Brimfield: ‘Fields of Dreams’

BRIMFIELD, Mass. – Day breaks on a sleepy little village nestled in the heart of New England. A nervous anticipation is felt throughout the villagers. Soon their town will be overrun by ravenous masses of hunters and gatherers as it has been for more than 50 years.

Residents have spent months preparing for the migration, expecting it three times a year. The villagers are not alone; they have called in help from far and wide to help satisfy the needs of those who take over a mile-long stretch of Route 20. The hunters and gathers surround the gates throughout the town in anticipation for the opening of Brimfield’s “Fields of Dreams.”

“Brimfield is still one of the antique markets where I can find those rare pieces I’m looking for. I’m here for the glitzy, gaudy rhinestone pieces” quoted a happy costume jewelry buyer from Miami, Fla. She not only comes to shop here at the Brimfield experience, but treats it as a vacation as well. “I always leave Brimfield knowing I found what I came here for and can feel good about my treasures when I get back home.”

David, a long time shopper from Baltimore, Md., raved “Every show, I’m surprised as to what shows up here! I’ve been a collector for over 20 years and shopped hundreds of shows and markets and can always find something here I’ve only ever seen in the collector books,” he told us as he was showing off a perfect condition Hagen-Renaker Disney Snow White figurine he discovered at the show.

Many dealers said the crowds were consistent with past July shows, usually being a little smaller than the Spring or Fall shows at Brimfield. Lower fuel prices than last year may have encouraged more shoppers to the show. One dealer traveling from North Carolina said “my customers have more money in their pockets to spend than last year. Last year, the gas prices were almost $4 a gallon. It made it much more expensive for me, as well as my customers, to get here. When they did get here they didn’t spend as much. This year is much better.”

The most important thing for the dealers was that customers were still buying.

Investment-grade antiques were solid sellers at the show. Fine, vintage gold jewelry was a hot seller across the board. “With spot gold prices in the $900 range, people are investing their money in heirloom-quality pieces. If they don’t intend on selling the pieces right away they can at least look good wearing their investments,” one gold dealer told us.

Costume jewelry has always been a hot commodity at the Brimfield shows and this show did not disappoint the shoppers or dealers.

Vintage costume, signed jewelry, and whimsical pieces moved quickly. The “guilty pleasure” items, pieces under $50, continue to be strong sellers. Jean, a dealer from Pennsylvania, told us, “I have customers who come back to me show after show looking for unique fruit and animal jewelry for their collections or to wear. Most of these pieces are priced from $10 and up. Even if they only spend $20 on a pin they like, you can tell that they feel that they found something special.” An emerging market in costume jewelry seems to be “green art” jewelry. These “green art” pieces are made from “recycled” vintage pieces of jewelry, typically Bakelite or Lucite materials. “There’s a lot of craftsmanship that goes into these pieces and the customers appreciate the quality found in this art.” The prices of the “green art” typically start around $75 due to the cost of just the materials going into the pieces. “Customers are not only buying a colorful quality piece of handmade jewelry, they are investing in a piece of artwork.”

Among other dealers, the functional and decorator pieces were selling well. “It seemed that most of my customers were sizing up the furniture and accessories and getting the mental images of the pieces in their homes before buying them. Does it fit, does it look good, and would I feel happy about looking at it every day were the main topics of conversation heard throughout. The shoppers were very selective about their purchases, but they were still buying.”

The collector market is still very strong throughout the markets, dealers said. “Internet buying is one thing but, when you can hold and inspect the piece yourself before buying, it saves a lot of time and trouble with antiques,” a Boston shopper informed us.

With dealer numbers holding steady, shoppers still investing, gas prices down, and pleasant weather throughout the week, dealers were pleased by week’s end.

Finally, the villagers can go back to their normal lives and prepare for the next migration Sep. 8-13.