Between Shows

Hi Everyone!

We just wanted to say Thank You to everyone that stopped by our booth in Spirit Lake, IA over the Memorial Day weekend!  We enjoyed visiting with you and catching up.  We also look forward to visiting with everyone that will have a chance to stop by this coming weekend – Father’s Day weekend – in Walnut, IA.  We still have lots of new stuff we found over the winter for y’all to ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ over!  And the weather looks to be nice (so far) for most of the weekend.  So put on your walking shoes and c’mon out!

Michael, Tammy, Lois and Walt

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BRAVING BRIMFIELD

Brimfield, Massachusetts

Brimfield, Massachusetts

Imagine for just a minute…

  • 6 days
  • In Massachusetts
  • Town’s population: 3,339
  • Antique Vendors: 4,800

Doesn’t that sound like heaven?

I’m talking about Brimfield — the largest outdoor antique show in the US!

And after years of talking with vendors about the show and reading about it we finally took the plunge and decided to shop the July 2013 show.

Now if you know anything about me — I like to be prepared. So:

  • Do we know how to get there?    Check.
  • Do we have a place to stay?    Check.
  • Do we have a list of items we need to purchase?    Check.
  • Do we have a magnifying glass, a tape measure and a black light?    Check.
  • Do we have tubs and wrap?    Check.
  • Do we have cash, checks and our tax ID number?   Check.
  • Do we have good walking shoes and sun screen?    Check.
  • Do we have a plan on how to walk and shop a 4,800 vendor show?    Not a clue!

Think about it. 4,800 vendors.  How do you shop a show with that many vendors?  Where do you start?  And how do you make decisions when just down the road there may be a better deal or a fantastic piece?

We spent a lot of time on the Internet trying to understand how the show works and trying to identify vendors that carry our specialties.  Got to tell you — don’t bother.  The Internet was NOT helpful.  So what do you need to know before you take off for Brimfield?

SIX THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BRAVE BRIMFIELD

ONE:  VENDORS COME AND GO

Typical 1-Day Booth

Typical 1-Day Booth

Prior to Brimfield all of the shows that I have attended work the same way.  The vendors are expected to be open for the entire show.  So you would assume that since Brimfield is a six day show that the vendors would be set up for all six days.  That is NOT how it works.  In reality Brimfield consists of 21 individual shows that all happen to be in the same small town during the “same” time period. Each of the 21 shows are set up in a “field”.   The field owner sets the schedule for their show.   Some shows last six days. Some shows last just a matter of hours.   So the first thing you need to know is what are the days and hours for each field.

http://www.brimfieldshow.com/showpr~.htm

Fields that are six day shows will be open all of the time.  So you can visit them at your leisure.  The one-day shows are another story.  If you want to shop these shows don’t dawdle.  We found that many vendors closed up shop within 3 hours of opening!

TWO:  IT’S A SHOPPING FRENZY

Waiting in line for the field to open

Waiting in line for the field to open

Are you a fan of Black Friday shopping?  If so you are going to LOVE the one-day fields at Brimfield.  This is how it works.

  • The one-day fields are fenced.
  • It costs $5 per person to get into these fields.
  • You’ll need to get to the field about 20 minutes prior to the opening.
  • Have exact change ready and in hand.
  • If you’ve never been there before you won’t know where your kind of vendors are.  You’ll have less competition if you head to the back of the field and work it from back-to-front.
  • Be prepared to fight for a spot in front of a table to look at what a vendor has to offer. Other shoppers will not make space for you.
  • If you are interested in something keep it in hand. If it is on a table it is fair game.

Even if you don’t enjoy the rush and craziness of Black Friday the one day shows are worth it.  We found our best pieces and prices at these shows.

THREE:  DON’T EXPECT WARM AND FUZZY

michael at brimfield

Best Price?

Transactions at Brimfield are not relationship based.  The vendors that we met didn’t want to talk about the history of the piece or who made it.   They prefer to deal with re-sellers versus collectors.   And for them it’s a commodities exchange.   So don’t expect a lot of conversation beyond best price.   And remember this is the east coast.  You shouldn’t  expect a “Midwest Nice” experience.  The vendors don’t intend to be rude — it’s simply a time issue.   They want to sell as much as possible in as little time as possible.

FOUR:  CASH — DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT

Most vendors will take a check if you have a re-sale number.  If you don’t have a tax number bring cash.  To be honest we thought that was strange until we learned that the vendors did not want to file sales tax for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.   Hmmm.   Unlike Iowa and Minnesota I guess they don’t pay sales tax on any of their transactions.

FIVE:  TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE

Back Road to Brimfield

Back Road to Brimfield

Don’t take the main road off the highway into Brimfield.  You’ll triple your commute time.  There are back roads that will take you directly into the center of Brimfield.  Take the back roads and park in the center of town.  You’ll save a few bucks by parking at either end of town — but trust me the $2.00 difference is not worth it at the end of a long antiquing day!

