Houdini archives change hands for big figures at the Potter & Potter Spring Magic Auction

May 7, 2018

It appears bidding was fierce at this year’s Potter & Potter Magic Memorabilia Auction if the prices fetched by two Houdini-related lots are anything to go by. 

Note: All of the following figures include the action house’s 20% buyer’s premium. 

A two-volume scrapbook on spiritualism kept by Harry Houdini himself was expected to sell for between $30,000 and $40,000, but bidding reached $66,000 before the hammer fell. The first book contained newspaper and magazine clippings on the subject of spiritualism, while the second collected news coverage of Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s belief in the supernatural.

A second Houdini-related lot pulled in a figure almost as impressive. An archive of unseen material from Elliot Sanford chronicling his time with the legendary escape artist sold for $48,000. Sanford joined the Houdini troupe near the end of the Houdini’s life and was an eyewitness to both his death and its immediate aftermath. John Cox of WildAboutHarry fame has beaten us to the punch with an excellent article that explains Sanford’s significance and why his account makes this “possibly the most historically significant Houdini action lot ever.” 

A handful of other Houdini artifacts brought in some hefty coinage as well. A poster from 1095 advertising a performance of “The Jail Breaker and Dexterous Handcuff King, Houdini” fetched $7,200, and a box of glass photo negatives labelled “Houdini in Atlantic City” sold for $5,280. 

Houdini-related objects weren’t the only things at the auction to inspire bidding wars, several other lots sold for way over their estimated price. An Il Mago Delle Meraviglie poster from 1949 was expected to sell for $500 at most, but ended up costing one collector $1,680. A silk shirt worn by Dutch magician Tommy Wonder sold for than triple its maximum estimate of $2,000. 

Other standout lots include:

If you’re looking to pick up some magic memorabilia of your own, Potter & Potter’s next magic auction is scheduled for June 16th and will apparently include automatons, mystery clocks, and “vintage apparatus.”