For several years I've posted messages to the "oldtools"
discussion list, regularly reporting my experiences at the Brimfield Antiques
Fair. This giant flea market is held three times a year (in May, July, and
September) for nearly a week--Tuesday through Sunday--on each session.
Details about "Brimfield" can be found at the official
including maps, dates, and information about the various "fields" that comprise
the show. It is a colorful, exciting, and sometimes exasperating experience, and
it is a major source of tools for my collections and dealing activities.
My purpose in writing about these experiences
is mainly to give people new to tool collecting some tips about how to approach
flea markets, antique fairs, and shows--at least the way I do it. So,
through these reports there will be scattered nuggets of how to plan and
navigate a course through Brimfield, how to look for the items of interest
(tools in various forms), how to approach dealers, how to negotiate a price with
them (and how not to do this), how to establish relationships with dealers for
future considerations, how to evaluate a tool with respect to rarity, condition,
and desirability, and so forth. There is additional information here, for
the neophyte, specific to the Brimfield fair--its various fields, timing,
weather conditions, and other specific situations
People embarking on learning about the world of tool
collecting, should realize at the outset that I'm not a true "collector".
I just don't have that gene! While I do have a collection of patent
American bit braces, and a much smaller one of hand saws marked by New Bedford
hardware stores, they don't receive the attention that a "true" collector would
give them. Rather, I consider myself to be more of an historian. It
is fascinating for me to find a tool made by a maker with which I'm not
familiar. This provides an opportunity to delve into the history of the
tool--where it was made, who may have patented it, who manufactured it--and then to put it in
a larger context of tool making and the historical features of that time period.
Once able to answer some of these questions to my satisfaction, I will store the
tool away--or more likely sell it to raise capital to buy other interesting
tools. This paragraph leads to the following important point.
Since my tool interests are catholic, I acquire a
variety of tools--braces, saws, planes, chisels, drills, screw drivers, carving
tools, machinist tools, hammers, shipbuilding tools, sail making tools, etc etc.
So, if you follow me around the fields of Brimfield you will find that I
purchase many more tools, of a larger variety, than will a dedicated collector,
of say, patented American planes. While I'm buying 30 or so tools a day,
that collector might be happy buying just one item in four days. So my
"success" at Brimfield is distorted because I cast a much wider net than does
the true collector.
And (to add another aspect of this last point) because
I've become reasonably familiar with the values of most of the commonly seen
tools, I will often buy them for reasons other than their interest value to me.
That is, I buy lots of tools purely to sell and thereby support my "tool habit."
With this introduction you can move onto the day by
day accounts of some forays through the Brimfield Fair. Beginning with the
most recent experiences at Brimfield, the last four
accounts cover the first four days of the September, 2008 show. Later,
I'll try to dig out some of the older accounts, and add them to this page, while
putting the most recent reports at the top.