SIX:  DON’T KILL YOURSELF

You don’t need to be there from sun up to sun down.  On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we shopped from 8am to 2pm.   If we go again we’ll probably skip the weekend.


LAST WORDS…

If we were to drive directly to Brimfield from Iowa it would take more than 21 hours to get there.  So was it worth it?

Well I will admit that Michael and I had a gas.  We antiqued all the way out there and back.  We took the time to visit family.  We shopped till we dropped.  And we found some beautiful pieces — not only in Brimfield but in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana as well.   Will we go again?   We certainly hope so.   And if you have the chance to go — send us an email.  We’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have.  Brimfield can be daunting — but the experience is definitely worth it!

Limoges Dresser Box

Limoges Dresser Box

Intaglio Master Salt

Intaglio Master Salt

Flysfor Heart Vase

Flysfor Heart Vase

Life is Short — Eat Dessert First!

EAPG cake stands

I turned 50 this year. Yep – half a century old. And instead of worrying about “getting old” I decided to celebrate with a “Life is Short, Eat Dessert First” party!

We hired a bartender to make ice cream drinks. We had 3 chocolate fountains with a gazillion items to dip including strawberries, marshmallows and homemade potato chips. And we topped it all off with a ton of finger desserts including cake balls, mini cheesecakes, brownies, dessert bars and cookies. Of course, I didn’t even think about setting the food out until it arrived…

Ah – Salvers to the rescue!

So what’s a salver? Salver came from the Latin word salvare’ which means “to save.” And in Europe during the 17th century a salva tray – filled with samples of the food that was going to be served – was given to the “taster” before the King took his first bite.

The popular name for a salver is cake stand. And although cake stands were first mentioned in 1620 – in the United States they were manufactured around 1770 when prosperous families began serving extravagant dessert courses that often included a pyramid of footed cake stands filled with candied fruits, nuts, puddings, cakes and tarts.

Cake Stand Pyramid

English author Hannah Glasse describes an example in her 1760s recipe book, The Compleat Confectioner:

“In the middle a high pyramid of one salver above another, the bottom one large, the next smaller, the top one less; these salvers are to be fill’d with all kinds of wet and dry sweet-meats in glass, baskets or little plates, colour’d jellies, creams, & biscuits, crisp’d almonds and little knickknacks, and bottles of flowers prettily intermix’d, the little top salver must have large preserv’d fruit in it.”

Now – I admit I had not read Hannah’s book before my party. Nor was I trying to re-create a 1770 dinner party (I’m not THAT old!). I just wanted to find a way to put out all of my desserts AND make the table look nice. And since I had recently purchased a collection of cake plates – thank heavens – all I had to do was unwrap them, wash them and set the table.

Now I’m hooked. I LOVE cake stands! And I’m searching for them on all of my antiquing trips. So far most of the cake stands I’ve been able to find are round – but I’ve found a few that are square, hexagonal and even octagonal. And I’ve even snagged a purple slag cake stand and two Vaseline salvers.

Square Milk Glass Cake Stands

Green Depression Glass Cake Stands

Ceramic Ruffled Cake Stand

You can pick up most EAPG and Depression glass cake stands for less less than $100. If you run across colored glass cake stands however, like sapphire blue (1870 and 1910) or Vaseline (1850 – 1940) you can see prices that range from $250 – $500.

But don’t think for a moment  that cake stands are only for cake – just ask Martha Stewart.   She suggests that you can use them as
centerpieces, candelabras or even flower stands.

Hmmm.  A functional — usable antique.  Imagine that!

Shake It Off!

A small fender-bender adds up to $5k

I haven’t been in an accident since I was a teenager…  So getting hit was quite a shock.  But I think it was worse for the young woman who hit us.   

But here’s the good news:

  • No one got hurt.
  • The other driver took full responsibility.
  • The Traverse was still drivable.

So all we had to do was wait (45 minutes) for the police to show up to write a report.  And file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company.  While we waited we got to know the young woman who was driving the other car.  She’s 17, just learning to drive and made a rookie mistake.  I think that’s happened to all of us.  And before we finished up with the business side of the accident we met her sister, her mother and her boyfriend — all who came to support her!  Pretty nice, huh?!  

By 8PM Friday night we were finally back on the road and headed to Oklahoma City.  We had another little adventure that night at the hotel involving a different young lady — dressed in a very tight, very small black dress coming out of a hotel room.   But I’ll leave the details of that story out of our G-rated blog!   

