A Primer on the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Shows and Assorted Events

The Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Show, and surrounding independent events, as seen from the air.

The Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Show, and surrounding independent events, as seen from the air.

I normally write an article on shows I attend after the event, when I have returned home to my trusty/rusty/crusty computer with my prizes and impressions. Now, though, I thought I’d give folks a “head’s up” on the Brimfield (Mass.) Antiques and Collectibles Show so they could make plans to attend.

There are two schools of thought concerning the three annual Brims, as they are known to ardent attendees. Most argue that the May show is the best pickings, others swear by September event, and almost everyone says it’s too hot in July! Yours truly has attended all three religiously for the last 30 odd years, and my opinion is: May is best, September is always good, and July is hot, hot, hot! Regardless, any antiquer worth his or her salt will be happy no matter which event they attend.

The September Brimfield Show is the third and final shows of the year and is set for Sept. 8-13, but the official opening dates are always pre-empted by several independent markets and numerous yard sales up and down Rt. 20 (The Old Boston Post Road).

Among the independent venues are:

Marrier’s Palmer Flea Market: This one opens at daybreak on Sept. 5and will run through Sept. 12. Palmer is just a few miles west of Brimfield on Rt.20, and is not your ordinary flea market. Die-hard and local antique dealers all get the jump on the official Brimfield openings at Marrier’s. Small compared to Brim, the pickings are generally pretty good here. Beautiful central Massachusetts country setting, good old-tyle “on the ground” country flea market.

The Barn, The Apple Barn, Hopkins, Francesco’s, and Mid-way have various and unscheduled starts. The un-official opening is daybreak Monday, Sept. 7, and all venues are located on the west end of Brimfield, with Hopkins being the newest (its inaugural event was last year). All are definitely good places to shop, especially Hopkins. The Barn is directly across the highway from Francesco’s Italian Restaurant and specializes in industrial and architectural artifacts (tons of it!).

The real pandemonium begins on Tuesday (Sept. 8) with all of the Brimfield sites officially opening at 6 a.m. and unofficially at daybreak.

Mahogany Ridge (east end across from Church): 100 dealers, cameras, smalls, furniture;
Dianne Sturtevant’s: 400 dealer set-ups, excellent pickings, paintings, jewelry, toys and furniture;
Shelton’s: more than 300 set-ups, great Indian jewelry, silver, paintings, Chinese imports and furniture picking;
Crystal Brook: 50 set-ups, quality jewelry and silver;
Quaker Acres: 400 set-ups, tons of country and primitives;
Rt. 20 Motel: general smalls;
Central Park: 150 set-ups, furniture, some jewelry, smalls;
The Meadows: more than 300 set-ups, smalls, furniture, silver, reproductions, etc.;
Green Acres: 150 dealers, quality furniture, smalls, etc.;
Dealer’s Choice*: 400 dealers, opening at 11 a.m.;
Brimfield Acres North*: 300 odd dealers and a running indoor postcard show, opening at 1 p.m.

*These two shows are fenced in with admission charge and are “one day shooters,” so you have only a few hours to make a decision.

Wednesday, Sept. 9 sees more openings.

The Motel: opens at 6 a.m., fenced-in with admission, features some 300 odd dealers, silver, jewelry, furniture, paintings, smalls, etc.;
Heart-O-The Mart: opens at 9 a.m. with more than 500 dealers, fenced-in with admission, furniture, jewelry, silver, lamps, smalls, etc.;
Hertan’s: opens at noon at the strike of a bell with no fences or admission and is hands down the “Wild West” of all the openings, featuring primitives, smalls, furniture, textiles, jewelry.

NOTE: H.O.T.M. and The Motel suffer total abandonment at noon when Hertan’s opens! Hertan’s is truly an amazing sight to behold!

Thursday, Sept. 10 features the big opening.

May’s Field: This is considered THE premier show opening of Brim, with a fully fenced-in field with admission that opens at a civilized 9 a.m. The 500-some-odd dealers in May’s are not allowed to set up until the opening. No tents, no tables, no unloading, no sales until the official opening. This gives everyone—dealer and collector alike—an even playing field. May’s is noted for quality antiques and keeps a strict quality code of NO repro’s or new merchandise. Paintings, bronzes, furniture, jewelry, watches, militaria, smalls, etc. The “find of the century” was discovered at May’s Field last May, when a lucky patron found a painting by John Singer Sargent and purchased it for a very modest sum.

