Auctions | May 4, 2018

Houdini Cast His Spell Over Potter & Potter Auctions' April 28 Magic Memorabilia Sale

357_3.jpgChicago, IL — Potter and Potter Auctions' signature early spring sale was a feast for the eyes, attracting interest and buyers from all over the world.  When the last hammer fell, 27 lots realized between $1,000-1,999; 14 lots realized between $2,000-$9,999; and two lots broke the five-figure mark - in a really big way!  Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium. 

It's hard to escape the fact that breathtaking Harry Houdini archives represented the top lots in this sale. Lot #357, a mostly 1922-1925 era, two volume spiritualism scrapbook signed, kept, and annotated by Harry Houdini was estimated at $30,000-40,000 and realized $66,000 - more than twice its low estimate. The first book included newspaper and news-magazine clippings from the US and abroad pertaining to spiritualism and related subjects.  The second book was almost entirely devoted to coverage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s belief in spiritualism and the supernatural. Lot #360, Elliot Sanford’s Houdini manuscripts and archive was estimated at $10,000-15,000 and realized $48,000. This collection chronicled Sanford's year with the Houdini family in intimate detail and was full of unpublished data and first person accounts.  

Magic related ephemera were well represented in this auction, with several fine letters, photographs, and collections of note.  Lot #372, a 1923 photograph of Houdini and fellow magician A.M. Wilson was estimated at $300-500 and realized $2,280. Lot #583, a group 13 of magician's business cards from 1928-1980 was estimated at $50-100 and made $330. Lot #448, an autographed signed letter dated 1878 from Dobler the Wizard on his engraved and illustrated letterhead was estimated at $400-600 realized $1,800.  And lot #520, a 1914 Martinka & Co. autographed signed letter to Howard Thurston about a possible employment opportunity for a fellow magician was estimated at $100-200 and sold for $1,020.

Magic apparatus and tricks were key categories at this event.  Lot #207, Muhammad Ali's false thumb tip was estimated at $200-300 but changed hands at $1,800. This custom painted metal thumb tip was formerly property of the magic-loving boxing legend. And lot #316, Orrin’s Streamlined Uplift from 1949 rose to $660 on a $200-300 estimate.  

This sale offered a comprehensive collection of magic books, with over 200 lots on offer. Lot #159, a handsome first edition of Edward Sachs' Sleight of Hand from 1877, was estimated at $1,000-1,500 and realized an astonishing $6,480 - more than quadrupling its high estimate!  And lot #59, Circle Without End: The Magic Circle 1905 - 2005, edited by Edwin Dawes and Michael Bailey, was estimated at $100-200 and realized $540. This example, number 22 of 25 produced, was signed by the editors, made from full top-grain brown leather, and profusely illustrated. 

This Magic Memorabilia sale rounded things out with carefully curated selections of photos, advertisements, costumes, and other rarities.  Lot #387, The Jail Breaker and Dexterous Handcuff King Houdini poster, was estimated at $3,000-5,000 and realized $7,200. This mesmerizing, two color broadside was linen backed and measured 35" x 11". Lot #651, a linen backed Il Mago Delle Meraviglie poster from 1949, also caught the eye of many bidders. It was decorated with a myriad of magical acts within the shape of a large owl.  Estimated at $300-500, it made $1,680.  Things were positive with lot #358, seven glass photo negatives owned by Houdini.  Estimated at $2,000-3,000, this group - which included images of the Atlantic City Orpheum Theater, restraints, and Hardeen broadsides - realized $5,280. And it was a clothes call with lot #602, a wine-colored brocade jacket and white silk shirt worn by Dutch magician Tommy Wonder. Estimated at $1,500-2,000, the lot realized $6,480.

According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "Houdini continues to outperform estimates, and the tantalizing idea of unpublished and unknown material related to his life and career clearly drove prices well beyond our expectations. I was also pleased with the diversity of the sale - and how collectibles in a variety of categories really made the auction a "something for everyone" offering. Our next magic sale, scheduled for June 16th, features our second offering from the collection of David Baldwin. It promises to be a strong auction, and will feature automatons, Robert-Houdin mystery clocks, vintage apparatus, and more. Please join us online, or in person, for what promises to be a spectacular event."

Potter and Potter, founded in 2007, is a Chicago area auction house specializing in paper Americana, vintage advertising, rare books, playing cards, gambling memorabilia, posters, fine prints, vintage toys, and magicana - antiques and collectibles related to magic and magicians. For more information on their April 28, 2018 Magic Sale and Potter & Potter Auctions, please see

Image: Two Volume Spiritualism Scrapbook Kept and Annotated by Houdini. Sold for $66,000.