Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Peter Funk n.

also Funk, Peter Funker
[a generic proper name, orig. Ger./Du.]

1. (US) a fraudulent salesman, often operating in the guise of an auctioneer, who augments the appeal of their third-rate merchandise by intimating that it had in some way been acquired illegally.

[US]A. Greene Perils of Pearl Street 51: Peter Funk [...] is the very imp of deception; [...] his name is sometimes used figuratively to signify any thing which is employed for the purpose of deception or as the sharp ones say, to gull the flats .
[US]N.Y. Daily Trib. 29 Dec. 2/3: The swindler who played the part of ‘Peter Funk’ and persuaded the stranger to pay $20 to the boy who was running off with the pocket book rather than have the unfortunate loser robbed of his money, finally left the victim standing before a store which he represented as his brother’s while he went for the key to open it.
[US]Lantern I 239/1: Petronius Funk, Fictitious Auctioneer. Wylie, Bonnett, Associate Funkers [DA].
[US]Mt. Echo 30 Apr. 1/5: The Vermonter examined the watch carefully, and the bidding among the outside Funks assumed an aspect of profound interest [DA].
[US]T. Haliburton Nature and Human Nature II 387: Why, I won’t act ‘Peter Funk’ to myself, but this I will say ‘Human natur is my weakness’.
[US]Emporia News (KS) 21 June 1/5: [headline] How Peter Funk Does Business.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 299: Peter Funk [...] designates the person who aids in getting up so-called mock auctions, sales held for the sole benefit of inexperienced countrymen, at which more or less worthless articles, imitation jewelry, watches of gilt copper and the like, are offered; where unwary purchasers are forced to take a large quantity while they only bid for a very small portion.
[UK]Barrère and Leland Sl., Jargon & Cant II 125/2: In New York City for nearly a century all kinds of petty humbug, deceit and sham, especially in business, has been characterized by a mythical character named Peter Funk.
[US]S. Clapin New Dict. Americanisms.
[US](con. mid-19C) H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 182: These latter gentry [i.e. fake ‘auctioneers’], commonly called Peter Funks, were themselves a source of great annoyance [...] and many unsuccessful attempts were made to stop the sales of shoddy and worthless merchandise.
[US](con. 1900s) in S. Harris Hellhole 165: She remembers the Peter Funkers, the mock auctioneers, forceful and sage in their way.

2. in fig. use of sense 1.

[US]Morn. Call (SF) 24 Jan. 3/2: The Nicaraguan scheme [...] was an attempt to canonize a new St Peter - the ‘Peter Funk of legislation.’ It was the glorification of the Cheap Johns of Congressional work.

3. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]‘Ned Buntline’ G’hals of N.Y. 31: Those baubles [...] are mere Peter Funk affairs, which, if pocketed, are of no value.
[US]‘Artemus Ward’ Artemus Ward, His Book 230: Then advisin him to keep away from the Peter Funk auctions of the East, and the proprietors of corner-lots in the West, I bid him farewell, and went away.
Dly Bulletin (Honolulu) 10 Oct. 1/1: [advt] No Peter Funk stock here.
[US]Portland Intelligencer 21 Feb. 3/4: When he returned at 2 o’clock the same night he had $64 in cash and 27 peter funk watches to show for the large sum he had started out with [DA].

In derivatives

Peter Funkism (n.)

a form of swindling.

[US]G.G. Foster N.Y. in Slices 33: But the Peter Funk is the sublime of mercantile swindling the result of the commercial principle carried to its ultimates. [Ibid.] 34: You may find the red flag of Peter Funkism flying in Pearl-street and other ‘heavy’ quarters, where it is generally supposed that transactions are bona fide and dealers responsible.