Chicago — Collectors hit the jackpot at Potter & Potter's recent gambling memorabilia sale. When the frenzied bidding finally came to an end, 31 lots realized between $1,000-1,999; 37 lots realized between $2,000-$9,999; and three lots exceeded the five-figure mark, in a most impressive way! Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.
Enthusiasts from the four corners of the globe took notice of this sale's phenomenal collection of antique gambling books. The odds-on favorite for the auction's top sale - lot #151, Alfred Trumble's Faro Exposed; or The Gambler and his Prey. Being a Complete Explanation of the Famous Game, its Origin and Development, and how its Skins are Worked - did not disappoint. This extraordinarily rare 1882 publication dealing with the subject of advantage play made $24,000; a possible new world's record for a gambling book. Collectors also anted up to lot #126, F.R. Ritter's Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker. This book from 1905, featuring the first photograph of a Jacob's Ladder-style holdout ever printed, Ritter’s 20 rules for playing poker, and images of cards marked with "blockout" work, more than doubled its low estimate to sell for $14,400.
This exciting auction also featured a number of additional best sellers in its book category. Lot #7, John Blackbridge's 1875 The Complete Poker Player, realized $2,640 on its $500-750 estimate. And lot #139, an original, first edition copy of R.A. Smith's Poker to Win from 1925 made $1,800 on its $300-500 estimate. The book included a treatise on card sharping, including false shuffles, false deals, cons, tricks, and other sleight-of-hand poker dodges.
Collectors didn't keep things close to the vest in regards to the spectacular dice, cards, and chips on offer through this sale. Lot #455, a crooked dice making jig with a pair of dice, rolled to $1,140 on its $100-200 estimate. Good things came in threes with lot #467, a trio of scrimshawed ivory mustang dice which more than tripled it high estimate to make $1,560. Lot #325, a deck of Steamboat No. 1999 playing cards made $660 on a $100-200 estimate. This exceptional deck, which was made by the Dorrity Card Manufacturing Company of New York, featured a very rare joker.
You can bet your bottom dollar that this auction presented a breathtaking array of gambling accessories and devices. Lot #254, an adjustable brass card edge notcher with a turned wooden handle was estimated at $1,200-2,000 and sold for $5,760. This c. 1890 tool was used to prepare cards for four-pin dealing boxes. And lot #260, a Shiner ring and instruction sheet, ran circles around its $100-200 estimate to make $1,320. This reflective piece of jewelry was used to read cards as they were dealt off the top of the deck.
Will & Finck's cheating devices, game accessories, and company ephemera remain the "gold standard" amongst gambling memorabilia collectors today. All eyes were on lot #249, a c. 1880 Jacob's Ladder style brass sleeve holdout mounted on a porcelain display hand. Estimated at $3,000-5,000, it quadrupled its low estimate to realize $12,000. Lot #262, a particularly petite, c. 1880 ivory handled brass card trimmer in its original wooden packing crate, was estimated at $3,000-4,000 but shuffled its way to $9,600. And lot #207, a Will & Finck gambling catalog in its original mailing envelope and a small archive of related company ephemera from 1894 sold for $6,000 on its $2,500-3,500 estimate. It was the only known original Will & Finck gambling supply catalog in private hands.
This Gambling Memorabilia sale came full circle with museum quality selections of photos, coin-op machines, and other rarities. Lot #488, a c. 1880 traveling roulette wheel in a wooden crate spun to $7,200 - more than seven times its low estimate. The clock was ticking on lot #297, a photograph of crowd at a casino in Goldfield, NV on October 1, 1910 at midnight. It made $1,020 on its $50-100 estimate. And what made the subject matter of this black and white moment so appealing? Gambling became illegal in the state of Nevada after midnight that day. And finally, bidders took aim at lot #497, a Gambler's palm pistol with pearl grips that made $9,600 - more than twice its high estimate. It was made by the Chicago Fire Arms Co., in 1893 and was accompanied by its original box, a box of 50 cartridges, and three manufacturer's parts sheets with prices.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "Strong participation in all categories made for a spirited, lively, and profitable auction on Saturday. Highlights included cheating books - including the $24,000 sale of Faro Exposed, possibly a record for a book on gambling at auction - as well as gambling devices, poker chips, and rare playing cards. Uncommon trade catalogs also fared well. This was our most successful gambling memorabilia sale to date."
Potter and 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. For more information on their May 19th, 2018 Gambling Memorabilia Sale and Potter & Potter Auctions, please see www.potterauctions.com.
Image: Poker to Win. Sold for $1,800.