The Ohio Pen Show… In The Beginning
Sometime in the late 1970’s, three collectors gathered at the Meeker, Ohio Sportsman Club. Dick Johnson, George Brown, and Ron Niles had on that day, started a new tradition in Ohio. Dick, who had been collecting and accumulating pens since 1958 says that about one dozen tables were covered with pens. “We just sort of stood around, not quite sure what we should do,” Dick says.
In late 1983, just months after buying and selling our first fountain pens, Michael Fultz, the organizer of the Chicago Pen Show, and pen maker extraordinaire, organized a pen gathering in Columbus, Ohio. Terry, Personnel Director at Bethesda Hospital at the time, was busy running the Bethesda Employees Family Picnic in Zanesville, so of course, I attended the show. I remember thinking that first experience, with fewer than two dozen exhibitors was “Overwhelming”. After all, the Mawhorter’s were new to the pen world and had not really caught the collecting bug. The Mawhorter exhibit at that show consisted of about thirty pens and pencils, and it paled miserably in the shadow of collections from Abe Schwartz, Dick Johnson, Steve Overbury, and of course Mike Fultz. Others attending were, Stu Schneider, Harry Bouras, Jack Price, George Brown, and Glen Bowen.
Sometime in 1984, Howard Edelstein organized a gathering of pen collectors in his hometown, Cleveland. Jack Price, Dick Johnson, and Harry Bouras attended that third event.
Mike’s first attempt at a regional show in the Ohio Valley, spawned a fever among the closet and not so closet collectors in the tri-state area, and soon pen clubs were forming in Indianapolis, Columbus, and Michigan. To meet the need of these collectors, Bob Johnson organized a show in the Cincinnati area in 1991, called “The Ohio Fountain Pen Show”. The show was actually held in Florence, Kentucky and for the next two years, pen collectors from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and beyond, gathered to satisfy their needs for pens, information and networking. The last year of the show, 1993, the name had change to “The Cincinnati Tri-State Show”.
inch by inch
For the next two years, every time Terry and I ran into someone from the Columbus Pen Club, or one of our many Indiana pen collector friends, they would say something like “Why don’t you guys start a show in Columbus?” I guess we appeared to be the most likely candidates. Actually, we had given the idea some thought. We had attended our first pen show in New Jersey in 1988 and we were impressed by the quality of the individuals who gathered there from around the world with some of the most interesting pens we had ever seen. We had accumulated several pen reference books by then, but, as any collector will tell you, actually seeing and touching quality pens is a genuinely rewarding experience. Whether they are intricate sterling and gold fill overlays, or jewel tone oranges, reds, blues, and greens, it’s always a thrill.
We knew that our show would not be a big show like New Jersey or Washington, or Chicago or L.A., but we thought we could put our own mark of mid-western hospitality on it, and with enough hard work, make it a quality show for the exhibitors and buyers.
So, in November of 1995, at the Holiday Inn East, with the trust and support of our 48 table holders, we began our first show. We called it the “Capital City Pen Show”, because Columbus is the Capital of Ohio!
The following year, we changed hotels, moved to the Clarion and grew to 72 tables. As the show grew, so did our commitment to make it an enjoyable experience for the exhibitors and collectors who supported the show, by travelling from all over the United States, and then the world. In 1997, because the show had grown substantially, we moved to the Columbus Marriott North. The Marriott was one of the few hotels in Columbus that could accommodate the growth to 102 tables comfortably.
In 1999, the name of the show was changed to the “Ohio Pen Show”. When Terry and I travel around the country and talk with pen collectors, they always refer to the show as “The Ohio Pen Show”, so the name was changed to accommodate the public’s perception.
In the beginning, we knew that we wanted the show to be fun, and we wanted the exhibitors and collectors to feel like they were visiting good friends in a comfortable atmosphere. Afterall, the people who attend the show, not the organizers, make the show successful. We have added hospitality parties, morning coffee for exhibitors, and are constantly looking for other ways to make the time they spend in Ohio enjoyable and valuable.
We have also added a pen auction.
Pen collecting has grown steadily throughout our geographical area, as it has throughout the world. Our “little show” has grown substantially as well. We are always searching for ways to make the show better, and with the help of our pen collecting friends and exhibitors from around the country and the world, it will happen.
From the beginning…
The following exhibitors were at the first Ohio show in 1995:
BERNIE AND BOBBIE BARSTON
ALSO GEORGE BROWN AND FRANK DUBIEL