Up until the later '90s, nearly all vintage pen and pencil activity converged at pen shows. The combined effect of online trading and the colonization of shows by new pen sellers, however, has radically altered the picture. While shows are still major gathering-points for traders of vintage writing equipment, the amount of fresh material on offer has dropped precipitously, as has the transaction volume. Senior collectors who used to attend virtually every pen event have become much more selective, and dealers are following suit. Nonetheless, pen shows still offer the newcomer an unparalleled opportunity to view and handle a wide range of vintage pens and pencils. Furthermore, collectors and dealers will often speak more freely and candidly in person than online, which can be of inestimable importance in judging what advice to trust and what to discount. Note that many local clubs now hold regular meetings that are essentially small shows with a predominantly vintage focus.
Pen shows began in the USA, and American shows are still the biggest and most numerous. Oldest and best for vintage collectors remains Chicago (May), with Los Angeles (Feb) being the other long-established biggie. Washington DC (August) now appears to be the largest in terms of public attendance; it leans heavily towards new pens, but there is much vintage pen activity as well. Columbus, OH (Nov) has steadily grown into one of the bigger events, with much vintage material on display. Outside of the USA, the London show is unquestionably the prime event; in total number of tables, it is small by US show standards, but since nearly all those tables are completely devoted to vintage writing equipment, the show ranks high indeed on amount and variety of material on offer.
We have posted two articles on what to expect at your first pen show in our FAQ section, under