Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring, W.A. Demers & Z.G. Burnett
BRIMFIELD, MASS – After hot temperatures and less summer rain than usual, a safe bet would have been that the September 6-11 edition of the Brimfield Antique Flea Market would have been more of the same, but as it happens, much-needed rain on Tuesday, September 6, got the week off to a soggy start. Despite that, most dealers did a brisk business and many reported it concluded one of the best Brimfield seasons. If there are worries that the event would not rebound after Covid-19, it seems those fears can be put to rest.
“If you open the field, they will come” was the optimistic attitude of the organizers and vendors at Dealer’s Choice on September 6, and their efforts were rewarded even if their socks and trousers were soggy. Those who were under the pavilion and on the field were just as determined as the buyers who trudged out in their slickers and rubber boots, and those who we were able to catch for a comment were happily surprised with the sales during the deluge.
Dealers under the pavilion in the rear of the field were sheltered from the weather and were doing well to not let it dampen their spirits. Many visited among themselves and did their own shopping before the crowds came in, and most already had a good morning of sales before the gates opened at 11 am. Buyers huddled under the entrance and dashed across the field right on the hour.
Antique glass and serving ware sets were abundant, as were vintage clothing booths. Some of these were more organized than others, such as Amber Ashley’s Popinjay (Union Town, Ohio) whose neat racks were filled with casual and formal designer garments. Other fashion vendors intentionally set up their goods for those who enjoy a rummage, such as Real Mary Todd Lincoln (Hudson, N.Y.), which piled its wares on folding tables, and Swamp Swan Antiques (Cleveland, Ohio) that set out price-specific “dig bins” for customers’ perusal.
Nautical antiques were represented by the joined booth of Captain’s Quarters of Amherst, Mass., and Pam and Gordon Stanley’s Maritime Gallery of Sedgwick, Maine. Each booth’s offerings spanned the seafaring category, and both dealers had been showing there for years. Jeffery M. Cobb of Captain’s Quarters had an extensive collection of pewter, oil lamps, creamware and Inuit carvings, which complemented the Maritime Gallery’s selection of scrimshaw, nautical tools and art.
Nancy McGlamery and Ed Pelton of Lancaster, Penn., drew attention with a nursery full of toys on one of the pavilion’s end tables. In addition to the teddy bears and dolls on display, a vintage painted giraffe towered over its peers. Originally one of a pair, the giraffe was offered for $195.
Out on the field, dealers were huddled under tarps and doing their best to keep all their stock dry underneath. Morgan and Ed of Off The Common Antiques had set up their first booth at Dealer’s Choice, using a tent for shelter and their trailer as a converted walk-in fine art gallery. Off The Common has a brick-and-mortar shop in Grafton, Mass., hosting more than 50 other vendors in a 4,000-square-foot gas station.
Colin Calder of Omni Vntg was another newcomer whose Midcentury Modern furniture was stacked artfully inside his tent, all teak and brass hardware. In addition to selling Scandinavian smalls on Etsy, Calder also sells larger pieces from Omni’s Newark, Del., retail location. Tucked among the angular wood furnishings was a midcentury brass magazine rack on casters, resembling a miniature brass bed, priced at $395.
Somewhat nerve-wracking was the display of an early Nineteenth Century gentleman’s mirror, which at almost 3 feet high was far larger than its more common, diminutive counterparts. Will Horton wiped water droplets off the mirror immediately after we snapped a picture, saying, “It’s a great day for mahogany veneer, isn’t it?” Horton had the mirror on his own bureau for years before deciding to move it along for $185. Although the mirror did not sell that day, Horton enjoyed a good run of sales despite the fact that “it rained all day.”
About an hour before the show, organizer Lori Faxon was posted at the front office directing traffic. “It’s a crazy, crazy day already,” she said in passing. A few hours later, a calm had set over the field when she and dealers were satisfied with just how well sales went. Brimfield comes but three times a year, and those at Dealer’s Choice knew how to make the most of this season’s last show.
New England Motel
Opening at 6 am on Wednesday, September 7, the set up for New England Motel market, which stayed open through the duration of the week, was slowed a bit by the rain but as the week dried off, and more and more visitors came during the week, the field reported a good final edition of the season.
“Actually, I’m very, very pleased with the September show. The crowds were great, and my dealers are happy. It was a very good way to end the 2022 show season. I believe 2022 ranks up there with some of the best seasons we’ve had in the past. Brimfield has made the post-Covid turn to where it was.” John Doldoorian said the September field was just a little smaller than his May field but he thinks he will retain about two-thirds of the new dealers and said his campground for the May edition is nearly sold out already.
