Brimfield is one of the last surviving relics of the traditional antique world.(i.e. before ebay) An iconic bazaar with miles full of antique & vintage wares, who knows what untold treasures are to be found. Its a guaranteed adventure, rain or shine.
Having been in the antique world for over 10 years, I’ve attended numerous Brimfield shows. I am writing this guide to help new collectors and dealers navigate this show like a seasoned pro.The guide is set up in three parts, top ten antique buying tips, what fields to visit, and the lowdown on how the show works behind the scenes.
Top Ten Antique Buying Tips At Brimfield Antique Show
1. Leave the Louis Vuitton bag at home, your Prada Shoes are also a no no. Dress extremely casual. I am talking about wearing a shirt with a giant Eagle with the words USA plastered on it. Wearing your moms tennis shoes from the 80s is a sure way to knock 10% off your purchase. (thanks mom!) In general many dealers don’t have prices on the merchandise so if you look like your from the city or that you can afford to pay a premium they will quote you a higher price.
2. Look at every single booth. I have walked out of booths that were selling VHS tapes, Stuffed animals & tools with emerald & diamond rings. You have to look at every spot even if its just a quick walk through. Also don’t be afraid to ask if they have something your looking for. Some vendors keep jewelry to the side.
3. One of my first questions I ask a general vendor before even asking to see a piece is, “Is that an expensive piece?” (Don’t ask very established jewelry dealers this, they won’t take you seriously and some of them can get snappy. ) I do this to create a premiss that I am price conscious buyer and don’t want to spend a lot. It will help later for negotiating.
4. I can’t tell you how many times I have paid a premium on an item because when I saw it I got really excited and said “omg I loooovvvveeee this.” I know its hard fellow jewelry lovers but make sure you use your poker face when negotiating to obtain wholesale prices.
5. Do not put anything down that you are thinking about buying. If your shopping a stand and you put an item down and someone else picks it up, you have lost the item. You may say, “Hey I am buying that” and the other customer might be nice and give it to you, but the general rule is if its not in your hand its fair game.
6. Bring a backpack, do not bring a shoulder bag/purse here. Else you will be crying in pain by the end of the week and sympathizing with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You will find lots of jewelry at the shows especially if you buy costume jewelry. You don’t want to weigh down one shoulder.
7. You must get to the shows early, there is truth to the adage, “The early bird gets the worm”, many of the best items are purchased within the first couple hours of the fields opening. so you must get there early and move quickly from booth to booth. If you know what you are looking for don’t waste time, go to each booth and ask the vendor if they have it, make a quick visual check, then proceed to the next booth.
8. Think positive and never give up. While being early is important, a positive mind set will give you the stamina you need at a huge show. For example while shopping at Brimfield Acres North despite not finding I anything the entire show I kept looking and it paid off. As a dealer was packing up I found two pieces of white jade. Meditate on what you want to find and don’t give up. What separates those who find treasures with those who don’t is Grit.
9. Wear sunscreen & a hat each day of the show, even if its cloudy. Bring small snacks & water with you to keep your energy up, the food lines are long here. Make sure you bring all the cash you can before entering the brimfield area, in previous years the ATMs have run out of money.
My final buying tip is to have fun and enjoy yourself:) Brimfield is one of the last frontiers of the antique world. It’s a magical place where treasures abound, and where you can truly feel like Indian Jones without the danger of boulder rolling over you:)
How to Shop The Fields
Its easy to be confused and overwhelmed by the field map if you have never been to Brimfield before.
As you can see there are alot of fields to check out so i’ll just be reviewing and recommending the fields I think are best for finding fine & costume vintage jewelry. The fields I am highlighting are the fields that all the highly successful antique dealers that I know shop at. With that being said at every field there are treasures to be found and you just never know where you will find that special piece, so if you can explore them all, do! It truly is a treasure hunt!
This show should be your first show stop at Brimfield, it has some of the best dealers of the show. This field is really a treasure hunt make sure you look at each booth to find the best jewels.
Brimfield Acres North Tuesday 1:00pm
If mornings are not your thing but you want an authentic Brimfield experience, I.E. waiting in line and being one of the “first” people in, this is a great field for you. It’s a hodgepodge of dealers from furniture to jewelry but they are well vetted and the merchandise is honest. I always find something really good at this field, this year I took home two beautiful white jade plaques.
Not into digging in a giant tub full of little plastic bags full of jewelry? Want to sip lemonade while leisurely browsing highly curated jewelry? Well than this is the best show for you. Some of the best costume & fine jewelry dealers in the show set up here.You may find the fine jewelry vendors are more expensive compared to the rest of the show but these dealers have spent a lot of time curating and it shows!
Heart of The Mart Wednesday 9:00am
After you’ve had a little stroll at the New England Motel head over to the opening of heart of the mart at 9:00am and stay for most of the day here. Its a huge maze of dealers, there is just so much quality merchandise you will find something you love!
Hands down Mays is the best show at Brimfield. It is also the only truly “fresh” field at Brimfield, Dealers are not allowed to unpack merchandise until after the show actually starts at 9am. Which creates a rather comical scene where both dealers & show goers are frantically unpacking boxes together. Every year people find items worth tens of thousands of dollar of items here.
Friday & Sat Best Shows
J and J Productions Friday 8am Saturday 9am
If you manage to last all the way until Friday and are not completely exhausted than I suggest you make J & J your last stop. Its a good diverse mix of vendors with a good number of out of state jewelry dealers who bring their freshest merchandise to each show. I picked up some beautiful 1920s necklaces here this year!
The Brimfield Lowdown, Behind the scenes!
Traditionally Brimfield is suppose to start on Tuesday and no “buying and selling” is suppose to take place before than. What has happened over the years though is that Brimfield actually starts informally the Thursday prior. Many dealers come early to buy and sell to each other out of hotel rooms. (Don’t worry, most of these items will end up at the show eventually, just at a higher price)
Also many of the Brimfield shows that open on Tuesday have dealers that come in on Sunday & Monday to setup. During setup many dealers are buying from each other and while most of the jewelry items will still be put out for sale (just at a markup) you are still not always getting first dibs at most shows (except mays). Which is why I think Mays is one of the best shows.
With that being said each year million dollar antiques are found at Brimfield after the shows have open. In the end its a matter of luck & just being at the right place at the right time.For example my two white jade plaques that I found at end of the show this year.
My last bit of advice is, if you don’t want to be stuck in hour long traffic do not book your hotel in MA. You are better off staying in CT and coming in through the back roads. If you stay in Sturbridge you WILL be stuck in hour long traffic.
I hope my Brimfield Antique Show guide was helpful let me know if you have any other questions:)Also sorry not having original photos on this one I forgot to take photos I was so busy buying!!