Vintage And Modern Magicana Auction Slated For Aug. 26

Sale Features Selection Of Harry Houdini Materials, Including Signed Books, Images, Posters, And Rare Ephemera

August 18, 2023

Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce a 379-lot Vintage and Modern Magicana sale to be held on Saturday, Aug. 26, starting at 10 a.m. CST. This event will be held live at Potter & Potter's gallery, located at 5001 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago, Ill. It will also be live-streamed on the company's website, which can be found at Phone and absentee bids are welcome. Antique posters take several of the top lot slots in this end-of-summer sale. Harry Houdini's "King of Cards" was printed in Chicago by National Printing and Engraving around 1898. The linen backed, half-sheet color lithographed poster features a bust portrait of the magician at the center and vignettes depicting his facility with a deck of cards. This poster is one of the first color lithographs used to advertise Houdini's turns in dime museums and circus shows, prior to his rise to fame as a handcuff king and escape artist. A poster for Thurston the World's Greatest Magician, "The Lady and the Lion," was published in 1909 depicting three illusions from early in Thurston's career. This sale also features a fine selection of antique books with ties to Harry Houdini. Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin's "Memoirs of Robert-Houdin" in two volumes, the first English edition, was published in London by Chapman and Hall in 1859. It is inscribed by Houdini to his confidant and lawyer, Bernard M.L. Ernst, on the title page. Houdini's "A Magician Among the Spirits" was published in New York by Harper & Brothers in 1924. It features a portrait frontispiece of Houdini and Conan Doyle and is inscribed and signed on the flyleaf: "To Hilton U. Brown / Best wishes / Houdini / April 21/1925." Modern-made apparatus is another premier category in this magicana sale. "La Glace Liquide" was made by Richard Gerlitz around 2009. With this illusion, a handkerchief, used to clean the surface of the glass of an Art Nouveau mirror in a green and gold-trimmed frame, which slowly and visibly diminishes, then vanishes entirely. "Matter Through Matter" was produced by Okito-Williams around 2000. One of 10 produced, a sheet of fabric is attached to a decorated easel and the magician lowers a panel with a central hole over the fabric and can immediately pass solid objects through a hole in the panel and the sheet of fabric, yet no hole in the fabric is made. This sale also features a fine selection of legacy, early to mid-20th century made apparatus. Ross Bertram's cups and balls, from 1965, consists of three silver-plated spun copper cups, each engraved with the magician's name. They come in their original bag accompanied by four small rubber balls, also used by Bertram. This set was obtained from the Bertram estate and is sold with a brochure advertising Bertram's act. An oversized "Spirit Lock" is probably European-made from the 1920s. At the command of the performer, the lock, which hangs from a chain wrapped around its hasp, visibly and instantly opens as if an invisible key had been inserted into it and turned by a ghostly hand. According to Potter's experts, this is the example they have seen manufactured in this form. This sale's offering of magic-related ephemera is certain to conjure up significant interest. A Houdini theatrical contract dated May 9, 1904, specifies Houdini's Christmastime engagements in England from Dec. 26-31. The terms stipulate that Houdini and "the full company of 10" will appear at the Grand Theatre, Bolton, and that the company will include the "said Houdini," who shall be entitled to 60 percent of the gross receipts. A signed photo of Houdini with Teddy Roosevelt, matte-finish, full-length, features the magician standing next to the former president while aboard the Hamburg America Line steamship "Imperator." This event comes full circle with awards, automatons, and other magicana collectibles that bridge auction categories. An interactive illusion from "The Magic of David Copperfield XIV: Flying - Live the Dream TV" special features the custom-made props used by Copperfield for an interactive mindreading trick performed for millions of viewers of his 1992 ABC TV special. This is only the second screen-used prop from Copperfield's career to come to auction at Potter & Potter. Joe Berg's 1968 Magic Castle Award was made in Hollywood by Hollywood Trophy Co. in 1968. It consists of a gilded plaster sculpture of Dai Vernon's hands, crossed, one holding a pack of cards, the other clipping a cigar between two fingers. It is mounted on a hardwood base; its engraved plaque reads, "Academy of Magical Arts / 1968 Award / Dealer of the Year / Dai Vernon." "Though there are many wonderful lots to choose from in this sale, I am most excited about two of the rare posters we are bringing to the market. One graces the cover of our catalog and features the little-known Belgian magician Servais LeRoy. The other is a rare Thurston one sheet that is the epitome of "golden age" magic lithographs. It has the vibrance of a circus poster but is full of imaginative imagery from the stage-show of this legendary illusionist," said Gabe Fajuri, president at Potter & Potter Auctions. For additional information, visit


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