Carnival sideshow banners, circus toys in large country store auction

FREDERICK, Md. – “This is going to be a sale full of surprises,” said Keith Spurgeon, owner of Mosby & Co. Auctions, in describing the big absentee, phone and Internet auction slated to run from May 5 to May 20. “We’ve brought in not only a couple of very choice collections, but also architectural contents from a fine Frederick, Maryland estate. This is definitely our most diverse sale to date.”

The highlight of the toy section is part II of the Dave Stoermer prewar Japanese celluloid collection. The category is rounded out nicely with European, American and comic character toys, plus a selection of outstanding 19th-century games, from additional private consignors.

Many examples of original cartoon art from the estate of California artist Mickey Bach will be auctioned. Bach created the long-running (1946-1979) syndicated newspaper feature titled “Word A Day.” A highlight of the collection is a signed artwork featuring the characters Barney Google and Spark Plug, which was a gift to Bach from Barney Google cartoonist Billy De Beck as thanks for filling in when De Beck was ill and could not draw his famous comic strip.

Whether one finds them grotesque, fascinating or both, there’s no denying the collectibility of early carnival sideshow banners illustrating physical curiosities. The May auction will contain yet another assortment of these original banners of the mid-20th century from the late Bob McCord’s collection. Artists represented in the well-known collection include Snap Wyatt, Johnny Meah, Mark Frierson and Fred Johnson, whose depiction of the “Human Mockingbird” made $6,000 in Mosby & Co.’s last sale. This time the top Johnson-related lot is expected to be his banner depicting “The Anatomical Wonder.”

Another noteworthy banner features “Major Debert – Tiniest Man,” which was created in the studio of Millard & Bulsterbaum, Coney Island, New York.

Mosby & Co’s Spring 2010 Auction will open May 5 and close at midnight on May 20. Absentee bids may be placed through For additional information, call Keith Spurgeon at 781-771-3998 or 301-304-0352; or e-mail

Additional sale details are available online at

antique trader 2010 price guide


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