Jesse Prescott and Sarah McMahon of Down Cellar Antiques in Shrewsbury, Mass., were making their Brimfield debut. Specializing in advertising, tools and food-related products, the pair was particularly pleased with a Simpson Springs beverages sign they had purchased on the Dealer’s Choice field in 2021. As it happened, the sign found a buyer that same day and Prescott was upbeat when we called him after the show to follow up.
“Brimfield was very good for us. We had a blast, enjoyed ourselves very much and sold a lot of stuff.” Prescott reported selling signs, an arcade machine vintage oil cans and tools, books and some toys. He and McMahon hope to return to Brimfield in May 2023.
New York City vendor Maria, with Deals on Designers, started doing Brimfield in May, so this was her third edition. “It was a tough set up but I love it; we have great neighbors and great energy.” Her booth stocked vintage and secondhand, and she explained the company’s mission “to bring sustainable designer items to thrift conscious customers.” The company also partners with nonprofits with a portion of sales going to support breast cancer patients (www.pinkaid.org) and people with disabilities (www.acld.org).
Wexford, Penn., twins Mathew and Mike Koepfer own Pittsburgh Brothers Antiques and Pittsburgh Family Antiques and have been showing at Brimfield for about 20 years, not all at New England Motel. One of the most important pieces they brought was a Kennywood amusement park car that would have been one of six on a carousel. The circa 1950s vehicle was priced at $2,500 and they said, “we almost sold it in the first half-hour!”
Mike Richford’s father was a dealer, so he grew up at Brimfield in the 1980s and has been doing it ever since. He noted a change in what people collect: “we used to throw blow-molds away because no-one wanted them but it’s what people pay good money for now.” Case in point, the Worcester, Mass., dealer had Halloween and Christmas blow-molds for sale as well as Midcentury Modern furniture and decorations, including some lamps. Prices in his booth ranged from $5 to $4,000, for a Herman Miller / Charles Eames table and six swivel chairs.
“Business is crazy but hard work pays off!” said Richard Lavigne, whose Knollwood Antiques booth can be aptly described as “upscaled eclecticism.” Judging from the number of sold tags, it’s a style that appeals to lots of his clients. He reported a lot of buyers of who utilize FaceTime to shop without having to leave the comforts of their homes. This included, the New York City dealer pointed out, a Classical-style marble torso that he had just sold to a buyer in California.
“We are very, very happy,” Don Moriarty said shortly after Heart-O-The-Mart opened on Wednesday. “We were lucky, and the weatherman cooperated, we had no problems with set up. We also had a good crowd, and they were buying!” The field owner said about 85 percent of his vendors were returning.
George Bittner, Chester, Vt., had large collections of many different kinds of things, from antique tools to vintage telephones and musical instruments, including a large selection of saxophones that represented a small portion of nearly 100 he had purchased from an auction in Pennsylvania; they were priced between $50 and $150.
Meriden, Conn., dealer Todd Shamock was set up towards the back of the field in a large booth that featured, among many things, a folding table positively groaning with cobalt-decorated stoneware and a lattice wall hung with framed samplers and needleworks as well as others stacked on the ground. A particularly showy piece was a high-style portrait of three children that had a paper label taped to the back of the frame that read “Mary Jane daughter of William Eaton of Hartford, Conn., married William Cutler Died 13 April 1879.”
Nearby, Coocoou Antiques, from Buffalo, N.Y., was bordering the pond at the back of the field and had a great selection of Midcentury Modern furniture and decorations, such as a set of small colorful Disney characters.
Militaria dealers Ken Hamilton and Rick Burton occupied spaces kitty-corner from each other in the center of the Heart-O-The-Mart field. Hamilton’s offerings centered largely on Civil War-era pieces, including a handsome cased pair of epaulettes, photographs and knives and an interesting grouping of elixir opium bottles. On the other hand, Burton featured Twentieth Century objects, including uniforms, parachutes, dishes, shell canisters, boxes and flags.
Cape Cod dealers Ed and Charlene Dixon typically show at Dealer’s Choice but had opted to sell in Heart-O-The-Mart because of the inclement weather Tuesday. They were having a good show, attracting interest in their cobalt-decorated stoneware, framed ship pictures, vintage Halloween artifacts and a hooked rug with a nautical theme.
Bruce Mager, Waves of Englewood, N.J., had a large figure of the RCA Victor mascot, Nipper, as well as a fantastic tramp art radio and clock that he had bought at another Brimfield field. He said he had sold several things already.
