August 26, 2015

Chicago Pen Show, 2009

, and pictures from the show.

[Posted on Pentrace by Len Provisor from Apr 30 to May 6, 2009, and on L&P on May 6, 2009.]
        Pardon my rambling, but I had a few thoughts today.
        The weekend pen show starts Thursday noon, actually Wednesday or Tuesday for those who just can’t wait.  You can tell by the black leather zip cases with legs roaming the lobby and lounges and any vintage pen collector worth his ebonite can sniff hard rubber and 14K at 40 paces.
        The Hospitality Suites on the 12th floor of the O’Hare Westin opens up around 12 noon because pen guys and gals just can’t wait for a weekend pen show.  I arrived around 2, the lobby was barren but I followed the scent of ebonite to the elevators and up to the 12th floor.  Twenty-some tables are set up.  The two rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking downtown Chicago about 15 miles away, pretty sight, especially if you don’t have to fight traffic to work every day.  Black leather zip cases with legs tucked in are strewn about the tables and the sport of pens begins.
        The pen hobby is getting grey.  It was a pleasure to see many old friends I’ve known since they had hair and some still do.  There are some young ’uns and then the old pros.  Besides knowing so many of these people over the years it is easy to see how the old pro’s have calmed.  It s a style they have earned.  It comes with the years and with the confidence that if a pen is meant to be in their collection it will be just sitting there waiting for them.  They come to pen shows for more than the pen frenzy and fast paced action as if they were being graded on how many pens they can scoop up before dinner.  Maybe they, including myself, have all the pens we really need but need to fill a few voids in the collection.  They know what they want, and where to go, and who to see.
        My protocols have changed, and likewise those of many of my friends.  Time was, get there just before the doors open, pulse rate at 120, be sure you go tinkle before ’cause there is no stopping once the sneakers hit the floor, run and see everything immediately to scarf up stuff.  Now, it seems the protocol is, and should always have been, meet the people, our pen friends we’ve known for so many years.  We know each other, we know the families, the children, the weddings, the long-earned retirements and trading tips on how to down-size your life once we no longer have to punch a clock.  And the focus can be on our diversion that, at times, seems to be that which helps to keep our senses and priorities.  And such is the recycling in the hobby.
        I think of all the sources for finding vintage pens in our hobby are so much more than garage sales, old attics and dusty drawers.  For me that used to be an every single weekend event, 30 pounds ago with my hair would fly in the wind scampering up and down open field aisles at the country flea markets.  It seems that these days, and certainly for the last several years I have seen collections both major and minor appear at pen shows, some anonymous and some well known that were finally up for recycling.  Like I said, the collections help pay for the life cycle, weddings and bar mitzvahs, education and college, then the retirements and the final step in recycling is the estate sale.
        So now come the new collectors.  Of course, a good part of the pleasure is meeting the new collectors, the life blood of the hobby and frankly, I’m never surprised I can still learn plenty from the young blood.  Here they are, full of piss and vinegar and they carry really big black leather zip pen cases with legs, eager to be the first in the room and scarf up all they can find for their collections.
        The smarter newbies will take the time to meet the old pros, shake a few hands and ask a lot of questions, find their focus and build that great collection that will give them the same pleasure we had over so many years.  And soon enough, many years from now, the weddings, the college tuition, the retirements, they will once again become an important part of the recycling solution.
        I’ll be back at the show tomorrow and snap a few hundred images just to prove my theory.

[Posted by Barry Gabay on May 1, 2009.]
        You write the truth.  You know, Len, not everyone will take the time to read your genuine and articulate piece.  Those who do will discover a very honest document.  Only someone who has been at this hobby for several decades will appreciate all of your nuanced honesty, but it is there for everyone to discover.  You are so accurate in your description of the new folks, the older folks, and the attitudes of both camps.  Only those of us way beyond the desperate need for acquisition can fully understand your perspective.  Yours is a kind, relaxed, and somewhat wise point of view.  Only we old guys derive pleasure from the sentiment as much as from the pens.  You are absolutely correct in describing the joy we find in hearing about one another’s children and grandchildren, especially the ones we watched crawling and gurgling at the shows way back when.  So many pens have stories associated with people: the cocoa 51 you sold my younger son for a song when he approached you with his own money because it was his Daddy’s favorite color; the celluloid 149 Jonathan Steinberg passed on to me and I passed on to Joe Engle, that first Big Red for $5.00 at the Virginia State Fair Flea Market, the gold watch Paul Erano gave my older son, the custom-made 25th wedding anniversary pen Joe Cali made for my wife as a surprise for me, my mother-in-law’s cedar 51 w/ sterling cap given to her by her first serious boyfriend and passed on to me, the Pelikan 800 my students in Turkey gave me at the end of the year.  There are many others, but mostly there are memories of the people involved.  Thank you, Len, for reminding all of us that it’s about much more than the cool fountain pens.

