The Gentleman’s Trip to the Brimfield Antique Show
This was my first visit ever to Brimfield! Cheerily running on only a few hours of sleep, I met up with my sister and her hubby early morning to travel together. We both only live about an hour or two away from Brimfield Massachusetts – the location for the Brimfield Antique Show – and figured it easiest to travel there together.
The ‘Textile and Vintage Fashion Show‘ was on Monday in Sturbridge (just a stones throw from Brimfield) this year but we did not have the time off and we were not able to attend. We are definitely planning on going to it in September though when it comes back around!
The Brimfield Antique Show started out this year on a Tuesday but we made our first day and start of the adventure on the second day of Brimfield.
Being routed a bit misguided by the GPS, we became a little bit lost on our way there. But luckily, there really wasn’t any traffic and we did eventually find our way there.
You can tell when you are getting near the Brimfield Antique Show when you see the iconic “Blackington Building” (if you’re coming from the Boston direction). It is a very old and iconic building just outside Brimfield. [have to get a a picture of this on our next visit out there – in our excitement we were in too big of a rush to get there to snap a shot!] On the way into town I was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of really nice looking restaurants – everything from tasty sushi to hot pot!
We first drove right through the center of the Brimfield Antique Show to find parking. The fields are on either side of the road and it is pretty apparent when you hit it (and not just from the long line of traffic you’ll sit in your car through).
It appears we came at the “right” time when they were all just filling up and we couldn’t immediately find an empty lot. Most lots displayed hand-painted signs showing “FULL”. But some had yet to put out their labels and waived us past as we neared. Parking was $10.00 at most lots that were in close vicinity to the actual fields. But you could find some further lots for $5.00. If you were willing to have a little walk to get to the action.
It only took us about 10-15 minutes to finally find a spot. Mainly because you have to turn around in a lot of traffic with many people on foot around you. We ended up parking at a cute little farm on a side road off the main drag named ‘Westwind Farm’. It was an actual farm – goats and all! There was an electric fence which enclosed a bunch of really cute little baby goats and some of their parents.
I made sure to snap a few pics of them and then was off!
It was a bit brisk when we arrived. I had planned for just such temperatures though by bringing a few extra layers with me in the car (a gentleman is always prepared!) as I know it gets cold in the morning from prior picking sessions. Adding another layer of fleece did the trick and I knew I’d warm up more as I ventured around.
I had decided to leave the rolling storage tote in the car and not bring it (hopefully preventing me from becoming a real hoarder!) since I still wasn’t really sure what to expect and I was unsure exactly about what I was looking for (other than hoping to score some vintage menswear). I did carry a large Ikea bag and some plastic bags in my backpack. Just in case.
The lot we found had us parked close enough that you could walk back and forth to the car with some motivation. But considering that you will end up walking all day long at the fields you really don’t want to end up having to do too many trips back and forth. So pack your backpack with everything you need and get ready for the biggest flea market you’ll ever go to! If you did happen to find any larger pieces, you would probably want to drop it off instead of carrying it around all day.
They also have porters you can hire who will lug items back to your car for a fee. For furniture and the superiorly larger items, the vendors will put a sold sign on them and you can coordinate to pick it up later on. They even have on-sight shipping with FedEx and UPS directly at the Brimfield Antique Show should you need it!
Setting up for Success
I was already feeling hungry from before when we started our journey here (I practically stumbled my way out of bed all the way into Brimfield…). We first wanted to meet up with our friend who has a booth as my sister had planned on selling some goods that day. On the walk over to the field I stopped by the food vendor stalls. I quickly grabbed a slice of garlic pizza to hold me over. Most of the food stalls weren’t yet open and I had my heart set on these gourmet grilled cheese I’ve heard about! So I made sure to leave room for lunch for when they did open.
Not knowing how much space was set aside for my sister in the booth, we wanted to check that out before we carried all the goods from the car. It was opening day for that field. Newly opened fields have a “field fee” (this one was $5.00) on their opening days. I saw some booths near the road edge on the outside of that field and went over to check them out while my sister and her hubby went to check. I made it through about a booth and a half before they came back armed with the needed knowledge of how much space we had. We then headed back to the car and hutched the goods my sister was selling back over to our friends spot in the field.
My sister mentioned that last year that field was really awesome to pick at and at that point I decided it was best to pay the $5.00 to get into the field and start from there! If you aren’t a serious picker you could certainly get by visiting just fields that don’t have the ‘field fee’ as there are enough free fields that you could stay busy all day with no issues. But if you’re a flea market regular, you know the absolute best stuff goes quickly right at the opening bell.
They ended up stamping my hand which they use as a marker so that you can leave the field and come back in. They also gave me a ticket to get in. Which was strange because they already stamped my hand and I just ended up giving them back the ticket a few steps ahead anyway. This field, and I hear the others, let you in for free after 2:00 PM or later. And are free to enter on the other days of the Brimfield Antique Show.
Entering the Maze
My sister stayed in the booth while her hubby and I then winded and traversed our way through a myriad of booths with goods of all kinds! The Brimfield Antique Show is a true pickers heaven. Some of the stalls have tents with tops and sides. Which I could tell would be nice to be in the shade if it was really hot out. Other vendors just setup in their space without any tent. There were even some other structures on the property like barns or other buildings which housed spaces.
My sister gave me some advice which I quickly found out to be true. If you find something you like, just buy it. Because either it won’t be there when you come back. Or you won’t be able to find the booth again because the show is so big. It was very disorienting moving through the booths. I quickly lost place of what and where I had seen particular items.
