Cigar store Indian pushes $100,000 at Michigan sale

A Samuel Robb cigar store Indian achieved $94,400 in a Michigan sale which was held on April 1, 2012.

The sale comes just days after a Philadelphia auction house announced its sale of an almost identical figure.


Samuel Robb cigar store indians
This Samuel Robb Indian sold for $94,400

The Samuel Robb cigar store Indians were once found standing guard outside the doors of 19th century cigar stores, but have now become sought-after items for collectors of American folk art.

The cigar store Indians began in Europe, where the carvings were used to advertise tobacco. The trend was soon picked up in the US, where they are believed to have served as markers for illiterate customers.

The introduction of sidewalk obstruction laws in 1910 meant that the unique advertisements soon disappeared from the streets. They are becoming increasingly scarce to collectors. Speculation also suggests that they were used as firewood during the Great Depression.

The rare piece sold in Michigan was in fantastic condition. "
This was one of the best-looking cigar store figures we've had the pleasure of selling," Mike Eckles of the auction house told Auction Central News. "It was no surprise to me that it came close to the $100,000 mark."

The item in the Philadelphia sale is in a less desirable condition, with restoration work having been completed on one arm. That said, the piece is believed to have its original paintwork and has excellent provenance. It has been owned for over seven decades by Reese's Antiques in the city's "Antiques Row" and was rented for television commercials in the 1960s. Find out more on the Philadelphia sale with our preview of the May 5 auction.

An estimate of $30,000-40,000 has been set for the Philadelphia auction Indian, but Paul Fraser Collectibles believes it will exceed this considerably, given the piece's significance to collectors.

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