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Collecting
 the
Humpty Dumpty Circus

Collecting the Humpty Dumpty circus requires:

 

Patience - good pieces come along irregularly so you must have a long time horizon. 

Money - buying quality pieces pays but the most common animals will cost $50 - $200 in excellent, original condition and it goes up from there. A nice display with a tent, some animals and performers will cost at least $3,000.

Study - you must devote time to familiar yourself with the circus. Buy the books, study this Web site, and look at collections before buying. There is a lot of junk being sold as treasure by the unscrupulous and the uninformed.

What to do before you buy: See some collections - The biggest and best collections on public display are at the:

Strong museum in Rochester, New York
This museum has a huge collection of antique toys. Their Humpty Dumpty circus is extensive but of variable quality. Each item is cataloged so you can see what is original and what has been restored.
 
www.strongmuseum.org

Children's Museum of Indianapolis
This exhibit is small but nice.
www.childrensmuseum.org

Old Salem Museums and Gardens, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
This museum's great display was set up with the help of a long time collector and dealer. Go see it.
www.oldsalem.org/index.php?id=50

Other museums may have Humpty Dumpty circus displays so check with them.

Meet some collectors - Most collectors will be happy to help you and show you their collections. Get to know some.

Talk with Judith Lile - Judith has been dealing in the Schoenhut circus for over 20 years and will be more than happy to help you get started. You can trust her advice. www.oldwoodtoys.com/toy_shop.htm

Join the Schoenhut collectors club. The club has annual meeting where you can meet collectors. The club puts out a list of collectors with contact information so you might find that there are collectors in your area.
 www.schoenhutcollectorsclub.org

Decide on your collecting focus: You will need to focus your collection in some way and decide what quality level you will accept into your displays. We have collectors who only want poor samples so that they can restore and display them. These collectors typically have an artistic flair.

Most want pieces in nice, complete, and original condition. Some will not accept any restoration or missing parts, while others will. Mixing poor samples with excellent samples doesn't usually work out well. A consistent look seems to work best.

Some collectors want just early pieces (say those made before 1910) while most collect the entire range and look for interesting pieces regardless of their age. Rare, early pieces in nice condition come to the market infrequently and are expensive when they do.

You will want to decide how you want to display your circus. Most will want a tent while others simply want a display on shelves.

Don't be afraid of mixing the regular size pieces with the reduced size. This makes for very interesting displays.

The books to buy:

              

There are two books you should buy:

"Under the Bigtop with Schoenhut's Humpty Dumpty Circus" by Evelyn Ackerman
This book was first published in 1996. Its photographs are excellent and descriptions are informative. Buy it.

"Schoenhut Toy Price Guide" by Kaonis and Yaffee.
Keith Kaonis and Andy Yaffee published this price guide for the Humpty Dumpty circus in 2000. It has many nice photos and will help give you an idea of the value of the various pieces. Buy it as well.

Which Web sites are good: You are on the best Web site for Humpty Dumpty circus information. We keep it up-to-date. Photos are from the best collections and from auction houses.
Let us know what you think. We'll want to photograph your collection. www.oldwoodtoys.com
Where to buy: Judith Lile - Judith has been dealing in the Humpty Dumpty circus for over 20 years. She has an impeccable reputation in the collecting community. If you don't like what you get from her, you can return it. See what she has for sale right now at:
www.oldwoodtoys.com/toy_shop.htm

eBay - eBay can be a good source for good pieces but be very careful, especially when starting out. Most of the pieces being offered have condition problems - some very serious and often not described. Also, sometimes bidders get carried away and pay way too much. After collecting for a while, you will begin to get a feel for prices and rarity.

Auction houses - There are several auction houses that specialize in antique toys. They have auctions 2-3 times a year. You can bid absentee, but they are geared toward the attendees. Sometimes their photos are poor and all sales are final.

Collectors - Get to know other collectors. They often sell pieces for a variety of reasons. Almost everyone who collects anything becomes something on a dealer. 

How to display your collection: Be prepared to devote a fair amount of room to your collection especially if you set up a tent. I have about 100 pieces with a tent and have displays on four tables in one room. I also have pieces on two wall-mounted shelves. Don't let any of your collection face sunlight during the day. Keep your collection in an environmentally controlled room.
Where to sell your pieces: From time-to-time you will want to sell items from your collection. Selling on eBay is easy if you can take excellent photos. Contact your fellow collectors. Contact Judith or Jim Sneed. We will buy nice pieces from you or take consignments. No collection is too big or small.