Auctions | March 9, 2020

Potter & Potter Auctions' Midwinter Magic Event Delivers Over $263,000

Courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions

Houdini “Challenge” letterpress handbill realized $8,400.

Chicago — Potter and Potter's February 29th Leap Year day auction hit the ground running, offering buyers nonstop fun and opportunities from start to finish. After the hammer fell for the last time, 44 lots realized $750-2,000; 25 lots made $2,001-$4,999; and 5 lots broke the $5,000 barrier. Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.

Not surprisingly, Harry Houdini related merchandise - including promotional materials and souvenirs - took many of the top lot slots in this sale.

-Lot #369, a pair of c. 1933 Harry and Bess Houdini pocket mirrors - one of ten pairs extant - was estimated at $4,000-6,000 and brought $9,000. These “mirror cards” were presented to members of the Houdini Club of Philadelphia at its annual banquet on January 7th, 1933.
-Lot #368, a 1923 letterpress handbill from the Geo. Innes Dry Goods Co. to Houdini, challenging him to escape from an “ordinary packing case of heavy lumber" was estimated at $1,000-1,500 and scored $8,400. This lot also included a schematic drawing illustrating how Houdini would accomplish this feat.
-Lot #373, a Houdini signed, embossed silver print photograph from 1909 showing the magician in mid-flight, was estimated at $1,500-2,500 and soared to $5,760.

Fine selections of antique magic apparatus from US and European legacy manufacturers were well represented - and well received - in this auction.

-Lot #74, a c. 1930-era Inexhaustible Barrel made by Willmann, rose to $4,800 on its $2,000-3,000 presale estimate. With this trick, the barrel is shown empty, then capped on both ends. A spigot is inserted, and a seemingly endless quantity of beer or other libations are poured and served to the audience.
-Lot #142, a c. 1930-era Confusion in the Ark made by F.G. Thayer delivered $4,800. In this illusion, a large figure of Noah, a small figure of his son Japheth, and a dove transpose locations between a wooden ark and two highly decorated metal tubes.
-Lot #119, a c. 1891 Money Maker, cashed in at $4,560 - more than twice its high estimate. This apparatus transforms blank paper cranked through cloth rollers into real currency; this handsome design is believed to be one of - if not the first - magic money makers manufactured.
-Lot #188, a c. 1935 Diminishing Pocket Watch illusion made by F.G. Thayer wasted no time busting through its $100-200 preauction estimate to land at $1,320. With this trick, the magician’s pocket watch visibly diminishes in size twice, then vanishes from his hands.  
-Lot #141, a c. 1925 mahogany deck switching tray by F.G. Thayer served up $960, more than three times its high estimate. This apparatus allows a magician to secretly switch one deck for another.  

Collectors took more than a passing fancy to the top tier selections of photographs, postcards, correspondence, and other magic related ephemera available through this sale.

-Lot #281, a c. 1924 signed and inscribed full length portrait of the Nartell Twins - the pair that worked with  Alexander, the Man Who Knows - brought $4,560...  over seven times its high estimate.
-Lot #331, a two page Buatier De Kolta autograph letter signed to Robert Ankele traded hands at $4,320. This note, originally estimated at $1,000-1,500, was dated Nov. 11, 1902 and was written less than one year before the magician’s death.
-Lot #410, a c. 1910 color “Rameses” Egyptian Wonder Worker postcard signed to The Great Raymond delivered $3,360 on its $400-600 estimate. Printed matter from Rameses’ show is quite rare, and his autographs are practically unobtainable.
-Lot #230, Eva Fay’s Somnolency and Guide to Dreams from 1900 was estimated at $100-150 and sold for $600. Fay was billed as the "High Priestess of Mysticism" and this lot included a "Ladies Ticket" to one of her shows.

Modern apparatus, outfits and stage worn costumes, and posters and broadsides closed the loop on this top tier magic sales event.

-Lot #50, a Birdcage Die Box made by Sam Fehrenz around 1997 made $4,560 - almost eight times its high estimate. With this trick, a sturdy metal birdcage vanishes from a wooden box after the box is tilted back and forth.
-Lot #72, a c. 1979 jumpsuit worn and used by Doug Henning, delivered $5,760 on its $2,500-5,000 estimate. This iconic costume was used in publicity photographs, including one advertising Henning's performance of walking through a wall.
-Lot #473, a letterpress broadside advertising the final stage appearance of Harry Kellar, closed the curtains at $2,400, more than three times its high estimate. This "last call" took place as part of an Antilles tribute show at the New York Hippodrome in 1917.

According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "Jim Rawlins' collection continues to deliver strong results at auction. We were especially pleased with the results of rare Thayer items, ephemera, and association items, three hallmarks of his well-rounded, finely curated collection. Part four is scheduled for July."

Potter & 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. The company's next sale, to be held on March 28, 2020, will feature gambling memorabilia and playing cards. For more information, please see Follow us on Facebook (potterandpotterauctions) and Instagram (potterauctions).