Last month I reported on a then upcoming auction of a sizeable chunk of the late David M. Baldwin’s magic curio collection. Baldwin’s collection of unique mystery clocks, two of which were made by the great Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, were expected to be the stars of the action.
Both of the Houdin offerings – lot #28, a glass column mystery clock, and lot #30, a square dial mystery clock – sold for less than Potter & Potter’s lowest estimates. They still fetched $36,000 and $24,000 respectively. As seasoned Ramen eater, I can tell you that is in fact a great deal of money, but the two clocks were outshone by other lots which sold for way more than anyone could have guessed.
Lot #170, a modern Pillar of the Magi made by John Gaughan and Associates was expected to attract offers of $5,000 at most, but eventually sold for $10,200.
Lot #231, an archive of photographs and ephemera related to magician Del Ray, including a draft of a biography, was believed to be worth $250 at most, but eventually sold for a whopping $4,560.
A surprise Fabergé-style Egg (lot #197) turned out to be very surprising indeed. It sold for $4,560, well over its $1,000 high estimate. Lot #1, a fully operational card bouquet, sold for $11,400 against a high estimate of $8,000.
Lots related to The Great Raymond seemed particularly popular. A collection of correspondence to and from the magician was expected to sell for $400, but eventually fetched $3,600. An archive of ephemera from the earlier part of his career sold for $9,000 instead of the $2,000 high estimate, and his wallet sold for $1,800. It was expected to fetch $250.
Oh, and because these auctions are never complete without an appearance from Ol’ Hazza’, a collection of news photos of Houdini’s Shelton Pool Stunt fetched $1,800. They were expected to sell for $350 at best.
All in all, a very profitable day for the clever people over at Potter & Potter. Over 98% of the lots were sold, and over $400,000 changed hands during the course of the event.
Until his death in 2014, New York real estate mogul David M. Baldwin maintained a fine collection of magic curios and apparatus. Baldwin had a particular interest in ornate and elaborate “mystery clocks,” particularly those made by French magician and clockmaker, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. One such clock is the star lot in an upcoming Potter & Potter auction set to take place on Saturday, June 16th. The clock is expected to go for between 40 and 50 grand, but given how fierce bidding was at the company’s last magic auction, I expect it’ll fetch a higher price.
There’s a handful of other clocks that are expected to change hands for sums in the tens of thousands of dollars, including another example of Houdin’s work, and one that features a tiny autonomous magician that transposes objects to mark the hour.
Baldwin’s collection also included a finely-curated selection of magical apparatus, including a spirit bell and clock dial from the 1900’s, a Hofzinser 52 Card Rise Box that enabled any card in a deck to rise from the top of the box, a brass coin casket and the only known operational European Card bouquet device.
Other standouts include the traditional selection of Houdini memorabilia that always brings in a pretty penny. There’s a set of two bound volumes of Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine signed, “Best wishes from Harry Houdini,” a photograph of the man himself posing with Teddy Roosevelt’s grandchildren, and a theatre program from 1903 billing him as the “Handcuff King.”
The sale also includes selection of linen-backed broadsides, all of which are gorgeous.
If any of these lots catch your eye, you should check out the catalog on the Potter & Potter site. All the lots will be on display at the company’s gallery in Chicago from 10 am to 5 pm, June 13th to the 15th, before the auction goes live on June 16th.
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.”
Potter & Potter’s magic auctions have covered some wide ground, including one-sheets from the golden age of magic and props and accessories once used by the late great Harry Blackstone, Sr. Their upcoming Spring Magic Auction promises to offer the same variety and quality of prestidigitation peculiarities, only this time, it’s all about Houdini.
The great conjuror and escape artist is the focal point for the upcoming auction, which takes place on April 28 at 10am Central. The highlight of this collection is easily a two-volume collection of spiritualism scrapbooks, written and compiled by Houdini and later bound into leather books by Joseph Dunninger. These volumes offer a glimpse into Houdini’s obsession with debunking spiritualists, with the second book almost entirely devoted to notes and newspaper clippings about author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own belief in the supernatural. If you’re interested in snagging this stunning set for your own library, get ready to pay a pretty penny: the listing starts at $30,000, and is expected to sell for at least $40,000, if not more.
Another highlight includes a trove of unpublished Houdini history, including a manuscript for a Houdini biography written by his assistant and secretary, Elliot Sanford. Sanford followed Houdini around for years, and kept over 100 pages of records and notes on the magician’s exploits, including details about Houdini’s home and never-before-revealed info on the final year of his life. This one will run you at least $10,000.
There are, of course, loads of other, non-Houdini-related items up for auction, including an assortment of issues of The Sphinx (including the first volume!) starting at $250, a variety of vintage comedy “Bang” guns each starting at $150, as well as an assortment of old-timey posters for Carter the Great and Chung Ling Soo.
Like previous Potter & Potter auctions, you can check out a full PDF catalog of the available items here, or you can visit the Potter and Potter gallery in Chicago on April 26 and 27 to view items from the collection in person. For more info on the auction schedule and how to bid online or via phone, check out their website here.
Potter & Potter‘s first magic auction of the year will feature the collection of John Daniel, who amassed an impressive array of posters, costumes, ephemera, and apparatus over the course of his life. The items up for auction include rarities from Floyd Thayer (like the Whispering Buddha pictured), ample materials from the Virgil & Julie show (including the Disembodied Princess), and a host of items big and small from Dante.
You can download a PDF of the catalog here, or purchase a physical copy here. Potter & Potter is pleased to announce the ability to bid online via an easy-to-navigate site that breaks down the many, many items up for sale into a handful of genres. You can also bid by phone, or of course go in person to Potter & Potter’s Chicago gallery. The auction begins at 10am on March 3rd.