Auctions | March 3, 2022

Potter & Potter Auctions to Feature Over 800 Lots of Gambling Memorabilia

Courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions

A near mint set of “Murphy Varnish” transformation playing cards, c. 1883, is estimated at $4,000-6,000.

Chicago — Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce this comprehensive sale to be held on Thursday, March 17th and Friday, March 18th, starting at 10am CDT. Thursday will feature playing cards, cheating paraphernalia, rare books, and casino and gambling chips. Friday will include coin-op selections, vintage advertising, beer taps and knobs; and erotica. The event will be held online and live streamed, with a limited number of bidders physically allowed in the gallery as determined by Illinois public health guidelines. Call the auction house, located at 5001 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago, at 773-472-1442 to reserve seats, with first come, first served. Bidding will take place through Potter & Potter's website, at Phone and absentee bids are also welcome.  
Antique, American made coin-op machines take several of the top lot slots in this premier sales event.
·       Lot #616, a late 19th century Caille Bros. Puck 5 Cent musical cabinet, is estimated at $12,000-18,000. This working example is 63" tall, made in Detroit, and includes its original keys.
·       Lot #629, a Mills Novelty Company large standing “On the Square” roulette game, is estimated at $8,000-12,000. This c. 1910 machine was made in Chicago and distributed in Paris; it was modified for French coins by William K. Company. This example features a coin operated music box, a wooden cabinet with brass fittings, and a central medallion depicting Lady Luck.
Legacy books related to gambling and cheating feature prominently in this early spring event.
·        Lot #521, a first edition copy of S.W. Erdnase's The Expert at the Card Table, is estimated at $6,000-9,000. It was printed by the author in Chicago in 1902 and is Illustrated with 100+ drawings “from life” by Marshall D. Smith. This book is described by Martin Gardner in his introduction to the 1995 edition as “the most carefully studied book ever published on the art of manipulating cards at gaming tables.” In 2019, Potter sold a similar example for nearly $17,000.
·       Lot #559, F.R. Ritter's Combined Treatise on Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker, is estimated at $6,000-9,000. This rare volume from 1905 is from the Ken Klosterman collection and is illustrated with halftones showing blot-out, shade, line, scroll, and other marked cards, hold-outs (including the first-known published photograph of a Jacob’s Ladder-style sleeve hold-out), false cuts, and deals. In 2018, Potter sold a fine copy of this book for $12,000.
This sale also features premier examples of playing cards and gambling chips.
·       Lot #278, a near mint set of “Murphy Varnish” transformation playing cards is estimated at $4,000-6,000. This rare, comical transformation deck from c. 1883 was published by Andrew Dougherty. It does double duty by also advertising Murphy Varnish. Card backs are decorated in red with leaves and a charioteer in a Murphy Varnish chariot.
·       Lot #363, a pack of 12 of Jerry’s Nugget Casino Las Vegas playing cards, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. They were printed by USPC in Cincinnati in the 1970s. The grouping includes six shrink wrapped red backs and six shrink wrapped blue backs.
·       Lot #92, a meticulously assembled collection of Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) chips from the collection of Robert Eisenstadt, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. The grouping includes c. 1,000 examples organized in three binders. The chips are made from clay, metal, plastic, and composition materials and are decorated in numerous ways. Some have denominations, others do not.
·       Lot #55, a collection of obsolete vintage casino chips principally from Nevada, including Las Vegas and other cities and towns across the state, is estimated at $2,000-4,000. This grouping of c. 1,000-1,200 chips is organized alphabetically in two cases. The first case holds casinos lettered A-L; the second case casinos lettered M-Z. There is little if any duplication amongst the chips.
Vintage cheating apparatus is another key category in this auction. 
·       Lot #167, a Will & Finck gaffed faro box, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. It was manufactured in San Francisco at the turn of last century and made from German silver. It is marked “Will & Finck / S.F. Cal.” and measures 3-¾ x 3-¼ x 1-¾”.       
·       Lot #170, a Will & Finck faro case-keeper, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This finely carved example was produced in San Francisco in the late 1800s. This hand painted example features a hardwood frame and boxwood faces in the suit of clubs. It is marked with a star symbol, the Will & Finck mark, and measures 12-½ x 13" open.
This sale's fine offering of antique advertising materials is certain to capture worldwide attention.  
·       Lot #712, a 1950s-era Coca-Cola neon sign, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. This 92" tall piece is in the shape of the company's classic bottle, in working condition, and includes its original transformer box.
·       Lot #722, a midcentury, double sided Gulf dealer porcelain sign, is estimated at $1,200-2,000. This orange, white, and blue example has a diameter of 66-1/2" and includes its original frame.
This event comes full circle with breweriana, erotica, and antiques that bridge traditional categories.
·       Lot #703, a 1920s-era American Fotoplayer Style 35 silent movie player piano/sound effect machine, is estimated at $20,000-40,000. It is comprised of a player piano flanked by two matching cabinets containing drums, tambourines, horns, wood blocks, sleigh bells, and other sound effect-producing devices. The machine comes with its original bench and a cabinet filled with c. 120 rolls, approximately one third of which are original vintage Picturolls. This is an uncommon relic of the silent film era and said to be one of fifty or fewer examples extant.
·       Lot #705, a 72" tall, right facing carved dance organ sculpture, is estimated at $2,000-4,000. It was designed to embellish a dance organ or similar automatic music machine and is in the form of a bare breasted maiden with flowers in her hair, castanets in either hand, standing atop a faux marble base. The signature of its sculptor, G. Van der Merch, is carved in gilt letters on the base. Lot #706 in this sale is the matching, left facing carved dancer of this pair.
·       Lot #826, a photograph and negative archive owned by model and nudism advocate Diane Webber (American, 1932-2008), is estimated at $800-1,200. It is housed in two three ring binders and includes c. 80 vintage negatives, color transparencies, and slides, in addition to dozens of modern prints made from original photograph negatives and other various related ephemera - altogether, c. 144 items make up this must-see collection.
·       Lot 778, a Bosch Beer ball tap beer knob, is estimated at $400-600. This royal blue and copper example, made for the Houghton, MI brewery, measures 2-1/4" tall.
According to Joe Slabaugh, Director of Cataloging at Potter & Potter Auctions, "In some ways, this is our most eclectic sale on the calendar this year. And stepping around our gallery at this moment, it's hard not to share some of the nostalgia aroused by these old-time amusement devices, signs, chips, cards, and games. We're excited to have such a broad selection in one catalog."