Auctions | January 4, 2021

Gambling Collection at Potter & Potter on January 30

Courtesy of Potter & Potter

A first edition of Gambling Unmasked! Or, the Personal Experience of the Reformed Gambler (1844) by Jonathan H. Green. Estimate: $800-1,200

Chicago — Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce this 700+ lot sale to be held on Saturday, January 30th starting at 10am CST. Given current public health regulations, the event will be held online and live streamed from the company's gallery. All bidding will take place through the company's website at Phone and absentee bids are also welcome. All items are available for in-person preview now, by appointment only.  

Remarkable antique gambling accessories and devices represent many of the top lots in this auction. Some also include amazing provenance or celebrity association.

  • Lot #319, an early 20th century mother of pearl casino chip set, is estimated at $15,000-25,000. Made in France, this breathtaking collection of 1,846 chips is housed in a three drawered, locked oak case with brass handles. The white, pink, yellow, and green chips are each stamped with a unique ID number and are decorated with a lion’s head on one side and the denomination on other. This fully provenanced collection was used in casinos across Mexico in the 1930s and is exceedingly rare in this quantity and state of completeness.
  • Lot #357, Dai Vernon’s personally owned gaffed Faro box, is estimated at $6,000-9,000. Made in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century, this German silver example retains its period brown leather case and is accompanied by an autographed, signed note by Vernon from his sale of the item to collector Tom Blue. Vernon acquired this box in the 1930s while tracing his way across the U.S. in pursuit of the methods of crooked gamblers, specifically one that might reveal the secret to the elusive center deal.
  • Lot #358, a c. 1870s gaffed German silver Faro dealing box, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. This example belonged to Frederick Adolph Will (ca. 1837-1912), the business partner of Julius Finck. Together they formed Will & Finck, the San Francisco manufacturers of knives, gambling equipment, locks, and other instruments of the middle and late 19th century.

This can't miss auction also has the upper hand in the playing card category, with over 160 examples on offer.

  • Lot #115, a deck of c. 1860s unrecorded Civil War era American playing cards, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. It is illustrated with black and white men, women, and children of the South, including servants (or slaves), horseback riding, a hobo, and other domestic scenes. Our experts are not able to find any reference to this deck in any playing card reference or at auction, suggesting it is the only example extant.
  • Lot #289, a brick of Jerry’s Nugget playing cards, is estimated at $3,000-4,000. Made in Cincinnati by USPC in the 1980s, this collection of poker-size cards includes six red decks and six blue decks, all advertising the Las Vegas casino. In March, 2020 Potter & Potter sold a similar brick for $3,840.
  • Lot #221, a deck of Ludlow & Co. Patent Knight’s Cards & T. Wheeler Playing Cards, is estimated at $2,000-4,000. Made in London around 1806, these cards feature double-ended courts, which did not come into prominence until the mid- to late 19th century.  

This sale's comprehensive offering of unusual, century spanning poker chips is certain to catch the attention of collectors worldwide.

  • Lot #645, a 19th century $100 scrimshawed ivory poker chip is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This large, American token is has “One Hundred” on one side and the Roman numeral “C” on the other.
  • Lot #550, a second issue c. 1948-1951 Club Harlem $5 casino chip from Reno, NV, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. Club Harlem was primarily patronized by African Americans. According to Campiglia and Wells (4th ed.), this is the highest valued chip for Club Harlem.
  • Lot #573, a collection of 200 poker chips from the Imperial Club of Galveston, TX, is estimated at $500-1,000. The set includes 25  blue; 25 red; and 150 orange chips and comes with a wooden caddy with a paper board cover.

Outstanding antique publications on poker, playing cards, and cheating are well represented in this signatures sale.

  • Lot #13, a first edition of SW Erdnase's The Expert at the Card Table, is estimated at $6,000-9,000. Self-published in Chicago in 1902, this classic tome is Illustrated with 100 + drawings “from life” by Marshall D. Smith. In 2019 Potter & Potter sold a similar copy for $16,800.
  • Lot #32, a first edition of Protection. The Sealed Book, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. Written and published in Milwaukee by Joseph E. Meyer in 1908, it features illustrations of crooked gambling equipment, faro and casino items, slot machines, and more. The book would see many editions over time, and become a standard reference, but first editions are very rare.   
  • Lot #25, a first edition of Gambling Unmasked! Or, the Personal Experience of the Reformed Gambler by Jonathan H. Green, is estimated at $800-1,200. It was published in New York by Burgess, Stringer & Co. in 1844. Green is considered the most important early writer on gambling in America.  

Also of note in this sale are a number of fine antique gaming apparatus and coin op machines.  

  • Lot #320, a set of three roulette/gaming wheels from the 1930s, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. This example, in an unusual and handsome design, consists of a trio of painted wood and glass wheels which rest on a bar within a heavy and ornately cast nickel cast iron stand, and spin freely beside a second nickel wheel with leather flap stopper.  
  • Lot #321, a 1930s era H.C. Evans casino roulette wheel, is estimated at $2,000-4,000. This professional size wheel is made from satinwood and rosewood and is decorated with a stamped nickel handle and gilt painted numerals on its black, red, and green wheels. It also includes two wheels which may be switched in and out of the frame, three billiard cloth betting layouts, two roulette balls, and its original shipping crates.
  • Lot #428, a Superior Confection three reel 5 cent slot machine, is estimated at $1,200-1,800. This uncommon example, made in Chicago in the 1920s, dispenses Vens mints and also features an attached side vendor.  

Antiques, ephemera, and rarities that defy standard auction categories round out this robust sale.

  • Lot #469, a marked U.S. Glass “It’s a Long Time Between Drinks” gambler’s flask, is estimated at $500-700. This 19th/early 20th century example is made from clear glass and is decorated with a faux clock dial depicting playing cards for the hours.
  • Lot #511, a c. 700-800 piece lobby card collection, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. This assembly includes examples from American films featuring scenes of gambling, poker and card playing, casinos, hustlers and cons, racketeers, and related images, from the silent era onward. Featured stars include Elvis Presley; Frank Sinatra; John Wayne; Johnny Mack Brown; Rock Hudson; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; Clark Gable; Ricky Jay; and many others.
  • Lot #452, a 1930s Royal Bayreuth Devil & Cards deep candy bowl, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. This blue marked rarity was made in Bavaria and is not listed in McCaslin or Raines.  

According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "This, our tenth annual auction of gambling memorabilia, is remarkable in that while the category is certainly not new to us, much of the merchandise in the auction most definitely is. Robert Eisenstadt had what was arguably the best collection of poker chips in America, and paging through our catalog proves it - over and over again. I expect the bidding will be fast and furious on January 30th."