Chicago--Potter and Potter's highly anticipated fall sale did not escape the interest - or pocketbooks - of Houdiniana enthusiasts worldwide! After the hammer fell for the last time, 47 lots realized between $1,000-3,999; 12 lots made between $4,000-7,499, and four lots exceeded $7,500. Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.
Houdini handcuffs and apparatus were heavy metal favorites in this auction. Lot #68, a pair of Providence Tool Co. handcuffs from the Houdini-Wresch Collection, made $11,400 on its $4,000-6,000 estimate. This marked, 19th century set included its original key and was accompanied by a series of letters fully documenting its provenance and chain of ownership from the Houdini family onward. Lot #69, a screw-key barrel padlock from the Houdini-Dunninger Collection, beat its low estimate more than five times over to sell at $5,520. This iron, center-recessed example included its original key and multiple provenance documents. And lot #69a, a handsomely framed barrel key from Houdini’s collection traded hands at $3,360 on its $700-900 estimate. Its presentation included a photograph of Houdini in cuffs, locks, and chains; a linen mat; and an engraved presentation plaque.
Books and publications written by or about Harry Houdini were also best sellers at this event. Lot #1, a truly rare and incredible 1898 copy of Houdini’s own Magic Made Easy by Harry Houdini. King of Cards…Monarch of Shackles and Handcuffs sold for $9,600 on its $3,000-4,000 estimate. According to our President, Gabe Fajuri, "I never thought I'd see, let alone sell a copy of this Houdini pitchbook, published before his rise to fame, when he was truly "down and out," forced to sell the secrets behind magic tricks to help make ends meet." Lot #5, The Famous Houdini. The Original Jail Breaker and Hand Cuff King realized $7,200 on its $900-1,200 estimate. This 1907 publication included advertisements for Houdini’s Conjuror’s Monthly on its inside front and rear covers. And lot #53, an inscribed copy of the Thrilling Episodes of John Clempert from 1909 made $720 on its $100-200 estimate. This lot included a cabinet photo of John Clempert (1878-1940) seated before four shirtless men and a snapshot of Clempert standing on a wooden platform. Clempert was an escape artist like Houdini, albeit lesser known.
Houdini related ephemera was well represented in this sale, with a full range of posters, photographs, brochures, and promotional materials on offer. Lot #62, an eight-sheet (109” x 86”) color lithograph billboard from 1924 titled Buried Alive! Egyptian Fakirs Outdone. Master Mystifier realized $7,800. This visually stunning example pictured Houdini’s head floating above an Egyptian scene featuring the Sphinx. Lot #78, a candid, sepia-toned photograph of a Houdini underwater escape stunt sold for $3,600 - more than five times its high estimate. This c. 1910s example pictured Houdini in restraints in mid-air, diving into the water from a gazebo, surrounded by a small crowd of witnesses. And lot #251, a throw out card from magician Okito (Tobias Bamberg, 1875-1963) made $3,600 - three times its low estimate. This example, from around 1907, is the only known one of its kind.
The results of this Houdiniana auction solidify Potter & Potter’s reputation as the best choice for buying and selling historically important archives. Lot #274, an archive of magicians’ correspondence and ephemera from the Horst Mueller Collection generated $2,640 and a whopping 39 bids. This 100+ piece collection, spanning the 1960-1990 time frame, included a Chicago greeting card signed by Ricky Jay, Jay Marshall, and other magicians; several Alois Kassner signed letters; Stanley Jaks signed and inscribed lecture notes; letters from the Secretary of The Prince of Wales, on Buckingham Palace letterhead; and many other treasures.
And lot #59, a group of 19 pitch books and pamphlets on escape artists from the 1900s through the 1930s realized $1,440 on its $300-400 estimate.
This signature sale came full circle with museum-quality selections of magic related antiques and apparatus, modern and vintage automatons, and other intriguing rarities. Lot #256, badges to the Magicians’ Club London and other fraternal organizations belonging to German magician Kalanag (Helmut Schreiber, 1903-1963) made $960 on their $200-300 estimate. Kalanag’s carved figural ivory-tipped wand - lot #260 - sold for $3,840 on its $700-900 estimate. Lot #275, a Blooming Orange Tree automaton and music box made by French artist Pierre Mayer in 2005 blossomed at $9,000, three times its low estimate. And rounding things out here, lot #290 - a turned hardwood cannonball vase - made $5,760. This 19 ½” example was nearly identical in appearance to the vase illustrated in the pages of Thayer’s Magical Woodcraft catalog from 1912.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, “We were pleased to see strong results in all categories, especially for the choice and rare material. No magician draws a crowd like Houdini, some ninety two years after his death, and the sales of his pitch books, photographs, and posters prove that point in spades.”
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, Freakatorium: The Collection of Johnny Fox, will be held on November 10, 2018. For more information, please see www.potterauctions.com. Follow us on Facebook (potterandpotterauctions), Twitter (PnPAuctions), and Instagram (potterauctions).
Image: Buried Alive! Egyptian Fakirs Outdone. Master Mystifier. Houdini. Sold for $7,800