Published: May 31, 2011
The granddaddy of outdoor antiques and collectibles markets, Brimfield, entered its 52nd year on May 10, drawing thousands of shoppers to the mile-long stretch of Route 20. Parking lot entrance signs are a good gauge of the prospects for commerce, and by 8:30 am, “Full” signs greeted the “latecomers,” and fields were alive with shoppers checking out the free show offerings in advance of the opening of the first paid show of the day, Dealer’s Choice at 11 am.
While this year’s mood among dealers, show owners and shoppers seemed to be in line with the “new normal” †what with gas prices north of $4 a gallon and an economy still undergoing a slow recovery †it did not deter faithful Brimfielders, compulsive collectors or just the casual cabin fever sufferer in getting out onto the fields to check things out. Plus, opening day dawned sunny and dry with a pleasant breeze. What more could one want?
As always, the early action on Tuesday begins in the so-called free fields, such as Quaker Acres, Central Park, Faxon’s Midway and the Meadows, which open at daybreak or 6 am, in some cases. Later in the day, however, both excitement and crowd size surge as throngs begin lining up for the shows that are only open on Tuesday †Dealer’s Choice and Brimfield Acres North.
Tom Faxon and his wife, Lori, have operated the Dealer’s Choice field since 1991 †along with Faxon’s Midway; this was their 95th show. At 10:45, Faxon surveyed a sold-out field as he and Lori stood in front of the gates holding back an anxious crowd. At 10:50 am, the couple swung the gates open, ten minutes early, complying with a standing rule that whenever the crowd is so big that it begins stopping traffic †especially emergency vehicles †out on Route 20, the shoppers have to be let onto the field. “It got to be a little bit hairy,” said Brimfield Police Lieutenant Bill Beaudry, as the last of the hoard trickled in. “It relieves the pressure to get them out of the roadway.”
Usually seen shopping the show †and this year was no exception †colorful auctioneer and antiques dealer Bob Brown of Red Baron Antiques, Atlanta, was navigating through the displays on a Segway. He had set up his own spot at Dealer’s Choice, using movie set lighting and a larger-than-life-size Gortex advertising spaceman to serve as a shopper-capturing tractor beam. Always busy with new projects, Brown spoke proudly of his son Paul’s series on the Discovery Channel, Auction Kings, which follows the younger Brown as he delves into the world of unique items, like vampire-hunting kits and other strange stuff.
More traditional fare could be seen at setups like Vintage New England of Canton, Conn., a dealer specializing in kitchen and country furniture. “I haven’t seen one of these on any other field,” said JoAnnea Wacht-Delphia, referring to a nice New York State pinwheel punch-decorated pie safe. The piece was made by Shields and Long, Greenfield, Mo., circa 1850s.
Despite the beautiful weather, several dozen dealers typically take spaces under a covered pavilion at the far end of the field. Here one can acquire antique and vintage jewelry from dealers such as Pat Frazer of Vintage Couture Jewelry, Easton, Conn., antique and vintage textiles, silver and porcelain. One such dealer, Tim Gaudet of Bath, Maine, was offering a scarce complete game set of hand painted Nippon with platter and 12 plates.
At 1 pm, the crowds shifted over to Brimfield Acres North across Route 20. The show management had some exciting news to report this year. Suzanne Rohrbacher, daughter of Jeanne and Robert Hopfe, with her husband, Michael, has become a co-owner of the business. Colleen James, Robert Hopfe’s former co-owner/partner, has retired.
With just a few empty spots at the far end of the field, the show presented a great lineup of dealers from across the United States. Among the highlights were nice display of Nineteenth Century figural tin cookie cutters and wooden decorative accessories for the kitchen from a Paterson, N.J., Americana collection that was being shown by the Old Wood Shed, Brick, N.J.; a good group of stoneware offered by R. McGrory, East Falmouth, Mass., including an E&L Norton, Bennington, Vt., 3-gallon crock, a Julius Norton, Bennington, 2-gallon jug, and a Bangor Stoneware Co. 3-gallon churn, all circa 1800s; and inside one of the pavilions, Ken’s Collectibles, Lebanon, Penn., showed a circa 1850s 14K gold and coral with cameo-applied Mary Queen of Scots locket and earrings.
