Archive for the ‘Carnival Games’ Category

Carnival Scale

‘Fool the Mad Genius’ Carnival Scale. Image Courtesy of Skinner, Inc. Marlborough, Mass.

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.


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Prize at Coney Island

Prize at Game on 12th St, Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This white tiger is one of the big prizes at the row of new games on West 12th Street under the Wonder Wheel!

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wooden knockdown clown head

Painted wooden knockdown clown head with fabric dress. The Ron Rakaseder Collection of American Arcade & Carnival Memorabilia Auction Sale, April 15th - 21st, 2012. Boyd Auctions

The Americana collector Ron Rakaseder had a passion for carnival knockdown dolls and wooden ball toss figures from the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. Once featured on the PBS program “Find!” with the Keno brothers of “Antiques Roadshow,” the Ron Rakaseder Collection of American Arcade & Carnival Memorabilia is now up for auction in an online sale that runs from April 15 through April 21. Boyd Auctions’ illustrated catalogue of more than 100 lots is already online.

We’re fond of hand-painted punks and targets, which conjure up memories of a now vanished time when homemade games were still in play. Auctions of this type of material typically catch our eye, yet we’ve never seen such an array of different styles and kinds of punks. Some of the rarest items are historical artifacts that would be considered politically incorrect or offensive by today’s standards. The Rakaseder collection encompasses not only whimsical cats and dolls, but hostile depictions of Hitler and Hirohito, and racial or ethnic caricatures.

Large carnival cat

Howard the Coward, Large Carnival Cat., painted canvas on wood. The Ron Rakaseder Collection of American Arcade & Carnival Memorabilia Auction Sale, April 15th - 21st, 2012. Boyd Auctions

The earliest dolls are carved wooden heads with fabric dresses while the later ones are hand-painted canvas filled with sawdust or straw and edged with lamb’s wool. Some of the lots are signed by the doll maker: A. Kuntz of Leonia, New Jersey; Cooke of Jersey City and Adams of Philadelphia. Other highlights of the sale are “Hit the Dodger” and “Look Who’s Here” knockdown carnival games with black face targets; a complete milk bottle game with “Dr. Nut” crate, two balls, 4 stone bottles and 2 metal bottles; carved and painted wooden heads; and vintage throwing balls stitched together like baseballs or made from wrapped string.

The auction will be held online at www.boydauctions.com from April 15th until April 21st, 2012. This will be the first online auction held by Boyd Auctions of Eliot, Maine.

Knockdown heads politically incorrect

Knockdown heads, politically incorrect satire, painted canvas on wooden bases. The Ron Rakaseder Collection of American Arcade & Carnival Memorabilia Auction Sale, April 15th - 21st, 2012. Boyd Auctions


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