Grandpa's Mermaid


I have what I believe to be a very old mermaid.  


I would like your help in identifying any info on age, maker, value and possible contacts of interested buyers.  

It was my Grandpa's. He had it in a box in the back of an old shed. He always told me stories about it when I was little. I cleaned out the shed last year and found it.  


Thanks, James Krulish


The mermaid you have dates back to the late 1800's to early 1900's.


These originally came from the Orient (mostly China) where they were once actually made in factories.  


The under structure of these is lightweight carved wood.  The front half is covered in a "skin" made from brown tissue paper.  Real fish teeth were added to the mouth, and sometimes real claws to the hands.  The back end is a real fish skin, stretched and dried over the tail section, with the fins inserted later.  Sometimes animal hair was added to their heads, hands, and spinal regions.  


Their original purpose were actually as good luck talismans, which were supposed to insure farmers good crops.  I have never really understood the correlation, but there it is nonetheless.  


These never became sideshow attractions until European sailors got hold of them and brought them back home.  Many ended up in private Wunderkammers, or Cabinets of Curiosity, the most famous being the one which P.T. Barnum leased and put on exhibit as the infamous FeeJee Island Mermaid.  


There were many of these made, most of which still survive today.


However, many have damage to them  due to the age and brittleness of the genuine fish parts used.  The front halves are always in far better shape than the backs, consequently.  


It is hard to put a real value on this, as that is determined by the person purchasing and how badly they want it, or not.  The audience for these is somewhat limited however, especially in this particular condition.


Information provided by Mark Frierson



I hope the information is helpful.


John Robinson Sideshow World


If you have a question you would like to submit email us at the Sideshow World


Back to Ask the Staff       Back to Main


All photos are the property of their respective owners whether titled or marked anonymous.

"Sideshow WorldTM" is the sole property of John Robinson All rights reserved.

is the sole property of John Robinson All rights reserved.

E-Mail Sideshow World     E-Mail The Webmaster