How to shop Brimfield Flea Market like a pro

I plan my entire calendar year around Brimfield Flea Market. I have literally used it as a “floating holiday” before for work and at least 30% percent of my furniture (including a tulip table I got for $40!) comes from the three-times a year market. (The Brimfield Flea Market 2020 dates are May 12-17, July 14-19, September 8-13.) And while I don’t make every single one, I’ve made at least one a year since I was an young kid looking for $1 jewelry. As a result, I think of myself as somewhat of a Brimfield expert so if you’re looking for some help navigating one of the biggest flea markets in the country, I have you covered.

My mom looks through one of the booths. | MostlyMinted.com

Have a quest

Brimfield is more fun when you have something you’re looking for, an excuse to look through each corner of every booth. Some years Mom and I searched for presidential spoons to give to my brother. For a few years in high school, I was looking for cameos. Now, mom collects McCoy pots and I search for pyrex, jadeite, and a whole list of mid-century modern items. I recommend picking something relatively cheap that will be easy to find because it will give you a little thrill throughout the day (kind of like a fish nibbling at the line) and it’ll feel good to buy something.

The more specialized the dealer, the higher the prices are likely to be. Look in unexpected places for better deals. | MostlyMinted.com

Look in unexpected places

If you’re hoping to land a deal at Brimfield, the trick is to look for the item in places you don’t expect to find it. For example, my $40 tulip table didn’t come from someone selling furniture, it was from an art dealer’s tent that happened to be using the table to put the art on. Because of the heavy top, he was more than willing to get rid of it. Another example, jadeite is always cheaper if you buy it at a tent that isn’t full of jadeite. The more specialized the dealer, the more research they’ve put into the prices and the care into the cleaning and therefore the more they’re likely to charge you. That being said the specialized dealers are more likely to have the elusive *it* if you’re looking for something specific.

Know the types of booths

Brimfield attracts a wide-range of vendors. Some sell a mish-mash stuff where you could find anything in the booth. Others are much more curated. And some are set up by established brick and mortar stores and essentially aim to recreate that experience, with Instagram worthy set ups but also much less willing to haggle.

Expect it to be disorganized

There is no rhyme or reason to how it’s set up. The 12 fields aren’t themed in any way and you can find anything anywhere. There are some vague patterns, for example a lot of vintage clothing is in the big tent at the far east end, but you will find clothing in many other places too. There is app to help point you in the right direction.

Bring cash

More and more dealers are taking credit cards (especially the very stylized booths that are traveling store fronts) these days, but they don’t all take them. And cash is still King if you are looking to negotiate a better price. ATMs are located near the town common and in the food court area.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate

The easiest way to do is to ask a dealer “Is this your best price?” or “can you do any better?” and often times they will go down. However, I’ve never seen anyone drive “a hard bargain” so to speak through aggressive negotiations. Typically, you’re looking at 10% to 20% off the original price. It’s also worth noting each dealer will have their own rules. Some don’t negotiate at all (usually the ones that look like a storefront). Some can be rather crabby about it, while others will start lowering the price before you even ask.

Park on the west side of the ground

Finding parking can be a challenge, but here’s the trick. The lots on the east side (i.e. closer to Boston) fill up sooner and cost more. If you keep driving through the fair to the west side, the price goes down to $5 and there are consistently spaces in the lot. I’ve carried some big things (like cabinets) to the lot without an issue, if you’re worried about the distance. Alternatively, you can drive to the dealers tents in most cases to pick something you purchased earlier in the day up. There also are porters available to carry your finds for you. Also, unless you want to get towed, stick to parking in a designated spot.

What to bring and wear

Reusable bags to carry your finds! You’ll also definitely want a water bottle, a portable cell phone charger, weather appropriate clothing (sunglasses, raincoat, etc), sunscreen and cash. You could also bring a wagon if you know you’ll have a lot to carry. As for what to wear, some people do dress cute but most people dress like they are going to walk miles, because you are. Comfortable and weather-appropriate should be the goal.

What to eat

You can bring food with you if you want, but there is always a great line up food trucks. Some winners are the pickleback sandwich as the grilled cheese truck, anything at the fried rice truck and the brown sugar kettle corn. I’m telling you the brown sugar one really is best.

Seed to Stem, a plant store based in Worcester, sets up shop at Brimfield. | MostlyMinted.com.

Keep shopping if it rains

Here’s the deal with rain. Some of the dealers will pack up and leave. A lot of the people shopping will leave too. The ones that are still standing, so to speak, are eager to sell. They’re not giving their wares away, but they will typically give you their best prices.

Look for the best price near the end of the event

Each market starts on a Tuesday (dealers-only) and ends on Sunday. There’s an ebb and flow to the prices. At the start of the market, shoppers have the best selection but dealers are hopeful of someone else coming along willing to pay full price so they prices tend to stay a little higher. Toward the end of the market, the dealers are dreading packing things back up and the prices tend to go lower. I’ve had people offer to give me things for free that they don’t want to pack. Worth noting, while the market goes until Sunday, the dealers start packing up pretty early in the day and sometimes even on Saturday so if you’re going toward the end go early in the day. The May market can also be a bit pricier than the later ones.

You probably shouldn’t bring your dog

You can bring your dog, and you will see a lot of dogs. And many, many dealers have their dogs with them, so I am not telling you you can’t. But, they aren’t allowed in every field and dealers typically prefer you not have them.

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