In July, Rue stylist Lindsay hit up the Brimfield Antique Show not knowing what she’d find. With dealers lined up as far as the eye can see, there’s definitely some hunting involved. Here are her tips for navigating this annual trove of treasures (which you can put to good use at the upcoming show, September 6-11).
1. The Early Bird
If you are a serious shopper or looking for something specific, it’s best if you go early and frequently. When you get to the booth, head to a dealer and ask if he or she has that exact item.
2. The Late Bird
If you’re a browser and don’t know exactly what you want, there’s no need to go to bat with the big hitters at the crack of dawn. Sometimes waiting for the last few days of the fair yields greater windfalls: discounts up to half off, more time to chat with the dealers, and less stressful browsing conditions.
3. For Good Measure
Bring measurements: know how big your car trunk is, the size of your empty wall, and the dimensions of your doorway. While you won’t always know exactly where you might put an item, knowing some of your dimensions prevents you from buying anything too big. Also, bring your own shopping totes or wheeled carts so you’re not constantly lugging big scores back to your car.
4. Strike a Bargain
Keep in mind that most dealers at the fair are small, independent businesses and try to price as reasonably as possible. However, there is always room for bargaining as long as it’s respectful. Sometimes asking, “What is the best you can do?” is the most polite and accurate way of getting the lowest price. It often works well to buy multiple items as a negotiating method. Last of all, cash always trumps credit cards.
5. Pop the Questions
If you don’t know what something is, don’t be shy and ask away. Consider the fair an educational experience and learn the history and the quirks. Many sellers have amazing stories to share about a particular item and maybe even tips on getting it to work better. Not only does this enrich the buying experience, but makes vendors more open to accepting lower prices.
6. Talk the Talk
Truth be told, good old-fashioned conversation gets you everywhere at the fair. If you are on the hunt for a specific item, dealers often have more samples in warehouses or online. Collect business cards in order to look at external inventory. Vendors can usually point you in the general direction of whatever you may looking for. And, of course, dealers are in the know when it comes to gossip – rumor has is Diane Keaton was at Brimfield earlier this year and all the dealers were more than eager to dish!
7. Think of Others
Don’t just shop for yourself: Antique fairs are great places to happen upon gifts for others. An antique wire dress frame is just the thing for the couture connoisseur and a sewing machine is the ideal gift for the DIY die-hard. While you are browsing, think in terms of upcoming occasions, holidays, and birthdays.
8. Change it Up
There’s plenty of charm in repurposing antiques. Have you ever considered using old postcards as gift tags, vintage linens as wrapping, or old carts as boxes? Think about unexpected décor too: bird cages and plant holders are just the thing for storage.
Of course, make it a point to enjoy yourself – the food, the eccentric characters, and the eclectic vendors all build upon the Brimfield experience.