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1872 Tom Thumb presentation cane stars in Kimball Sterling’s Feb. 6 sale

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Written by Auction House PR and ACN Staff   
Thursday, 28 January 2010 12:55
Tom Thumb presentation cane, estimate $15,000-$18,000. Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Tennessee auction house Kimball M. Sterling seems to come up with an amazing surprise in every one of its auctions. For its Feb. 6 Important Winter Cane Auction, Sterling’s will present a 130-lot selection of high-quality antique canes with an unusual twist. Along with the more traditional Asian ivory, historical and folk art examples, bidders will find many offbeat canes of the erotic, nautical, sword, and gun-theme categories. Internet live bidding will be provided by

A highlight of the sale is the ivory cane that was given to early circus performer and promoter Nate Salsbury by General Tom Thumb – a dwarf who achieved international fame under the guidance of producer P.T. Barnum. Carved in the shape of a boxing glove, the cane’s silver collar is engraved with the words: “Presented to Nate Salsbury by Tom Thumb 1872.” The cane is fresh to the market and was recently purchased out of a house on the East Coast. Also offered with the cane is a pair of miniature boxing gloves that have always accompanied the cane and which were purchased from the same home. The presale estimate on the lot is $15,000-$18,000.

Another unique auction entry is the 1891 cane with an inscription on the handle reading “Wallace R. Stemsen - Buffalo Bill's Wild West - 1891.” It is expected to make $7,000-$9,000 at auction.

A circa-1861 Russian Mori memento cane has a large ivory handle and a thick, full-bark Malacca shaft with high ridge and plain silver collar struck with Russian hallmarks. The engraved handle’s macabre theme depicts two varani (monitor-type lizards) burrowing in a pile of decaying human skulls and bones. The lots is estimated at $5,000-$7,000.

Another 19th-century production is the Dumontier French percussion gun cane in very fine condition, with 90% bluing on the gun. It is in working order and all original, with an ivory handle, silver collars, a Malacca shaft and metal ferrule. Rare and sought after, it could fetch $1,500-$2,500 on auction day.

Made around 1880, a sword cane features a finely carved burl dog head with two-color glass eyes, a coin-silver collar, bamboo shaft and a 9½-inch fancy blade with locking mechanism. Estimate: $1,200-$1,400.

For information on any item in this sale, contact Kimball M. Sterling Inc. at 423-928-1471.

Visit the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at

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Click here to view Kimball M. Sterling Inc.'s complete catalog.


Sword cane with carved dog's head, circa 1880, estimate $1,200-$1,400.  Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.
Sword cane with carved dog's head, circa 1880, estimate $1,200-$1,400.  Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.
Presentation cane to Wallace R. Stemsen, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, 1891, estimate $7,000-$9,000.  Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.
Dumontier gun cane, estimate $1,500-$2,500.  Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.
Mori Russian memento cane, estimate $5,000-$7,000.  Image courtesy Kimball M. Sterling.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January 2010 16:22

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