Potter & Potter Houdiniana auction results
Potter & Potter held their remarkable auction of "Houdiniana" today, and the results did not disappoint. It was a wild ride with some lots soaring to new highs while others offered up surprise bargains.
As I've already reported, the most publicized lot, the unpublished manuscript for The Cancer of Superstition, sold for $28,000 (all prices noted here are before 23% buyer's premium). A collection of letters from Houdini's manager, Martin Beck, which I considered to be the most historically significant item in the entire auction, went for $26,000. A Houdini scrapbook sold for $43,000 in what I believe was the highest price realized. Houdini scrapbooks have certainly become hot auction items lately! The Castle Lock display case featured in the 1953 Houdini biopic starring Tony Curtis locked up $27,000. (It sold for $22,000 in the 2014 Pat Croce auction.) A Houdini lock pick brought $3,200 while a ball and chain, authenticated by Dunninger, went for $8,000. A pair of black McKenzie Mitts grabbed $5,500. A set of Houdini's Needles, complete with box, fetched $18,000. Twenty-six minutes of film footage, including film of Houdini's funeral and some missing footage from The Master Mystery, brought in $4,000. A 1904 "Caught" and "Flown" Christmas card sold for $3,200 while a colorful 1908 Christmas card sold for $3,000.
Photos sold fast and furious and ran the gamut of prices. An original photo of Houdini and Ching Ling Foo sold for what I thought was a low $300 (estimate was $400 – $500), while an 8x10 from The Grim Game sold for a surprisingly high $1,500 (estimate $600 – $800). Grim Game stills in general seemed to fetch premium prices. A pic of Houdini and the Roosevelt grandchildren (his toughest audience) sold for $750. A street scene of Houdini shooting a movie sold for $1,900. But the image I thought was the photo of the auction -- and the one I most wanted for myself -- was the infamous "frenemies" shot of Houdini and Margery at Lime Street. I bowed out and let it go at $1,300 (and will probably kick myself forever). A postcard showing Houdini's historic Australian flight flew away with an impressive $3,200 (estimate $1,000 – $1,200). Another postcard showing Hardeen and his two "prize winning" pups brought $400 (another one I'll kick myself over). A wonderful pen and ink cartoon from 1905 -- "Oh! He’s here again, is he!" -- drew $2,600.
The best bargains seemed to be books. A copy of Handcuff Secrets in very good condition sold for $375. A near fine copy of Magical Rope Ties and Escapes went for a low $250, and The Right Way To Do Wrong for $175. The pitchbook Houdini: His Life and Work in Prose and Picture by Hardeen sold for only $60. Surprisingly, posters came in at the lower end of their auction estimates. The famous "Houdini for President" lithograph featured on the auction catalog cover sold for $12,000 (estimate $12,000 – $18,000). A King of Cards sold for $9,500, below the estimate of $12,000 – $15,00. In a 2014 Potter & Potter auction a King of Cards sold for $17,000. Finally, a sensational original lobby display and transport case was a steal, IMO, at $7,000 (estimate $7,000 – $9,000).
If you log into Live Auctioneers you can see all the auction results. Congrats to Potter & Potter and all the buyers and sellers in what was yet another historic and exciting Houdini auction.
Houdini Auction - Lovecraft & Harry
A previously unknown manuscript by horror and sci-fi master H.P. Lovecraft, for a work that was commissioned by magician Harry Houdini, has been discovered and is coming up for auction on April 9.
The 1926 work, “The Cancer of Superstition,” is well known among fans and scholars of both Lovecraft and Houdini, but was until now thought to exist only in outline.Discovered by a private collector among the records of a now-defunct magic shop, the 31 typewritten pages offer the fullest picture yet of a book-length project that the writer was forced to quit after Houdini’s sudden death.
In his investigative account of superstition in ancient and modern culture, Lovecraft explores werewolves and other monsters, worship of the dead, cannibalism, and other “barbarian” practices. He concludes, frighteningly, “most of us are heathens in the innermost recesses of our hearts.”
The lot is set to open at $13,000 with a pre-auction estimate between $25,000 – $40,000.
Other highlights of the sale include personal scrapbooks owned and kept by Houdini – filled with his own notations – as well as rare photos and posters of him, plus handcuffs, keys, autographs, lockpicks, and original film footage of the master magician.
Of major importance is an archive of early correspondence to Houdini from the vaudeville impresario who helped transform the magician from a little-known dime museum performer into a wildly popular “Handcuff King.” The trove of letters – most of which has never been seen before – was source material for two major Houdini biographies detailing his rise to stardom.
A public exhibition of the 600 lots in the sale will be held April 6 – 8 at the auction house’s Chicago gallery. A full color auction catalog is available on Potter & Potter’s website. Live Internet bidding will be hosted through Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com.