Chicago — Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce their Rawlins Magic Collection I Auction to be held on Saturday, February 23rd, 2019 starting at 10am at the company's gallery, located at 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. Jim Rawlins was a devoted student of magic and its history who spent nearly three decades building his impressive, important, and diverse collection. All items from this upcoming sale will be on display and available for public preview on Wednesday, February 20th, Thursday, February 21st, and Friday, February 22nd from 10:00am to 5:00pm in the Potter & Potter facility.
Pre-1925 magic apparatus are important headliners in this sales event and represent many of the top lots on offer. Of royal stature is lot #125, Joseffy’s Expanding Queen from c. 1906. This complicated, Rube Goldberg-like apparatus is comprised of lazy-tongs and a spring-loaded mechanism, and includes its original hand-painted silk card. Estimated at $8,000-12,000, this rarity is framed and accompanied by a series of photographs showing the steps required to reset the device. Lot #56, Carter the Great’s center table, used as the centerpiece for many of Charles Carter's tricks in his illusion show, is estimated at $6,000-8,000. This c. 1910, heavy carved gold leaf wooden table has cabriole legs and a folding rear servante. This lot comes with a photograph of Carter and Evelyn Maxwell beside the table and a letter of provenance from Carter biographer Mike Caveney. And lot #109, a c. 1920 cage transposition owned and used by Fu Manchu is estimated at $4,000-6,000. This complex trick, likely made by Carl Willmann, allows a gleaming metal cage to vanish from under a handkerchief, only to visibly reappear in a skeleton-frame stand in the blink of an eye.
Midcentury magic tricks and tools also take center stage in this can't miss, mid-winter auction. Lot #159, a handsomely decorated, c. 1952 club sized checker cabinet by Okito is estimated at $8,000-12,000. This apparatus enables the magical transposition of a stack of checkers and a glass full of rice. It's a superb example of Okito’s masterful craftsmanship and appealing, timeless aesthetic. Lot #15, a c. 1935 carousel birdcage production from New Haven, CT's Petrie and Lewis is estimated at $4,000-6,000. This complex and visually stunning trick includes a small, square table, a tall spinning brass stand, and four sold brass bird cages. This rarity is only one of five examples produced. And lot #14, a set of five c. 1940 nesting wooden boxes owned and used by magician McDonald Birch is estimated at $1,500-2,500. In this signature trick, a watch vanishes on command, only to reappear in the smallest of the boxes. The lot includes a signed and inscribed 8' x 10” photograph of Birch and his wife Mabel Sperry, as well as a signed photo of the couple performing with the boxes.
Collectors interested in magic props by Thayer and Owen will delight in nearly 100 temptations from this this legacy manufacturer. Lot #296, a 1930s-1940s collection of 130 original cloth “negatives” used to create the famous master blueprints sold through the company's catalogs is estimated at $5,000-7,000. The illusions explained and diagrammed include many of the firm's most famous, including the Mummy Case, Buzz Saw, Morritt Cage, The Girl in the Drum, Zenith Water Fountain, New Flyto, Lester Lake Guillotine, and others. All are housed in the original cardboard tubes as kept in the Thayer workshops, with nearly all bearing typed labels describing their contents. Lot #267, a c. 1955 set of seven, locked hardwood chests fitted with brass hardware, is estimated at $1,500-2,000. This set, one of only two seven-box sets constructed by Carl Owen and part of his own personal collection, was passed from Owens to his friend and business partner John Daniel. And lot #251, a c. 1930s flap die box, is estimated at $200-300. This round, mahogany box allows a magician to control the numbers on the two dice inside even when the box is shaken. This example, the only one known with this feature, is possibly a prototype or a custom-ordered item. It was most likely turned by Floyd Thayer himself, as the quality of the workman ship is extremely fine; it was also owned at one time by The Great Virgil.