[Posted by Len Provisor on May 2, 2009.]
        Thank you, Barry, wonderful memories over the years.  I think people may get the notion that we’re really a couple of old pen-collector geezers, and they would be right.  Fun hobby and great people.  Make it a mission, get thee to a pen show!

[Posted by Len Provisor on May 1, 2009.]
        Chicago Pen Show: Friday report.
        One half of the huge main ballroom was set up and filled with early arrival dealers and collectors with close to 100 tables piled with pens and everything else remotely related to pens.
        Here’s the routine.  Walk in, turn right, and go up and down each side of the aisles to visit friends and pens.  The cordiality starts every few feet, so it can take several hours to walk a show when years ago the first pass could take 40 minutes.  Years ago I could scan a table from end to end in 4 seconds and not miss a step up the aisles, the rule was never stop unless something really jumped off the table and slapped you in the face.  For example, one friend only collects red hard rubber pens. I don’t think he has a single pen in his collection that is not red hard rubber.  Well, that is what I call a pen show cake walk.  Early on in my collecting years I would buy anything that looked interesting until I finally found my focus with 51s and exemplary pieces in Parker history, such as a few each of nice Duofolds, Vacumatics, 75s, eyedroppers, etc.  So what you do is train your eye to instantly recognize and sniff out your passion.  Soon enough, you just know by instinct where to go, not only which tables in the room, but also which lounge chairs in the lobby by the look of familiar pen cases crowding around in the corner.
        Jim Rouse had a huge spread with 100’s of his personal Sheaffer collection he is partially liquidating with many remarkable and scarce models I’ve never seen.  Aaron Svabik was setting up and had a small crowd lusting around his table, so I’ll have to edge in later.  Quite a talented and remarkable craftsman.  Derry Harding is a long time collector and one of the most knowledgeable with his extreme focus on Parker 75s, and one of his good friends John Strother who is a vintage Waterman collector and knows the pens and history as well as anyone.  Jack Leone works with Howard Levy at Bexley.  He has many years in the hobby, has been closely associated with the PCA, and has contributed often to many articles.  Brian Gray from the Edison Pen Co. was there with his adorable wife.  I was happy to sit for a moment and test drive a few of his pens.  His custom-tuned nibs are quite remarkable, as smooth as you would ever expect, and I especially like his classic, smooth, no-frills oversize pens.
        Roger Wooten (I almost didn’t recognize him without his Stetson) brought some choice early Sheaffer hard rubber flat tops and an assortment of Radites.  Roger is quite a cut above the average with is expert knowledge on early Sheaffer.  He also produces a very nice selection of reproduction vintage Sheaffer catalogs, a pen collection essential even if you don’t collect Sheaffers because they are soooo good.  BTW, his twin boys are now 9 months old.  That makes four new farm hands on the old homestead, now, besides his horse.
        I reviewed the auction pens and actually got within inches of that gold Parker Aztec, which by the time this message is posted will have been sold to a high bidder.  Really curious how it went down, will report later.
        I had to leave early today, and will miss Saturday due to family obligations, however, I will post photos Sunday eve or Monday in my photo album.

[Posted by Len Provisor on May 3, 2009.]
        Chicago Pen Show: brief Sunday report.
    I missed Saturday but was happy to take part in the action today and had a very good time viewing every single table and talking to every single exhibitor.  Besides old friends, there were several new exhibitors that show great promise for exciting products and services, such as new young bloods Brian Gray and Aaron Svabik.  Another exhibitor specializes in converting vintage 51s and Vacs into cap action ballpoints and roller balls, our old friend Lisa Hanes is back in business with her wonderful vintage pen friendly decorated memo pads, called Proper Pads plus a lot more.
        I have a few hundred pictures to Photoshop, so it will take me a few days, but I promise to get them up with captions as soon as possible.
        In the meantime, the
Parker Aztec at the Chicago Pen Show auction went for $20,000.  I saw the pen on Friday and it looked spectacular, however on close examination I could see it had some brassing to the gold fill finish, which affected the final price.  The same model in good condition sterling silver would be valued at a minimum of 2 to 3 times this price.
        And yours truly stopping for a rest at the
Gregory Sachs Collection.

[Posted by Len Provisor on May 6, 2009.]
        Chicago 2009 Pen Show pictures.
        I never miss a table.  I am not exhibiting or selling any more these days, so I have the pleasure now to walk the show, round and round I go, maybe 15 times around over the weekend, because if once around is good, then 15 times is wonderful!  See all the photos in
my album, about 165 pictures, but you can click on slide show for fast scrolling.