The next day was Saturday — and I have to admit that it was not our best day.  There wasn’t a problem with the people we met that day or the places we visited.  I just think we were still a little shook up from the day before and some of the fun had worn off.  So after one stop at 23rd Street Antiques where we purchased a lovely flow blue pitcher and a Blue Aurene Steuben vase we headed back north.

Sunday we stopped by the Overland Park Antique Show.   Wow.  Okay let me say that again.  WOW!

  • Okay, it cost me $6 bucks a person to get in. 
  • And Yes, there were only about 50 vendors. 
  • BUT Talk about high end.  I’ve always said WE carried high end, but these vendors REALLY had HIGH END
  • AND  the vendors were willing to deal!  

We saw more Tiffany, Steuben, Loetz, Pairpoint, Flow Blue and Brilliant Cut Glass at this show then we’ve seen in ALL OF OUR BUYING TRIPS PUT TOGETHER.  It was magnificent!  And as I walked the aisles I kept finding things that took my breath away.  Honestly — this show is worth the drive — even if all you are going to do is ooh and aah.   The vendors were VERY knowledgeable and the education itself was more than worth the door fee!

Don't Let the "American Gothic" look fool you. These two are a HOOT!

I have to admit at first glance we assumed everything was going to be out of our price range.  WE WERE WRONG.  Yes, there was a lot of high end art glass.  And high-end art glass is not cheap.  But we found that the majority of the vendors were very reasonably priced.   

Mom found out that this was the place for a Good Deal and a Good Time!

We also assumed that prices would be “firm” in this kind of venue.  Once again, WE WERE WRONG.  We found that with very little haggling we were able to negotiate a discounted price. 

This show was GREAT.  And no doubt about it…we WILL BE BACK in 2011!

So that’s the story of our 2010 Fall Buying Trip. 

  • We spent 5 days on the road together.  
  • We opened the door to build relationships with 4 more dealers. 
  • We learned a ton. 
  • And we purchased 97 new items.   

All-in-all, even with the Wham Bam  I think it was a valuable way to spend our time and money!

Wham Bam!

Yep — It’s been an adventure!

Keepers Antique Mall

We spent Thursday in Missouri.  The day started with breakfast.  We found a “joint” outside of Harrisonville that had a pork chop breakfast special.  Awesome! 

At 8:45AM we followed the staff into Keepers and started shopping.  It was a nice first stop.  We picked up four candlewick dinner plates, some salts and a great Geisha cobalt chocolate pot set.    Then just around the corner we found a HUGE Blenko vase at Trade Fair.  

A short drive down I71 took us to Faithful Peddlers in La Mars.  What a wonderful place — and the owners are AWESOME.  This shop has two floors and Mom decided she was going to start up stairs.  And of course, she found the good stuff including a Victorian Brides Basket and a nice RS Prussia bowl.   On a personal note — I found a very unusual Spaghetti Santa Nodder — and NO, it is not for re-sale.

We found ourselves having pancakes in Joplin, Missouri on Friday morning. 

  • Mom tried pecan cinnamon
  • Dad had one pinapple pancake and one peanut butter pancake
  • And I went with an old stand-by — blueberry pecan

But by 10AM (based on a recommendation from the good folks at Faithful Peddler) we were roaming the aisles at Southside Antiques.  Three hours later we had two more boxes to  put into the truck that included:

  • Red Behemian Cut Glass
  • Vaseline
  • American Fostoria
  • Viking
  • Fenton
  • Loetz 

Hidden Acres

Then based on another recommendation we headed off to Hidden Treasures.  This is a neat little one-owner shop.   He specializes in crystal, colored EAPG and Asian-ware — and while he didn’t have any moriage — during the hour we spent there I learned a ton! 

At that point we ran out of recommendations — so we went back to my internet research and decided to stop in Claremore, Oklahoma.  As we drove into town we found a bunch of stores.  After a quick drive-by we decided to stop in at the Hudson – Metcalf Antique Mall . 

Good decision!

I found Christmas presents for two VIPs.  And after a quick conversation they sent us down the road to Tulsa to the I44 Antique Mall.  Specifically, they suggested that we visit “Marcia’s” booth.   And for the first time during the entire trip I wished we had more money for inventory. 

Can you guess what Marcia is holding?

Marcia had Gold Aurene, Tiffany, Irridescent Bohemian. Cameo Glass, Brides Baskets, RS Prussia,  Victorian Vaseline, Blenko, Mary Gregory ..do I need to continue?

With an hour to go before closing we identified our “like-to-have’s” — prioritized the items — and chose a cut-off point.  Unfortunately I think I’m going to remember the Blenko we left behind.  Then after a full day we headed off to dinner. 

The next thing we knew — Wham Bam — a young driver smacked into my truck!

On the Road Again

It’s that time of year!  Yep every fall we go on a buying trip.  Two years ago we headed east and spent some time in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Last year we spent most of our time in Kansas and Nebraska.  And this year we’re headed to Oklahoma.