Into every Brimfield a little rain must fall, but after an exceptionally rainy spring, shoppers were well prepared, armed with umbrellas, hats, ponchos and even the classic yellow slickers. Despite the misting rain that morning, buyers were out in force, and packages could seen being carried out of booths and off the fields.
Richmond House Antiques, Ashford, Conn., was among Wednesday’s dealers having robust sales. The dealers just about sold out of their booth at New England Motel within hours of opening, selling a dozen pantry boxes, a tavern table, primitive benches, pewter and treenware. By late morning, the dealers were considering a run home to restock since they only live about a half-hour away.
A few choice pieces of case furniture were spotted around the fields, but for the most part, smalls and midsize pieces seemed to rule in dealers’ booths.
Fashion accessories were prevalent in the “Fashion Tents” seen at both New England Motel and Heart-O-The-Mart. Colorful Bakelite earrings and bracelets dominated Streamlined Antiques’ booth, and vintage ladies’ hats (Princess Beatrice might find her next fascinator here) were seen at Randy Peters, Sioux City, Iowa, both showing at New England Motel, to luxurious bolts of fabric, mostly from France, in the booth of Marston House Antiques of Wiscasset, Maine, showing at Heart-O-The-Mart.
Country-style Americana was well represented at the fields from the painted cupboard and punched tinware at Mapleside Antiques, Titusville, Penn., at New England Motel to Hertan’s field, where a grouping of small dome-top boxes and Shaker buckets were noted at Rick and Karen Matteo, Leicester Americana, Ballston Lake, N.Y, along with colorful firkins at M&J Antiques, Pomfret Center, Conn.
“We had a good show,” said David Lamberto, show manager at Hertan’s. “Many people thought it was like the old days, the amount of crowds and the amount of people buying. It was beyond our expectation.” Dealer feedback has been positive, he said, noting that sales were strong, and “the crowd lasted a long time.”
The weather was picture-perfect for the opening of May’s on Thursday morning, and the lines of anxious shoppers waiting to gain entrance to the field extended for more than 100 yards to both the east and the west on Brimfield’s Route 20. The normal crowd of gate-crashers waited patiently across the street. The 9 am opening saw a charge of buyers race onto the field, and in usual fashion dealers were frantically attempting to set up their displays and make sales simultaneously.
Sold tags popped up on items all across the field, with furniture selling well. A red tag appeared on a large double-door Gustav Stickley bookcase at the far back of the field, while up front a nice early cupboard in an old blue-green paint was being carted away.
New Hampshire dealer Josh Steenburgh cracked a joke about bringing only smalls to the show as he stood beside a massive general store cupboard with apothecary-style base and two double-wide glass doors on the top. A basket filled with jointed artist’s figural models was at Susan Walter, Montpelier, Vt., and Gasport, N.Y., dealer Steven Schwab featured old seed displays and packets.
One of the largest horse weathervanes to have surfaced in a while was offered at Scott Martin, Lenox, Mass. A huge selection of automotive signs and posters, oil cans, displays and toy trains had come from a garage that had been cleaned out by Ian Laitala, Saco, Maine.
Early painted tin toys were attracting attention at Marc Olimpio, Springvale, Maine, with a selection of painted tin examples by Fallows and George Brown.
Although the weather prediction for Friday called for overcast skies, it was another picture-perfect morning for the opening at Gordon Reid’s original field at Auction Acres, now conducted by his daughters and their daughters and going by the name of J&J Promotions. Two entrances to the field each had long lines as the show readied to be opened; the main driveway was packed with people spilling out into the street and the “bridge” line extended back into the parking lot for such a distance that it was impossible to tell where it ended.
Another frenzied opening was recorded as the field opened to the public at 8 am with shoppers sprinting toward their favorite dealer’s booths. Bill Ketchum, Rye, N.Y., the author of American Stoneware, one of the most coveted reference books on the subject, was on hand with a nice selection of merchandise. Although Ketchum did not have any stoneware for sale in his stand, he did offer a good selection of American eagles, one carved of wood and a couple of cast pilothouse eagles. William F. and Teresa R. Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., had both stoneware and eagles in the form of a large jug with an incised and cobalt filled spread-winged eagle decorating the front.
A good selection of silver, art pottery and paintings was offered by Diana and Andy Onyshkewych, Brookfield, Conn. Stamford, Conn., dealer Howard Friedman was showing a good variety of Danish Modern furniture, lamps and other Midcentury Modern accessories.
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