Brimfield Antique Shows: Diary of a First Timer

Three times a year, the town of Brimfield, Mass., hosts an open-air, rain-or-shine, dawn-’til-dusk antiques extravaganza over the course of several days. It draws more than 30,000 people and dealers come from hundreds of miles around.

I’m going to Brimfield.

I’ve never been there before so really have no idea what to expect. I’ve heard stories from a lot of dealers and collectors, but they all say you have to see it to believe it. I’m in.

For those of you that have never heard of it, Brimfield is a small town of roughly 2,000 residents nestled in south-central Massachusetts. Three times a year, the town hosts an open-air, rain-or-shine, dawn-’til-dusk antiques extravaganza over the course of several days. It draws more than 30,000 people and dealers come from hundreds of miles around—and sometimes form overseas—to set up shop for a few days and sell their inventory. Collectors come in droves.

The fair stretches for more than a mile with multiple fields offset from the main drag of Route 20. I know dealers who bring a mountain bike to cover it more efficiently—they get a sneak preview the day before. The fair opens to the public on Tuesday, July 12.

I hear the language of Brimfield is cash, so I’m bringing 400 bucks. Small bills, mostly. That’s my budget and I might not spend it all. There is a good chance, though, I’ll spend more.

A small section of the Brimfield Antique Shows as seen from the air.

I anticipate a long drive, small-town traffic problems, opening-day crowds and parking issues for sure. I don’t see any way around it. Brimfield is about 80 miles away from our home in Sheffield, Massachusetts—a town rich in Colonial history and, in itself, a hotbed for antiques. I’ve driven across the state to Cape Cod before and it’s a beautiful drive. Massachusetts is a beautiful state.

I do have a goal while at Brimfield. Lately, I’ve been collecting vintage electric fans. Not really sure why. I guess I like the retro design of them and the fact that they just don’t quit. I recently bought a 1940s Emerson Electric fan at auction and it’s a workhorse. It runs quiet but strong. The blades are a bit intimidating and I’ll have to hide the unit when my 4-year-old nephew comes over. I think the fan would slice a head off just looking at it the wrong the way.

So I’m hoping there are some fan dealers at the show. I know what to look for. Brass blades with a brass cage indicate that the unit may be pre-1920s; and they can be extremely valuable. Darryl Hudson told me that. He’s been collecting and repairing antique and vintage electric fans for more than 40 years out of his shop in South Carolina. I’ve got his cell phone number on speed dial if I have any questions while at the show. He’s the real deal.

The 1940s Emerson Electric fan I recently bought at auction. I'm hoping to find more fans at Brimfield.

My wife loves American Craftsman Movement furniture (also known as Arts and Crafts style), which basically means that I have to love Arts and Crafts furniture, too. And, I do. If I can find a nice ladder-back armchair for my office, I can finally finish furnishing that room and move on.

But it’s really all about price. I’m hoping to find merchants who have come from the farthest corner of the country and see what we can work out. Far-away dealers tend to be more lenient on price. Loading, unloading and reloading trucks takes its toll on the human body, and let’s face it, not a lot of fun.

So, I’m going to Brimfield, and I’m bringing cash, water and foul-weather gear. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

John Londoner is a digital media professional and antiques hobbyist. He frequently attends antique auctions in the Upstate New York area and can be contacted at jlondoner@nyc.rr.com.

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