In the carnival business, the Fool the Guesser concession used to be known as “Age and Scales” and every midway had one. My mother and her first husband worked it for a spell in the 1940s. They had a sit-down scale similar to the beauty pictured above and for years afterward it remained a fixture in the barn at our winter quarters. “We’d guess their name, age, weight, shoe size, their mother’s name, their husband’s name,” Mom would tell me. “You name it, we guessed it.”
The season that stood out was the time they gave away name-brand, gift-boxed chocolates as prizes and everyone who played won a prize. Mom said they got a truckload for practically nothing because the boxes were cellophane wrapped with best wishes for the holiday, which they carefully removed. Was the holiday Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day? I’d have to go back and check the transcripts of the oral history interviews with Mom. But I clearly remember my mother saying there was nothing wrong with the chocolates. The biggest problem was giving away all of the prizes before they melted in the summer sun!
On June 2nd, Skinner is auctioning this rare example of a vintage carnival scale along with the original hand-painted sign used by the operator. The catalogue description for Lot 134 reads:
“Fool the Mad Genius” Carnival Scale, America, 20th century, wooden tripod stand supporting an oak armchair and 21-in. dia. silvered brass scale marked Frederick C. Allen, Los Angeles and calibrated 0-400 hundred pounds, together with a painted sign where the “Mad Genius” challenges participants that he can guess their weight, their age, how many cigarettes they smoke, number of family members and the age of their car, ht. 102 in.
Saturday’s live auction will be held at Skinner in Marlborough, Mass. Absentee, phone and online bidding are also available on the day of the sale.
UPDATE June 3, 2012:
The price realized for the carnival scale and sign was $4250.00.
Related posts on ATZ…
April 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Collection of Carnival Knockdown Dolls
September 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art
March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk
December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike