Chicago -- Potter and Potter's signature summer magic auction caught the attention of collectors worldwide and delivered exceptional results. After a long day of spirited bidding, 29 lots realized between $1,000-1,999; 29 lots made between $2,000-$9,999; and six lots broke the five-figure mark. Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.
Rarities associated with legendary people or places in the magic community took the top spots in this sale. Lot #282, a 1916 three sheet color litho featuring Howard Thurston as Thurston the Great rose to $22,800. This spectacularly illustrated poster featured Thurston, assisted by imps, levitating an assistant, with Kellar’s endorsement quoted in the lower margin. Lot #455, Bob Swadling’s Magic Kettle more than doubled its low estimate and changed hands at $21,600. This mechanically complex vessel was used by Paul Daniels on British TV in 1979. This kettle is one of the items that was sold to help defray the costs of Sebastian Midtvaage's care. And lot #166, Chicago Magic Roundtable 1946 scrapbook - featuring the autographs of about 500 magicians as well as brochures, business cards, signed photographs, letters, promotional materials, and clippings from the club - made an astonishing $19,200 on its original $2,000-3,000 estimate. This treasure-trove generated 43 bids, the most of any lot in this sale.
The results of this auction confirm Potter & Potter’s solid reputation as the first choice for buying and selling fine magic-related archives and collections. Lot #209, a Servais LeRoy & Co. illusion instruction archive from 1912 almost doubled its low estimate to make $11,400. This collection included typed and manuscript instructions and advertisements for illusions, gimmicks, pocket, and parlor tricks sold and manufactured by this short-lived but important London-based magic company. Buyers were also focused on lot #255, a collection of more than 200 photographs of magicians from the 1940's through the 1990's including Doug Henning, Ali Bongo, Paul Daniels, Lance Burton, Jack Gwynne, Blackstone Jr, and others. This comprehensive grouping was estimated at $400-800 and sold for $3,000. And lot #173, a Loring Campbell scrapbook, owned and kept by the lyceum and Chautauqua magician, turned the page for $720 on its $50-100 estimate.
Ephemera related to the great Dutch magician Okito (1875-1963) clearly captured the imagination of bidders at this event. Okito was the stage name of Tobias Bamberg, a sixth-generation magician who performed his Asian themed act entirely in pantomime. Lot #221, a 1929 photo postcard of a costumed Okito signed and inscribed to his best customer and friend Victor Barbour, sold for $2,400 - four times its high estimate! A number of letters from Okito to Barbour also delivered strong results in this sale. Of note is lot #222, a letter from Okito to Barbour dated April 29, 1920 addressing a variety of personal and professional topics, and lot #233, three Okito letters to Barbour spanning the 1918-1924 time frame. Each of these lots was estimated at $400-600 and sold for $2,160.
This event's offering of over 150 rare and important magic books, with titles from the 1600's onward, was truly breathtaking. Surprise best sellers in this category include lot #70, Professor Hoffmann’s signed copy of Robert-Houdin and Jean Eugène’s Les Tricheries Des Grecs Devoilees, published by J. Hetzel in Paris in 1863. Estimated at $300-500, it made $2,750. And lot #120, a manuscript copy of Tetragramaton, published by the author Tony Andruzzi (Tom Palmer) in Chicago in the 1970’s sold for $4,080 on its $1,200-1,800 estimate. This absolutely exquisite book doubled as a piece of art, and was detailed with pebbled black hardcovers, brass studs, a color lenticular illustration of a wizard, border decorations, and original illustrations.
This spotlight sale rounded out with top-tier offerings of magic related ephemera, stage worn costumes, apparatus, artwork, and other rarities. Lot #366, a c. 1940’s deco style Devil’s mailbox made by the F.G. Thayer & Co. burned through its $250-300 estimate to realize $3,600. Lot #328, an early 20th century French wind up bisque-headed child conjuror performed well, making $4,250 on her $300-500 estimate. Lot #187, a 1924 typed, signed letter from Ottokar Fischer to Dr. Samuel Cox Hooker on dramatic, three color letterhead made $2,640 - more than ten times its high estimate! And wrapping things up here, lot #177 - two 1920’s-era costume robes from the Carter Illusion Show - brought $1,440 on their $250-350 estimate.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, “It's gratifying to see strong demand for the rare and unusual magic memorabilia we featured in this sale. As is often the case, the unique or truly scarce and attractive items we offer performed exceptionally well. This bodes well for the future - both short-term and long-term - as we have some spectacular and historically significant magic memorabilia on deck for the coming year."
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, its annual Coin-Op & Advertising Auction, will be held on September 29, 2018. For more information, please see www.potterauctions.com. Follow us on Facebook (potterandpotterauctions), Twitter (PnPAuctions), and Instagram (potterauctions).
Image: Chicago Magic Roundtable 1946 Scrapbook, sold for $19,200.