July 25th is National Merry-Go-Round Day in honor of the first U.S. patent for the modern carousel, granted on July 25, 1871. Merry-go-rounds gained popularity in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s. European immigrants brought them to America in the 1800s. To purists, the names carousel and merry-go-round are not interchangeable. A carousel has horses; a merry-go-round has different types of animals and objects to ride.

Carousel and merry-go-round figures were first carved in the United States in 1867 by Gustav Dentzel. The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., has a large collection of merry-go-round “animals,” including peacocks, roosters, sea monsters, storks, elephants and camels.

The most desirable and expensive animals today are pigs, camels, lions or dogs. Special horses like the “flag” horse or “armor” horse are larger and more expensive than other horses. Both old and new animals are collected. Price is determined by condition and quality of the carving. Some collectors want park paint and others collect only animals that have been restored. Do you have one? Check out our buy/sell guide for more information.

Bayol cow carousel figure, unrestored with old paint, brass horns, bell and ribbons, France, 1890s, sold for $3,750.

Bayol cow carousel figure, unrestored with old paint, brass horns, bell and ribbons, France, 1890s, sold for $3,750.
Photo: AntiqueCarousels.com

Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel goat, prancer with old paint, made c.1897. Remains as it was when purchased from Woodside Park in the mid-1950s, sold for $15,500.

Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel goat, prancer with old paint, made c.1897. Remains as it was when purchased from Woodside Park in the mid-1950s, sold for $15,500.
Photo: AntiqueCarousels.com

Stretched jumper carousel horse, C.W. Parker, c.1920, restored, includes stand and brass pole, sold for $4,500.

Stretched jumper carousel horse, C.W. Parker, c.1920, restored, includes stand and brass pole, sold for $4,500.
Photo: AntiqueCarousels.com

European carousel rooster, c.1900s, restored with detailed plume and neck feathers, $4,500.

European carousel rooster, c.1900s, restored with detailed plume and neck feathers, $4,500.
Photo: AntiqueCarousels.com

Carousel horse, jumper, carved, white and brown paint, $2,714.

Carousel horse, jumper, carved, white and brown paint, $2,714.
Photo: Hess Auction Group

Carousel horse, jumper, horsehair tail, $960.

Carousel horse, jumper, horsehair tail, $960.
Photo: Susanin’s Auctioneers & Appraisers

Carousel horse, glass eyes, 1890, $2,160.

Carousel horse, glass eyes, 1890, $2,160.
Photo: Eldred’s

Toy carousel, tin lithograph, Germany, 17 in., $480.

Toy carousel, tin lithograph, Germany, 17 in., $480.
Photo: Bertoia Auctions

 

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