Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Leadhead's Tread: 2012 Raleigh Pen Show

I asked Terry Mawhorter if the weather is always this nice in Raleigh or if they just turned it on because there's a pen show in town.  He says it's always that nice, and I suppose that's the more likely explanation.

Terry runs two shows, the Ohio Show in November and this one.  He's been asking me about coming to Raleigh for a couple of years now, but this is the first time my schedule worked out such that I was able to go.  This year was also the first that Terry had help running the show from Jim Rouse.  I asked Jim if he could stop doing the "chicken dance" for a minute so I could get his picture:


I had to take that shot quick, because moments later he was back to doing the chicken dance.  With gusto.  I'm not sure what that was all about.

The show is held at the Embassy Suites in Cary, North Carolina - a town in what is now in the northwest quadrant of the sprawling Raleigh suburbia.  More than one person told me that until a few short years ago Cary was a sleepy, isolated little village, but you'd never know it now.   And you wouldn't -- there's golf courses, shopping centers, and beautiful planned communities all over the place, and everything is impeccably mancured.  Heck, there's even planted flower beds along the highway medians.

The Embassy Suites is my new favorite hotel on the show circuit.  Not only do you get a free hot breakfast in the mornings (with a cooked-to-order omelette if you want one!), but there's a two hour complimentary happy hour in the evenings.  Imagine what that would cost at the Westin O'Hare!

Here's a shot of the action in the ballroom on Saturday:


Raleigh is a smaller and growing show, with plenty of room to get bigger.   I pulled into town late Thursday night, and setup was just starting in the ballroom.  One big advantage here is that there's overnight security Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, so there wasn't any need to tear down once you were set up.  Whether you are selling just a few pens or a few boxes of books, that's a huge plus!

Activity was brisk, with a lot of people coming through the doors.  Dealer-to-dealer traffic was significantly down, so those selling to the public tended to do much better than those who rely on the big ticket sales within our community to make or break a weekend.  But no one was complaining, because there was a great reason for the decrease. 

Ross McKinney brought in a collection of more than 700 pens and pencils that had been consigned to him.  My understanding was that the collector passed away sometime in the mid-1990s, and after his widow passed away a couple of years ago the family decided it was time to liquidate.  I took this shot during the heat of the feeding frenzy, and this is about as close as I was able to get until things quieted down a bit. 


That's Ross at the far end of this group, with the plaid shirt and his arms folded.  The action was intense, but everyone was calm and respectful.  There were no prices on these things.  You picked out what you were interested in, showed Ross what you'd found, and made what you thought was a fair offer.   I only heard one person make an unfair offer, and it was the only offer I heard Ross turn down. 

A significant amount of money changed hands in a very short period of time, and everyone wound up being thrilled with what they were able to take home from this hoard.  The only disadvantage was that the money that Ross collected was taken out of circulation from the show, which is why most dealers -- myself included -- found themselves not selling as much but not caring because they were so happy with what they got!

There was an auction Saturday night, and while several of the lots with reserves on them didn't sell, more than what I was expecting did.   Terry had Gary Garner's conducting the auction for the first time, and it was the first time Joe Nemecek, Jim Rouse, Lisa Anderson and myself helped Terry out.  You would think with no experience behind the table that it would have been a mess, but in my humble opinion it went really well.  With 100 lots in the auction, we were done in 2 hours and no one even felt the need to take a break!  Even though I was behind the front tables, I was still able to bid on occasion, and I was pretty happy with what I brought home:


And I know Joe Nemecek was happy with what he brought home!  More on that later . . .

I came home with a lot of new finds -- certainly more than I was expecting:


including a few modern Sheaffer pencils:


a few classic pen books:


and even . . . what's this??


Yes, Virginia . . . the Leadhead is occasionally tempted by something that doesn't spit graphite out one end!  So are you going to Raleigh next year?

As Terry would say:  "I think I would."

1 comment:

Lee said...

As a 3 year attendee (out of the past 4), I will certainly be back. I am not a big pencil hound, but I really enjoyed the services I got from Ron Zorn, Richard Binder, and Pendleton Brown. I also enjoyed the purchases I made from several merchants including the Andersons. It's a great show with room for more people (dare I ever dream Brian Gray?). I hope to make it to the DC show this year to take in its enormity, but I have a feeling Raleigh will remain first in my heart.