Antiquing: The Highs and Lows of a Day at the Flea Market

This would be a low.

On Sunday, my friends Katie, Lindsey and myself headed out to Brimfield, MA for the Brimfield Antique Show. This was my first ever antique show. However, I have been to the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale, FL many times, and I can safely say that Brimfield is way classier, yet, still, not very classy at all, if that’s possible.

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that was never more clear to me than on Sunday. While some booths contained beautiful furniture, glass fixtures, and jewelry, others were selling baby doll heads and used socks. I’m not totally sure what the exact definition of “antique” is, but I know it does not include gum wrappers or old oil cans.

High: Finding dark wood furniture, similar to the likes of Pottery Barn, for less than $100.
Low: Trying to open a wooden box and having the booth owner yell at you. He was wearing a leather vest and was very scary.

High: It was 90 degrees outside and the show road was about 1.5 miles long, so working out while shopping was worth it.
Low: All they serve at these things is fried dough, fried chicken, french fries, homemade donuts, ice cream, lemonade and soda. So when you get to the point of passing out and have to eat, you’re also clogging every artery you have.

High: Ron, the very helpful older gentlemen in the antique barn who sold me my new blue chest at a 10 percent discount.
Low: The cat lady selling figurines that told us about her skin cancer and tried to kidnap Katie.

High: Getting there early allowed us to browse the booths with little congestion for a few hours.
Low: When we were leaving, and Katie told me it was only 1:30pm, I almost had a heart attack, because I was certain it was after 5pm. And I’m still not totally convinced we had only been there for 3 hours. It’s possible Brimfield has some type of force field, time warp thing going on. I’ll investigate further and get back to you.

High: Having one booth owner explain to me that one of his mudflaps was from an ancient Native American hut.
Low: Having that same booth owner then tell me the mudflap was about 80 years old.

High: Finding my new blue wooden chest with rope handles. It’s freakin awesome.
Low: Getting in a fight with the guy outside the antique barn when he wouldn’t lower the price of a treasure chest even when I pointed out that I couldn’t move it because it only had one strap. I mean, honestly. Do I need an antique treasure chest with one handle? I do not.

So the lesson learned here is that, if you want to be a true antique-er, you have to be one tough cookie. You have to negotiate, not only a deal, but your way through all the junk to find something unique. Being able to decipher what’s a treasure and what’s trash is not easy, but getting it done as an amateur is possible, take it from me.

This looks better in person.


Filed under Around Town

54 responses to “Antiquing: The Highs and Lows of a Day at the Flea Market

  1. Katie

    Note to the angry guy in the vest-Don’t put old needles and vaccines out on a table if you don’t want people to play with them…Trust me, I’m a nurse…

    Note to the crazy cat lady – I will NOT in fact be seeing you in Sheffield, no matter what you promise to reimburse me for.

    Note to pushy, lying booth owner – We’re onto you…

  2. Margo

    As someone who sometimes has to find old oil cans for use onstage in shows, I disagree with the statement that they are not antiques. I cannot tell you how many random things that you would think are junk that are a lifesaver for shows set in the Civil War era! But I’m glad you have discovered antiquing because I think it is fun and you can find some crazy things.

  3. This is my Grandfather’s trade in Arizona. It’s all he talks about! Glad you got some good finds.

  4. I’ve never been to an antique show but now I’d like to! The blue chest is very cool, in particular!

  5. I love flea markets–and seeing what people will actually sell is way, way weird!
    Great post–really fun!

  6. This flea market sounds awesome! Your lows made me laugh- especially the scary booth owner in the leather vest.

  7. I would love to go to a flea market like that someday. After reading your post though, I think I will go with friends and pack a lunch. As for the old oil cans, some people might actually collect those.

  8. I thought antique shows were full of really expensive antiques. You make it seem like it’s just a huge yard sale! Thanks for the info. Guess I’ll have to check out the local one next time it roll around. =)

  9. funny! funny-funny and at the same time a little scary, am I right? Antique fairs and carnivals are first cousins in my opinion. Same food and sort of the same people working the event. *shudder* :Still, I can’t wait for the fall antique fair in Warrenton, TX. 🙂 Diane

  10. I love how you organized this into highs and lows! Great post.

  11. That top picture — I just gotta say: WOW.

    They’re like a cross between Mario and Luigi and trolls. Ewww.

    Sounds like a fun and interesting day!

  12. I’ve been to a couple antique shows, some of the scariest food and the scariest people ever. I mean, I had ice cream from one of those stands and it was, well, not ice cream as I understood ice cream. Congrats on finding such great stuff. (We can never manage to get to these things early).

  13. No lows for me – all part of the hunting experience:))

  14. So true about the food at such events. I love the trunk, would leave as is. Has great character. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  15. Love it all! My grandparents used to drag me along to different places when I was younger. I’ve always had a liking for that sort of thing. My new favorite is going to the antique shops here in Germany….now here you will find some really old and in perfect condition items!

  16. Miss Marblemouth

    I used to go antiquing with my mom when I was a kid. I’d look for Pez dispensers, she’d look for crap to hang in the kitchen. I think my best find was a set of old Archie Comic juice glasses that they used to sell Jelly in for like $1.25 each. My husband almost pooped himself one morning when I found him trying to use one and I told him I would cut him in his sleep if he ever touched one again.