It is a bit maze-like there. Not just because of the booths and common goods/look of each. But because of the layout of the fields and the sheer massiveness of the show. If you see something you want and need time to think about it, I would recommend to draw a tiny map with any booth land marks. (there are many statement pieces you can use for navigation) Be sure to bring a piece of paper for it. And include the field name so you can have a chance at finding it again.
This 10 ft+ bear is a great example of an item you can use for navigation!
If you’re into one type of goods (like postcards or clothing for example) but you wanted to get a larger picture of all the vendors first before purchasing anything that type of a map would be a big help! I hear that there are Brimfield apps for your smartphone which likely have this same information. If you guys have any suggestions for which ones to use, please do comment below.
Fortunately, I had found that it was good to have not brought the wheeler. As you’d have to leave it outside many booths due to the cramped nature of the goods and narrow walk-ways in each vendor space while attempting to look at goods.
In one of the first booths we checked out, I quickly stumbled across some vintage gentleman photo’s. (always on the look-out for these for obvious reasons) After some quick negotiating with the vendor I packed them in the bag and quickly moved on to find more goodies. I spent some time next in a vintage clothing vendors booth and ended up talking for a good minute with the very nice vendor.
One amazing thing I noticed was that almost every booth had some “statement pieces”. While at most flea markets you’ll only run into a few high end or “statement” pieces.
I then ran into probably what was one of the more interesting booths of the day. It displayed all these creepy tin can little baby doll creations.
I find it interesting to always ask the vendors who have curated one genre of goods what was their motivation behind it. She mentioned hers was that she’d buy all these dolls missing an arm and a leg and couldn’t bear to have the doll go to waste. So she started these creations!
A few hours later of picking and we were hungry for some lunch. By then we thought the grilled cheese booth would be open. We headed back to the food vendors at ~10:30 am. We saw that indeed they were open! I was exceedingly hungry by this point so I ordered two for myself! One balsamic glaze, basil, and mozzarella. The other one just a plain cheddar grilled cheese. I also bought our vendor friend, my sis, and her hubby grilled cheese lunches as well. My favorite of them was their standard cheddar grilled cheese.
There were other food trucks there that sold pizza and hot dogs, etc and typical town fair type of foods. Make note though. If you want grilled cheese my sister went back ~2:00PM for one and they had run out of bread! So be sure to get them early 🙂
If you need to use any restrooms the field maps say that each field has their own set of bathrooms. They are all porta-potties but they do a decent job of cleaning them. As they have a person who cleans them after each use and they even have a tip jar out. I heard her mention when we were leaving that they empty them every 3 hours. They do also have on-site water and hand washing stations right outside the stalls. And also have hand wipes and alcohol hand sanitizer available.
We went back to hours of picking after refueling with lunch.
Prices range wildly at the Brimfield Antique Show from booth to booth based on the quality of goods. For example, I saw leather jacket prices range from everywhere from $50 to $850. I saw a great black vintage Schott Perfecto (have wanted one of these for years!). It was priced essentially at the same price point you’d be able to buy it for on the secondary market. I did end up buying a modern genuine leather black biker jacket for only $30 which was a really good deal.
The vendors here at the Brimfield Antique Show are as savvy as they come. I felt that many goods are priced at full market or retail value. There are some steals if you search hard enough or are a shrewd negotiator. I can say that I was a little surprised to see some booths have jackets or other clothing items at $525 and $850. But there was a selection unlike even many of the best boutiques. With purchasing vintage items, they are nearly always one of a kind. And usually are of the more rare and unique pieces.
Some of the booths have goods of what you expect to see at other standard New England flea markets.
Some are highly curated to one genre. Like this baseball bat and glove vendor.
Others are extremely well made designer-level professional looking store-fronts!
Many vendors have a lot of their inventory priced – like with most clothes vendors have every item individually priced. Some of the tags are inventive vintage tags. Where they printed interesting type-writer fonts or hand done calligraphy for the text. Vendors add that for a little extra special touch to their goods.
Some vendors are extremely organized and have signs around listing various prices of their goods if the items themselves weren’t labeled. A number of the vendors dealt with certain items in bulk like that. Things like lead letter press type, skeleton keys, etc that would have take too long to individually price out.
You’ll find goods of every form and subject at the Brimfield Antique Show. Everything from hand crafted furniture, re-purposed and salvaged goods, a lot of vintage signs, lawn goods, antiques, clothes, antlers, and everything in between. Don’t be afraid to shop around if you are looking for standard generic flea market items to find the better price.
Some of my favorite items that I had seen were the sandblaster grape-wood.
A pair of full-sized waist high blackened bronze foo dogs (for $2500). They would have looked great in front of my house! And this awesome antique cast iron circular coat hanger.
If your stars align and you are lucky enough to find something you wanted you had a good day of picking!
Exiting the Maze
By the end of the day, we only went to parts of FOUR of the 18 fields that we heard were open that day. We had picked continuously for about 8 hours straight. (minus lunch-time) I had downed 4 water bottles and 2 coconut waters in that time. All on a cool day which was likely mid-to-upper 50’s heat all day. It was significantly warmer towards the end of the day here than it had been at the start. But with all the added layers I brought it was easy to deal with. We picked till around 3:00 PM and it felt like we’d been there for only a few hours! There is never enough time!
We met back up with my sister at her friends booth. Packed up and brought the rest of her goods back to the car. It was just the start of Brimfield week and I was already ready to go back to the Brimfield Antique Show for more!
– Thomas Morgan
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