Friday, Sept. 11 is when J. & J. Field opens

J.& J.’s Field: This was considered THE best field, but seems to be on the decline, 300 odd dealers, opens at 8 a.m. with admission. One of the best advertised fields in Brim AND the site of the original Gordon Reid’s famous Auction Acres, established in 1958. Furniture, primitives, smalls, jewelry, etc.

Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 & 13, are chaotic.

Brimfield Flea Market: Saturday and Sunday are considered the “public days,” as throngs of hunters—locals and those who travel from far and wide—come for a taste of Brimfield. They bring with them bumper-to-bumper traffic, children and dogs, all searching for another John Singer Sargent painting and any other national treasures that might be lingering in some itinerant junk dealer’s booth.

Dealers attending the Brims range from tented showrooms . . .

Dealers attending the Brims range from tented showrooms . . .

Brimfield is located midway between Springfield and the sleepy antique town of Sturbridge on Rt. 20, approx. 65 miles west of Boston. Old Sturbridge Village is a must-see place for antiquing aficionados and all lovers of antiques and American history. Old Sturbridge Village is an entire settlement of 18th-century homes, shops and buildings filled with genuine period furnishings. An outdoor/indoor museum devoted to the American way of life during the 1700s boasts several actual national treasures and has a fine collection of Simon Willard’s Clocks.

Sturbridge is also the home to some of the finest dining and accommodations in the entire area; The Public House, The Ox Head Tavern and the Whistling Swan just to mention a couple. A short drive will bring you to one of Massachusetts’s finest dining experiences, The Salem Cross Inn.

. . . to those selling from the back of their cars.

. . . to those selling from the back of their cars.

The Brimfield Antiques show is not just another antique show, and certainly not a flea market. It is an event devoted to antiques and art! It is a gathering of thousands of antique dealers, collectors, and the curious from across the country and the globe! The Japanese come for the vintage clothing, the Italians for the costume jewelry, the Germans for the paintings, bronzes and watches. The English and the French come for who knows what? The range of antiques and collectibles spans the gamut, with something for everyone! If you can’t find it here, you ain’t gonna find it! Quality and rarity range from plastic to platinum, and every year something fantastic turns up! And no less than three books have been published about Brim; “Brimfield,” by A. Dounoucos, “Brimfield Rush,” by Wyss, and “Brimfield: A Novel,” by M. Fortuna.

The History of the Brims

Brimfield the market got its initial start from Gordon Reid, a local dairy farmer, who began hosting auctions out of his large Red Barn, located in the J. & J. Field (his daughters are Judy and Jill, proprietor’s of J. & J.’s. As his annual auction grew in popularity, Gordon noticed dealers displaying and selling their wares from the back of their trucks in the parking area. Soon the ever-entrepreneurial Reid began to rent spaces devoted to displaying and selling whatever the dealers brought and the flea market was born!

The market grew in popularity and frequency, from once a year to twice yearly. Reid’s famous (locally, anyway) auction and flea markets grew in popularity, but really took off in the 1970s, and several local property owners along Rt. 20 started renting space to dealers coming to the rapidly growing event, that, by now, had grown to three times a year during the summer. By the mid-80s the events were spanning more than a mile of Rt. 20 and running close to two weeks.

Local residents in this normally sleepy burg were up in arms—what with the traffic and crowds of people invading their little town and all. Town fathers soon passed legislation limiting the duration and times of each promoter’s field, and all is well now with antiquers and locals. After four decades, the once rough-and-tumble event has transformed itself from a local auction/flea market to a major antique show/event known the world over. Nearly all the fields provide showers, restrooms, electricity and food courts for those who “rough it on the field.”

But for those who prefer a more civilized excursion, there are three major airports within a 60-mile radius, and the major cities of Hartford (45 miles) and Springfield (25 miles) are nearby with all the comforts one could need. Not to mention several quaint local B&B’s and motels up and down Rt. 20.

Web sites devoted the Brimfield Antiques Event are linked here, here and here.

Pictures of the Brimfield Show compliments of the BrimfieldExchange.com and Tom O’Hara

David Mycko is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in antique and vintage watches.

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