BRIMFIELD, MASS. — The July 8–13 run of the Brimfield Antiques Market, the weeklong megashow for antiques enthusiasts, was open for business, with fair weather overall and typical numbers of dealers for the summer session. As always, there was no shortage of merchandise, some dealers taking advantage of empty spots in the field to expand their displays, and, as the week wore on, a good number of shoppers made their way up and down the length of this one-mile stretch on both sides of Route 20 primed to buy. “Old Home Week” is a recurrent characterization of the 20 or so shows that comprise this three-times-a-year event. The pace is a bit slower, and while selling remains brisk, the emphasis is not on frenzied commerce — although there is some of that — but more on the camaraderie among dealers who come to connect with old friends and colleagues as many move from field to field.
In addition to the dozen of so shows with no admission charge that open at first light on Tuesday, action on opening day mostly centers on Dealer’s Choice and Brimfield Acres North.
Many advantages accrue from being the first to open. In July, beating the heat is one of those advantages. Daybreak’s debut on Tuesday, July 8, saw crowds up and down Route 20. The mild morning was soon superseded by a sultry, mercifully storm-free, afternoon.
At the far end of the long street, Dealer’s Choice opened to retail buyers at a bright and brisk 11 am. Manager Lori Ann Faxon said, “I spoke with a good number of my exhibitors. Many of them did very well and we had good attendance for the show overall. July is quieter than May or September, but sales were absolutely in line with what we have seen in past years.”
Dealer’s Choice drew as exhibitors some of the industry’s top guns, among them Pennsylvania powerhouse Greg Kramer.
“I brought a mix of this and that — very affordable on the one hand and high-end but still affordable on the other,” said the Robesonia, Penn., specialist in folk art and country furniture.
Sheffield, Mass., dealer Sam Herrup made his way to Mad River Antiques, where fellow pottery enthusiasts Steve and Lorraine German set up an attractive display of cobalt-decorated American stoneware. Holliston, Mass., dealer Mario Pollo whizzed by on a bike, barometer in hand. The bike? New and from Walmart, Pollo said. The barometer, a marked antique and a bona fide field find.
Under a pavilion dedicated mostly to jewelry and silver, Pat Frazer of Easton, Conn., parlayed Twentieth Century designer jewelry. She featured pewter and copper Mason Chenet D’Haiti pieces from the 1950s and ornaments by Jorgen Jensen, son of the famous Danish silversmith. “Both are highly sought-after,” said Fraser.
“We used to set up all week at Brimfield but now do just Dealer’s Choice,” said Connecticut dealer Paul Wendhiser, minding the shop while his wife, Karen, picked the fields.
Faxon said she believes a turnaround for the antiques industry is underway. “People see the business coming back. We all hope that’s the case. It’s been a tough economy.”
Brimfield Acres North
Across the street, Brimfield Acres North opened to the retail public for four hours beginning at 1 pm on Tuesday. “We had close to 200 exhibitors,” organizer Sue Rohrbacher told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. “There was a lot of excitement from exhibitors as well as the general public. We compare numbers from year to year. This July was a little more than last year — more dealers and more general admittance.”
Warm weather discouraged some regulars. Exhibitor Tom Pirozzoli was flying solo, having left his wife, Kate Phelan, at home. “She’s a sweetie. She melts in the sun,” said the Goshen, N.H., dealer. But even in the lazy, hazy days of summer, Brimfield is no place for the faint of heart. “Antique Tough or Go Home,” read the shirt on Jim Dautcher’s back.
Fred Heinz of Darien, Conn., offered the vision of another kind of idyll, summer in the French countryside. He displayed the accomplished painting “Les Bles Pres de Thiory” by Andre Vignoles, $1,250.
In a nearby barn, Maine dealer Louise D. Hardie tempted shoppers with nautical fare and folk art smalls. Laura McCarthy of Bayberry Antiques featured an old cupboard in alluring blue-gray paint and bound fragments of a large pictorial hooked rug.
“The rug came out of the John Hay house in Brewster, Mass.,” she explained.
Free enterprise was the name of the game. Prior to opening, several stands were self-serve as their owners got in a little shopping. “Whales. 860-510-3399. Keith,” read the sign in one stand.
Entrepreneurialism was on full display. Gus Constantine of Hudson Falls, N.Y., showed off a robot that he made entirely of scrap aluminum. At $1,500, it seemed a bargain. His wife agreed. “It’s his retirement job,” she said, recalling the many hours Constantine worked on the piece.
Rebecca Squires of Luddite Antiques in Brooklyn, N.Y., wheeled her toddler, Jude, through the show, confirming Sue Rohrbacher’s observation that everything old is new again. “It seems like the younger population is more interested. It’s nice to see that,” manager Rohrbacher said.
