45 years at Brimfield
By Al Benting
Being a full time antique vendor at the Brimfield Flea Markets for the last 45 years has given me a somewhat unique perspective on how the business has changed. I feel that now, more than any other time in my life, is the time to buy quality antiques at prices in many cases, lower than I have ever before seen. Brimfield, like many other venues, reflects today’s drastic changes in decorative taste, price, and demand. At Brimfield, between the ever-changing, more and more prevalent booths selling new goods, yard sale castoffs, and junk, one can still find really top notch merchandise like formal 18th century furnishings and smalls, great and truly antique Victoriana, cool turn-of-century goodies, English , Continental, great decorative, and early 19th century Americana at a fraction of values shown a quarter century ago.
I tell newbies at Brimfield that if they slog through any “sea of manure” long enough, eventually they can reach down and pluck an overlooked pearl, or find a sow’s ear that can be made into a silk purse. Brimfield has so many dealers that great finds are still to be had almost everywhere; it’s simply the case of understanding the goods, and finding them in whatever unexpected places they appear.
My wife Jane and I set up at Hertan’s Field, which opens on Brimfield Wednesdays at noon. We bring a huge truckload of period and Victorian goodies, some decoratrivia, leather bound books, incredimentia, and sometimes a piece or two of horribilia. It’s expensive to set up at Brimfield, and to sell merchandise under such great competition and meet our expenses, yet we must price our items fairly because everyone expects and deserves a deal. We sell at Brimfield at what we consider fair prices for other dealers and it becomes difficult when the “I’ll give yous”, the “offerers”, the “dickerers”, and the viewers of TV shows purporting to illustrate how to buy and sell, show up and attempt to apply their antics. It never works and the outcome of such a confrontation is easily predictable considering a dealer confronts long hours, bad weather, expensive lodging, dirt, dust, bad sleep, a thin checkbook, as well as difficult customers. Conversely, over the years we have met many great customers whom we now count as greater friends and it’s distressing to hear that someone has passed away, or can no longer come to Brimfield because of ill health. More customers and knowledgeable younger people are entering the market so ultimately prices will rise. My advice : NOW is the time to invest in your future. At today’s prices, a savvy collector can STILL become wealthy but knowledge is power; right now, more powerful than money.
Brimfield deals are still to be had by people who know what they’re looking at, and most of the good merchandise can still be found cheaper than ever. You will find that selectively, the food at Brimfield is better than ever, the prices on goods near lifetime lows, but the portapotties out in the sun still stink! Stick to the shady ones and you can’t go wrong. Hope to see you this May!