After hitting several antique stores in Canandaigua, New York we headed off to Sturbridge.
I bought more than just hats, but they were a favourite this trip: Girl’s straw hat, c. 1870 from Canandaigua antique store; Green mohair and embroiderd satin cloche, early 1920s, and Grape decorated Early Edwardian hat with New York label, c. 1905, both from Sturbridge sale.
We had never been to the Sturbridge Antique Clothing and Textile Show, although we used to go to Molly’s vintage sale in Springfield, Mass in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After Molly retired the Sturbridge show sprang up in its place. Of the advertised 140 booths at the Sturbridge sale I would estimate there were about 90 dealers because many took double spaces. Although I spent the entire day at the sale thoroughly checking racks, there were a few booths I skipped over because I know from experience they rarely have the sort of things that appeal to me: The ‘Millennial’ dealers where 1997 is considered a good vintage year and all merchandise is priced under twenty-dollars, and the ‘Pristine’ dealers who only sell items in perfect condition at high prices to women with healthy chequebooks. These dealers are aimed at a demographic that isn’t me, and that’s fine – I get what they are doing. However, there is another type of dealer I don’t get.
Girl’s embroidered straw cloche from Canandaigua antique store; Green felt hat trimmed with grapes and multi-coloured straw hat trimmed with red flowers and feathers, both early Edwardian, from the Sturbridge sale
These dealers rarely have any good merchandising skills, they cram far too many items onto their racks, don’t organize their stock by any visible means, and don’t let damage influence their asking price, which is usually not marked on a tag. Their booths have a jumble sale aesthetic but their prices are commensurate with the ‘pristine’ dealers, except that nothing is pristine. One booth from this category had a white knit dress from the 1930s with a red, yellow, and green striped collar and cuffs. The belt was missing and there were three dark brown spots on the front of the skirt. It was priced at $500.00! Another dealer had a late 1890s pink brocade evening gown with a Henry Morgan, Montreal label. There was underarm damage and the dress was not what you could call ‘fresh’ – not surprising, as I am sure it had gone through many sales with its asking price of $2,800.00! I backed away from both those booths as there was no point in even attempting to negotiate since I would value their items at a fraction of their asking price. Aside from these booths there were many dealers who had wonderful things at fair market prices. For some reason I bought mostly hats that day but I got other items too, from some early Vogue magazines to a fantastic 1880s parasol.
Gingham mob cap, c. 1910, from Canandaigua antique store; Gold silk caleche, c. 1830s, from Sturbridge sale; and man’s riding hat, c. 1920, from Brimfield antique show
The next day it was off to Brimfield. It has been twenty years since I have been to Brimfield and the differences between then and now are conspicuous. The eBay factor has changed everything, made evident by the amount of ‘junque’ on the fields geared more for decorating chic than antique collectors. There were far too many birdhouses made from vintage license plates, bulk tribal ware imports, as well as non-trendy collectables such as Depression glassware and china head dolls. Most of the few in-demand and quality vintage and antique items I saw were not priced for their rustic venue but rather a Manhattan antique shop, like a pair of garnet suede shoes from the late 1930s I found in one booth priced at $235.00. Brimfield used to be a wholesaler’s marketplace, but that isn’t the case anymore.
It didn’t help that day (Tuesday, September 2) was the hottest day of the summer. We were 3 1/2 fields into the sale with three purchases in total when we decided to call it quits – it was already 97 degrees Fahrenheit, not including humidity, and only 11 a.m. In retrospect I was happy with Sturbridge and look forward to coming back, but I don’t have the stamina for Brimfield anymore – it ain’t what it used to be.