New England Motel
New England Motel show manager Marie Doldoorian stood in front of the entrance gate chatting with a small but eager group of early birds awaiting the 6 am opening of New England Motel. She has performed the bell-ringing ritual some 88 times, calculating that in 29 years, she has never missed a show. “I really love it!” she said, adding, “My dealers have the best merchandise. I am never disappointed.” The crowd in her estimations was “typical for July,” with her field about 50 percent of its May or September numbers and one empty covered pavilion. As Doldoorian hoisted the bell to signal the show’s opening, however, the enthusiasm of those streaming through the gate was as high as ever.
Hard right near the show’s entrance was the booth of Rich Kozlowski, a retired school teacher from Chalfont, Penn., who said he always attends the July shows. Among his collection were several J. Chein and Ohio Art sand pails, sifters, candy containers and metal toys from the 1920s–30s whose bright, colorful graphics evoked both nostalgia and visions of fun at the beach.
To the left, also near the show’s entrance, Wendy Lewis, whose business is called European Homespun Linens, was enthusiastically awaiting shoppers who seek pristine examples of French work clothes, a niche specialty of the Charlotte, Vt., dealer. “Time-worn, with sturdy darns and stitches,” as she described, these proletarian garments speak to a work ethic of a bygone era.
Some other great finds on this field included an icon from northern Russia depicting Saint George slaying the dragon, probably a church piece, offered by Made in Russia, Palm Beach, Fla.; a rare Japanese figural ceramic from the early 1800s at JSD Antiques, Durham, N.H., ; and a great collection of world globes shown by James Young, Columbia, S.C. The oldest among these was a 1923 example with a zodiac.
Young said he is able to accurately date the manufacture of his globes — some topographical, others political and one that even lights up from the inside — by the place names, as nations are formed and reformed and major cities renamed. They make great birthday gifts, he added. “You can give someone a globe that was made documenting the world as it was in the year they were born,” he said.
Also educational and evoking nostalgia among those of a certain age were the educational posters used in the 1950s and 1960s as teaching aids being offered by Mary Maguire, Lyme, Conn., one such poster teaching the sounds of the long “A” in English words.
Tucked between the Brimfield Antiques and Francesco’s Restaurant along Route 20, Brimfield’s Heart-O-The Mart was proving hot fun in the summertime, even though co-owner Pat Moriarty was shepherding a little more than 50 percent of her normal dealer headcount. “For July, it’s good,” she said. Like, New England Motel’s Doldoorian, Moriarty has a perfect “attendance” record — she has never missed an opening in 30 years.
This crowd was a good deal larger at the opening than the Motel’s, and charging onto the field, hunters and gatherers could find everything from a New York State painted chest from 1847 offered by James Grievo of Stockton, N.J., to an interesting collection of trophies at Paul Eberle, Averill Park, N.Y., documenting the sporting life of Herman Wright, a colorful figure in the world of competitive hydroplaning, circa 1930–35.
Among the gleaming sterling silver treasures on display lakeside by Gil Hahn of the Silver Butler, Philadelphia, there was a fantastic tray that had come out of a Philadelphia synagogue, circa 1880s.
As has increasingly become apparent, Midcentury Modern has achieved ascendancy, and there was much of it on the field. Even 1970s–80s vintage items find favor with younger collectors, such as a grouping of neon signage letters from that period shown by Ronald Fennick and Paul Randall of New York City, collectively LV-NYC Artistique et Antiquities. The dealers usually do just the May and September Brimfield shows, but this latest acquisition coaxed them into trying the summer edition.
The work of the late Dorothy Davis, a contemporary Massachusetts folk artist known for her childhood scenes that have an antique look, is finding a market thanks to the efforts of Thomas Sloan, a dealer from Portsmouth, N.H., while a burgeoning amount of fine art, including sculpture, was on view at J. Gold Fine Art, Bellmore and Amityville, N.Y., including several examples of sensuous Modern sculpture by Seymour Meyer, as well as a bronze bust of a Native American with a Florentine foundry mark dating it to 1888.
Jewelry highlights shown by Olivia Garay Vintage Retro, New York City, included an all hand-forged 18K gold and enamel bracelet, circa 1960s, from Italy and the French brooch in 18K gold and full-cut diamonds from the 1950s.
Hertan’s opens at noon on Wednesday when David Lamberto rings a bell on the front porch of the show office. Until then it is a “peep show,” with dealers’ merchandise chastefully draped with moving blankets or tarps or out of sight behind canvas-walled tents. The noon bell is the signal for commerce to begin — although, truth be told, both money and merchandise change hands well before then. Still, there is a sense of anticipation and the ritual is unique among Brimfield shows.