Owen Swift of Owen Swift Antiques brings restored vintage furniture all the way from Riverhead, N.Y., and has been doing Brimfield for years. He offers handcrafted furniture as well, custom designed to match the style and taste of its clients. A standout piece in the booth was a pair of Midcentury Modern chairs by Knoll that he purchased at auction and covered in white lambswool shearling; the pair was priced at the seeming bargain of $1,100.
Brimfield Antique Shows – Hertan’s
“For our Wednesday to Friday show, we were over capacity and still had to turn away between 40 and 50 vendors,” said Klia Ververidis Chrisafulli, owner of Brimfield Antique Shows, which operates on the Hertan’s field. In addition, she said she had a lot of new vendors, as well as many younger vendors. In a few of the previous Brimfield editions, Chrisafulli has included a variety of new and different events – such as appraisal clinics and auctions – to engage shoppers or encourage repeat visitors. In this latest edition, she added a live jewelry and trunk show that took place on the field on Wednesday afternoon; an auction Thursday evening was followed by a “Rockabilly” dance party on Friday night. Rounding out Chrisafulli’s plans for the field was a two-day “Weekend Warriors” show on Saturday and Sunday, which she said she had about 35 vendors for.
One change that was immediately noticeable was the arrangement at the field’s gate at the corner of Route 20 and Mill Lane; to make food trucks available to those who were waiting for the field to open at noon on Wednesday, September 7, Chrisfulli had shifted the fence line so that the trucks were on the outside of the field rather than on the inside. As a result, the gate, which had been accessible from two different directions, was only available from one aisle; once the field opened up later in the week, the gate was removed.
Ted Tremblay Antiques was offering, in addition to a line of new Brimfield doggy bandannas, a rare circa 1926 painted and cast iron sea captain by Hubley. Heidi Rodenhuis said she has seen a trend in decorating houses like those depicted in I Love Lucy. Among retirees, she sees toys as being very popular with men and Steiff stuffed animals the preference of women.
Next to Tremblay and Rodenhuis, James Palacios had brought vintage magic and medicinal collectibles. He used a corner of his booth to display the unique vintage graphics he finds and mounts in shadowbox frames, which he has been making for less than a year and which he sells for between $60 and $150.
There is a greater inclusion of homemade crafts on many of the fields, which some antiques purists dislike but which prove to be attractive to shoppers. In her first year at Brimfield, Anna Hay from Schroon Lake, N.Y., was displaying soaps made by Family Cow Soaps. She said the May 2022 edition had been her first and she was really pleased to be back.
Artist Alex Santiago, from nearby Palmer, Mass., was making his debut at Brimfield at the prompting of friend and supporter, Sherri St Laurent of Brimfield. His graphite works have a pop culture theme, and he was really excited to be at show.
Among the noticeable things in the sawdust-sprinkled booth of Chairperson Antiques, Riderwood, Md., were books on antiques and a large Meissen dinner service that had been priced at $2,000. Similar things were with David Rose Antiques of West Upton, Mass., who had Flow Blue, ironstone, antiques, vintage and Midcentury Modern decorative arts.
Americana dealer, Samuel Herrup, was chatting up ceramics connoisseur and expert, Justin Thomas when Antiques and The Arts Weekly stopped by. The Sheffield, Mass., dealer had two pieces of American pottery that Thomas thought were noteworthy. One was a circa 1930 Jugtown Pottery vessel with vibrant blue-green glaze made in Seagrove, N.C.; the other was a Bristol County jar, 1780-1820.
May’s Antique Market
Martha May was all smiles just before her field opened at 9 am on Thursday. And why not? Skies had turned cerulean blue, temps were sunny but comfortable and – most important -the field was full and a sea of eager shoppers stood shoulder to shoulder on either side of the gate on Route 20, one of the show field’s two entrances. Since 1977, May’s Antique Market has drawn huge crowds with its unique opening mantra – Everyone is an Early Buyer – ensuring that no pre-shopping on the field before the market opens is strictly enforced. Indeed, blue signs proclaiming “No Merchandise Till 9 am” formed a gauntlet on either side of the main thoroughfare just inside the gate, and tarps, blankets and all manner of concealment were employed to shield the merch from prying eyes.
When we caught up with her after the show, May was understandably tired but very pleased with the event, which had just marked the beginning of its 46th year. “We had an excellent show,” she said. “We had the windfall from the shows that were unable to open earlier in the week, and so a lot of folks migrated to our field and it was a really super turnout. And I think our dealers did pretty well. I didn’t have any complaints. Everyone wants to come back and do the show in the spring.”
