Published: September 25, 2007
There was still some summer left for Brimfield in September, the last of the season’s three mega-markets conducted in some 20 or so fields, lots and front yards where vendors sell antiques and collectibles †all to reduce inventories and build up cash supplies to carry them through the winter.
Brimfield is antiques. It is fun, and it is a great deal of walking and work. But, again, during the week following the Labor Day weekend holiday, September 3‹, the small Massachusetts village (population 3,400) filled with thousands of antiques dealers and shoppers and service and support vendors. It was, for many, the last of three separate weeks vacationing and antiquing, and an opportunity to visit old friends, many of whom are seen only during the Brimfield market weekends.
Tuesday’s action began in the predawn hours with people walking briskly along Route 20, the main street of Brimfield, shopping the fields that come alive with the morning’s first traces of light. Dealers were working through the night in many cases, using camp lights to unload and distribute their wares. There were furniture exhibits, linens and textiles from the past, early lighting and antique Oriental rugs.
Free fields open on Tuesday by town law at 6 am and buying commences immediately. On many of these fields, dealers arrive on Monday with little or no supervision during the unloading. In these cases, the dealers often discuss their inventory in advance, so when the fields officially open, the sales are practically automatic. Green Acres is one such field, with its well-known Vermont Tent in the back. Here the exhibitors, all Vermonters or ex-Vermonters, are known for their excellent collections with prices meant to encourage sales. Michael and Lucinda Seward from Pittsford had been shopping on the Labor Day Weekend, finding, among other antiques, an early weathervane. It was among their first sales of the week. Greg Hamilton from Vergennes was selling very well on the first day, with both “furniture and smalls going well,” he said.
Traffic at other early morning fields was equally strong with lots of visitors and active buying. Anne Hall, a Sturbridge, Mass., dealer, was selling prints and custom framing for them at Shelton’s Field. Early furniture was selling from The Meadows at several exhibits.
Later in the morning, as the day turned warm, Dealer’s Choice opened at 11 am. The Faxons, Tom and Lori, have been running this field since their son, Tommy, was a preschooler. Lori sent him off to college on the weekend before the show, probably the first one he has ever missed. Their site with more than 400 spaces was sold out of dealer space by show time.
North River Antiques and Auctions of Saugerties, N.Y., was showing at their first of four exhibiting fields for the week. Dan Seldin was absent, but business partner Chris Bouchard was there to direct all the work with several truckloads of antiques. These two men, friends for most of their lives, have a collection that covers the last 300 years in many styles, designs and materials. There was a primitive checkerboard next to an oil on canvas Georgian portrait, which had a Victorian sofa in front. They had a lot of everything, and Bouchard reported good sales on the field.
In the early afternoon, Brimfield Acres North opened its gates for the crowds. This field with a 1 pm opening is considered by many to mark “the end of the day”; that is, if a customer is vacillating, “here is where you stop that and buy something,” according to one the shoppers waiting on the entry line who joined the surging crowd coming in at full gallop once the gates were opened.
Philip Liverant, Colchester, Conn., was offering a miniature highboy, probably constructed as large doll house furniture, and a chip carved box in fine detail from his collection.
Show manager Colleen James was pleased with her show. She said it was “full, sold out of dealer space and the weather helped with that.”
Brimfield was indeed blessed with fine weather for its third 2007 edition. The week was filled with cool nights, warm sun and no rain. Of course, it is always fun to find something to complain about. One dealer was overheard complaining, “The dust is just too much. I have to dust every few hours.” “Why dust?” was her neighbor’s reply.
There are three main fields opening on Wednesday †New England Motel at 6 am, Heart-O-The-Mart at 9 am and Hertan’s at noon. Each has its own unique character, and all had some of the largest crowds of dealers and buyers.
When owner and manager Marie Dooldorian lifted her ten-pound cow bell to release the crowd at New England Motel, she was thrilled to see a line of people running into the early morning darkness, “I can’t see the end of the line,” said one of the manager’s helpers. The dealers were also happy with the numbers.
Sold tags were festooned on every visible surface at Jack Dill’s tent. “I come full and seem to always manage to go home empty,” he said. “After coming for 22 years, I know what to bring,” commented the Freedom, Penn., dealer. There were tags on an iron table with architectural detail, a very old library table, a cast iron stove, several landscape paintings and a sundial on a wrought iron stand.
Wayne Davis showed a collection of Danish modern furniture. “This came from a warehouse where it’s been since it was stocked in the late 1950s,” he said. “It’s all Heywood & Wakefield, and it was never sold. So I call it ‘new’ old stock,” explained the Ludlow, Mass., dealer.
James Kent drives from Fort Worth, Texas, to sell Victorian opalescent glass and American art pottery. He had a German centerpiece, circa 1898, about 20 inches tall with Bohemian glass that he had discovered in a Texas home. Kent was set up in Dealer’s Row, one of three pavilions permitting 75 dealers to exhibit their antiques and collectibles in room settings.
