Michaan’s to Auction Contents of “Playland-Not-At-The Beach” Museum Collection in El Cerrito, September 15
Labor Day, 1972 marked the closure of Playland at the Beach, the historic San Francisco amusement park and landmark at Ocean Beach. A favorite entertainment destination of generations of Californians, the park was bulldozed and replaced by a condominium development.
With this year’s Labor Day comes the closing of the museum and event space known as Playland-Not-at-the -Beach, followed on September 15 by the public auction of nearly all its contents. The popular family attraction, at 10979 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, officially opened its doors May 30, 2008. Its current home is slated for demolition to make way for 50 new housing units.
The closure of Playland-Not-at-the-Beach has compelled the sale of its rare collection by the museum’s owners, Frank Biafore and Tim Sauer. Their cache of vintage circus collectibles, funhouse fixtures, arcade games and slices of San Francisco history will be auctioned to the public on site.
Michaan’s Auctions has been commissioned to liquidate the contents of Playland-Not-at-the-Beach. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sale, with many if not most of the auction lots being one of a kind. Odd, fabulous, creepy and amazing … the only thing missing from this collection is the ordinary.
The auction comprises much more than a collection of circus nostalgia and prized mementoes of Playland at the Beach and other attractions such as San Francisco’s legendary Sutro Baths and Cliff House. A fortune teller in her booth awaits a new home, as do the many clowns, such as the towering “Laughing Sal” who is equipped with sound and movement: to delight or terrify, according to taste. A whole roomful of ghoulish haunted house props and dioramas will be sold, and Halloween is just around the corner.
A top highlight in the collection is ‘Circus World,’ the 300,000 piece hand-carved miniature circus. The late circus enthusiast Don Marcks of El Cerrito spent 50 years creating this marvel. Each of its tiny elephants is unique — a curled trunk here, a quizzical expression there — all forty of them! There are several sprawling dioramas on themes such as Christmas, old San Francisco and the world of Charles Dickens — even a miniature recreation of Playland at the Beach, estimated to bring $300-500.
The museum’s many pinball machines are a top draw to this auction, their estimates ranging from $100-$2000. From Big Top and Roller Coaster to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars Episode One, these classic amusements present a rare opportunity to collectors and enthusiasts. Also offered are a number of pinball backglass lots, ready to display and featuring themes ranging from WWII to circus motifs.
Many of the auction lots feature wonderful graphic art. A massive canvas Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey circus banner, estimated at $1,000-1,500,
depicts a fearsome tiger in gorgeous living color. Among the posters and paintings are several featuring famous performers such as Tom Mix and Buffalo Bill Cody. A group of old-time sideshow signage is estimated at $200-300. The painted wood signs, evoking memories of a bygone era, are great for collectors. But like many of the auction lots, they will also attract bidders seeking fun, eclectic decor for homes and businesses.
To preview the auction lots, visit Playland-Not-at-the-Beach, 10979 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, from noon to 5 pm on Thursday, September 13 and Friday, September 14. Bidders who can’t attend the live auction are invited to leave absentee bids or bid online with LiveAuctioneers.
Winning bidders may pick up their items at Playland-Not-at -the-Beach Sunday Sept 16 through Friday, September 21 between 9 am and 4 pm. Items cannot be released to winning bidders on the day of the auction. Buyers are solely responsible for taking property down from its display. Michaan’s staff will be on site to help you find your items, but cannot assist in their removal.