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    Auction Finds

    Carnival dog and pig show

    “How much do you think the pig will go for,” a bidder asked me at an auction this week. I knew exactly what pig he was talking about. And it wasn’t a fat muddy one squeaking to high heaven in a pen in the auction house.

    You couldn’t miss this one. It was stationed just inside the door, all gray weathered wood and hand-carved and hand-painted. It was a carnival or carousel pig, standing like a sentry next to a pretty gold glazed carousel dog.


    Every of us stopped by more than once to admire them. I don’t think any of us had seen such fantastic figures like these before. They were the “buzz.”

    I told the bidder that I had no idea what those animals would go far. It was outside my realm of expertise (I did some checking later and found out about the Carousel Museum in Connecticut and the Carousel News and Trader magazine). But I was curious, so I made sure I was nearby when the auctioneer got around to them.

    Here’s how they were described on the auction sheet:

    Continental Pig-form Carnival Animal
    Carved and polychrome carnival animal, pig-form, Continental, late 19th c. retaining original decorative scheme; the decorative motif includes the racing number “6” and the artist’s initials: “HR”, 68”=length; 30”=H; 57”=H (w/pole) [Provenance: Auction, New York City, c. 1955; Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia]

    Carved and Polychrome dog-form Carnival Animal
    Carved and polychrome carnival animal, dog-form, Continental, late 19th/20th C. 59”=Length; 34”=Height; 57 ¾” (w/pole) [Provenance: Auction, New York City, c. 1955; Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia]

    carnivalpigupcloseThe animals were among a group of items being sold for the Atwater Kent Museum, which is dedicated to Philadelphia and the region’s history. The lot included deeds, pamphlets, books, magazines, documents, stained glass windows, advertising posters, early telephone equipment and photographs (among which were some amazing shots of early 20th century ice delivery trucks in Philadelphia and New York). According to the auction house, the museum was selling the items to benefit its collection fund.

    My auction buddy liked the pig, she said, because it was a two-seater. And it looked like it had been well-enjoyed. Even with its weather-beaten appearance it still looked sturdy and the hand-painted designs were still distinguishable. The dog’s color was crisper and it was highly glazed or lacquered.

    Bidders for both were on the phone and on the auction floor. The pig came up first, with a starting bid of $1,000. The auctioneer egged it on: “You’ll never find another one in this condition,” he said. “Never restored. Never repaired.”

    The pig sold for $2,700.

    carnivaldogcropNext up was the dog, and the bidding started at $500. The auctioneer said little about this one. The dog sold for $3,700.

    In my subsequent research, I found out that these were sold at a bargain (don’t you just love auctions and flea markets!). On one website, I found carousel animals selling for up to $17,000. Another auction house had set a pre-sale estimate of a carved and painted carousel giraffe from the late 19th century at $30,000 to $50,000. A zebra made around 1900 had a pre-sale estimate of $7,000 to $10,000.

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