Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Brimfield Antique Market

Brimfield (Brimfield, Massachusetts) was awesome! We went for the July 2012 show (the smallest of the three shows, but was by no means "small"). I scored this treasure on day 1. And it's a good thing I nabbed it when I did because a lady had come back right after we handed over the money and had decided she wanted it - she wanted to take it to Boston and there were two Mercedes vans going through and getting all the good stuff! We later learned they were shopping for two stores in New York. I have to say, the man who sold us this piece ended up being the nicest man. His name is Lenny and he set up in Quaker Acres. We enjoyed talking with him about where he was from, where this piece was from, what shows he did. Later he offered us a drink and invited us back to a fish fry he was hosting that night. We met some great people there.

We also bought this piece from Lenny which originally came out of a court house and he knew the history on it/location/chain of ownership. I can.not.wait to organize all my vintage paper and labels and prints in this cabinet with each category labeled on the outside.

And at Brimfield you always ask for a deal, meaning you ask, "Can you do a little off this?" I'm not used to wheeling and dealing that way but that's the way it is there. We went on the evening before the show started to scope it out and on the way back to Southbridge (where our hotel was) we stopped at an antique place and the man there was so very nice and outgoing and told us all about it - he thinks it's practically a sin not to ask for a little something off. But, the downside of that is that some buyers are down right rude and insulting to the sellers about getting a deal. I overheard many sellers talking to each other in passing about how rude some buyers could be, what they had said. And I heard it for myself a few times, once pretty badly, a buyer practically berating a seller for asking more than the buyer thought an item should be. I'm the kind of person who wants it to be fair to everyone and by the end of the show I just kept thinking about how many of those people do this for a living from all over, mainly the central USA to the NE and the South. Those people go out and find the deals, go to the garage sales, estate sales, auctions, drive the finds all the way to Brimfield, pay to set up in the field, sleep there in their campers for days, take showers there, set all the stuff up (some had spent a great deal of time on their set up), bargain and deal with people, take it down, and do it all over again for the next show. We bought a table from one man who drove all the way from Miami and had three little kids with him - this is a full time job for many and I don't begrudge anyone for trying to make some money doing what they love. LOL, stepping off the soapbox now.

This is what it looks like on Thursday waiting in line for May's field to open (field openings are staggered). May's field boasts the slogan "Where everyone is an early buyer," or something like that. The dealers in May's are not allowed to get anything out of their trucks or set up before the gate opens at 9 a.m. So there is a line. And there is slight pushing, and there is running. While I was standing in this line a retired college theater professor started talking to me about how it goes down. You can see the police here keeping an eye on he crowd. What happens is people line up across the road and not in line and then when the gates open those people run across the road and cram into the real line (which is going both ways along the opening). The police stop traffic and let those people cross. My theater friend felt this was unfair and would not allow himself to do that - and I was in agreement. My point being, waiting to get the best finds at Brimfield kinda gets into serious business. So when these gates opened, people went running. People who have a history at these shows know where to go to the people they've done business with before and they head for those spots. My new friend said it was best to run to the back because the people in the front wouldn't have had time to get their stuff out yet and by the time you get to the back those people have some stuff out. It's really pretty awesome to see it all go down. People are buying quickly, people are calling out, "How much??" and dealers are yelling prices out - people buy or move on quickly (many times prices are not marked and you must ask), people are on cell phones relaying what they are seeing and talking prices. We made a very fast go around the field for larger pieces then went back for the "smalls."

Adam and I double teamed this field at first because I went through and chose some stuff leaving him to finalize the details. We had to get receipts on many pieces because we were being charged a percentage by our shipper. We also took photos of the larger pieces because after we bought them we let the shipper know what the item was and where to find it and they went back though and picked it all up for us (the large stuff that is, the smalls we took back to our mini van and grouped together and organized them before we gave them to the shipper. They don't really have time to pick up all the small stuff and that would be a tactical nightmare as massive as this show is). Sometimes the sellers don't really want to make up receipts in the thick of things while the rush is on but you can go back after things have died down and sometimes they don't really want to give you one anyway but when you tell them you need it for the shipper they're usually happy to help. (They have ATM's there if you underestimate your buying potential). I mean some sellers don't even keep receipt books but they can just use a scratch piece of paper, it's pretty informal. And make sure to ask them how long they are going to be in that field so you know how quickly you need to get the large stuff out of there before they take off. It's a good idea to get their cell phone number if you've bought a large piece and can't take it with you right away or if the shipper can't find the item and needs clarification later.

What's a bit funny about the fields that open later in the week is that sometimes there are sellers who have originally set up at the early open fields and then set up again at the later opening fields. There were items I had seen earlier in the week being sold at May's because let's be real, the rush at May's is pretty cool and they have a good likelihood of moving those items in the adrenaline rush of opening gate. I think those people are called field jumpers - I don't see this as a negative though, just an observation.

