Last week on a whim I traveled to the antiques Mecca, of the world Brimfield, Massachusets. A long time friend of mine was making the trip and asked if I would like to go. After securing the proper permissions (wife, family, dogs) I said yes. In years past the trip to Brimfield, was a regular commitment for me. Three times a year I would pack up my Toyota pick up truck and make the 9 hour trip to sell antiques. That was over 25 years ago. It was when the speed limit was 55, I was 27 years old and antiques were both plentiful and sought after. So I was really curious to see how it had all changed.
First, It was much better organized. Back in the 80's rumors of discontent between the competing markets ran rampant. Gordon Reid was the original, everyone else also rans. It seemed at the time that none of them liked each other, today it is quite a bit different. It seems that they all figured out that they could make more money by cooperating than by fighting. Organization seemed to prevail. Everything from food to the openings of the various markets seemed to run flawlessly. This was quite a change from the past. The best of all changes was in the sanitary end. Plenty of porta johns. No, I'm not obsessed with them, in 1980 they were typically overflowing and not very clean. This time the exact opposite.
Next, the crowds. The crowds overall seemed to be about the same size, but they lacked the excitement. I can clearly remember the rush of buyers that would be at every shows opening. It would be crazy, people unloading your vehicle for you, fighting over the best antiques and not even asking for a discount because they were afraid that the person next to them would take the item. This time the buyers seemed to meander. There was very little enthusiasm and definitely no imperative buying. The truth is the buyers took their time and thought out their purchases. No fighting, no help unpacking no rush. It was busy, but no rush.
So what has happened? Is it because of the Internet? Is it moneys tight or are they just being more careful? I really don't know. I see more enthusiasm from the buyers at the local flea market. These people get excited about dollar items, Brimfield practically no excitement at all. Remember what I am comparing it to, 25 years ago people were in an antiques frenzy, today however it seems that the reproductions ruled.
And what about those reproductions. Twenty five years ago a dealer would be asked to put away any items that did not qualify as an antique, or a a minimum a very old collectible. In some cases the dealer was asked to leave if they had too many non antique items. Things have changed. I estimated that over 50% of what was being offered for sale did not come even close to being antique. Huge tents full of reproductions were present in all of the markets (to be fair several of the larger markets had not had their openings yet). I personally think that this is the main reason for the lack of enthusiasm. The buyers did not feel any of the anxiety that they had felt in years past because they felt that another item was already on the cargo ship from China. They didn't have to worry about getting one because a thousand others were at the ready.
In summary I had a great time. Despite the changes it is still something that every antiquer should see. Just like Mecca, This is a pilgrimage that you should try to make at least once in your lifetime.