Did you know that the largest outdoor antique market in the world takes place about an hour outside Boston? Three times a year, Brimfield, Massachusetts plays host to the Brimfield Antique Show. I went to for the first time last week. The show draws serious antique dealers from around the world, as well as skilled bargain hunters looking for their next big find. It’s also known to draw celebrities from Lauren Conrad to the hosts of HGTV’s Flea Market Flip.
Below I share my five tips for nativating the Brimfield Antique Show.
1. Arrive Early
The market runs Tuesday to Sunday three times a year – in May, July, and September. Tuesday is the best day to visit if you want your pick of the loot. So if you can swing a day off, I’d recommend going Tuesday. You’ll avoid the weekend crowds and nothing will be picked over yet. I’d also recommend arriving early in the day, like around 7 a.m. Parking can fill up fast so if you want to pay less (typically $7 vs. $10) and park closer to the action, arrive early.
2. Bring a Cart
The smartest shoppers bring carts or wagons to haul their purchases. Many of the fields will have porters for hire if you need help hauling a bigger purchase. But for smaller purchases, you’ll want a cart. This will reduce the number of trips back to your car, especially if you didn’t follow tip #1 and you had to park a little further out.
3. Bring Cash
Come with cash. ATMs are hard to come by and while some booths do accept credit cards, cash is still the preferred method of payment. And, it gives you more bargaining power. Half the fun of shopping a flea market is haggling, but it’s hard to do that when you’re paying with a card. So bring plenty of cash and start negotiating!
4. Beware the Curated Booth
The stylized booths are fun to look at, but this is not where the bargains are. If a booth/tent is overly curated, you can bet you’ll be paying more. The real fun is in digging through the less curated tents for treasures. The selection at the flea market runs from the stylized to the truly bizarre (I saw a bunch of naked mannequins on the way out of town). It can be tempting to stick to the “fancier” tents, but embrace the challenge of sifting through the weird junk to find something prized and unique.
5. Shop last
My last tip is in direct contradiction to my first tip, but hear me out. If you’re not looking for something specific, the best bargains can be had Sunday afternoon right before the vendors are packing up. Vendors are more likely to negotiate over price in order to get rid of more product. The selection won’t be as good, but the price will be right!
The Brimfield Antique Show returns July 11-16. Happy hunting!!