Consider this post not just one about the greatest antique show in the northeast, but also as sort of a guide to giant antique shows in general. I’ve been to several, and have made the rookie mistakes, so you don’t have to. I think a better title to this post would be “Brimfield Antiques Show + Everything You Need To Know About Gigantic Antique Shows” but that wouldn’t fit on the title box. Anyway here goes.
Last May I had the pleasure of fulfilling one of my lifelong vintage dreams: attending the Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, MA. For anyone mildly interested in antiques, there are three main shows that we all basically know about and would do anything to go to: Round Top in Texas, Alameda Antiques Show in California and Brimfield in Massachusetts. Now, I know there are like a million more awesome shows in the US, but these are the BIG ones. Like scary big, even for me.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when heading out to a big show.
1. Don’t be afraid! There are all sorts of people at these shows from novice explorers to set decorators and store designers for Anthropologie. And the best thing is, almost everyone is looking for something different and there are TONS of vintage pieces to go around. So it’s not all cut throat and scary, I promise.
2. Give yourself a budget, and bring cash. I always bring a little bit more than what I budget for, just in case I find that perfect item! Most of the vendors are only going to accept cash, plus cash buyers have more bargaining power.
3. Wear comfortable clothes. I know everyone says wear comfortable shoes, but also plan for chilly mornings and warm afternoons. Bring appropriate outerwear, a hat and sunglasses. Hardcore shoppers spend all day, multiple days at these shows. So comfort is top priority. Fashion is last priority (at least for me)!
4. Bargain but don’t waste anyone’s time. Vendors expect you to bargain on prices. But if something is marked $450 and you go in and say you’ll give them $100 they are going to be offended. If you are willing to buy more, a bigger discount is usually considered. Just know that bargaining is totally normal, and may feel uncomfortable the first time you do it, but believe me, it becomes second nature pretty quickly. If you don’t want to make an offer, just grab the item you are interested in and say, “what is the best you can do on this?”.
5. Map out a plan. For the really big shows like Texas and Massachusetts, map out your plan of attack. I spent three days at Brimfield, and I’m talking 8 hour days. Get a good plan in order so you can maximize your trip. Just FYI- I didn’t even see the whole show in 3 full days. It’s that big.
6. If you see something you love BUY IT. Buy it. Just buy it. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made in my early days by being gun shy about making a purchase. You will not come back for it. It will be gone or you will be lost.
7. Bring a cart. Most of these large shows have guys who will help you get your big items to your truck in exchange for tips. But for small things that you want to take with you right away, a rolling cart is really helpful. I bought this one from Amazon.
8. Many of the shows offer freight services. I know at Brimfield, there was a UPS shipping tent set up towards the middle of the show. Ask vendors for shipping info if you don’t come with a truck.
9. Don’t forget to eat! Some of these shows have absolutely delicious street food vendors! It’s easy to forget when you’re on the hunt, but make sure and fuel up for your busy day of antique buying!
10. Last but not least, utilize technology. Brimfield has an app called “Brimfield Flea Finder”. It has a ton of useful information like dealer location and info, show schedules, and saved locations so you know how to find your purchases if you didn’t take them with you right away.
Ok, so those are my tips and tricks. I’d love to hear yours! Do you have any favorite antique shows in your neck of the woods? Please let me know in the comments below!
All images were taken with Julia’s iphone. Please excuse the poor photo quality!