Pieces Of Houdini On Sale

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MagicTimes Spotlight News

Everyone had a chance to buy a Houdini piece at New York auction.

More than 100 magicians and magic fans attended the annual auction at the Swann Auction Galleries on Tuesday Oct. 30 in New York City. The city was on a heightened state of security — but not because of the Houdini collectors in attendance. It seems that a few other events were taking place within a few miles of the auction. Michael Jordan was making his comeback at Madison Square Garden while President Bush was throwing the first ball at Yankee Stadium during the third game of the World Series.

The auction started with 107 items from the Doug Edwards Houdini collection and closed with 28 items from the Stanley Burns Ventriloquism collection. The other 95 items were props, posters, books and ephemera relating to magic, circus and other allied arts, which were consigned by various collectors.

Noted Houdini collectors and experts in attendance were Stanley Palm, Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brooks, Marrio Carrandi, Kenneth Silverman, and Roger Dryer. Many of the other “Houdinists” were bidding through their friends, representatives or were taking advantage of bidding through the mail, web, fax, e-mail and phone.

Is a matter of fact the big purchaser of the night was an anonymous phone bidder, number 239, who spent a small fortune acquiring many of the key Houdini items offered for sale. I speculated that it could be David Blaine but was told that it definitely is not. Anyone out there know who is #239?

The biggest surprise of the auction came with item number 68, a red-backed Bicycle card, a six of Diamonds, which was inscribed “My brain is the key that sets me free” and signed “Houdini” on April 10, 1925. The item was estimated to be worth from $2,000-$3,000 but fierce bidding made the price skyrocket to $7,500 (plus $1,125 buyers premium).

The highest ticket item was item number 167, a copy of the Houdini book “Miracle Mongers and Their Methods” inscribed by Houdini to his brother Dash. The lot also included a pair of old Handcuffs that were stamped “Houdini.” The lot sold for $15,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) to bidder number 239 with nobody bidding against him.

Five other items of note were:

Number 33- A beautiful full-length silhouette of Houdini by Beatrix Sherman which was autographed by Houdini to John Mulholland. Estimated at $6,000-9,000 and sold for $8,000 (excluding buyer’s premium).

Number 34- Houdini’s pajama pocket with his initials embroidered on it. This was reportedly taken from the pajamas he was wearing when entering the Detroit hospital at the time of his death. Estimated at $5,000-7,500 and sold for $3,400 (excluding buyer’s premium).

Number 35- Houdini’s leather wallet stamped “Harry Houdini” in gold. Estimated at $12,000-18,000 and sold for $7,500 (excluding buyer’s premium).

Number 67- An important document which was signed and notarized — transferring ownership to all of Houdini’s property to his wife for one dollar. Estimated at $10,000-15,000 and sold for $7,000 (excluding buyer’s premium).

Number 183- Rudolph Lang’s “Kurtz-verfasste Reiss-Beschreibung oder… Zauber-Kunst… kuenstlichen Hunden bestunde. A series of 52 plates from 1739 showing a dog performing feats of magic. Estimated at $1,000-1,500 and sold for $5,000 (excluding buyer’s premium).

The Statistics (unofficial):
Items offered for sale: 231.
Items sold: 186.
Total of realized prices: $190,984.
Total Spent: Between US $225,000 and $250,000 ($190,084 + $28,647.60 (15% buyer’s premium) + 8.25% sales tax on many of the items + shipping.

The many circus and ventriloquism lots were sold within the estimates published and would have been wonderful additions to a starting collector or one who wanted original pieces to decorate a home or office.

The big news seemed to be that an average collector could have purchased an original Houdini item or even a signature for under a thousand dollars. Which by today’s prices is a bargain.

For a detailed listing of the items offered for sale and the prices realized click: HERE.

—Meir Yedid

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