To get ready we’ve:

  • Completed an inventory — so we know what we currently have in stock
  • Ran customer purchase reports — so we know what we’ve sold in the past 24 months
  • Ran profit reports — so we know where we’ve actually made money
  • Reviewed our client wish-list — so we know what people are still looking for
  • Scoured the internet looking for out-of-the-way places to pick up antiques
  • Planned a “potential” route

Now comes the fun part.  Wednesday afternoon we hit the road.  Our plan is to get south of Kansas City by dark.  Thursday morning we’ll go to our first “official” stop…and from that point on all bets are off.   

At every stop we’ll ask the same question to everyone we meet including the gas station attendant, the waitress, the shop owner and even the woman walking by on the street.  What’s the question? 

“In this area — who should we be talking with about antiques?” 

What’s amazing is that 1)  People actually know and 2) People will tell us!  And based on those conversations we may head to an area antique store.  We may end up in someone’s attic.  Or we could get invited to a local dealer’s home.  But no matter what — it’s  an adventure.

One of my favorite adventures was when we visited a dealer’s barn.  It was located right on a gravel road and everything was COVERED with gravel dust.  Seriously — it was so thick everything in the barn was grey.  And our first thought was THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME!  But we walked through, picked some pieces off the shelves, wiped them down and found a couple of low-end pieces that were priced right. 

As we were paying the man we asked if he knew anyone that had high end Victorian Glass that they might be interested in selling.  And all of the sudden we were ushered into heaven. 

The dealer took us through a door that lead to a great room where he lived.  What a difference.  The place was clean as a whistle.  There were actual lights that highlighted everything.  And three of his four walls had built in display cabinets full of RS Prussia, Brides Baskets, Pickle Casters, Pigeon’s Blood, Old Amberina, Vaseline and Cameo glass.   

He was protective and VERY selective about what he was willing to give up — but we made a deal on four stunning pieces! 

You know, at every show customers AND vendors ask us “where do you find such good stuff?  And this situation is a perfect example.

  • We’re not afraid to ask questions.
  • We treat people well — even if we think we’ve been sent off on a wild goose chase.
  • And we do our best to be personable.  

This dealer does not advertise.  His place was out in the middle of nowhere.  And we couldn’t have found him even if we knew how to find a needle in a haystack.  And yet — we were able to buy four pieces from him THAT WERE NOT ON THE MARKET.  

“In the good-of-days” (that many antique dealers like to reminisce about) all you had to do was know your stuff, go to garage sales and Goodwill and then simply put out your merchandise at a local antique show or flea market.   In those days even rude and obnoxious dealers made money.

My have times changed!

  1. It’s much harder to find quality antiques
  2. There is more competition then ever before
  3. What took years for many dealers to learn is now readily available on the internet
  4. Customers KNOW what things are worth

So really — how do you find quality antiques?  How do you make money?  And how do you stay in business?  

  • We’ve found out that it pays to be curious. 
  • We found out it pays to do your research.
  • We found out it pays when you willing give information to others.
  • We found out that it pays to listen. 
  • We’ve found out that it pays to be kind.  
  • We found out it pays when you don’t have to sell something for “what it is worth.”
  • And we found out that it pays when you treat people well.  

Lucky for me — that’s sounds like the kind of values my parents taught me years ago.  Thanks Mom & Dad!

Lights, Camera, Action!

We LOVE Oronoco Gold Rush.  Why?  Three reasons:

  1. We talk with customers from sun-up to sun-down.
  2. We banter all day long with many of our neighbors.
  3. We always meet someone who has something to teach us.

But this year we had a BRAND NEW experience.  B-B Entertainment stopped by and decided to make us TV stars! 

It started Thursday morning.  During set-up a camera crew started filming us as we unwrapped.  The next thing I knew B-B Entertainment producer Deborah Raguse stopped in to explain that they were filming a new show for the History Channel called “Antique Show: Life on the Road” and asked if we would be interested in being “on the show.”  

Deborah was looking for eccentric dealers, vibrant personalities and a carnival atmosphere.  Of course we volunteered!

The series is intended to be a combination of “American Pickers and Pawn Stars with a show and tell component with antique apprasials.    The host is a man named Mike Kozak of Youngstown, Ohio.  He specializes in stained glass windows and chandeliers — and has traveled the antique circuit for most of his adult life.  

B-B Entertainment stopped by to film us several times during the weekend.  We quickly learned that Mike was a character.   He flew into our booth like a hummingbird and rushed from one display to the next.  He obviously LOVES antiques — and he was pretty excited about our inventory.  I’m not sure if he preferred the Steuben over the RS Prussia — but I know he fell in love with our Nippon!

Mom took a video of them video taping us!  Take a look.