2015 Post-Memorial Day Show and Pre-Father’s Day Show

I had to laugh.  I wrote a blog post yesterday during lunch at my day job.  I logged on tonight to type it in.  I happened to look at the ‘most recent’ post.  It too was from this same time period – last year!  And to top it off, half of what I wrote yesterday repeats what I wrote a year ago.  LOL  So instead I will just say that we were happy to see everyone we did in Spirit Lake and look forward to seeing everyone who will come to visit us in Walnut!  And be safe driving to see us.

Michael, Tammy, Lois & 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

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!

Antiquing over the Weekend

Last weekend Michael and I had the opportunity to do a little antiquing on our way to and from a family reunion.  YEAH! 

We drove the back roads and stopped in every small town along the way.  When you do that — it’s always a crap shoot.  Is there an antique store?  Is someone having a garage sale?  Or will you meet someone at the diner that thinks you should call Uncle Ed because he inherited Aunt Mabel’s stuff and doesn’t know what to do with it?  You never know.  You might find a treasure — or it might be a total bust.  

We were fortunate last weekend.  We stopped at 9 places.   At the first stop we walked through a HUGH warehouse.  Now I’ve got to admit that I am not like American Pickers.   I don’t enjoy wearing gloves and fighting my way through piles of junk.   So this stop was tough for me.  There were three levels of bad garage sale merchandise with a few good items tucked away in dusty corners.  We left with some hand painted butter pats and a couple pieces of amberina.

Royal Nippon Tankard

A few hours and 4 stops later we made the purchases of the weekend.  This time we were in an antique mall about 15 minutes from the Mississippi River.  We had walked the entire mall without much luck – and then at the last booth Michael spotted a hand painted Royal Nippon Tankard.   With a phone offer going to the dealer — we had a few minutes to kill — so we headed back around. 

That was a good decision!

Moriage Cobalt Crescent Vase

For some reason — on the second pass we found two more treasures.  I found a beautiful piece of cobalt moriage.  And Michael found a gorgeous 1949 Esquire Calendar.  He says it’s not for sale —  but as Walt says — everything is for sale!