March 4, 2012

On the Road: Baltimore Pen Show 2012


I find myself in Baltimore about once a month, but yesterday proved a rare event: a good time in Charm City. Held in two beautiful rooms at the Tremont Grand Hotel, the second annual three day pen-fest known as the Baltimore Pen Show proved a mighty fine affair. I arrived late morning on the second day of the show, and was immediately greeted by rows of vintage pens right up my alley. At the show, I had three priorities: find a pretty pen, buy a refill for my Pelikan R600, and repair at least one of my favorite pens currently on the 'injured list.'

Baltimore Pen Show 2012

Because my collecting instinct has been dormant for a while, there was nothing I was actively seeking at this show. So, I took it upon myself to carefully scan every table of vintage pens for something to catch my eye. As it turned out, the first row I walked down pressed every one of my collecting buttons. There were several tables of all-metal ring top pens and a good selection of dip pens and dip pen holders. I got so caught up in gawking and examining the fine specimens, I completely forgot to take pictures. In any case, I made a mental note of these pens, and continued my journey around the rest of the show.

Baltimore Pen Show 2012

At the end of the first room was a doorway to a second room, equally as large as the first. It would be here where all of my commercial activity for the day would take place. Strolling around the tables, I found myself at a display of Cross pens, aka pens manufactured by the A.T. Cross Company. Truth be told, I don't care for any of the Cross fountain pen offerings, but I swoon for their classic ballpoint model, the Century. A thin, well-balanced pen with good weight, the Century fits well into both a coat pocket and a hand. Like many pen manufacturers which produce popular models, Cross released the Century in many different finishes. So while I already own three (brown, baby blue, and rolled gold) I still keep my eyes open for variations on the iconic pen.

Baltimore Pen Show Banner

The selection of Cross pens I was perusing happened to be owned by a former decades-long Cross employee. His table included many rare Cross fountain pens - in which I had no interest, and a couple ballpoints. The one which caught my eye was the fine piece pictured below. Spoiler Alert: I bought it. While I was taken with the pen, the gentleman explained to me that the model, which I believe is the 23k gold-plated Streamers model from the Cross "Jewelers Collection" released in the mid 1990s, was widely panned as unattractive and undesirable.


I think we can all agree, people in the 90s had terrible taste. After engraving, Cross lightly coated the pen so the grooves wouldn't irritate the hand. As a result, the pen has a surprisingly smooth finish. While I knew the pen had to be mine, I exercised some self control, made mental note of the item, and continued on my tour of the show. But at the end, after deciding none of the ring tops or dip pens were items I couldn't live without, I returned to the Cross table and bought the 80s oddity. Pen purchase down, I picked up some rollerball refills for my Pelikan R600 and ogled some excellent quality pads of pen-themed stationery from Anderson Pens.

Then, I sought out a repairman. There were three people at the show doing pen repairs, two of them were focusing solely on nib modification. But luckily, Martin Ferguson of was there doing repairs. 

Martin of Martin's Pens

I went to Martin with a mere 10 minutes left in the show, so I only had time for one repair. I selected my Waterman's #32A for a quick sac replacement. There are number of filling mechanisms for fountain pens, many of which require a rubber sac to hold the ink inside the body of the pen. Over time, these sacs dry out and crack, rendering the pen incapable of holding ink. The sac in my Waterman's fell apart a little over a year ago, and I've been itching to repair it. Thankfully, in just a few minutes, Martin was able to send my Waterman's back into my writing rotation.

The show over for the day, and the bar rolled out for the exhibitors only after-party, I was the last show attendee out of the door. Leaving the hotel, I was already looking forward to next year's show - because I had a really good day Baltimore.

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