With a collection of antique Oriental rugs, Julia and David Marin come from their New York City Tribeca home. They like the five-day exposure they get at Brimfield; they began coming only three or four years ago, but they come to all three shows. Another newcomer who was enjoying setting up under the roof was Teresa Starnes from Nashville, Tenn. Starnes showed old wood bass drums with stretched skin tops; a burl bombe chest that had been in the estate of Ambassador Richard N. Gardner, ambassador to Spain and Italy in the 1990s, and a solid wood, carved “Coney Island-type” carousel horse in original paint.
American antiques abounded at Brandt’s Antiques, Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Mary Ann Brandt sold three jointed dolls within minutes. “I wish I had more,” said Brandt. She also had a great early washstand in original mustard grain paint with pewter cups and bowl, circa 1760‸0, and a hanging cupboard with original paint, hinges and Pennsylvania architectural top.
A set of vintage faux alligator suitcases were being hurriedly emptied so the buyer could take them away from Carl Littlefield’s booth. Another first-time Brimfield exhibitor, Littlefield came up from Tampa Bay, Fla., at the urging from fellow dealers at Scott’s Atlanta, Ga., show. He wrote sales slips for stirrups, saddles, photographs and a wonderful English bowling game, complete in its original box with instructions on how to play.
Across Route 20, Heart-O-The-Mart opened at 9 am. The field that promoters Don and Pam Moriarty (and family) manage was filled to capacity.
The sun shone through layers of stained glass coloring the ground with blues, yellows, reds and purple at Artefact and Architectural Antiques, both from Pennsylvania, who were set up together filling a corner double lot. An Arts and Crafts rectangular window depicting an idyllic landscape with white clouds leaned against a large window with a young woman in white dress and black turban who was standing next to a column; both glowed in the warming sunshine.
Eric Sidman of Eric’s Antiques was shopping at Heart this time. He found a Nippon vase at Chrissy’s Antiques, Newman, Ga., where Christine Shellogg was happy with the first sale of the morning.
Fran Smith featured Morton Roberts’ “Assassination of Stolypin,” complete with the January 27, 1958, edition of Life magazine that showed the painting and explained the circumstances and significance of the prerevolutionary war Russian assassination. For $4,500, the Swarthmore, Penn., dealer would let the painting and all the documentary material go.
Less traditional art could be found at Howard Auberbach’s booth. He brought some examples of his “new specialty,” African tribal art. He was showing several large masks and heads, including a wood and skin Janus head (front and back are mirror images of the face, one smiling, one frowning) from the Ekoi people of Nigeria/Cameroon area.
On the far side of the Moriartys’ field is a lake filled with lily pads blooming with white, pink and yellow flowers. Along the lakefront, in “the best spot on the field,” Tim Kiser and Gil Hahn, The Silver Butler, were showing a Georg Jensen flatware setting in the Scroll pattern. The Flourtown, Penn., dealers said, “All our customers know where to find us; we are always here.”
Hertan’s opens at noon, and it is somewhat different from the other fields in that dealers are not supposed to begin selling until the noon bell rings. Items for sale are kept inside trucks or under cover until then, at which time the free field becomes a free-for-all.
This unique opening makes for some interesting scenes. Brian Penniston, Tappahannock, Va., and Bill Kelly, Limington, Maine, for example, joined several others trying to study a barrel back Connecticut corner cupboard that Clay Benson pulled partially out of his truck. This enticing glimpse had buyers buzzing around until the bell rang and out came the cupboard †all original, with a few condition issues. The Ontario, Canada, dealer barely had time to set it before it was sold.
From Pittsfield, Ill., Don Griffeth showed Native American pieces: a story teller buffalo robe showing the presentation of a presidential peace medal to a possibly Cheyenne chief; a Sioux sinew sewn beaded vest, circa 1880s; and a huge collection of arrow heads, flints and spear heads.
David Horst was showing a yellowware bowl, an 1820-40s Lancaster country mini watercolor that sold as he was bringing it out of his truck, and a Conden & Wilcox, Harrisburg, Penn., jug with grape and palm leaf decoration for $4,500. He also sold a brass compass quadrant in its original wooden box †the price was “not negotiable,” the Lebanon, Penn., dealer said, and the buyer paid him immediately.
From Wilcox, Penn., Dan Freeburg showed a circa 1850 Pennsylvania pin top farm table in strong original red paint, with turned legs and a removable top with dovetail cleats, for $3,200.
People crowded into Nancy Bryer’s booth filled with primitive country furniture that she and her husband brought from Hebron, Conn. Sold tags fluttered on several primitive cupboards. A two-piece 1820s buttery cupboard from a New Hampshire house had baskets, wooden bowls and boxes and an old wooden bucket filled with golden rod on the shelves.
Two 20-something women were seen carrying a pair of Danish Modern nesting coffee tables. “Modern appeals to us, it goes with everything,” Jenny Abeles said. Her friend, Christine Quinn, said she had come to Brimfield for the first time in July and would be back again. “We’re getting a lot of attention with these tables,” she laughed, “and a few offers to sell them already!”
