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Another Year’s Worth of Collectibles at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair

by Larry Kellogg (03/22/11).

A view of the 30th Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair which was held March 11-13, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Each March, I spend a three days at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, hunting circus memorabilia for my collection. Last March, I wrote an article for WorthPoint describing this annual event titled Searching For Circus Collectibles. Another year has flown by and I just finished another busy weekend hunt at the 2011 Book Fair.

The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg, Fla., has an outstanding reputation as one of the leading regional book fairs in the country. This year was the fair’s 30th anniversary. More than 115 dealers came to exhibit, buy and sell rare and out-of-print books, prints, maps, autographs, documents and ephemera.

This year dealers brought numerous circus items. Most I already had in my collection and a few were out of my price range, but I found quite a few items. Below I’ve listed some of the circus collectibles that were offered at the 2011 Florida Antiquarian Book Fair (prices listed in this article are the “asking” prices of the dealers exhibiting at the fair. They do not always represent the actual value of the item).

Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey 1930 souvenir program.

Read ’em Again Books of Montclair, Va., brought several circus items. An 1846 edition of “Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi” edited by “Boz” with illustrations by George Cruikshank was priced at $150. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey souvenir programs, especially the early years from 1919 through the 1930s are always popular and Read ’em Again Books had several, including the 1930 edition shown above for $100.

One section of a Spalding & Rogers’ North American Circus herald

Another section of a Spalding & Rogers’ North American Circus herald

Circus heralds are advertising sheets printed on both sides and usually measure about 10 by 18 inches. The Spalding & Rogers’ North American Circus herald brought by Bartleby’s Books from Washington, DC, was quite unusual because of its size—12 by 32 inches. It was tricky to photograph, but images of couple of sections are shown above. The herald was being offered for $3,500. Traveling shows, owned by Gilbert R. Spalding and Charles Rogers, were on the road from 1849 through 1865, which makes this herald one of the earliest heralds promoting this circus.

Seth B. Howes Broadside dated 1865.

Bartleby’s Books also brought a broadside advertising the S.B. Howes Circus for $850. Broadsides are similar to heralds but are printed on only one side. Seth B. Howes was the owner of several circuses between 1840 and 1867.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey hippo poster – 1951.

Clyde Beatty poster – 1954.

Several 20th-century circus posters were also displayed by Bartleby’s Books. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey poster featuring hippos was $175. Determining the year for a poster like this is easy since the date sheet was still attached—1951 was the only year Ringling appeared in Long Beach, Ca., on Sept. 6. The Clyde Beatty poster was priced at $225. Clyde Beatty Circus appeared in Long Beach on April 3-4, 1954.

Fame and Fortune Weekly.

Buffalo Bill Weekly.

Sleuth Books Books from Palm Coast, Fla., specializes in Juvenile Series and several other topics. The owner, Steve Bolter, brought dozens of issues of Fame and Fortune Weekly and I was able to find one with a circus topic. The cover story was titled “A Sure Winner; or The Boy Who Went Out With the Circus.” The price was $10. Bolter also had many copies of “The Buffalo Bill Weekly.” First edition copies were $20 each. Others were $10 each.

“Merveilleuse Histoire du Cirque” published in Paris in 1947.

A two-volume set of “Merveilleuse Histoire du Cirque” published in Paris in 1947 was in the booth of Bookworm & Silverfish from Wytheville, Va. It was a limited edition set—this being 2,293 of 2,500 copies. The books included five-color plates. Price was $185.

“Singing Wheels and Circus Wagons.”

A-Book-A-Brac Shop from Miami Beach, Fla., brought a paperback copy of “Singing Wheels and Circus Wagons” by Gene Plowden, published in 1977. Gene Plowden was a former Associated Press writer who loved the circus and wrote other books on that topic including “Those Amazing Ringlings and Their Circus,” “Merle Evans, Maestro of the Circus,” and “Gargantua, Circus Star of the Century.” The “Singing Wheels . . .” book was priced at $10.

Gunther Gebel-Williams Farewell Tour Program.

A Kaleidoscape Program.

Two souvenir programs by Ringling were brought to the Book Fair by Vivian Moore, Bookseller from Alpharetta, Ga. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey premiered the Gunther Gebel-Williams Farewell Tour in January 1989. A souvenir program book for that show was priced at $24. Barnum’s Kaleidoscape was a one-ring tented circus produced by Feld Entertainment, owners of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The show toured in 1999 and 2000. The hard-cover program with signatures of many of the performers was priced $48.

“Struggles and Triumphs” – P.T. Barnum autobiography.

The Philosophy Store is located in Gainesville, Fla. [phone 352.378.6370]. Owner Jon Asfour brought an 1869 edition of “Struggles and Triumphs or Forty Years’ Recollections of P.T. Barnum.” The asking price was $75.

Buffalo Bill cabinet photo.

A cabinet photo of a young William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was brought to the Book Fair by Old New York Book Shop located in Atlanta. The photo was taken by Mora and was dated on the back Nov. 6, 1875. Price was $2,500.

