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The Retrophile Files: Tips for Navigating the Brimfield Antique Show

by DeDe Sullivan (05/04/12).

Patrick Nagle's booth looked totally haphazard by the last day of the September Brimfield Antique Shows. Still wished I bought that map.

The Brimfield Antique Shows just might be the largest outdoor show on the east coast, if not the entire USA. The week-long event in Brimfield, Mass., takes place three times a year—in May, July and September—and features thousands of dealers from all over the country. To give you a crystal-clear idea of the show’s scale, there are more than 21 fields to wade through, each measuring about three to five acres. This makes Brimfield not just an antiques show, but an endurance sport.

If you are planning on attending the May show for the first time next week (beginning on Tuesday, May 8 and running through Sunday, May 13), we have a few tips that will help make your experience a pleasant one.

A double vintage typewriter vignette by the Dealers: Al and Parry.

TIP No. 1: Have a Shopping Strategy
May is the busiest show of the year. Last May’s event broke attendance records for vendors and shoppers alike. With that said, having a shopping strategy in place will make the experience more pleasurable. Do your homework so you know each field’s schedule, as not every field opens at the same time or on the same day. Also, if you are not an early riser, remember you will not get the worm, a convenient parking spot or first dibs on that must-have piece.

A large gold horse head sold by Louis Farrick Antiques. Gaudy or fabulous? You tell us!

TIP No. 2: What to Pack
Be prepared to handle anything Mother Nature dishes out during your trip because the show goes on, rain or shine. The must-pack list includes: a GREAT pair of walking shoes, rain gear and comfortable clothing that you can layer. In addition, make sure your car is stocked with Band-Aids, sun block and plenty of water so you can fetch them as needed during the show.

Kathleen Ketcham of Comfort Matters featured pieces that conveyed a relaxed French style at the September 2011 show

TIP No. 3: Prepare a Shopping Tool Kit
Your kit should include a pair of work gloves for handling heavy and dirty items, a tape measure so you can double-check sizes, a pad and pen for notes, hand wipes and a small flash light in case you need additional light to examine an item more closely.

We met at least two dozen senior aged men who live totally off the grid. They allowed us to shoot their wares but they refused to give their names and claimed they had no address or phone. They did all have dogs.

TIP No. 4: How to Handle Purchases
Bring a few heavy-duty tote bags with you so you can carry small purchases. For large items, ask dealers if they can hold on to your purchases until end of day. Many of the fields have loading zones for cars so you can easily drive-in and pick up your loot on your way home.

At the last Brimfield show in September 2011, French antiques were spotted everywhere. Here is a peek at what Love Train Antiques brought to the show

TIP #5: Cash is King
Always ask a dealer what his or her best price is and be prepared to pay in cash because most vendors do not accept credit cards. Bring a mix of large and small bills because sometimes dealers can’t make change. And remember, a smile and a joke can go a long way during the negotiation process.

Have other tips to share about navigating the show? Leave a comment below.

Some antique light bulbs and electric components. What could you do with this stuff and a little ith a little creative rewiring?

If you are going to Brimfield, these are a few of the places you may want to check out:

Central Park Antique Show, Route 20, 413.596.9257, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Antiques & Collectibles Show, Rt. 20, 413.245.3436, Fri. 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.….
Midway Antique Show, Rt. 20, 508.347.3929, opens at 6 a.m.
Shelton Antique Shows, 413.245.3591, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Brimfield Acres North
, Rt. 20, 508.754.4185, Tuesday, May 8 only, 1-5 p.m.
The Meadows Antique Show
, Rt. 20, 413.245.9427
Stephen’s Place Antique Show
, Rt. 20, 413.245.3185
Grand Trunk Antique Show
, Rt. 20, 866.858.0789
Sturtevant’s Antique Show
20, 413.245.7458
Dealer’s Choice Antique Show, Rt. 20, 508-347-3929, opens at 11 a.m.
Heart-O-The-Mart, Rt. 20, 413.245.9556
New England Motel Antique Shows, 30 Palmer Rd., 508.347.2179, 413.245.3348
Hertan’s Antique Show, Mill Lane Road & Rt. 20, 860.763.3760
May’s Antique Market, Rt. 20, 413.245.9271

Into vintage advertising? You'll find more than you could ever imagine at Brimfield.

DeDe Sullivan is a retrophile with a particular fondness for junktiques; discarded vintage treasures whose aesthetic worth far exceeds its monetary value. Her blog,, documents her junking and antiquing adventures. This includes sharing her favorite places to score unique items, the history behind unusually finds, along with display and upcycling ideas. Have a question or story to tell? Shoot her an e-mail at“>!


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2 Responses to “The Retrophile Files: Tips for Navigating the Brimfield Antique Show”

  1. Andy Gray says:

    Read your article on Tips for Navigating the Brimfield Fair. I am looking for an antique typewriter. I will be at the Brimfield Fair Saturday-Sunday. Any tips on which dealers might have some. Thanks…Andy Gray

  2. Andy I promise you will be tripping over typewriters once you get to Brimfield. But if you are looking for a fully restored model- Brimfield may not be the best place to look but you will find some decent fixer uppers. If you need anything else, visit our site and shoot us an email.

    PS: do your research before you go! make sure you understand how much these things are really worthy to avoid over spending.


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