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Mosby & Co. to offer dolls, advertising and off-the-wall circus memorabilia in Nov. 29 auction
Toys include an all-original 16½-inch-long Bing ocean liner and a Roullet & Decamps musical rabbit automaton. Mosby & Co image.

FREDERICK, MD.- Around 400 lots from an unusual and tantalizing group of collections – mostly toys, dolls, advertising and circus memorabilia – will come up for bid on Saturday, Nov. 29, at Mosby & Company, in the firm’s gallery located at 5714-A Industry Lane in Frederick. Start time will be 10 a.m. Eastern time, with internet bidding provided by

“This auction features a good, solid lineup of items, with opportunities for beginners as well as advanced collectors,” said Keith Spurgeon, owner of Mosby & Co. “The Homer Tate circus gaffs and sideshow banners come from different sources, but combine very nicely as one theme. Toys will be a mixed offering, with German and Japanese toys and some ceramic banks.”

Spurgeon added, “We also have some very nice motorcycle toys, a category that’s unbelievably hot right now. Motorcycles that used to sell for $2,000 are now bringing $6,000. But for novices on a budget, there will be many items to bid on, at attractive price points. And they can be sure what they’re buying at our sale is ‘right.’ That kind of peace of mind is important.”

The auction will open with toys. Expected top lots include a Roullet & Descamps musical rabbit-in-stump automaton (a scarcer variation than the one that shows a rabbit inside a cabbage) and a very nice and all-original Bing ocean liner from the 1930s, 16½ inches in length and in super condition, with no touch-up work or repainting at all.

A visually arresting Erzgebirge scenic toy shows a train moving through a mountain, with dancing women and a spinning windmill as additional attractions. At the other end of the toy spectrum is an unusual child’s high-wheel bicycle, made of iron and dating to the late 19th or early 20th century.

Next up is dolls. Headlining the category is a collection of sets of Dionne quintuplets, made in the image of the world-famous real-life quints who captivated the world during the Great Depression. There are Quints dolls ranging in size from standard 7 inches tall (common) to 23½ inches tall (very rare). All the dolls are circa 1937-38. Additionally, there are three versions of Quints radios by Stewart-Warner.

Certain to capture attention (if not disapproving stares) are a few German-made novelty dolls known as Tetonna or brothel dolls. The dolls were used as tokens to be exchanged for woman in Buenos Aires bordellos sometime in the second or third decade of the 20th century. The bisque jointed dolls haveexaggerated breasts and are dressed in provocative attire.

The advertising items will be plentiful, and include several West German driving school models, such as a hard-to-find truck and several traffic lights. All were made during the 1950s. Other automotive-related lots will include a chassis model and a body model from a showroom, both counter-top size and circa 1930s; a Mido Watch figure and other advertising figures.

Also up for bid will be a French Bakelite artist’s mannequin made by the U.S. company Atsco; coin-ops and gumball dispensers, to include a Mills Ben Franklin trade stimulator that had been sitting on a shelf in a home in California for decades; and another trade stimulator in the form of an electrified figure of a man who taps at a store window, in perfect working order and made in the 1930s.

Rounding out the category are a 5-cent Hot Nuts dispenser, a penguin porcelain sign that may end up being one of the sleeper lots of the auction, a Sherwin-William paints sign (“Covers the Earth”), and a fairly rare Red Goose Shoes clock sign. Outside of the category but certainly worth noting is an authentic Western Union stock ticker tape machine that dates to about 1918.

Circus and carnival items will start out with carney games (such as ball toss), then proceed to banners, to include a Lady Snake Handler banner by the artist Fred Johnson, a Sigler Monkey Speedway banner (20 feet long), a Music From Glasses banner, and a banner showing Harold Smith playing a Victorian glass harp – followed by the sale of an actual Victorian glass harp.

Gaffs were gimmick items used by circuses to spoof and encourage people pay to enter a sideshow. The most famous of these gaffs were made by Homer Tate, who worked in Arizona from the 1940s to early ‘60s. They were not built to last, so many did not stand the test of time and were lost forever. But some did survive, like the rarities entered in the sale.

Remarkably, the Homer Tate gaffs being offered Nov. 29 are just about perfect and include three shrunken heads, a female mummy, a Wolf Boy mummy and a Fiji mermaid. The rarest ones are The Hand (showing what a hand would look like if bitten by a rattlesnake) and Necklace No. 1 (with hand, fingers and ears as necklace decorations). Circus posters will also be sold, to include Barnum & Bailey posters made from 1895-1900. All are beautiful, colorful renderings.

Previews will be held at the Mosby & Company gallery in Frederick on Friday, Nov. 28, from noon to 5 p.m., and on auction day, Nov. 29, from 8-10 a.m., or by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 240-629-8139. Printed catalogs are $24 (or $35 for non-U.S. addresses). Online:

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