About two weeks ago, I crossed another item off my bucket list: I went to the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Show.
When I was kid, my family occasionally went to a flea market near our home, and I remember those trips with fondness. The challenge of finding a parking space, the discovery of just the perfect item, and the people-watching all made the experience memorable. I knew that Brimfield—which is so much more than a flea market—would be quite a trip.
With thousands of dealers selling everything from pristine (and expensive) antiques to items you probably saw in your Grandma’s kitchen to, well, even some junk, Brimfield is a popular destination to collectors who love to hunt and seek. I managed to talk my husband into a weekend away at a bed and breakfast as the hook to get us to Brimfield, so our adventure could be combined with some long overdue couple time. I’ll be honest that Brimfield was not his first choice of activities, but he was an incredibly good sport about—even when the heat of the day reached the high 80s with significant humidity.
The mix of items for sale was fascinating. We stumbled upon a vendor selling tables, chairs, and umbrellas from German biergartens, which would have been perfect for a small porch. We saw more Pyrex than I ever thought existed. We spied relics of carousels, ocean buoys, and vintage clothes. We saw classic toys, art prints, and Bakelite. Furniture, light fixtures, and even bicycles. The list really is endless!
The scale of Brimfield can be overwhelming; the dealers are spread along a mile of Route 20, positioned in show venues that are commonly called “fields.” (The show started, literally, in a farmer’s field in 1959.) There is also a food court, numerous (addictive) lemonade stands, and other food stalls, ensuring that you can eat while you shop.
While my husband and I went with a list in hand to help us stay focused (which I recommend), we instead brought home a mix of things we uncovered as we walked up and down the crowded aisles. The most we spent on any one piece was $40.
Here’s what came home in our car:
Plates – Who remembers the crazy daisy Corelle pattern? Nostalgia wins at Brimfield, and I stocked up on this set. Those Corelle plates are pretty indestructible so they come in handy in my house. (On a related note, I found, unsurprisingly, a Pinterest board dedicated to just this pattern!)
Glasses – Likely one of our favorite stops was a vendor whose booth was filled with glasses from the 1950s and 1960s. Each glass was in pristine condition, and we got a good deal on these lovelies (1). It didn’t hurt that we were there on one of the last days of Brimfield, and the dealer was open to negotiating (a good point to consider when planning your trip).
Art – My husband and I joked that we found a Picasso, but really it was this print (3), which I got for $12.50! I also snatched up this painting (2), titled “On the Rocks,” from the 1960s by a Massachusetts-based painter. The frame needs some TLC, but I have my fingers crossed it will find a place in my home.
Globe – The fifth in my collection of globes, this one (4) caught my eye with the writing across the Northern Hemisphere: “All who wander are not lost.”
Missing from these photos are a beautiful Dansk decanter, two 1970s glass Sanka/Maxwell House containers that I will use for cereal and snack storage (additions to a growing and unplanned collection), a pretty little cake knife, and books we found for the kids (they are already in reading circulation and would not be given up even for Red Shutters).
We also took away tips for our my next time at Brimfield, including:
- Park near the center of the action. Most of the fields charge for parking. You may be able to get a cheaper deal if you park outside of the main area, but then, you’ll be walking the extra distance, a disadvantage if you’re a successful shopper and want to put your purchases in your car. Parking in a center lot will also be helpful if you want to take a break, grab some snacks, or need to take cover during a rainstorm.
- Bring cash. Cash, as they say, is king. You’ll be more successful negotiating with dealers if you’re saving them credit card fees. That said, several dealers do take credit cards, so you do have the option, if needed.
- Take care of yourself. In other words, wear comfortable shoes; there is so much walking at Brimfield. Drink lots of water. Bring snacks or even lunch (think: cooler in your car). Of course, many food options abound at Brimfield, though selections for vegetarians/vegans/gluten-free are limited.
- Be patient and organized. Finding the good stuff can take awhile, and you may have to go through dozens of booths before you find something that catches your eye. Keep track of where you are (each field has a name, and each booth a number) and establish a system of moving from booth to booth so you don’t miss anything. My husband and I also brought a large bag with wheels (sort of like something you’d bring to the beach for a picnic) for our purchases. This saved us from having to return to the car multiple times (we went just once in our eight hours of exploring).
- Be polite. Most of the dealers we encountered were friendly and welcomed shoppers. A few, however, were rude or (worse) condescending. As with everything in life, you “get more flies with honey than with vinegar,” so if someone isn’t treating with respect, just walk away.
Overall, our first trip to Brimfield was a fun adventure. So much so, that I have the 2015 Brimfield dates on my calendar already! In case you’re thinking about going, mark down May 12-17, July 14-19, and September 8-13, and I hope to see you there!