  17. This is a great synopsis! I’ve been wanting to go to Brimfield for years. Thanks for summing it up.

  18. Sounds like so much fun. I enjoyed your post. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  19. Great Post – I am sure those two figurines in the 1st pic would be someone’s treasure – a little scary for my taste. I love the trunk you bought. Congrats on being FP!

  20. Rad post! I liked your organization of highs and lows, made it readable and entertaining. Sounds like a pretty great antique show (Here I think we call that a flea market?) and as someone who has a bit of a “thing” for old trunks I’d say your new blue one is a catch for sure!

  21. Love it! I’m a bigtime vintage lover too, mostly shopping at estate sales. Your post was super funny to me b/c “highs & lows” are such a part of vintage shopping! And definitely the interesting people you enounter. Thanks for the fun! 🙂

  22. I’ve never been to an antique market but I really want to.

  23. GADEL

    This is a great share! Antiquities and archival stuffs are quite fun to “play” with.


  24. This sounds like it was alot of fun! I love flea markets and antique shops and such. It always is like an adventure on the search for the perfect treasure. I find another place good for these kind of searches are festivals.

  25. Hahaha, loved the lows! In some ways, that’s the best part!

  26. Oil cans are considered collectible, along with rusty old signs…I don’t know about the gum wrappers, though! I was watching “Pawn Stars” recently, and a guy came in with a collection of old Pez dispensers. He didn’t like what the shop offered for it, saying it was, “An insult to the Pez community.” That really made us laugh. =)

  27. 577lane

    Great Post – loved the “highs and lows”! You described perfectly just about every experience I’ve ever had while visiting flea markets & antique shows!

  28. Great article. I love flea markets.

    You definitely have to have a game plan in the summer…… or you can easily pass out on a table of irregular socks from dehydration.

  29. cmalbrecht

    That’s what flea-marketeering is all about: It’s panning for gold (or at least something that is gold to you). Or if you’re romantically inclined you could liken it to kissing frogs. As they advertise on, “You don’t have to know what you’re looking for; you just have to start looking.”
    Once I got a Bufano papier mâché bust in a box of junk for fifty cents. That’s a high. The low was when I sold it for $5 and later found out what it really was.
    Over the years we’ve found many a “golden” item that we, at least, love and still cherish. I have four antique clocks and a painted key rack from a Paris flea market. Canes, hats…maybe they’re junk to someone else, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Well…come on and make me an offer.
    Even if you don’t buy, you can look, and people-watch. Always plenty of characters to observe in their meanderings.

  30. You could never tell from the picture of me but I LOVE going to antique malls and markets. I don’t know what it is about them, but antiques fascinate me. Anyhow, great post! And please, don’t read my blog…it’s a little low brow.

  31. I’m a collector from way back.

    Antiques are 100-years-old or older. If the stuff is less than a century old, it is considered to be vintage.

    Good luck on your next expedition.

  32. thebigbookofdating

    Awesome pics! I love browsing around those places

  33. This sounds like it was a lot of fun! I love browsing around those places

  34. Wow, those figurines pictured in the top of this blog post are really, how should I say it? CREEPY.

  35. I’ve always wanted to go antiquing. I’m totally jealous of your new blue chest. That is such a beautiful piece of furniture! I think I’m going to find a friend or two to drag to this next year…

  36. Haha you’re hilarious. I used to think that antique markets were just a daytime hobby for old folks, but you convinced me otherwise! Keep it up 🙂

  37. Jeanni

    Great post! Luv antique markets but you do gotta take the good with the bad. Your blue chest is awesome…

  38. Ali

    love the creepy nosehair dolls lol!

  39. aaah flea markets always good for a few laughs :’)

    great post

  40. Spending the day at the Flea Market is better than a day of se…..oh, wait its good, but its not that good!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Mr Bricks

  41. 1swe

    Antique,100+ year. Semi-antique, 50+ year. Like the post!

  42. I love going to the flear market for the people watching and antiquing possibilities. Fun post!

  43. Small point of contention…Brimfield is to antiques-buying as the Louvre is to art galleries. Dealers wait all year for it..It is definitely not just some average flea market!

  44. Love the breakdown of the two extremes of antiquing. Congrats on your blue chest & getting FPed!

  45. I love it! My husband and I shop almost exclusively in thrift stores and flea markets. We will happily hunt for hours to find that one gem. We figure you can get really high quality stuff for really great prices – who cares if someone else wore it before you?! (Also, maybe I should make a joke here about being Jewish: The classic brag, “See this jacket? It’s worth $250 but I got it for $7!”) Great work and keep having fun!

  46. Those things look like my relatives.

  47. those old men are pretty creepy. if i woke up looking at one of those on a shelf or something, i think i might wet myself. and their nose hair really adds some flair.

  48. novelfish

    TRUE! You want to buy something like that, you gotta know how to negotiate the price! Looks like you had a wonderful day at the flea market, minus all the downs 🙂

  49. I so wishj I’d been there. Mind you flea marketss are bad for me. I’d happily fill my house with stufff whether I need it or not. That blue chest is gorgeeous. I don’t know what the pottery barn iss but it doesn’t sound too good. I don’t know why most people would want to buy Ikea stuff thaat falls apart and has cosst god only knows what in carbon to prodduce. Flea markets are the ultimaate in recycling and apart from the petrol to get there and back is far better for the planet. It’s amazing what a coat of paint wwiill do if you don’t like the way something looks when you buy it.
    Great posting, thanks so much.

  50. Love the chest! What a great find! x

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