CHICAGO – Potter & Potter Auctions will stage its Summer Magic Auction on June 19, starting at 10 am Central time. This nearly 500-lot sale will include outstanding selections of ephemera, fully provenanced and stage-used apparatus, and Houdiniana. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Historically important magic-related paper and ephemera take several of the top slots in this sale, among them a large archive of Robert Harbin (British, 1908-1978) material and correspondence, estimated at $12,000-$16,000. Harbin, an author and magician, was the inventor of a number of legacy illusions, including the Zig Zag Girl. The collection was gathered over the course of decades and includes letters, personal and professional correspondence, signed book agreements, scripts, manuscripts, explanations of his tricks, publicity materials, and much more. In addition, two signed and inscribed photographs of Harry Houdini deserve the spotlight in this category. The first, lot 65, features Houdini piloting his biplane over Germany in 1909. The second, lot 66, shows Houdini performing his outdoor straitjacket escape in Providence, Rhode Island in 1917. These are estimated at $2,000-$4,000 and $2,500-$5,000, respectively.
Century-spanning apparatus with connections to magic industry superstars is also well represented in this June sale. The lineup includes a circa-2000 Willmann candle illusion by Rudiger Deutsch, estimated at $3,000-$6,000. This beautiful recreation, in which the lit flames of seven candles transpose between two large candelabras, is based on an original in the Klosterman collection. Also of note is a 1920s-era animated skull made in Vienna by S. Klingl, estimated at $4,000-$8,000. This prop consists of a genuine human skull mounted on a wooden platform and isolated under a glass dome. It nods to answer “yes,” or shakes back and forth to answer “no” when questions are posed by the magician or audience. Unlike other models of this classic effect, this example incorporates a real human skull, and is animated in a fashion different to all others we have encountered.
Fine selections of antique posters promoting popular 20th century performers and acts appear in the lineup as well, such as a Harry Houdini final tour billboard poster from 1925, estimated at $2,000-$4,000. This rarity features Houdini’s smiling bust portrait flanking the central text advertising his show, while bats and a witch appear on the opposite end of the poster. Another notable highlight is a “Thurston World’s Greatest Magician” linen backed poster, estimated at $5,000-$8,000. This color stone lithograph was printed in Cincinnati by The Strobridge Litho. Co., in 1909. It portrays Kellar’s successor performing a rapid transposition illusion with the assistance of imps and gnomes, with the scenes on either side of his portrait captioned “beginning of trick” and “end of trick” to show the action as seen on stage.
Extraordinary photo postcards are certain to conjure up significant interest at this magic sale. The standout is a Harry Houdini Keith Theatre portrait postcard, estimated at $800-$1,500. This mailer was canceled in Providence, Rhode Island on Feb. 23, 1906, and bears a handsome portrait of the magician. It is addressed to Mr. A. Bucklet of Manchester, England, most likely in Houdini’s hand.
Fine book selections round out the sale, chief among them a copy of Professor Pepper’s The True History of Pepper’s Ghost, estimated at $600-$1,200. This late 19th century illustrated tome by John Henry Pepper was published in London by Cassell & Co. It has cloth backed pictorial boards and a folding frontispiece. It includes contemporary marginalia in an unknown hand with references to phantasmagoria, Porta’s Natural Magick, and related subjects, and with several sheets of notes in the same hand-laid in.
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