Museum’s circus banners may end in private collections

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FREDERICK, Md. — Mosby & Co.’s  phone, Internet and absentee auction, which will be open for bidding from Nov. 2-17, is brimming with posters whose vivid colors and exciting images recall the era of traveling circuses under the big top.

“Days, even weeks, in advance, the posters would start to appear around town, posted on store windows and walls, on light and telephone poles, or on the sides of buildings,” said Mosby & Co. owner Keith Spurgeon. “Everyone wanted to know when the circus was coming to town.”

Some posters depicted impossible feats  performed by acts from exotic lands. Others promised a real, live parade of clowns, performers and wild animals right down the main street of small-town USA. “But nowadays, most people under the age of 50 would not have a personal recollection of old-time circuses. It’s a bygone era, and that’s what makes period circus posters so collectible.”

In its fall sale, Mosby’s will present more than 200 circus, minstrel, vaudeville, Wild West and early theatrical posters, with a dateline ranging from the 19th century to 1998. The unquestioned king of this grouping is a circa-1900 original Buffalo Bill “Rough Riders of the World” poster featuring the U.S. Cavalry. This linen-mounted, 28-sheet billboard shows an incredibly detailed and colorful glimpse into this iconic and completely American spectacle.

There are posters from the famous and also the obscure, like Col. Tim McCoy’s Wild West show, which lasted for less than one month during the Great Depression. Many of these posters came from two long-defunct Coney Island venues: ride inventor and manufacturer William F. Mangels’ Museum of American Entertainment and the old Henderson Music Hall and Tavern on Surf Avenue. These particular posters are display-mounted on Masonite, as was typical from the 1920s through the 1950s. Most of the remainder of this group came from the archives of other museums.

Once again, Mosby & Co. will offer original sideshow banners from artists such as Snap Wyatt, Fred G. Johnson, Johnny Meah, Mark Frierson, J. Sigler and others. A great Snap Wyatt Popeye banner and a Fred Johnson “Missing Link” lead this portion of the sale.

“They came from different museums and were held in collections for a long time. These banners have not been seen in the auction marketplace before,” Spurgeon said. “These items are true Americana. Some of the rarest items are the Buffalo Bill and early Barnum & Bailey posters by Strobridge (Cincinnati).”

Reflecting one of its specialties, Mosby & Co. will auction a fine selection of pre-World War II Japanese celluloid toys, along with a variety of American and European toys. There will be a wide array of boxed toys by Buddy ‘L,’ Marx and Nylint, including a sealed-box Nylint Missile Launcher and Street Sweeper.

A Toschi Ferrari with the motor still in its original box is part of the vehicle section of the sale. A recently discovered and fresh-to-the-market find is a factory-sealed Marx Ben-Hur series 2000 playset.

Character toys are well represented with several Disney pieces and a nice Popeye grouping. The Disney toys include an extremely rare and possibly unique 1936 Drumming Elmer the Timid Elephant toy. “To our knowledge, it is the only known example,” said Spurgeon.

In addition to toys, the sale features three carved-wood, 19th-century American Eagles as highlights of the Americana section. A fine Mills War Eagle nickel slot machine, several gumball vending machines, a 1908 Budweiser Girl cardboard in the original wood frame with gesso details, and a very nice Yellow Kid brand cigar box are all premier lots in the auction’s advertising category.

In addition these are some great animation-related pieces, including more than 40 original production cels. Most are from Warner Bros. and originated from a former employee at the Warner Bros. Stores’ corporate headquarters, which is no longer in existence. Some are signed by legendary animator Chuck Jones, and a few are multi-cel setups. There are four original Warner Bros. animation maquettes of the main Tiny Toons characters. “These were never offered to the public, and only a few sets were made for in-house use,” said Spurgeon. “The ones we are auctioning were the property of the original sculptor Kent Melton and have his signed paper labels affixed to the bases.”

Also from the desk of Kent Melton, Mosby & Co. will offer a pair of extremely rare Batman and Joker figures. Originally 50 signed and numbered sets were produced with the intention of being sold to guests at the Hollywood premiere of the 1989 Batman film, but they were gone before the ink was dry on the catalogs given out at the event. This particular pair is one of only a handful of artist’s proofs made, and again they have Kent’s signed paper labels on the bases.

A desirable late addition to the sale is a single-owner collection of more than 50 penny toys, mostly German and mostly automotive. Among the highlights are: boy in rocking chair, a Kellerman motorcycle, a Wright Bros.-style biplane, and a Meier touring car with chauffeur and female passenger.

The sale begins Nov. 2, 2010, and closes at 11 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2010. Full-color catalogs are available for $22 postpaid to U.S. addresses, or $29 internationally.

For additional information, call Keith Spurgeon at 781-771-3998 or 301-304-0352, or e-mail Mailing address: Mosby & Co. Auctions, 905 W. 7th St., No. 228, Frederick, MD 21701. ?


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