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September 2006: Top Ten Toronto Tips

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • The Toronto pen show’s small, it’s still a startup. Yet there’s enough variety among the dealers and spirited pen discussion that is serves a great niche for rabid U.S. collectors: Those in the Midwest jonesing for a show in the long, dark fallow period between Chicago and Columbus, and of course East Coasters for whom D.C.’s “super show” can’t come fast enough shouldn’t hesitate to add this show to their itineraries — and indeed, some already do.

Break up a $20 bill — buy a tin of mints at a drug store or something — and get these one- and two-dollar coins. There aren’t enough floating around the show floor, and you might save several dollars with these little metal bargaining chips when it comes to negotiating a deal. Extra Fine Points

I’ve been privileged to attend the Toronto show two years running, riding with Richard in his Green Machine PT Cruiser he calls “Lord Peter.” I can’t imagine collectors in Toronto and environs skipping this show, and of course those in Montreal and Ottawa: Put it on your calendar, because there’s a nice mix of modern and vintage pens, as well as many choices in pen accessories to choose from.

While it’s something of a trek, I even consider it well worth the trip for U.S. collectors — part of the reason is the warm crowd. I’ve met several collectors at the pre-show mixer and during the show with whom I continue to exchange emails in the weeks following it, gabbing about pen stuff and non-pen conversations — one of my personal yardsticks to measure how good a show is.

But for U.S. collectors making the trip, logistics can be daunting, especially in these times of increased security at the borders, and of course, Toronto traffic rivals D.C.’s and Boston’s for annoyance. Don’t let that deter you from going, though! Just follow Richard and Don’s top 10 Toronto travel tips, and you’ll have a much easier go of it:

  1. Bring your passport. New regulations soon will require a passport for crossing into Canada. Technically, right now all you need is driver license and birth certificate, but giving U.S. border personnel any reason to be surly is inviting inconvenience. Canadian border agents, by the way, are typically pleasant and never surly.

  2. Go early — or late. Avoid the rush hours in Toronto and at the borders by leaving at ungodly early hours. For instance, Richard and I stayed on until Monday and left at 5 A.M., which sounds positively insane, but we left rested instead of trying the late-night pull after a long pen show day and we also missed the rush.

  3. Fill out the surveys. When someone — likely one of the well-meaning show organizers — hands you a survey to fill out, do it. It will help them understand how to make next year’s show better, and it will improve your experience. They’re still forming ideas on how to make the show work, and they’ll take your input seriously.

  4. Go out on the town at least one night. Toronto’s a cultural and entertainment center on the scale of Chicago or Boston. Personally, I vote baseball — if the Blue Jays are in town, the TD BankNorth CN Snapple Tim Horton’s SkyDome’s a cool place to take in a game, despite what the locals might say. If they’re on the road, there will be a music event that caters to you, no matter where on the scale from jazz to heavy metal your own personal tastes reside. If you’re not into music, pick up a free arts paper; I guarantee there will be something cool to do.

  5. Cross in Niagara. I don’t care how old or young you are, crossing the border at Niagara Falls, getting out of the car, and beholding this gorgeous water-scape is a must. Don’t skip it, even if you only have a few minutes to spare and a cell-phone camera with which to shoot pictures.

  6. Gas is sold in litres. Don’t get excited, it’s not really a dollar a gallon, as the signs seem to indicate at first.

  7. Temps are in centigrade. Yeah, Yankee, they mean Celsius. Double it and add 30 for the Fahrenheit equivalent, no matter what Richard — ever the engineer — says about exact formulas that involve fractions.

  8. Use ATMs to get Canadian cash. Don’t bother with exchange counters. Your U.S. card typically works and many banks don’t charge extra for the exchange (or very little).

  9. Get loonies and “two”-nies. Break up a $20 bill — buy a tin of mints at a drug store or something — and get these one- and two-dollar coins. There aren’t enough floating around the show floor, and you might save several dollars with these little metal bargaining chips when it comes to negotiating a deal.

  10. Casinos will take back the Canadian. The Green Machine hit the border well before the moneychangers opened up on either side — we were crazy-early, and they worked banker’s hours, we quickly discovered. No worries, we just hopped over to one of the many 24-hour gambling establishments and the cashiers were happy to do business with us.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be in great shape to enjoy the next Toronto pen show weekend. Now all we have to do is convince the powers that be that we won’t be able to survive unless there’s a 2007 show — and make them put one on.

cover Further Reading: The Rough Guide To Toronto, by Phil Lee and Helen Lovekin

Who needs a pen show as an excuse to check out Toronto? It’s a likeable city, as this excellent guidebook puts it. Really, this charming destination’s worth packing up the car and just heading north to see on any given weekend.

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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