Tips For Your Next Outdoor Antique Show. This Tuesday Bruce and I will be heading out on a trip to the holy grail of antiques fairs and flea markets that is the Brimfield Antiques Fair in Brimfield Massachusetts. Brimfield is a massive outdoor antique show and flea market in south central Mass, that basically takes over the town of Brimfield for a week, three times per year (May, July and September).
There are thousands of dealers selling just about everything you could possibly imagine – from jewelry to vintage clothing – from furniture to home décor – and everything in between and from every period in modern history (I even bought a fossil once, so we could say all of history, perhaps?). You can literally walk for miles to see all that this show has to offer. In fact, you really need more than one day to cover the whole show and if you have time to stay the week, all the better.
“When you’re visiting an antiques fair, turn left once you’ve passed through the entrance. Everyone else will turn right, which means you can get to the bargains before them.”Judith Miller
After years and years of attending this show, and others like it like The Round Top in Round Top, Texas, my friends and I have learned a thing or two or twelve that make things easier and more enjoyable. So, I’m sharing some “insider secrets” here today (thanks to Mary and Jill) to help you navigate these big (and small) outdoor shows. So whether you’re heading to Brimfield this week or The Round Top in October or one of the smaller local shows popping up all over this summer, I hope you enjoy it and that you benefit from my well-earned blisters…
Tips For Outdoor Antique Show: Wear Good Shoes…No Matter How Ugly
It’s no secret… I love a good shoe. I have gobs and gobs of them – the cuter, the better, in my book, with one exception… not at Brimfield! Or Round Top or any other big flea market or show for that matter. How your feet go, so goes the day. If your feet hurt, no amount of treasure is going to make up for it. One blister and the show’s literally over for me. So I wear Tevas – yup, one of the ugliest shoes next to Birkenstocks, when it’s hot – and sometimes in the rain. I wear my Wellies (OK, they are actually passably cute) and I also wear my old running shoes (not the good ones, because there is most often MUD, sometimes ankle deep).
On occasion I wear my cowboy boots (also, passably cute) because what all these shoes have in common is that I can walk in them for hours without pain or blisters. My feet have to come first at these shows no matter how much I secretly, or not so secretly, want to look cute. Take my advice on this one and you most assuredly will start out the show on the right foot… Hah! It was such a softball, my apologies, but I couldn’t resist it.
Tips For Outdoor Antique Show: Bring Water… Lots of It! & Pack A Lunch
These shows often cover a huge amount of square footage and to see it all you will have to cover that amount of area too. Hydration, therefore, is key. If you’re hydrated you feel good and if you feel good you’ll have fun! I often freeze a bottle or two and throw them in with the rest in a cooler, to keep all of the water nice and cool. Or I will fill my Yeti with ice and water, and continue to refill it with more water as the day goes on.
Food is another issue – a lot of these fairs offer a lot of different fast food – but most of it is greasy and fried. The worst thing on a hot day for me is a bucket of lead in my tummy. It makes me feel gross. If I feel gross I will not be having a good time. So I pack a lunch, something healthy and light, with protein to keep me going. You’ll be glad if you do as well.
Tips For Outdoor Antique Show: Bring A Cart… A Tape Measure (And Your Measurements)…A Magnifying Glass
When you have a lot of area to cover, having a wagon or cart is a lifesaver. It allows you to buy something and then keep shopping, instead of having to take each purchase back to the car, or lug it under your arm. A tape measure is such a small thing, but being able to measure the options on the spot can make the difference between a great score and a miss. Having your measurements with you does the same thing.
You know it will fit where you need it to – it’s priced right – it’s a go! A magnifying glass or loupe takes up so little space but can give you a much better look at maker marks, signatures, dates and the like. It’s worth having one in your backpack. Tissues – for the dust that will definitely be getting in your nose and eyes – and for the port-a-potties – and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Tips For Outdoor Antique Show: Prepare For ANY Type of Weather… Including Hail (Yes, You Read That Right)!
I was at Brimfield several years ago now and it actually did hail. Believe me, you do not want to be in a field full of antique glass when this happens! People couldn’t dive out of this weather fast enough. It was insane. I’m not sure I could have done much to prepare for hail, but I definitely can prepare for sun, heat, rain and cold. Typically, I bring sun block, multiple layers of clothing, weather-proof jackets for me and bags for my stuff, sun hats and misting bottles. Sometimes, I bring umbrellas, boots and multiple changes of socks. It’s an extra bag of stuff, at most, and it is well worth it when I need it.
Bring Cash… And Don’t Be Afraid To Haggle
The Square has been a godsend for a lot of dealers because they can be in the middle of a farmers field, set up at a show, and offer Visa, MasterCard and Apple Pay to their customers. I have never met a dealer, however, that will turn down cash – and most will give you a discount for it. So bring cash – it is, as they say, king!
Now For A Little Music Before We Go…
“Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.”H. Jackson Brown Jr.