Philadelphia Pen Show 2019 Review: A Vendor’s View

I’ve been thinking about the best way to review the Philadelphia 2019 Pen Show. I know there are plenty of pen show reviews out there and if you didn’t attend a show it can be overwhelming to look through all of the reviews;  if you were at the show, it can get repetitive to read through several reviews since you were there and know what generally took place.

Knowing all of that and trying to present something a bit different, I have decided to present my pen show review from the view of a vendor since, well,  I am a vendor.  This means it will be heavy on photos before and after the show, totally lacking some events* (if I was too busy to even touch my phone’s camera), and perhaps a different viewpoint than other reviews.  It also means that if you want to see what happened during the busy daytime, you will want to supplement this review with another.  I hope you enjoy this slightly different take!

* Seriously missing from this review is the great time we all had at the Pen Show Mixer arranged by the lovely and hardworking Lisa Vanness from Vanness Pens. It was a blast, but I wasn’t able to take any photos.  Kimberly has a nice collection of photos from the mixer here, though!

Packing Up

As a vendor who usually takes a flight to shows, a big part of packing up is cutting down on weight.  I’ve tried to find good ways to protect pens in the smallest space.

It’s amazing how much you can fit into a suitcase.  Sometimes it’s only tough finding room to pack clothing.

Getting There

I find flying over the midwest to be a beautiful experience.  I personally like to see rivers through farmland.

I’m always ready for the pen show as I fly out.  Headphones let me actually believe planes can be quiet.

Those who drove to this particular show found the parking a bit on the expensive side.  As far as I could see, though, this was the only downside to the location.  Beautiful hotel, lots of restaurants close by…

The Hotel

This is a view of the hotel restaurant from the mezzanine level where the vendors’ tables were located.  As I said, beautiful hotel.  Lots of space as well.

A BIG hotel.  I thought it was great that there was no 13th floor.

The view from a hotel room was never too big of a deal to me – until suddenly it was. So now I always get a photo.

Before The Show

We were allowed to set up for the Philly show the night before it opened.  That helps quite a bit since no one wants to arrange anything at 7 am.  It’s a great time for me to talk to people who have arrived early — a laid back feeling with the excitement of the show ahead. Nik Pang decided to get more calligraphy practice in by making me a lovely sign for my table.

Just behind me, the Andersons were setting up as well.  Sandra (The Cupcake Master of the Universe) looked like she was ready for the show to get going! Phil and Ashley (aka SgtStretch and MrsSgtStretch) stopped in for chat time.

The Table

Nik has quite a way with pens and ink.

My table was all set up the night before, ready for the public on Friday.

This is my favorite part of my table!  The Esterbrook testing station all ready for people to try lots of vintage nibs.  I love being able to help people find the nib they enjoy, one that they know how it feels before they head home.  I was overjoyed to come across this testing station a few years ago.  This may have graced the counter at a department store in the early 1950s.

The Food

I may or may not eat healthy food while I’m at a show.  However, at least it is colorful!

I also have amazing friends who will bring back stir-fried noodles for me late at night.

And of course, there are plenty of treats and snacks and possibly a rogue bottle of wine.  After the pen show closed for the night, personal pens and cookies came out, this time supplied by my wonderful roommate, Kimberly.


So, the reason pen lovers come together for these shows: the pens!  One popular spot was the Franklin Christoph Prototype Trays.  These were placed out each morning — one of a kind patterns and materials.  On Friday morning, the trays were laid out but no one was allowed to pick them up until 9 am.  It was a tough rule to follow.

The dark purple pens on the tray to the right are Franklin Christoph’s most recent pen model, the 46.  It is the same length as the 45L but slightly wider and it uses a #6 nib (a standard size in many modern fountain pens).

And the Esterbrooks!  This collection brought joy to my heart.

Of course, I needed to purchase a Franklin Christoph.  This is a Pocket 66 pen in a beautiful rose, brown and gold material from Mike Allen’s Woodshed Pens.  I call it Chocolate Covered Strawberry.

The People

Even though the pens are central to a pen show, the people are what make a pen show memorable and worth all of it.  Franklin Christoph announced the return of their popular S.I.G. nib due to the hard work of Dr. Audrey Matteson who is now their main nib grinder.  Audrey did an amazing job at the show!

Mike (Inkdependence), Kimberley, and Andy stopped by with big smiles for me! They often provided me with food, soda, and restroom breaks.  Thank you!

At the end of the show, I was finally able to get a photo of the ever elusive Ralph Reyes. And a computer bag.

Andy and I shared a ride back to the airport on Monday.  Notice how well her hair matches her scarf!

Lisa Anderson has been a good friend to have and has a wonderful smile.

Nik Pang and Ian Schon were catching up with one another as the last vendors packed up to head back home.

Going Home

Heading back home after a show is bittersweet.  Saying goodbye to everyone after a busy time together is tough but I love going back to my family and the (relative) quiet of home.  The end of the show means it’s time to head back to my beloved workbench to restore more pens and nibs for the next show.

This time, I had plenty of cold and snow waiting!


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24 comments / Add your comment below

      1. Hope you can make it. I’ll make a point of coming by your table to say “Hi” if you do. Your previous article on Esterbrook Pens is what got me interested in vintage.

  1. A wonderful write-up– thank you!

    I really enjoyed meeting you at the Mixer, benefitting from your evident love of Esterbrook history and the actual pens– and am entirely baffled as to how I missed you and your table during Show hours on Saturday(!). I would have loved to talk and play pens and points and….

    Where will you be, next?

    1. I did enjoy the mixer as well and I’m sorry we missed each other during the show! I will be in Baltimore at the beginning of March.

    1. You’re welcome! My friends are wonderful – I don’t know how I would make it through shows without great people checking in on me.

  2. Thanks for a wonderful review of the show. I’d love to be able to attend every one of them. We would be delighted if you would bring your fantastic Esterbrooks to the Dallas Pen Show in September.

  3. Thanks for the review. I had an awesome time and it was great meeting you for the first time getting my first Esterbrook!

  4. Hi Jesi, this was a very engaging review. I do hope that you will make the Atlanta show. I’ll be there at least one day, maybe more. I’ve been going to it for several years since it is the closest show to my home, and it just continues to expand, with more vendors every year and great attendance.

    1. Thanks, John! I do hope to get out to the Atlanta show. It might need to wait until next year’s line up, though. I look forward to meeting you!

  5. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed your story. It’s nice to see so many of you are friends and help each other. We need more friendships.

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