Cole Bros. Circus poster.

Buckingham Books from Greencastle, Pa., displayed a colorful half-sheet poster from Cole Bros. Circus featuring Ken Maynard, motion picture cowboy star. Ken Maynard appeared with Cole Bros. in 1937 and 1938. The price of the poster was $1,500.

Circus Bilder engraved plates.

On Saturday morning of the Book Fair I came across a set of engravings by Heinrich Lang from Munich, Germany. The title on the cover was Circus Bilder. The dealer, Everglades Books, Inc. from Fort Myers, Fla., gave this description: “. . . around 1880. Folio, 25 original mounts with a total of 28 helio-engraved plates . . . renderings of clowns, trapeze acts, cowboys and Indians, trained horses, elephants and circus life.” The price was $135. Within a couple of hours of photographing the item, I wanted another look, but it had already been sold.

Real photo circus postcard.

Every year Country Lane Books from New Hartford, Conn. [phone 860.489.8852] brings several albums of quality postcards. Searching through an album of real-photo postcards, I discovered an image of unidentified little people with a circus tent visible in the background. The card was postmarked in 1907. Price was $35.

King Bros. Circus program.

Yesterday’s Books from Richmond, Ind., brought a King Bros. Circus souvenir program from the 1954 season. The King Bros. toured under many managers, off and on from 1937 to 1980. Floyd King and Arnold Maley were managers from 1954 to 1956. The program was priced $25.

“We Fell in Love With the Circus.”

“We Fell in Love with the Circus,” by Claire Hallard Fawcett, was published in 1949 and included pen sketches by the author. The book is popular with circus collectors because of the more than 100 performance and behind-the-scenes photographs by the author’s uncle, Arthur Fawcett. Lighthouse Books located in St. Petersburg, Fla., had a copy of the book for $7.50.

“The Big Top . . .” by Fred Bradna.

Back In The Day Books from Tarpon Springs, Fla., had a 1952 first-edition of Fred Bradna’s biography, “The Big Top – My 40 Years With The Greatest Show On Earth” for $25. Fred Bradna was born Frederick Ferbere. He met famous equestrienne, Ella Bradna, and when they married, he took her last name. He was the 10th ringmaster with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and was with the show for more than 40 years.

Amusement Devices trade catalogue.

another page in the Amusement Devices trade catalogue.

A Book Legacy from Palm Harbor, Fla., brought a unique catalog for those in the circus and carnival business. The catalog, published by O.C. Taylor Amusement Devices, featured punk dolls, milk bottles and tents for midway game concessions. The 38-page catalog was priced at $114.97.

“Those Amazing Ringlings and Their Circus.”

The Book Cellar/Past Perfect, Fla., History from Deerfield Beach, Fla., [phone 561.742.7822] brought a copy of “Those Amazing Ringlings and Their Circus,” by Gene Plowden. The book was copyrighted in 1967. The asking price was $9.50.

Photograph of Dolan Bros. Miniature Circus.

Circus Model Builders Exhibition Program.

Hand-painted cloth, side show banners.

The owner of Four Winds Books in Washington, DC, said she had recently purchased a small collection of circus items before leaving for the Book Fair. It was obvious they were from a circus model builder. A photo showing a miniature circus was priced at $10. On the back of the photo there was a taped business card for Dolan Bros. Circus with the name Howard Dolan, a member of Circus Model Builders. Also from the collection was an undated program for the Second Exhibition of Model Circus Builders. Price of the program was $35. And finally there was a set of hand-painted, cloth, side show banners priced at $400. These banners had probably been used in a miniature circus, perhaps the one built by Howard Dolan. The images on the banners represented actual attractions that had appeared with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Side Show including Percy Pape, the thin man, Mr. & Mrs. Fischer, the world’s tallest married couple, Freda Pusnik, the armless and legless girl and others.

A book by David Jamieson and Sandy Davidson.

Another book by David Jamieson and Sandy Davidson.

Sheppard’s Books in Arcadia, Florida [phone 863.933.1445] brought a curious book priced at $4.. The book was titled “The Love of the Circus,” by David Jamieson and Sandy Davidson, copyrighted in 1980 by Octopus Books in London. The forward was written by Mary Chipperfield. This book is the same as another book by the same authors with the same copyright, but the other book is titled “The Colorful World of the Circus,” and the forward is by Helen Wallenda. Aside from those variations, all text and photos in the 96-page books are identical.

For more information about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair check their webpage: Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. You can also find the Book Fair on Facebook.

Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.


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One Response to “Another Year’s Worth of Collectibles at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair”

  1. Sarah Smith says:

    Larry, You’ve provided a wonderful opportunity to get a real feel for the variety of collectibles brought annually to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair! I’m always stunned by the number of rare and unusual items present and am dismayed by each evening’s close — there’s never enough time to see it all! Thank you for the wonderful story and photographs.

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