Valuing a Vintage Sideshow Banner

You may have a sideshow banner that you would like to know the value of, or you may be in the market to buy one and want to know what you should pay. Whatever the case, we can help you.

The Criteria for Appraisal

Snap Wyatt, “Spotted Girl”

Sideshow banners are very unique vintage items. They are often one of a kind, rare and in a wide range of conditions. All of these aspects and more are very important to consider when appraising a banner.

Artist who painted the banner.

The first thing that will either deter or promote a purchase is the artist. Snap Wyatt and Fred Johnson banners will command more than newer and more modern artists. Those two painted at relatively the same time, give or take a decade, and are the most sought after because they are the best known. There are other prior artists like Neiman Eisman, E.H. Caldwell, George Bellis and more that painted in the generations prior to Wyatt and Johnson. There are also artists like Johnny Meah, Glen Davies, Mark Frierson and more who are still painting today. It al comes down to preference of the buyer, however it is well known that a Fred Johnson or Snap Wyatt will be pricier than other artists.

Subject Matter, the act displayed.

The subject, freak, geek or act presented in a sideshow banner will also determine its value, most of the time irregardless of artist or condition. Again, this is subjective because some people prefer different subjects than others. The interesting thing about sideshow banners is the variety of acts that they typically or possibly display. Some people prefer “Freak Girl Shows” or “Animal Freaks”, “Daring Stunts” and even “Pickled Punks!”

A small side note on subjects, sometimes if the artist of a particular banner is unknown, you might be able to place it in a time period based on the show it was advertising. For instance, pickled punks and freak animal related shows were most shown during the late 1970s through the 90s, where as the 1950’s and 60s might have had girlie, magic, torture or more typical sideshow type acts. Prior to this date range in the 1930s and 40s you might have had horse shows or exotic people and even animals, less dramatic shows.

Condition can make or break your banner’s value.

A seasoned collector will avoid poor or even moderate condition banners no matter what the subject matter or artist is. As we all know with vintage items, they come in a variety of conditions. With sideshow banners, the odds of finding an original Wyatt or Johnson in mint condition is far less than likely. These banners were flown hard and put away wet. They will often have rips or large tares, holes, stains, flaking paint and sometimes even mold. Banners can be repaired or sometimes heavily restored, however restoration of sideshow banners that includes overpainting will basically ruin whatever you had to start with. It is best to repair poor or moderate condition banners in ways that will help the banner survive for the decades to come.

Free Sideshow Banner Value Appraisal Service

If you have a banner that you would like to have appraised, reach out to us today at 518-774-6234, or We provide free appraisals for any and all sideshow banners and might even make you an offer depending on the banner that you have. Even if you are looking at a banner to purchase, and you are unsure if it is a fair price, we are happy to help.