Skip to content
Houdini 'Buried Alive!' 1924 promotional poster, estimated at $8,000-$12,000 at Potter & Potter.

Harry Houdini artifacts take the stage at Potter & Potter April 13

CHICAGO — Props, advertising, and hand-signed items from the life and times of famed illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz, 1874-1926) take the stage at Potter & Potter on Saturday, April 13. Its Houdiniana & Magic Memorabilia catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

A 1908 first edition presentation copy of The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin by Harry Houdini is the sale’s top lot. Signed and personally inscribed by the author, it was apparently given to his brother, Leo Weiss, MD. The inscription reads: To my real Pal / Doc / with best wishes / and compliments of the / author. May you / enjoy reading my / book with as much pleasure / as the gathering of the / contents gave me. / Harry Houdini / (Ehrich Weiss). Potter & Potter notes this is the only example in Houdini’s hand where he identifies himself with the Americanized version of his birth name. The book is estimated at $25,000-$35,000.

Four sets of leg irons used by Houdini as part of his escape act are included in the sale. The two leading lots are both estimated at $8,000-$12,000. This set of Egyptian leg irons features a twisted link of chain stretched between the manacles. It comes with a letter of authenticity and was previously sold in 2004 at CRG Auctions. Also sold at the same 2004 sale and scheduled to be offered on April 13 is a set of Romer leg irons dating to 1900. They are originally from the Radner Houdini collection, who had acquired them from Theodore Hardeen, Houdini’s brother.

Another favored lot is a massive eight-sheet color lithographed poster advertising a sensational stunt that Houdini would never perform – his escape from a coffin buried under mounds of heavy earth. Dating to 1924, just two years before his untimely death from peritonitis, the 109 by 89in poster is in excellent restored condition, is linen backed, and is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.

The final highlighted Houdini lot is a complete 1919 Paramount Pictures lobby card set for The Grim Game, Houdini’s silent action-adventure film. In it, he portrays a man who is falsely accused, convicted, and imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. He escapes (of course) and pursues the real killers, who have kidnapped his girlfriend. The set is accompanied by a signed business card for Irving V. Willat, the film’s director, leading Potter & Potter experts to surmise that the set may have been his personal copy. With a title card and seven monochrome stills, the set is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.