2019 LA Pen Show Recap

This was my first time attending the LA Pen Show. I’d heard a lot about it (good and bad) and was excited to make the trip. I flew in on Thursday morning, and upon arriving the show hotel, was immediately looking through vendors trays and binders — a great Thursday morning! 

Then we drove to Magal for Korean BBQ. To be honest, this was a big part of why I made the trip, I’d heard so much about it after every LA show… and it lived up to the hype. Would eat again. (But this isn’t a food blog, so let’s move on…)

Pen-wise, I went into the show focused on vintage urushi, I don’t see a lot of it in the US, and even at the SF Show, there historically hasn’t been a lot. There are a couple of vendors who only go to LA — so I came to them.

And they did not disappoint. Above is a tray of vintage maki-e, but those weren’t even their “high end” pens. 

I was severely tempted by this beautiful maki-e cuttlefish. It’s a 1920s hard rubber Japanese eyedropper with modern maki-e, done by a third generation artist. I’ll post a video to Instagram one of these days. 

This is maki-e on a Platinum 3776, it wasn’t for sale, but look at how cute it is! The owner of the pen says that it was done for a pen club in Japan. 

This pressed celluloid dragon was also pretty cool — I ultimately didn’t purchase it though. (Self control or something)

And, before I move on to non Japanese pens, look at this Pilot White Stripe Myu! I’m told the price was on the high side, but nonetheless it sold quickly. I was excited just to see one. 

In addition to Japanese pens, there was also Japanese ebonite! I picked up a couple rods for a friend who turns pens. The ebonite was sold by Eboya, who also had their own pens on display — beautiful and simple Japanese ebonite pens.

And no show is complete without the stunning materials (not for sale) and pens of Classic Pens

And binders of loose nibs! It’s always fun digging through these. Also, a lot of the vintage vendors had some very reasonably priced flex nibs if you were willing to dig. 

And some crazy pens. This one was made by Twiss (I think) — a custom ebonite body around a Sheaffer Triumph nib. I love the look of Triumph nibs, so this was a seriously tempting custom pen… 

A neat Wahl slider — apparently this was the last generation of sliders. And, speaking of interesting nibs — 

A Montblanc quadruple broad. Wow. I forgot to take a picture of my writing sample, but it’s wider than most of my highlighters. Super cool though I do wonder what people do with this nib other than show it off. 

And, as expected, there were trays and binders of pens everywhere. I don’t see much LeBoeuf or Chilton online, but there were quite a few at the show. 

And this crazy tray of custom pens by Rossi, Twiss and maybe some other artists. Wow. 

I had a chance to meet Pierre of Desiderata Pens and tried out his pens — very nice! And look at that mechanism, I loved how the pieces aren’t made out of boring black materials. 

I’m not a kid, but the Pen Collectors of America ran a scavenger hunt for kids — with adorable shark pens! I also (finally) signed up to be a member of the PCA, and picked up my last year’s worth of issues. It made for great reading on the way home, especially the chart on what to look for when shopping for Waterman pens, including size ranges and prices. 

I was also lucky enough to get grinds from both Masuyama (left) and Gena. Gena is new to the show circuit — she used to do many of the inhouse grinds at nibs.com, but has recently branched out on her own. Review to come! 

And here’s a friend trying to photograph the “super sharp” italic Masuyama put onto a Vanishing Point. He suggested that we try cutting paper with the edge of the nib.  

Speaking of friends… I got to meet so many internet pen-friends! It’s always great putting faces to names, and going to a show other than SF means there’s a whole new set of folks to meet! 

And some people who you don’t get to make friends with, but are awesome anyway. 

All in all, I had a great time — it was my first time traveling for a pen show, and I’d definitely do it again. LA has a very strong vintage pen community, and an unparalleled selection of vintage Japanese pens. However, as many others have said, it isn’t the smoothest show logistically. 

Here’s the view from the Straits Pen table (where I was helping out) at 9:45am on Sunday, before the show opened to the public: 

And here it is about 30 minutes after opening.  

Sunday was packed — there was barely space to walk through the aisles for a few hours, and a handful of thefts were reported. I don’t imagine any vendor can keep an eye on all the pens on their table. For next year, I’ll likely attend the LA Show again, but totally skip Sunday if the schedule and fee structure stays the same. 

My wallet barely survived, but I had a great time. I saw a huge variety of pens, ate some great food, hung out with friends new and old and even bought a few pens. 

P.S. Another post to come on my haul. Pictures still need to be taken. 

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  1. The announcement “This was my first LA Pen Show” strongly suggests that it wasn’t Franz giving the recap, but I am not clear whether it was Katherine or Pam. By far my favorite photographs were of the Japanese vintage pens.

    As our informant says, you just don’t see those pens up here in San Francisco. And they were actually pleasant to look at, unlike some pens that are outstanding, they really do stand out, but not always a pleasure for me.

    Thanks for doing this. I look forward to more LA recaps by people each of whom was in search of something a little bit different.

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