After the crowds had died down a little at May's

The guy who sold us this Venetian Mirror was from New York and said this mirror came from Long Island. What was fun about this stop was that we met people from Dallas, Texas. I guess our accent gave us away and the man struck up a conversation and we found out all about his antique store in a high end area of Dallas. 

I can't really explain the love affair I'm having with Venetian mirrors. Obsessed. I look at them all over the internet, daydream about them. We went to Italy on our honeymoon 12 years ago and we couldn't really afford the kind of Venetian glass I would have loved to have sent home. But I remember the chandeliers - incredible. There's something about the patina, the etching, the attention to detail on these mirrors. I scored two Venetian mirrors in May's in one day. I think I must have found the only two on the field. 

Found some good paper stuff (ephemera I guess would sound better) at the Paper Barn. Yes, the PAPER BARN! I scored some fabulous billheads. And there were thousands of postcards. The Paper Barn was open the evening before the show started if you want to get shopping a little early.

Being the paper fool that I am, I was so happy to get this entire pack of French apothecary labels for 10.00 a set. This guy had a ton of old posters, lithographs, cigar box labels, you name it paper, he had it. He was set up at the very front by the road, can't remember which field but it was right on the highway.

This mirror was from young seller from New Hampshire. The mirror belonged to his grandma who had advised him what price to ask :) His grandma had many nice things, a lady of great taste.

What I love about Brimfield is the extreme mix of items you can find - which is just how I like to decorate my house - very eclectic. I like the shabby worn stuff with some industrial with some flat out pretty like this piece above which came from Howard in the NE Motel field. Like always we asked the history of the item and Howard was happy to share and even showed us photos of some of the other pieces from this fabulous estate on his cell phone.

Let me say, getting cell phone pictures of your pieces is invaluable if you are having them shipped home. If something arrives dented or messed up or scratched very badly or has some kind of white residue on them somewhere (which is what happened to me) you can flip out your cell phone and compare. Then the shipper can't say it was that way when they got it. And I'm not being a nut - old stuff has scratches and patina and that's why we love it - but sometimes real accidents occur and it's nice to have that photo of original bought condition.

I found this bowl in Quaker Acres I think it was. Anyhow, this massive punch bowl was something I was afraid to send home packed into the back of a shipping truck loaded with furniture and big pieces (because it's not just your stuff on the shipper's truck - it people from all over the US) so I used Packaging Store for this one. They are set up there right on the main road. They take the stuff back to Manchester, Connecticut (not too far from Brimfield) and pack it professionally. It was expensive, but I had them make a custom foam mold to ship this baby in and it arrived safe and sound. They do put it into the hands of UPS or Fedex, man, can't remember so it does leave their possession but they have packed it so well you can feel good about it. The Packaging Store ships all kinds of stuff - big stuff too but I only used them for the super delicate stuff.

Like I said, never know what you'll find at Brimfield.

A view of Mike's stuff from near Green Acres or Collin's Apple Barn - its right on the highway, can't remember which one, can't miss it. Mike has a ton of industrial stuff - lots of crates and wooden drawers that were used for shipping tools with great stenciling down the sides. He says he's there for every show, super friendly guy, great prices.

This is where we stayed in Southbridge, The Vienna Inn. The owners are very friendly and big on fab service but it can be very busy in the restaurant during the show weeks in the evenings. The food is Austrian faire. We had Chateaubriand there and it was so very tasty. They had quiche to go for us on the morning we left so early. I also had vichyssoise (soup, kinda) there and it was excellent. 

Yours truly.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have. Going to Brimfield was on my bucket list I guess you could say (I think that's the first time I've ever used that phrase :) ) And I was not disappointed whatsoever. I would love to go do this once a year. We went in the summer since it's hard to get away while the kids are in school (kids stayed back at Grandma's). It was hot but not as hot as I'm used to in the Midwest so it wasn't really complain-worthy for me. Still, everyone says the spring and fall shows are the best.

Oh, I've shared these youtube videos before on my blog but I want to put them here again since this is my official Brimfield post.


  1. Oh my gosh, I'm so jealous. You got some incredible finds! Can't wait to see them in your house! Please take pics when you get it all settled. :) I would say Brimfield's on my bucket list but it really would be more like on my "if I had a dream life" list. LOL! I'd have to drive there in a big ole truck!

  2. Oh Briana! I just LOVE this post! What GREAT buys you found! Like Tracie, I can't wait to see it in your house! I've been ... only 4 times i think ... but that's not much for someone who lives so close. I can't wait to go again!

  3. WOW...that is all I can say. What fun you must have had to be surrounded by all that Vintage wow wow.....**sigh**