CHICAGO – Potter & Potter Auctions‘ Summer Magic Auction, held on June 17, was worthy of applause, totaling $425,000. The sale offered 568 lots and had a 99% sell through rate. Absentee and Internet live bidding was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.
Posters promoting legacy performers of yesteryear claimed several of the top lot slots, including a 1911 poster simply titled Harry Houdini, which achieved $45,600. The three-sheet, linen-backed poster of Houdini with folded arms was printed by The Strobridge Litho. Co. Its image was dubbed “Houdini for President” thanks to similarities in its design to political advertising of the era.
Another poster featuring Houdini, known as Ehrenerklarung! Im Namen des Konigs Wilhelm, II. Kaiser v. Deuschland (Declaration Of Honor! In The Name Of King Wilhelm, II. Kaiser V. Germany), made $36,000. This linen-backed poster was printed in Leipzig around 1902 by Atelier J. Zier. It pictured Houdini in handcuffs standing before a tribunal of judges as helmet-clad police looked on.
A 1928 poster offering, Thurston. Do the Spirits Come Back?, realized $5,280. This oversize, three-sheet stone lithographed poster was printed in Cleveland by The Otis Lithograph Co., and pictured the illusionist conjuring spirits and demons from a skull clutched in his hands.
Prewar magic apparatus by legacy manufacturers was another popular category in the June 17 sale. A ringing alarm clock production stand, made in New Haven in 1939 by Petrie & Lewis, was estimated at $1,000-$2,000 and realized $13,200. In this trick, six alarm clocks were produced from an empty hat and hung on the stand one at a time, where they comprised a ringing display. This example was one of two extant, and possibly the unit performed by the owner of the firm that manufactured the prop, Tod Petrie.
Jon Martin’s (1882-1968) butterfly silk production sold for $9,000 against an estimate of $2,000-$4,000. Made in England in 1933, this illusion consisted of a lazy tong-like metal frame with a sequin-accented, hand-sewn butterfly. It was originally conceived by Karl Germain.
Lot #86, a goodnight candle trick, was estimated at $100-$200 and brought $1,140. It was produced in London by Harry Leat around 1940. In performance, the candle was lit when the performer left the stage. It then burst open, revealing a banner reading “Good Night” and then spun around to reveal another banner reading “Thank You.”
The auction came full circle with newer to modern tricks and illusions, led by an Ouija prediction watch, which was estimated at $3,000-$6,000 and climbed to $21,600. Made in Arizona by Richard Gerlitz around 2010, this mechanically complex timepiece allowed the performer to pre-program the watch so the hand would spell out words or reveal information chosen by a spectator (apparently) at random.
A Knife-Er illusion that carried an estimate of $200-$300 earned $7,200. It was made by Abbott’s Magic in the 1970s. In performance, a gruesome-looking knife was thrown at a young lady standing in front of a target; the knife passed through her body and lodged in the bulls-eye behind her.
Also, a magic paint box, produced in Cornwall by Alan Warner in the 1970s, was estimated at $150-$250 and rose to $1,200. The illusion made it seem as if a picture was magically painted when paints vanished from within a paint tray.
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