Unveiled treasures this July included a Shaker gathering basket, Victorian-era stuffed dog and primitive Maine salt box offered by Susan Goldsweig of Sage Antiques, Monroe, N.J.; an Acoma Fourth Level jar, circa 1935, Nineteenth Century Apache tray and Pima olla shown by Tim Hill of Tim Hill, Birmingham, Mich., and a wonderful wooden bowl from New Guinea, offered by Hill’s boothmate, Sam Herrup of Sheffield, Mass.
“I got it at a police auction,” said the owner of Davis Antiques, referring to an unusual latex depiction of the Disney character Donald Duck with a bill much longer than the irascible fowl the world has come to know. This example, according to the Frankford, W.Va., dealer dated from the late 1930s. It was included in the police auction because it was among the merchandise — mostly household goods and electronics — seized by police investigating estate thefts. “When I saw it, I knew I had to get it,” said the dealer.
Vintage posters were getting attention at Class Menagerie, Bolton Landing, N.Y., and in particular a trifold example commissioned by Rexall, a chain of North American drugstores founded 1902, to promote its 1-cent sales. The poster extolled the value of thrift, depicting a conservatively dressed couple at home, possibly late 1930s–early 1940s, reviewing their bank book, which the artist perhaps had “personalized” by identifying it as from a bank in New Rochelle, N.Y. A conversation piece, to be sure, said dealer Bob Veder, adding, “When was the last time you saw an ad for a ‘1-cent’ sale?”
Joel Schiff, the well-known cast iron collector who rarely misses a Brimfield show, could be seen checking out the wares of Michael McNaughton, North Franklin, Conn., who specializes in early Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century cast iron and forged iron cookware and hearth tools.
Not only does the sign at the entrance to May’s field clearly indicate that dealers are not allowed to set up any merchandise prior to the show’s opening at 9 am, it also proclaims that May’s field is “Where everyone’s an early buyer.” And indeed they are. As the crowds rushed across the highway to gain entry into the show, the first wave of shoppers hit the field. It really does not seem to matter how far back you are in line, though, as dealers are still pulling items from their vans for at least the first 15 minutes after opening.
Although the July exhibitor lists pales when compared to spring and fall Brimfields, there was still an eclectic mix of merchandise that spanned the collecting communities. Jewelry dealers were swarmed with buyers in the moments after the show opened, so, too, were vintage advertising specialists as early neon clocks and signs were moving quickly from one stand. A good stack of Native American weavings were featured at Lancaster, Penn., dealer Steve Smoot, while on the opposite end of the field was Guy Constantine with a rare almost completely original 1953 Vespa scooter.
Sales seemed good all around the field and both buyers and sellers were pleased with not only the results, but also the picture perfect sunny day with moderate temperatures.
Another bluebird day greeted shoppers as they began forming a line at Auction Acres for the Friday morning opening at J&J. The line started growing a couple of hours prior to opening and by 8 am a huge crowd rushed onto the field. Advertising signs were quick sellers and several buyers were seen totting the large and colorful pieces off of the field. Sisters, and daughters of the founder of Brimfield — Gordon Ried, Jill Lukesh and Judith Mathieu could not have been happier at the opening of the show.
“The crowd is great and so is the weather,” proclaimed Mathieu’s husband Jake, who was busy manning his booth and selling golf clubs from his selection of more than 300 wooden shaft drivers and irons. A rare paper Nixon campaign dress in red and blue print on a white field was a quick seller at Jason Benware, Claremont, N.H. The dealer also offered a good selection of artwork and porcelains.
Bill, Terry and David Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., displayed a good selection of stoneware with a large crock with incised and cobalt filled floral decoration among the items offered. A large selection of Liverpool transfer ware pitchers were displayed amid a huge assortment of blue and white historical Staffordshire. A good selection of wartime posters were seen at Cathy Mastrovito, Clinton, Mass., including one image that represented a lot of the shoppers on the field, depicting a woman with her arms over-filled with a variety of objects and proclaiming “Yes, I can.”
Harlan, Ohio, dealer Paul Scott made the trip to Brimfield with not one single items to display — yet by the end of the week he had a full booth of merch that he had picked from various fields throughout the city limits. “Its been a great week,” commented Smith, a sentiment shared by many.
Remaining 2014 Brimfield show dates are September 2–7. For additional information, www.brimfieldexchange.com, www.brimfieldfleamarkets.com, www.brimfield.com or call the Brimfield Chamber of Commerce at 413-283-2418.
There is also a helpful complimentary publication called Brimfield Antique Guide available. Visit www.brimfieldguide.com for details.