“A good crowd. Very happy with the excellent turnout,” said Laura May, as she surveyed the shoppers massing for the 9 am opening of May’s Antiques Market on Thursday. She noted that a lot of the dealers preparing their spaces on the field that morning †rules firmly state “Absolutely no set up, no selling before 9 am” †have been doing the show for 20 or so years.
Steve and Marilyn Bentrup, Blodgett Mills, N.Y., have been at it a bit longer †23 years. “The September show typically is the second best for us,” the dealer said. At 8:45, the Bentrups’ space up front was a trampled patch of grass crisscrossed by white popup tent trusses. Setup goes quickly, however, with more than 20 years’ experience under one’s belt, and soon the dealers were enthusing that they had sold 18 of the paintings that they had brought strictly for this show.
Susan Goldsweig of Yonkers, N.Y., pronounced the fine day “as nice as it gets in this world.” Her eclectic collection featured many interesting rarities, perhaps the oddest of which was a butcher trade sign in papier mache, circa 1820‱840. It was made to be hung on a wall, but laying on the dealer’s table, it called to mind a horror movie prop.
Nearby, Bill Kelly from Limington, Maine, showed a grain painted five-drawer Empire chest that virtually glowed in the sunlight. “Guaranteed to brighten up any room,” the circa 1820″0 piece had come from Keene, N.H., and was priced at $1,450.
A large collection of pocket watches and wristwatches was being displayed by David Mycko of Reading, Penn. Savvy collectors know, however, that the really rare and valuable pieces are never to be found in the display cases, and, sure enough, the dealer’s best watch, a platinum Vacheron Constantin, priced at $5,000, was inside a cloth bag the dealer kept out of view. “People want sport model watches, stainless steel and platinum, but especially chronographs and watches with black dials and a military look are very hot,” he said.
Buying and selling antique toys and mechanical banks since 1979, Vernon Chamberlain of San Diego, Calif., presided over a colorful lineup of the items at the far end of the field, showing a first series Marklin boat, “Oregon,” 1906, and a pristine 1910 Bing double-decker bus that had come from the Peter Ottenheimer collection from Switzerland. The dealer also had some examples of early mechanical banks, including a Punch and Judy Bank by Sheppard Hardware, circa 1884, and Paddy and the Pig by J&E Stevens, circa 1882.
Early American mechanical banks are entertaining, but Black Forest collector Roy Aletti from Harrison, N.Y., was putting on his own show, cranking out the strains of the “Irish Washerwoman” song on a French 26-key hurdy-gurdy from 1900‱0, which he said was also called a “monkey organ.” Aletti had only enough energy to play one song, however, as he said he had traveled more than 3,000 miles in the past six days †”Indiana, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and now here,” said the dealer, retaking his seat.
Stoneware dealer George Browning from Keene, N.H., was well situated in a shady spot near the food concession in space #462 †there are 678 spaces in total at May’s †with an impressive selection of early American jugs, crocks and decorative pieces. Asked to haul out his best piece, he thought for a moment and then hoisted a New York stoneware jug with a slip decorated cobalt blue deer, circa 1860s.
Friday at Brimfield is the opening for the original of all the markets, J&J Antiques Market. Owned by Judy Mathieu and Jill Lukash, daughters of founder Gordon Reid, the market opened at 6 am. It was still dark, but that did not matter to the hundreds of waiting customers. They were there with their flashlights, visiting exhibits that the dealers had stayed up all night creating. Mathieu is proud to say and advertise that most of the 375 dealers on the J&J field only exhibit at J&J, so the antiques are fresh to Brimfield.
Steve and Lisa Fisch of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., were offering so much furniture that their booth resembled a furniture store from bygone years.
Dealers of small antiques had spent many hours creating elaborate and safe displays for their dishes, lighting and household objects. Dennis and Lynn Chrin from Milton, Vt., were selling an assortment of dishes, stoneware and silver. Peter Moses, North Syracuse, N.Y., erects a tarp cover for his merchandise, then displays a large assortment of small antiques. He especially likes painted boxes, often referred to as school boxes, as they were usually painted to resemble the four sides of a building and used by children to carry pencils, erasers, pens, etc.
Brimfield continued, as always, through the weekend with many fields closing Saturday and the last closing Sunday evening. Sales over the weekend were reported to be very good, and the weather, which is usually a factor, cooperated, according to Karen Oberg. Saturday was pleasant, not too hot and no rain, so sales from her Richmond House Antiques of Ashford, Conn., continued at New England Motel. As Tim May of May’s said, “September is not usually as big as May, but this month was very good, no disappointments and the weather was probably the best for any Brimfield Week in many years.”
Look for the three weeks of shows again next year. The show dates in 2008 are May 13‱8, July 8‱3 and September 2‷. For information, www.BrimfieldExchange.com . There is no single phone number for general information. Each field has its own schedule and rules.
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