploring Ink Options

Fountain pen shows often have a wide range of inks on display. Several ink stations are usually positioned around the show offering a wide variety of samples. Experiment with different colors and brands to find your perfect match. It’s a good idea to only dip test the ink though; with so many pens using a vial, you don’t want to put the ink inside your expensive pens.

Learning Calligraphy and Handwriting Techniques

Many shows offer workshops on calligraphy and handwriting techniques. These can help you improve your writing and make the most of your fountain pen. Michael Sull, a Master Penman, attends a lot of shows and provides a seminar on cursive handwriting or Spencerian calligraphy. If you ever get a chance to attend one of his seminars I highly encourage it.

Collecting Fountain Pen Memorabilia

Fountain pen shows are a treasure trove for collectors. Many vendors collect other items such as watches, jewelry, and older fountain pen posters or displays. From vintage pens to limited edition inks and accessories, there’s something for everyone.

In conclusion, attending a fountain pen show can be a rewarding experience and enrich your fountain pen knowledge. With the right preparation and approach, you can make the most of these events and take your passion for fountain pens to the next level.


View all

view all