News | December 21, 2022

The Expert at the Card Table Heads Magicana Sale

Potter & Potter

S.W. Erdnase's Artifice Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table, best known by its cover title, The Expert at the Card Table

Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce the results of this 500+ lot sale which was held on Saturday, December 10th, 2022. When the hammer finally fell silent after a long day of competitive bidding, 57 lots made $1,000-2,999; 18 lots made $3,000-9,999; and one lot broke the five figure mark. All prices noted include the auction house's 20% buyer's premium.

Century spanning magicana books took several of the top lot slots in this exciting sale.
* Lot #383, S.W. Erdnase's Artifice Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table, brought $8,400. This first edition was published in Chicago by the author (who goes by a pseudonym) in 1902. Perhaps the most important book on sleight-of-hand with cards, Erdnase’s work is best known by its cover title, The Expert at the Card Table. In the 120 years since its debut, the book has never been out of print.
* Lot #459, a collection of nine, rare 18th to 20th century magic books, was estimated at $100-200, sold for $3,360, and generated a whopping 41 bids. The grouping included Galipidio Talier's Nuovo Plico di Tinture, printed in Milan and Venice in 1780-1818.
* Lot #375, The Jerx, Volume One, was estimated at $300-500 and traded hands at $3,840. This first edition, one of a supposed 300 copies, was illustrated Stasia Burrington. This tome is one of the rarest hyper-modern books about magic, written by “Andy Jerxman,” whose true identity remains a mystery.

The Jerx, Volume One
Potter & Potter

The Jerx, Volume One

Blow Book
Potter & Potter

Nouvel Ambigu Magique ou Second Volume des Tableaux Changeans, also known as Blow Book

Howard Thurston’s Asrah Levitation Illusion Patent
Potter & Potter

Howard Thurston’s Asrah Levitation Illusion Patent

Magicana books
Potter & Potter

Collection of nine Antique to Vintage Magic Books

This sale also featured magic posters promoting some of the best known 20th and 21st century acts.

  • Lot #135, Thurston Master Magician. Million Dollar Mystery, was estimated at $4,000-6,000 and realized $9,000. This linen mounted broadside was printed in Cleveland by the Otis Lithography Company around 1928 and showed the magician performing his classic stage illusion. It measured 40 x 27 ½”.
  • Lot #100, Chung Ling Soo, sold for $4,800. It was printed in Birmingham by James Upton Ltd. around 1910. This linen backed poster measured 33 x 23” and featured an illustration of the magician in warm tones with a fiery background. Each letter of the title was shaped into a dragon.
  • Lot #94, three David Blane signed posters, was estimated at $200-300 and made $2,400. These included Frozen in Time from 2000, Above the Below from 2003, and Dive of Death from 2008. Blaine, one of the most prominent magicians, endurance artists, and extreme performers working today, has had numerous television specials and has broken several world records for endurance.

Vintage to antique apparatus also stole the spotlight at this key auction.

  • Lot #253, Nouvel Ambigu Magique ou Second Volume des Tableaux Changeans, delivered $3,840. It was published in Paris by Chez Chereau in 1778. This "Blow Book" was Illustrated with engraved plates, including images of flowers, harlequins, cards, soldiers, and others. The pages of the book changed eight times when blown upon and flipped-through by the demonstrator, hence the term “Blow Book.”
  • Lot #25, Harry Houdini owned Tower Bean Pattern handcuffs, was estimated at $3,000-5,000 and made $7,200. This pair from 1909 was in working condition and was said to have been owned by Houdini. They were from the Radner collection and formerly on display in the Houdini Historical Center in Outagamie, WI. They measured 9-½” long extended and retained their original museum tags and key.
  • Lot #304, a Cup of Gold illusion from Abbott’s Magic Company, was estimated at $100-200 and scored $2,640. Made around 1970, this gimmicked 5" tumbler transformed sponge balls into a paper streamer and multiple shots of whiskey.
  • Lot #366, a Silk and Water Vase made in Philadelphia made by Carl Brema and Sons in 1925, was estimated at $800-1,000 and sold for $6,600. When water was emptied from the spun copper vase with Grecian handles, it refilled repeatedly. Then, dry silk handkerchiefs would appear. According to Potter's experts, this was only the third example they had encountered, and the first with a hallmark.

21th century made apparatus was another highlight in this magicana sale.

  • Lot #212, a segmented ostrich egg vase, was estimated at $2,500-5,000 and hatched at $5,760. It was produced in Azusa by Owen Magic Supreme in the 1990s. According to Potter & Potter's experts, this was one of the largest and most intricate examples of this classic illusion they had ever encountered.
  • Lot #266, a Ouija Prediction Watch, was estimated at $1,500-2,500 and realized $13,200. It was made in Arizona by Richard Gerlitz in the 2010s. This mechanically complex timepiece with a concealed internal device allowed the performer to pre-program the watch so that the hand would spell out words or reveal information chosen by a spectator, apparently at random. It was one of a few manufactured by hand.
  • Lot #267, a Sawing Hermann Watch, was estimated at $1,500-2,500 and sold for $8,400. It was also produced by Gerlitz around the same time as lot #212. With this trick, the case was opened to reveal a conjurer in the style of Herrmann standing beside a wooden box. A pin was inserted into the face of the watch to represent the assistant’s head extending from the apparatus, and the lever was turned. Miraculously, the magician “sawed” through the assistant without severing it. It was also one of a few examples manufactured by hand.

This sale rounded out with ephemera, automatons, and other intriguing magic related materials.

  • Lot #252, a Geisha girl automaton, was estimated at $1,000-1,500 and delivered $4,800. It was made in Paris around 2002 by Pierre Mayer. This signed, handmade, wooden automaton with exposed works measured 6 x 3 x 7”. When activated, the Geisha raised the cup to show a ball underneath. As the crank was turned, the cup descended, she waved a fan, the cup was raised and the ball had vanished - only to reappear on her shoulder.
  • Lot #82, Howard Thurston’s Asrah Levitation Illusion Patent, was estimated at $600-800 and delivered $4,800. This paperwork from New York was dated January 4, 1927 and detailed Howard Thurston and Harry Jansen's patent for their modified version of LeRoy’s Asrah Levitation. The materials included Illustrations and detailed descriptions of this trick, along with patents on two other stage illusions.

According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "This sale brought our most successful year in business to a resounding, successful, enjoyable close."