Auction of the Week: Potter & Potter Freakatorium Sale, November 10, 2018



2018-11-02 14:37:25

Step right up...our auction of the week is Potter & Potter's 'Freakatorium' sale, featuring the collection of the renowned sword swallower and 'El Museum Loco' founder Johnny Fox. From original sideshow banners and shrunken heads, to human skulls and vintage circus memorabilia, here are ten lots you have to see to believe.

Painting of a clown fighting a roustabout

Estimate: $500 - $700

This dramatic oil painting, signed J.O. Sterling and dated circa 1940, depicts a circus clown engaged in a violent fight with a carnival roustabout wielding a large metal tent spike.

Vintage shrunken head

Estimate: $400 - $500

This shrunken head was displayed at the Freakatorium museum as a genuine specimen, but in reality is probably a vintage reproduction originally made for tourists.

The head is believed to date from the early 20th century and originate from South America, where the Amazonian Jivaro tribes practiced ritual head shrinking to capture the avenging soul of enemies killed in battle.

Tom Thumb-owned waistcoat

Estimate: $400 - $600

This miniature waistcoat is said to have been owned by Tom Thumb, the world-famous 19th century performer who stood just 25 inches tall.

Thumb, real name Charles Sherwood Stratton, was discovered by circus owner P.T Barnum in 1842 at the age of 4, and travelled extensively throughout both the U.S and Europe, performing for huge audiences and even royalty.

Human Volcano sideshow banner

Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000

The 1960s hand-painted banner advertising 'The Human Volcano' is the work of Fred Johnson, a prolific sideshow artist known as the 'Picasso' of circus art.

Johnson produced artwork for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey throughout a 65-year career, and his banner paintings were displayed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.

Furry lake Trout

Estimate: $250 - $350

The fur-bearing trout is a fictional fish that, according to legend, can be found in the rivers and lakes of North America and Iceland.

The first American accounts of the fish date back to the 1920s, and artists and taxidermists have created hoax specimens to display as sideshows gaffs ever since. This example was displayed at The Freakatorium, and is believed to be the work of artist Mark Frierson.

Diane Arbus photograph of sword swallower Lady Sandra

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500

This photograph depicts Lady Sandra Reed, a renowned Albino sword swallower and circus performer who once held the world record for most swords swallowed by a woman.

The image is the work of the celebrated photographer Diane Arbus, and the unique print was signed by Reed and gifted to Freakatorium owner (and fellow sword swallower) Johnny Fox in 1991.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West show poster

Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000

This original lithograph poster depicts the American scout and showman William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, whose Wild West show entertained audiences around the world.

The poster was created by artist P.F Ritchie circa 1900, and features a clever likeness of Cody created from Old West objects such as guns, rifles, rope, a Native American tepee, bullet belts and even a Bison for the beard.

Freaks lobby cards

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500

A collection of seven original lobby cards for the 1949 re-release of Freaks, the notorious 1932 Todd Browning film starring a cast of genuine sideshow performers and human oddities.

The film was heavily edited after being judged too disturbing for most audiences, and effectively ended Browning's Hollywood career. His original cut is now lost, but in 1994 Freaks was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

'Champion Strong Woman' trophy belt presented to Minerva

Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000

This trophy belt was presented in 1893 to Josephine Blatt, otherwise known as Minerva the Champion Strong Woman.

She was awarded the belt for her feats of strength by Richard K. Fox of The Police Gazette, a sensationalist tabloid that sponsored many of her appearances.

Blatt was listed as the world's strongest woman in the Guinness Book of records for many years, and was also the first holder of the women's world wrestling title which she won in the 1890s.

Decorated Tibetan sacred human skull

Estimate: $900 - $1,200

This highly rare decorated human skull is known as a 'Kapala', and is used by Tibetan priests in Hindu and Buddhist Tantric ceremonies.

The skulls are recovered from 'sky burials' – a ritual in which bodies are dismembered and scattered over open ground to "give alms to the birds" and help the soul ascend to the next circle of life.

The skulls are then decorated with carvings and precious metals, and used in Tibetan monastaries to hold offerings for both Hindu and Buddhist deities.

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