Chicago -- Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce its 560+ lot magicana sale to be held on Saturday, April 27th, 2019 starting at 10am at the company's gallery, located at 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. The sale features the collection of Ray Goulet, a beloved collector, publisher, producer, performer, and friend to all magicians. Goulet amassed one of the great American collections of conjuring memorabilia which was until most recently on display at his mini-museum in Watertown, MA. All lots from this event will be on display and available for public preview on Wednesday, April 24th, Thursday, April 25th, and Friday, April 26th from 10:00am to 5:00pm in the Potter & Potter facility. All times noted are CST.
Large and significant promotional posters take many of the top slots in this auction. Over 50 examples representing many of the 19th century's most noted performers are on offer. Lot #549, a 1911 letterpress poster advertising a matinee performance of “Challenged” or “Houdini Upside Down” at the Southampton Hippodrome is estimated at $15,000-25,000. This absolute rarity - The only known example extant- is inscribed and signed by Houdini in the central right blank space: “To my friend John Mulholland/Houdini.” Houdini devised and wrote the script for "Challenged" with the goal of protecting his signature water torture cell act from infringement by copycat escape artists. Lot #551, a c. 1905 color litho featuring Harry Kellar's most famous illusion, the levitation of an assistant in a Moorish setting, is estimated at $10,000-15,000. This stage trick is considered by many to be Kellar’s most significant theatrical achievement. Lot #543, a c. 1912 color litho titled Chung Ling Soo. A Gift From the Gods, is estimated at $10,000-15,000. This handsome and eye-catching poster depicts Soo standing on God’s hand, descending to Earth from a flurry of storm clouds. And lot #533, a painted lobby display titled Le Grand David. Stage Magic Lives Again, is estimated at $500-700. This Art Nouveau themed piece featuring finely rendered performers and props was created by Rick Heath in the 1980s. It comes complete with its original painted frame.
This sale's robust selections of 60+ carefully curated magic books are certain to catch the eyes of collectors worldwide. Lot #400, a first edition presentation copy of Harry Kellar's A Magician’s Tour, is estimated at $2,500-3,500. This 1886 example, published by R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Chicago, is inscribed twice by the author. The first is to Li Hung Chang, a Chinese viceroy. It reads, “A son excellence/Li Hung Chang/with compliments of The Author/New York Sep. 2 1896.” And the second is “To Howard Thurston, Esq./from his friend Harry Kellar.” Lot #391, Harry Houdini's America’s Sensational Perplexer from 1903, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. It was published by Willsons' Printers in Leicester and has Houdini within a cloudy frame as its cover art. And lot #372, Gus Hartz's 1874 Souvenir of Prof. Hartz with pictorially lithographed wraps is estimated at $1,000-1,500. This rarity - only the second example our catalogers have seen - includes 12 vignettes of Hartz’s conjuring feats, with explanatory text to each scene printed on the verso.
Unusual, museum-quality selections of ephemera, including photographs, brochures, advertisements, archives, and souvenirs, are well represented in this sale, with over 60 lots on offer. There's certain to be a wave of interest in lot #486, a c. 1850 Theatre Robert-Houdin souvenir fan. These wooden ribbed, pictorial fans were distributed to attendees at the Theatre Robert-Houdin in Paris. One side features an engraving of the entrance to the theatre; the other has vignettes of Robert-Houdin’s most famous tricks and French verses describing them. It is estimated at $4,000-6,000. And two albums of materials from noted 20th century performers take center stage in this key category. The first, lot #433, is an archive of 1930s/60s materials from magician David Bamberg - better known as Fu Manchu. The second, lot #435, is an archive of 1900s/10s materials from Italian quick change artist and actor Leopoldo Fregoli. Both collections include photographs, heralds, clippings, among other items, and are presented in a string-tied embossed leather album. Each archive is conservatively estimated at $800-1,200.
The vintage and modern stage-used magic apparatus offerings in this event are simply spellbinding. Lot #465, a Houdini-owned key and signed Houdini playing card is estimated at $2,500-3,500. The card was signed by the master magician during a run at the NY Hippodrome. The set, along with a later set of vintage handcuffs and a photo of Houdini - handcuffed, in a jail cell - are all handsomely and professionally framed in a wooden shadowbox. Lot #481, a black robe worn as the stage costume of vaudeville performer Arthur Lloyd, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. Lloyd, better known as the Human Card Index, was able to instantly produce from his pockets virtually any card, ticket, form, or document, called for by the audience. This included racing forms, coat check tickets, lottery tickets, playing cards, or any other small paper article. This lot also includes approximately 150 of the various tickets, cards, and documents produced by Lloyd while wearing the robe as well as research materials related to his career and copies of photos of him wearing the robe. A 1936 Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” column asserted that Lloyd carried 15,000 cards in his clothing, estimated as weighing 45 pounds. And two illusions produced by Rick Heath and used by the Le Grand David Spectacular Magic Co. in the 1980s deserve a shout out. The first, lot #337, is a Riddle of the Rabbit Illusion, consisting of two stage-sized hand-painted cabinets used to perform Le Grand David's version of the classic “Where Did the Ducks Go?” trick. It is estimated at $1,000-1,500. And the second, lot #339, is an Appearing Duck Illusion, consisting of a slanted wooden stand with two large trays and a tub. This hand-painted and well manufactured trick is estimated at $800-1,200.
Playing cards, prints and drawings, and treasures that defy conventional categories bring this can't miss magic sale full circle. Lot #362, a deck of Trumps Long Cut Tobacco insert cards from 1890 is estimated at $1,000-1,500. The front of each card is illustrated with a different semi-erotic woman dressed in a theatrical costume. The backs feature a man holding a fan of playing cards, within the tagline “Smoke and Chew Trumps Long Cut” on a brown patterned background. Lot #457, a c. 1875 bronze desk set in the shape of a conjurer performing "cups and balls" on a draped, folding table, is estimated at $4,000-6,000. The conjurer’s hat lifts to form an inkwell or hold a pen, the trumpet forms a seal, and the trunk opens to accommodate stamps. When depressed, the small figure on top of the center cup rings a bell. This elaborate and finely finished model was once owned by magician and scholar Bob Read. And ending on a sterling note, lot #454 - a card case presented by Chung Ling Soo to his trusted illusion builder Percy F. Ritherdon - is estimated at $5,000-7,000. This c. 1915, cast and hallmarked silver accessory is decorated with scalloped edges, a celestial dragon, a bamboo tree, and an engraved medallion. This extraordinary, one of a kind gift of friendship was obtained by the consignor directly from Ritherdon's family.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "Offering Ray's collection at auction is bittersweet for many magicians - myself included. Many considered Ray the definition of the phrase "renaissance man," as he was accomplished at nearly anything he put his mind to, from building things to performing, to publishing, to producing, to real estate, and oh, so much more. His mini-museum of magic was a fixture in the Boston area for decades - a showplace for rare magicana, and a meeting place for those who loved the history of the art. No one was a bigger fan of it all, including both the "stuff" he collected, and by association, the people he collected (in a manner of speaking), than Ray. On a personal note, I met Ray at the age of 16, and never in a million years thought I would be the one to bring his collection to market."
Image: Lot 549 Hippodrome Southampton. Houdini “Challenged”, estimate $15,000-25,000.