Meridian Industrial




There’s not much keeping Kim Dittrich from heading to the Brimfield Antique Flea Market — even when she has no idea what she’s looking for. “Anything unusual or unique that catches my eye — color, texture, some kind of vibe that I’m interested in,” she said.

There may be billions, but there are certainly millions of pieces competing for the attention of people who have heard about hidden treasures here, but don’t know where to start, or what to collect.

Vincent Manzo, a longtime antique dealer from New York City, sees it all the time — it’s like a recessive gene that suddenly expresses itself, and a collector is born. “People are attracted to something, and they buy it. It still amazes me,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I don’t know what makes people buy certain things, but they are attracted to it like a magnet to steel.”

Manzo remembers one lady who came to Brimfield with no idea what to buy, until she saw the light. “She was a real hoarder, and she brought a lighter, and it started her into becoming a lighter collector. Then she wanted every one that was ever made. I ended up buying her collection. I sold it. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever sold,” he said.

The flea market has grown from a small affair in a field to an international attraction pulling in collectors from around the world. Some people come intent on buying something certain. For many, this is the last stop on what could be a global search for a particular ring, basin, vase, tool — or even a barber’s chair, car or set of golf clubs.

The range of choices gives new collectors unlimited ideas.

“If it’s been invented, it’s here. If it’s not here, it doesn’t exist,” said Diane Cohen, a collector from Hanson, Massachusetts. Cohen began collection years ago and now considers herself a savvy shopper. But when a dealer said to her, “I have a bridge to sell you,” she bought it.

“I did. Someone sold me a bridge. I have a yard that has two distinct sections and I bought a little, antique metal bridge to go between them,” she said.

Dave Debear is a dealer from Kittery, Maine and when he spots a newly minted collector, he takes a moment to make sure they always add authentic pieces to their collection.

“Somebody started their collection today. I emphasize researching items they can add to their collection is easy to do on the internet. If somebody is interested in a category, they should read up on it, look at some pictures online so when they come to the market, they’re somewhat informed on the kind of things they might expect to see,” he said.

People who get the urge to gather can take many directions. Some may like Batman, The Joker or Scooby-Doo.But then, they decide where to go from there.

“Some people will find a character they like and they’ll see a lunch box with that image on it,” said Jeff Zumbado, a dealer from Orange, Massachusetts.

“But do they want everything Batman, or do they want to get into lunch boxes? You can have everything on a specific character in different areas like lunch boxes, posters or pins. Or you could just collect lunchboxes.”

Zumbado enjoys seeing a spark in people who discover the world of collecting — when they find exactly what they need to start their collection.

“We call it a legit ‘wow moment.’ Someone is looking and walking around, and they go, ‘Wow.’ That’s when you know someone found something that clicks with them, and that’s a good sign,” he said.

Dittrich said her parents have set the bar high because they are collectors and artists whose selections and presentations are perfect — so she got the collecting bug when she was a child and knows the joy of looking.

“When you find what you want, it’s the best feeling ever. You get goosebumps because it’s so cool. Lots of stuff is one-of-a-kind, and when you see something that’s really unique and you know you’re going to be the only one to have it, that’s a special thing.”

While there are one-in-a million finds at the flea market, it may also feel like there is a million of one find. Wading through it all can be daunting, even intimidating. Experts tell newbies not to be overwhelmed, but to carefully curate their collections.

“I was happy all year because I found exactly what I was looking for,” said Cohen. “I shouldn’t say ‘exactly,’ because you may not know what ‘exact’ means. That’s the cool thing about this place — you know it when you see it.”


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