Monday, August 13, 2012

Leadhead's Tread: DC Supershow Report

As I’m sitting here, at 6:00 in the morning getting ready to make the long drive back to Ohio, I’m suddenly finding it difficult to describe this year’s DC Supershow in Washington. Maybe it’s because so much is going on in my head about the show that I don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s the sheer exhaustion.

But I think mostly it’s because for me, the DC Supershow is the high water mark of the year. I spend most of the year looking forward to it, and it’s kind of hard to admit it when it’s over.

As far as the hotel goes, I was pretty sure going into this show what I was going to say about the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner, the same venue for the show as long as I’ve been attending, but I am pleased to report that everything I thought I was going to say about the hotel I’ve had to take back. The hotel, long overdue for a renovation, has finally received the updates that it has sorely needed in the past – a nicer bar and restaurant area, an updated registration area, and the rooms have been updated and redone.

Nicer still is that all the positive changes have also carried over to the staff’s attitudes. This is the first time in years that I’ve actually felt like a guest here rather than an annoyance to the help! Well, ok . . . mostly. The manager and his rent-a-cop were pretty annoyed with those of us enjoying our traditional evening of scotch and cigars on Friday night. We did receive quite a lecture on Virginia liquor laws, which left me imagining the cover of The Pennant Magazine with a shot of us all being loaded into a paddy wagon and hauled off to jail (being the hardened criminals we all are).

While each of the shows I go to in the course of a year has its own flavor, what makes the DC show different from all the others isn’t surprising. Since it’s the biggest, and more of my friends come here than attend any of the other shows. And this year was a little bigger yet than any of the others. Here’s a shot of the main ballroom from my table on Saturday, way back in the back corner next to Roger Cromwell’s traditional place (he was there as always this year):

There’s a second, smaller room next to the main ballroom, which was also full:

But while in the past there have been just a few vendors in the hallway outside, this year the hotel’s renovations made more space to allow for many other dealers to set up. Many of us were pretty jealous of all the great natural light the glass ceiling above this area provided:

As is the case every year at this show, I rarely left the hotel from the time Janet and I arrived Thursday until our departure here in a couple hours. Other than short walks to the Thai restaurant around the corner on Friday (where Jim Baer gave a group of us a demonstration on how best to eat a mango) and to the Italian "restaurant" (actually more of a pizza and sub place) on Saturday, I was pretty much in for the weekend with plenty of things to do.

Complaints?  Only two.  First, you have to tear down Thursday and  Friday night because there's no security, and those in the atrium are also had to tear down Saturday night as well (security was only in the ballrooms).  That is a huge pain in the neck.  Second, table assignments aren't announced until Saturday morning, so you don't know where you are going to be until you show up with a cart full of stuff.

A third . . . observation (not really a complaint) is that it's interesting there's no auction at the DC show.

Show traffic was overwhelming. I’d heard that things were really frenzied on Thursday, and from my personal experience Friday and Saturday were so busy that if you were lucky enough to be able to get away and look around for a moment or two, it was actually frustrating not being able to get close enough to see the tables. It was, to quote many dealers, "like the old days." People came to buy and they did buy.

In particular, those who were repairing and restoring were really hopping, and I certainly spent my fair share of time repairing pencils. In one particularly satisfying case, I was able to get a Parker "Big Bro" pencil working reasonably well again, after which I learned that it had belonged to the owner’s father.

Although the selling was great, it was the buying that I came here for, and it was just as good. Even though I was able to get pretty much everything I was interested in, I’m still coming home with a little more money in my pocket than I took with me (oh . . . except that doesn’t account for the fact that I wrote Joe a check for that Parker bridge set featured in Saturday’s article).

Speaking of the buying, here’s what most of the weekend’s haul looked like:

There’s some other great stuff I found at the show which didn’t make it into these shots, but suffice to say, as if I didn’t already have piles of stuff at home I haven’t written about yet, there’s enough stories here to fill up this blog until the Ohio Show in November!

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