Houdini’s Bible used in magic act hits six figures at Potter & Potter

Harry Houdini’s Bible, $102,000

Harry Houdini’s Bible, $102,000

CHICAGO – Potter & Potter Auctions‘ December 11 magic sale, featuring the Bob Rossi collection of materials related to Joseph Dunninger, delivered fine results from start to finish. When the hammer finally fell silent after a long day of energized bidding, 54 lots made $1,000-$2,499; 34 lots realized $2,500-$9,999; three lots sold for $10,000-$20,000; and one lot broke the six-figure mark.

The breakout item in this sale was lot #293, Harry Houdini’s Bible, a book that doubled as a magic apparatus. It sold for $102,000 – more than four times its high estimate. The leaders of Potter & Potter believe this sale reflects a world’s record price for a book signed by Harry Houdini. This 1901 Red Letter edition was published by the World Syndicate Company of New York and was configured to enable the magician to read the mind of a spectator with total accuracy. When a volunteer flipped to any page, the performer could instantly determine which chapter and verse that person was reading. This illusion was inscribed and signed by Houdini: “To / Dunninger / best wishes / Houdini / Nov. 30/1925.” and again by Joseph Dunninger in 1967 to noted Houdini collector Ray Ellenbogen.

Joseph Dunninger’s cufflinks, $7,800

Joseph Dunninger’s cufflinks, $7,800

As expected, materials that once belonged to magician Joseph Dunninger (American, 1892-1975) took several of the top slots in this early winter event. A circa-1930 pair of his gold and diamond cufflinks was estimated at $1,000-$2,000 and traded hands at $7,800. These featured the “bat wing” logo of Dunninger’s face designed by Hans Stengel and were hallmarked “HMJ.”

Joseph Dunninger’s ‘Hypnotic Glasses,’ $600

Joseph Dunninger’s ‘Hypnotic Glasses,’ $600

Another Dunninger lot that performed well was a set of his Hypnotic Glasses, which were estimated at $50-$150 and came into focus at $600. These novelty glasses were made in New York by Honey Toy Industries and featured lenticular inserts with center holes. They were a variant on the classic X-Ray Specs popular in the 1960s.

Deluxe first edition of Teller and Todd Karr’s House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott, $5,040

Deluxe first edition of Teller and Todd Karr’s House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott, $5,040

The December 11 auction featured a range of century-spanning books related to magicians and magicana, chief among them Teller and Todd Karr’s two-volume House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott, which was estimated at $1,500-$2,500 and sold for $5,040. This deluxe first edition was printed in 2005 in LA by The Miracle Factory. It was number 27 of 50 copies and was signed by Teller, Todd Karr, and Katlyn Breene.

Pyramids of Egypt wine and water trick, $14,400

Pyramids of Egypt wine and water trick, $14,400

Legacy props and apparatus were also well represented in this well curated sale, led by a 1990s-era Pyramids of Egypt wine and water trick by John Gaughan and Associates. It more than doubled its high estimate to deliver $14,400. This classic illusion, based on the one from Hoffmann’s Modern Magic, enabled wine and water mixed into a decanter to magically separate into two glasses. This well-rendered example was only one of four sets produced.

Circa-1930s Wandering Coins prop, $780

Circa-1930s Wandering Coins prop, $780

Another strong seller was a Die Wandernden Munzen (The Wandering Coins) prop, which was estimated at $80-$150 and rang up $780. It was made in Vienna in the 1930s by Klingl. In this illusion, a stack of coins and a die transpose within a spun metal cylinder.

Blaney Ladder Levitation prop, $15,600

Blaney Ladder Levitation prop, $15,600

Also of note was a Blaney Ladder Levitation prop, estimated at $8,000-$12,000 and sold for $15,600. It was made in Texas in the 1990s by Walter Blaney. With this trick, a spectator from the audience lay across a wooden board placed on top of two small step ladders. The ladders were removed, leaving the spectator and the board suspended in midair. The Blaney Ladder Levitation became a staple in the shows of many of the best-known performers in the industry, including David Copperfield and Lance Burton.

Circa-1903 poster for The Great Brindamour, $7,200

Circa-1903 poster for The Great Brindamour, $7,200

Of course there was a peerless selection of ephemera, posters, and other conjuring-related material that bridged traditional auction categories. A clear head-turner was a vintage poster touting The Great Brindamour. Magician, which realized $7,200. This circa-1903 full color lithograph was printed by The Strobridge Litho. Co. of Cincinnati & New York and pictured the performer executing his levitation illusion, an assistant suspended in mid-air, rays of light emanating from his fingertips, and, for some obscure reason, gnomes.

1924 dinner program featuring Harry Houdini, $840

1924 dinner program featuring Harry Houdini, $840

Finishing the highlights was a 1924 S.A.M. 20th annual dinner program featuring Harry Houdini. Estimated at $100-$200, it sold for $840. This four-page letterpress brochure featured a cartoon of Houdini whispering into the ear of The Sphinx on the front cover, and listed Houdini as President of the S.A.M. on the interior.

 

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