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Step Right Up and Get a Piece of the Greatest Shows on Earth

Last year, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus went out of business after 147 years. It wasn't the last traveling circus, but the entertainment medium isn't what it once was. Still, you can relive those glory days with some genuine memorabilia of your own, whether it's a photograph, poster, or an actual circus prop. How about a motorcycle that rode on a tight wire? Or a giant pair of clown shoes? On Saturday (January 20), these items and more are going up for auction. Brian Hollifield of Freedom Auction Company talked to Collectors Weekly about the one-day sale.

With more than 700 items from around 30 different sources, it’s a remarkable collection, particularly since all of the props, costumes, and signage are original to actual circus and carnival performances. “They’ve come directly from traveling shows, seamstresses, and the closets of little old ladies’ houses,” Hollifield says. Most of the items are from the early 20th century, though the collection includes pieces dating to the late 1800s up to contemporary shows. Bidding will take place online and at the Showfolks Club in Sarasota, Florida, with a portion of the auction proceeds benefitting Showfolks of Sarasota, an organization for active and retired members of the circus world, and CATS (Circus and Traveling Shows) Retirement Project. “My wife and I cast the idea out to members of the Showfolks Club last year, and we had enough merchandise to put together a sale,” Hollifield explains. “It was such a success that people got on board without solicitation for this upcoming auction.”

You will be able to bid online. Read about the auction and see a gallery of the items for sale at Collectors Weekly.


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