Auction House Celebrates Harry Houdini's Death On Halloween By Selling Great Magician's Automatic Flowering Rosebush Apparatus For $324,000

Ca. 1924 Mechanism Is Most Expensive Piece Of Magic Memorabilia Ever Sold At Public Auction

November 18, 2022

Potter & Potter Auctions’ October magic event, timed to coincide with Halloween and the death of escape artist and magician Harry Houdini, who died 96 years ago on Halloween (Oct. 31, 1926), marked the occasion with a world record. The gross total for the sale was $1.2 million.
Lot #68, Harry Houdini's automatic flowering rosebush, was estimated at $25,000-50,000 and realized $324,000, generating worldwide interest. This object now holds the world's record for the expensive piece of magic memorabilia sold at public auction.
Potter's experts agreed that this example was among the most elaborate and intricate of mechanisms the specialists have encountered. This device was made for Houdini in New York by R.S. Schlosser (and possibly other craftsmen) around 1924. In performance, Houdini placed a small earthenware pot on an elaborate metal table. Next, he planted a small red flower in the pot and covered everything with a gauzy cloth. On Houdini’s command, the flower grew, slowly and visibly, eventually developing into a full size rose bush. To conclude, Houdini removed the plant in its pot from the tabletop and presented it to the audience. This trick was one of several flashy effects used to open Houdini’s final American tour.
Houdini's automatic flowering rosebush was one of the crown jewels from the Ken Klosterman (1933-2020) collection. Klosterman, the former chairman and CEO of the Klosterman Baking Company, had one of the finest private collections of magic memorabilia in the world. It consisted of thousands of vintage magic props, posters, books, and more, many of them one-of-a-kind pieces of historical significance. The collection had been on display in a private museum built at the bottom of a mineshaft under his suburban Cincinnati, Ohio home.
"To call the moment in the saleroom electric is to sell it short. From the first bid, at $13,000, to the very end, a number I still have a hard time grasping, the ride was a steady upward clip. For the last 20 bids or so, it was down to two competitors, and they battled it out fiercely. This sale breaks all records, not even the sale of Houdini's water torture cell comes close," according to Gabe Fajuri, president at Potter & Potter Auctions.
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.
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