Author Topic: Barnum & Bailey's Circus Buckle, Many Examples  (Read 5762 times)


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Barnum & Bailey's Circus Buckle, Many Examples
« on: December 29, 2005, 01:26:27 AM »
I am the former editor of Balloon Life magazine, a publication for hot air balloonists. Among my hobbies is collecting certain items related to ballooning and as such my interest in this buckle.

I have done extensive research on balloon related belt buckles, including the Barnum and Bailey buckle.

This buckle is a fake likely produced by John R. Fairchild of England. Mr. Fairchild, some time after the Civil War Centenial in 1961, began producing dozens of different belt buckles and selling them to collectors in this country for hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars. Some carried the Tiffany Studio, New York name. Others were suppose to be ordered by Wells Fargo for its workers. Plate buckles generally used the Anson Mills motif. Some buckles were supposedly made by Gaylord.

At least one Fairchild belt buckle, "Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth 1908 Season," has been reproduced by Bergamot Brass Works in the mid 1970s. The original forgery claimed to be made by "Tiffany (Studios or Broadway), New York." Bergamont's copy of the fake was without the Tiffany name on back, just their own logo.

Someone, maybe Fairchild, went so far as to have produced and distributed a book published by a non-existant New York publisher titled, "Tiffany & Gaylord Express & Exhibition Belt Plates" by Percy Seibert supposedly published in the early 1950's.

J. Duncan Campbell, with whom I have spoken, came across this book in a flea market back in the early 1970s. In 1973 Duncan published "New Belt Buckles of the Old West." His book exposes these buckles as fake. While out of print there are still some copies available from a bookseller in New Jersey who bought the remainders. Mr. Campbell is a noted author, collector, and historian on belt buckles, plates, and military insignia. He was an avid collector for almost 40 years.

None of the buckles described in the book, or other similar fakes, appear in any collection or old photographes before 1967. Tiffany never made belt buckles, and certainly not this one. The design on the front is not even a copy of another belt buckle, but original artwork for the buckle. Although further research might find similarities between the design and printed work of the period. As were all the other buckles fabricated by Fairchild.

Including the Bergamont copy, at least six known variations of the buckle exist. The face on all the buckles is the same, it is the detailing of the back which differs. I have no explaination, other than Bergamont's, as to why.

At least one seller on eBay has offerred a variation of the buckle with an explanation that it is a fake, similar to mine above. In his case, he actually bought it from Fairchild in the late 1950's paying hundred's of dollars.

I hope you find this information useful.

Following is the text from an eBay seller with his offering of this buckle:

Following is testimonial of the origins of this buckle from Snyder's Treasurers in Maryland:
A High-Quality 1950s Vintage Collectors Brass Belt Buckle
This BARNUM AND BAILEY GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH SEASON 1908 belt buckle is heavy brass.
The front of the buckle depicts a very large 2 1/2 inch high balloon with the aforementioned wording on it in very large letters. There are two very large clowns on either side of the balloon. The balloon basket is shaped in the form of a ship with flags flying. The back of this buckle is marked RARE STONES TIFFANY BROADWAY NEW YORK and TIFFANY NEW YORK
This is one of several that I have remaining from my collecting them many years ago.
There were several variants on this theme -- quite literally dozens. As eBay's current auction policy does not allow you to have a choice between several similar -- but not identical -- items, you will have to email me for details.

These buckles were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s by John Fairchild from the UK, and sold as collector buckles. He had large, multipage ads in The Shotgun News and even published a red-covered book depicting many of the designs of the belt buckles he made. John is long-gone, but he built buckles to last  a lifetime. The quality and designs of these buckles is so consistently high and true to period, that many people mistake his work for pieces of much earlier  vintage
Please note: This buckle is being sold as a collector's item only, and is neither represented nor meant to be confused with a 19th century buckle. It is priced accordingly.

My first contact with these buckles was at a Houston, TX Gun Show held at the Old Shamrock Hotel in the late 1950s. I paid $150.00 apiece for them. Oh,  well!


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Barnum & Bailey's Circus Buckle, Many Examples
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2006, 06:02:08 PM »
I have a belt buckle marked US in the middle of a winged balloon, it looks old and authentic but want to make sure: anyone knows if ANSON MILLS made these? I found it at an etate auction.
Thank you for your help.  


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Re: Barnum & Bailey's Circus Buckle, Many Examples
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2017, 09:20:46 PM »
Hi. I have a belt buckle. Barnum and bailey , season 1908. Tiffany new york. Rare stones. Tiffany broadway new York.  ( on back) was  hoping to get help on what its worth? Thanks