Potter's Rawlins Magic Collection I Auction offers wall to wall selections of important magic related posters, prints, and broadsides. Lot #479, a c. 1909 small format window card for the Great Lafayette (Sigmund Neuberger) is estimated at $5,000-7,000. This 10" x 7” example features a full length portrait of the performer in a Louis XIV-style costume with a fan or hat in one outstretched hand. Lot #487, a Thurston the Great Magician Do The Spirits Come Back framed and matted litho from c. 1910 is estimated at $5,000-7,000. This paranormal poster is eerily illustrated with green smoke, ghosts, and apparitions floating up from a skull in the magician’s hand. And bird's the word with lot #475, a c. 1908 framed Chung Ling Soo (William Ellsworth Robinson) From the Land of the Peacock broadside. It is estimated at $4,000-6,000 and is decorated with a bust portrait of the magician, a Chinese lantern, and a peacock, all surrounded by Chinese trappings and a black border.
There's no need to paper over this sale's remarkable selections of magic-centric books, catalogs, publications, and ephemera. Lot #343, a 1908 first edition of Harry Houdini's The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, published in New York by The Publishers Printing Company, is estimated at $1,500-2,000. It includes an inscription from Houdini reading, “To my old friend R.M. Scott with compliments and best wishes from the author, Harry Houdini 1908. May the perusal of my book conjure up pleasant memories of the dim past. HH.” Lot #360, a 1929 first edition of My Life of Magic by Howard Thurston, is estimated at $400-600. This book was published in Philadelphia by Dorrance & Company and is inscribed and signed by Thurston, “For my old friend “Tommy” Downs who has traveled the same road & speaks the same magic language. The road that is [illegible] much travelled. See you in Eternity Tommy. Affectionately Howard Thurston June 3/30.” Lot #415, a c. 1910 Harry Houdini translucent window decal is estimated at $2,500-3,500. This example, one of only a handful extant, retains its original printed instructions to verso describing the method for wetting the print and applying it to a glass window. And lot #373, a 1927 souvenir program from the second gathering of the International Brotherhood of Magicians is estimated at $400-600. It has lithographed string-bound wrappers designed by Merle Fleming; its final three pages are filled with dozens of autographs of magicians in attendance, including T. Nelson Downs, Harry Blackstone, Floyd Thayer, Rajah Raboid, Harlan Tarbell, S.S. Henry, Robert Nelson, and many others.
This sale rounds out with museum-quality offerings of stage costumes, magic sets, automatons, and magical-themed treasures that span traditional categories. Lot #494, Robert Heller’s c. 1870 top hat and leather carrying case is estimated at $5,000-7,000. This important artifact, from one of magic's great Victorian practitioners, is accompanied by documentation from descendants of Heller tracing ownership of the hat through the family. Lot #136, a c. 1985 Zdenkakey wound automata of a levitating doll, is estimated at $1,500-2,000. As the automaton performs, “Edelweiss” plays on a concealed Swiss Reuge music box. Lot #495, Doug Henning's c. 1985 floor length purple robe decorated with purple, blue, yellow, and silver stars and moons is estimated at $1,000-1,500. And its case closed with lot #311, a c. 1908 rare and early Mysto Magic Set, estimated at $600-800. This set includes many popular and well-made small props, all housed in a wooden crate stenciled with the word “magic" and decorated with a fan of four cards pasted to the top.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "Jim Rawlins was truly dedicated to building and developing a special collection of historically important magic memorabilia. I've seen how - in the nearly twenty years we've known each other - how he sought out the best of the best for himself, and especially how he focused on historically significant association items. He also managed to build a diverse collection that, while certainly strongest in the apparatus field, includes significant objects in all areas of the hobby: posters, ephemera, books, and costumes. Jim's refined taste and "eye" for the rare and unusual will be showcased in each of the four sales we have planned over the next two years, and I couldn't be happier to be the one bringing his collection to market."
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. Bids for these extraordinary offerings can be made in person at the sale, placed directly on the company's website, or by phone by arrangement. Please see www.potterauctions.com. for more information. Follow us on Facebook (potterandpotterauctions), Twitter (PnPAuctions), and Instagram (potterauctions).
Image: Lot 343, The Unmasking of Robert Houdin, estimate $1,500-2,000