Collector's Corner: The Brimfield Flea Market
By Marlene Earle
I have been an alumna of Brimfield since the mid-70s. Brimfield is New England's largest outdoor antiques show. Three times a year, 5,000 dealers descend on over 10 fields in the town of Brimfield in central Massachusetts.
For me it has been THE antique marketplace to go to since the '70s. If you were a true dealer or collector, those three weeks of the year would make your blood rush.
Being a true collector or dealer, I used to arrive daily at Brimfield before daybreak. I was always outfitted with a flashlight, backpack, comfortable shoes...and plenty of cash.
I would go along to the many hundreds of booths and scan to see if treasures were there. In my early days, I was strictly a Coca-Cola collector. Then, I began to collect any soda brand with beautiful lithographs. I would look for unusual, rare or wonderful pieces of furniture and I would usually find them. In fact, most of my collection and furnishings were purchased at Brimfield. But, the advertising bug was first!
Each day, I would search the new fields at Brimfield as they opened and try to beat other people out that would fence hop, ticket-copy and sneak in early. There was always some crazed "I got it, and you didn't" purchase. Almost everyone would have one or two stories by the end of the week.
But things have changed. I now do my selling and buying online on eBay. Profits are wonderful, traffic is fantastic, and I can shop and buy online the same way I used to at Brimfield. Get the hit early on an item (especially from badly listed items), and Voila! Some "Buy It Now" items have become my finds of the week!
In September, I decided to go back to Brimfield after skipping it for 3 years. I went on a Thursday with a friend and arrived early for the 9:00am field opening at Mays' field. I picked Thursday because it is one of only two days that the dealers in the "paid" fields are not allowed to unload their items or sell to the other dealers. That makes for great pickings! Yes, I do know there are still collectors who will sneak a pass and get in before everyone else. However there are far too many sellers to cover them all, so these are still the best "un-shopped" fields.
We arrived at 7:45 am and parked behind Mays' Antique Market, one of the largest fields, which was opening that day. We saw people already lined up at the gate for a 9 am opening.
So, I had 75 minutes to shop before Mays' opened.
Although, I went through many booths, I couldn't find any treasures. All the booths I visited had new reproduction items: lawn and garden ornaments, wire and steel gazebos, wood and Styrofoam carvings, cement statues, new stress-painted furniture. There was even a man in a front "prime" rental space, selling potpourri hot packs for your neck! I felt like I was on The Home Shopping Clubs TV FIELD showcase!
This wasn't what Brimfield ever was...or was it? I wondered, as I went back to stand in line at Mays', how the real antique dealers and seller felt about this. Not good, I was sure.
But within minutes, the real Brimfield came back to me. It was still great after all these years. The gates to Mays' opened and we all rushed in. I love that field. Watching the poor dealers hurrying to unload their vehicles and trying to deal with a customer at the same time. Running from booth to booth to find that hidden treasure. This was what it was all about for me.
I found a great deal from a dealer who just didn't know the value of the item (after all, that's what we were there for, bargains.) Like eBay, the best purchases were the early purchases: my best bargains!
Will I go back?
Maybe not the next one, but I will go back. The Brimfield bug bites every collector in the Northeast, and I definitely have the virus. It's still an incredible show. It's more expensive to park and to gain admission to the fields than it used to be, and a little more commercialized, but it's still Brimfield.
About the author:
Advertising Memorabilia Editor Marlene Earle has an extensive collection of antiques and all types of advertising memorabilia. She recently sold her antiques shop to focus on online auction selling. Email her at earleandmoore @ yahoo.com. eBay ID: cokeandmoore
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