People not only shopped the show on Thursday, but they stayed. “Now, Saturday was really busy,” she said, “which is fantastic. The vintage industry is really taking off with the younger people. Some of my dealers who lean towards the vintage, those who stuck around, did really well on Saturday.”
Gene Mott of Antiques & Old Lace, Cutchogue, N.Y., has been in business as long as May’s field has been in operation – 46 years. As the show was opening, he removed a blanket that was covering an oak dresser with gallery, probably circa 1880s. Furniture, collectibles, books, plus clock repairs are his stock and trade.
Fine art was available from many dealers. One couple stood over a stack of impressionist watercolors, unframed at Finoval of southern New Jersey. The dealer was showcasing two framed impressionistic oils on canvas by Richard H. Bassett (1900-1995), an American impressionist and founder and head of the Milton Academy art department in Milton, Mass., from 1945 to 1965. His father was a professor at Duke University, and Bassett studied extensively in Europe, especially in the French countryside, where these were painted.
After the show, Bruce Emond of the Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., was asked if the huge metal cauldron that was getting a lot of attention would be seen at Rhinebeck. “No,” he said. “I sold it.” A couple from Pennsylvania were the buyers. No word on what they planned to do with the probably industrial piece once they got it home. “It was a great week for me,” said Emond. “I was glad that Thursday and Friday had good weather.”
While the Village Braider’s large caldron won’t be seen at this fall’s Rhinebeck, there is a chance visitors there may see a folk art pine figure, which Francis Crespo, Lancaster, Penn., dubbed “Robot.” The whimsical sculpture was seen being snapped up by another folk art dealer who regularly shows at Rhinebeck.
Tube radios were produced by many different brands. Between 1930 and 1949, there were thousands of different radios produced in the United States and worldwide. One of these brands was Emerson, and John Melby of Eastport, Maine, had one, which he described as “Americana at its best.” It was diminutive with a lid that when lifted revealed the radio dial, and some young listeners back in the day, namely “Steve” and “Norm,” had carved their names into the front of the case. Of course, these radios operated with tubes, hard to find these days, and it wasn’t clear that this radio worked. Still, a nifty piece of desk art.
If you saw a booth space aswarm with mostly women, it would be safe to assume the merchandise on offer was jewelry. One dealer busily helping multiple customers was Amy Bagnato of Village Green Antiques, who brought choice examples of antique and estate jewelry, a collecting category she developed as a teenager following her aunt, a Pennsylvania Americana dealer, to shows and auctions. She had many styles and eras available, including a selection of gold-filled Victorian lockets.
Midcentury Modern dealers and those who lean toward vintage material did well, even on Saturday when the field at May’s is pretty quiet. Lancaster, Penn., dealer William Groves was offering a pair of 1970s lamps, maker unknown, as well as colorfully topped stools.
And if primitive is your thing, there was plenty of primitive furniture on the field from which to choose. A red sold tag appeared early on a dough box from the 1850s with at least four layers of crusty paint at New Jersey dealer Ivy & Twig Antiques. Another quick sale was an early Nineteenth Century cricket or bench in grey blue paint, and there were punched tin lanterns from the mid- to late Nineteenth Century as well as hunter’s baskets from the late Nineteenth Century.
A stop at the open tent of Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Walpole, N.H., revealed a taste of the great Americana for which the dealers, Stephen Corrigan and Douglas Jackman, are known. These included a colorful game board, English tin tea caddies, slide-lid box with heavy chip carving, a sign with three-dimensional painted lettering, tea kettle and more.
Huntington, N.Y.-based Susan Oates created an al fresco vignette that included a circa 1900s English faux tortoise and silverplated gallery tray, holding a contemporary brass sculpture by Michael Alfaro, a 1920s gold and diamond bracelet, Eighteenth Century French candlesticks, mid-Nineteenth Century mourning locket and a Minton dome cheese dish in the maidenhair fern motif.
So many discoveries to be made – from a 1956 National acoustic guitar (missing part of its logo) at Dan Shea of Onset, Mass.; a Tiffany oil-based lamp that had been electrified by Joe Fader, Georgetown, S.C.; a collection of coin-ops and trade stimulators from the 1800s to 1940s at Hoffman Antiques, Adamstown, Penn.; a lifetime collection of antique tools that had been arranged in an artful manner at the Grateful Trader, Massachusetts and New Hampshire; and Native American baskets and Navajo textiles from Steve Smoot, Lancaster, Penn.
They’ll all be back again for next season’s Brimfield – 2023 dates: May 9-14, July 11-16 and September 5-10.