My thoughts on last night’s vintage pen seminar for newbies at the Chicago Pen Show

A view of the live Periscope of the seminar itself

Back in 1997, Fox aired a special series called “Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed”. In it, a masked magician revealed how famous magicians performed some of the world’s most mystifying magic tricks. I remember then that there was a lot of controversy surrounding this show because other magicians felt like the masked magician, who later revealed himself, was as the title states, “Breaking the Magician’s Code.”

For a random teenager who saw a few magic shows growing up, I was intrigued by the premise of the show. I wanted to know how they did some of the tricks that boggled my mind. I thought magic was interesting, but it wasn’t something I knew much about or knew where to go to learn more about it.

Fast forward nearly twenty years, and I am sitting at the vintage pen seminar with Paul Erano and The Pen Addict, Brad Dowdy.

I am very grateful to Lisa Vanness, Ana Reinert, Dowdy and Erano for putting this together and sharing their time and knowledge. I knew virtually nothing about vintage pens before last night’s seminar. I’ve seen a lot of talk about vintage pens online, but I had no idea why there was so much interest.

Erano gave a great lecture on why people enjoy vintage pens:

  • They are relics of history
  • Some are very well made
  • Some are gorgeous
  • Some are amazing writers
  • Often, there is the thrill of the hunt in finding something old and hard to find

He also helped me understand the basic ettiquette of handling, learning about, and buying vintage pens. Some of the other vintage pen dealers provided insight, too. To me, the conversation was interesting, engaging, and informative. I went from knowing nothing to knowing many things.

Now, I get the why. Next, I would love to learn the how.

How does someone pick out, examine, purchase, and then care for a vintage pen? I would love to see a vintage pen expert or dealer walk through every step they take to buy or trade for a vintage pen. Here’s what I want to know:

  • How do they narrow down what they are looking for?
  • Once they find a pen of interest, how do they examine it?
  • There was some mention last night of loupes and lights and other tools. What tools do they use? What are they looking for?
  • Is there a mental or physical checklist they go through to determine the condition of a pen?
  • What questions do they ask of the seller about the pen?
  • What are the red flags or warning signs to look out for?

For me at least, the ideal next seminar, or perhaps a video, podcast episode, or series of articles, would be a vintage pen person taking a pen and then explaining why they are interested in it. Then show us exactly how they examine it step by step and ask the questions they would want answers to before buying it. Essentially, I would like to see a simulation of what my first experience finding and buying a vintage pen should be like to make it a successful one.

While the vintage pen dealers helped me understand why vintage pens are interesting and fun to use, I could sense some tension among and between themselves. It reminded me of the magician’s code. Some of the dealers were extremely forthright and patient to point out what to do and what to expect when buying vintage pens and many times, it seemed like they all wanted to make a different point at the same time. They weren’t always in agreement, but they were all passionate about the same subject. That passion certainly struck me and made me more interested in vintage pens.

If there is some sort of code among vintage pen dealers, I hope at least one has the willingness and patience to share that code with the next generation of enthusiastic pen users like myself. I know I want to learn more, and I left last night’s seminar with the feeling that some vintage pen people are willing and eager to share their passion with an ever-growing group of pen people.

Like what you read? Give Michael a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.