Brimfield 101 - with Insider Tips
Updated: Apr 29, 2019
As a Prop Stylist, a buyer and seller of mid century vintage, and a long time hoarder (I mean COLLECTOR), Brimfield is like a holiday that I look forward to each year.
If you haven't heard of it before, Brimfield is one of the largest Flea Markets in the United States and is located in Brimfield, Massachusetts. You can find everything from high-end antiques to small trinkets. The "shows" span about a mile along Route 20 and are sectioned into fields which cover 20 acres! So if you haven't experienced Brimfield, it might be time to consider planning a trip to one of the three shows hosted in 2018.
This year's show dates are:
May 8th - 13th
July 10th - 15th
September 4th - 9th
I've put together a list of insider tips that I hope will be useful to you, whether this is your first or fiftieth Brimfield experience.
1. Which show to attend?
If you can only make it to one show this season, there is a lot of chatter about which one to attend. The general thought is that May has the most fresh inventory, which can also mean higher prices. July is generally the hottest show of the year, so be prepared (more on that later). September might be my favorite show to attend because we're on the cusp of Summer and Autumn, and (sometimes) vendors are looking to clear out inventory before the Winter, making it easier to find deals. All of these statements are quite broad, so it is important to remember how large Brimfield is as a whole and that it is impossible to make a blanket statement that accurately reflects all three shows and the hundreds of vendors. Regardless of which show you attend, if you hunt for long enough you should be able to find what you're looking for. In my opinion, Brimfield is less about deals than the enormous selection of items available in one place.
2. Don't go expecting to buy at yard sale prices
While there are tables that appear more like a rummage sale than an antique show, remember that each vendor has to pay for their space to sell at the show, many drive in from other states and have spent huge amounts of time finding inventory and packing it to bring for you to buy. Haggling is expected to some degree, but remember to be respectful. Most vendors are very knowledgeable about their product and price it pretty fairly.
3. Who sells what
You'll notice that some dealers might specialize in a particular time period of antique or vintage inventory, while others have a true mixture. This can also be true for fields. New England Motel is one of my favorite shows to browse for inspiration; It's lined with white tents that are well-curated and feel like mini shops. If you need a break from the sun, head to Hertan's field. Hertan's is one of the only shady areas in the whole of Brimfield. For a great map of the fields, check out Food52's hand drawn map! As a general rule, the vendors closer to the road will be more expensive than those towards the back of the fields (I imagine their rental fee is different - think of it like shopping along a Main Street). I usually enjoy browsing the tents and tables along the road for inspiration, then head way back into the fields to do my shopping.
I can't stress this enough - ARRIVE EARLY. Earlier than you think you need to. I once spent close to 3 hours sitting in traffic just to travel 3 miles. Brimfield is located off Route 20, and it's one long stretch of road without side streets, so traffic piles up quickly. I usually aim to be there for 8am but it doesn't always happen (I hate mornings). Keep in mind that different fields open at different times. I've never been too bothered by this, but you can look into it more here.
5. What to bring
- Metal rolling cart (usually available at grocery stores for about $25)
- Small stash of newspaper (for wrapping breakables)
- Large tote (in case your cart gets full)
- Hand wipes & hand sanitizer
Cash is king at Brimfield, but you might find a few vendors using portable POS systems. Definitely bring cash for parking (usually $10-15). There are ATMs scattered around the shows, but it can be a pain to locate them when you've found something you're ready to buy.
I like to bring plenty of snacks because I'm a little crazy and scared I'll get hangry, but there ARE plenty of food stands throughout the show, including an outdoor food court area and a few restaurants within walking distance. These are generally packed, and picnic tables are limited, so if this sounds hectic you might want to pack your own lunch.
One more thing: Cell phone service can be iffy at Brimfield so if you're meeting a friend, I recommend planning a meeting spot ahead of time.
If you make it to Brimfield, send me a note and tell me about the treasures you find!
I love nerding out about vintage with other Collectors.