Brimfield Antique Show takes place three times a year during six consecutive days. A local auctioneer, Gordon Reid, started the Brimfield outdoor market, now the country’s largest, on a somewhat humbler stage back in 1959: his own backyard.
Nowadays, more than 1 million visitors flock to Brimfield every year to shop the peerless selection of affordable New England collectibles (weather vanes, decoys, and Nantucket baskets) and maritime accoutrements (brass lamps and ships’ wheels).
The way Brimfield works is pretty unique: The flea market spreads over more than 20 fields on both sides of the main road running through Brimfield. Each field hosts thousands of vendors (there were more than 5,000 flea market dealers at the last edition of the Brimfield flea market) and has its own opening day. On those opening days, most fields charge a preview-fee. So if you want to be one of the first to check out the merchandise then you should be there on the opening day and pay the fee. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see and buy without paying the fee. A schedule of when which field opens is available on site. You can also download the Brimfield Flea Finder App to help you plan your Brimfield adventure.
Three of the best fields in Brimfield are Dealer’s Choice, known for its quality rustic furniture; Heart-O-The Mart, favored for hobnail glassware and intact grain sacks; and J&J Auction Acres, flush with high-end items like colonial cherrywood chests and convex mirrors.
Now, if you’re wondering how much time you need to visit the show, be aware than three days ain’t too much to give Brimfield an in-depth look. From a logistics point of view, keep in mind that Brimfield has close to no hotels. So be prepared to book a hotel a few kilometers away from the flea market and drive there with a rental car. Since there is only one street to drive through Brimfield, you might experience traffic jams at certain times. Parking is available on fields and around churches and usually costs about 10 $ per day.
Once you found a good bargain in Brimfield, and if you don’t want to bother (or can’t afford) carrying it around with you during the rest of your trip, be aware that there is a shipping service on site. But some season flea market shoppers have found the cost to ship to Europe, too high.
Even the food sold in Brimfield has a regional bent: Try the generously sized $10 lobster rolls, the fresh-popped kettle corn, and indulge yourself (after a long day spent rummaging through hundreds of booths), with the Pilgrim Sandwich: a supersoft roll layered with roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo. Until 2017, ‘B.T.’s Smokehouse’ was the place to go for a real treat, but unfortunately not this year. They used to make genuine ‘Pulled Pork’ sandwiches, that are an absolute delight. Brian Treitman, the owner, smokes meat for hours. No wonder why there were always long lines of people wanting to taste them.
Best shot at a bargain: The slower July and September markets may yield better deals than the crowded May outing, which serves as the region’s antiquing-season opener. So bring a hat, sunscreen and enough to drink…. It can get hot and dusty, particularly in that season!
Antiquing Tip Of The Day
The use of a smartphone for on-the-spot price comparison has given shoppers a new weapon to haggle with merchants. Once the origin of a particular item has been verified, its resell value checked, and its rarity ascertained, you will definitely have more leverage when it comes to negotiating a final price.
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