2022 Auction Schedule & Highlights
The previous year was record-setting on many fronts at Potter & Potter, and 2022 is already off to an auspicious start.
January's Vintage poster sale - clocking in at a whopping 828 lots - realized several records, and can boast a 97% sell-through rate, with 800 of the lots finding new homes at the fall of the auctioneer's hammer. From civil rights and travel posters to circus lithographs and wartime propaganda, bidding was fierce and frequent for nearly 10 hours in our Chicago saleroom. Our next vintage poster auction is already on the calendar for this summer and consignments are already being accepted. Contact us should you wish to consign.
Our late winter and spring schedule is equally packed. Forthcoming annual installments in our go-to categories (gambling memorabilia and books, circus and sideshow collectibles, fine books & manuscripts) are all planned, along with the second installment from Ken Klosterman's Salon de Magie on March 26th. The deluxe hardbound catalog is now available for purchase.
Our Fine Literature & Modern Firsts sale, on April 21st, will bring to market cornerstones in both categories, from inscribed works by Fitgerald and Hemingway to high spots from the pens of their contemporaries (and those writers who inspired them).
Later this spring, look for a catalog of movie memorabilia collection that's truly "of the moment" - with a strong Chicago connection, too - alongside rare and unique Houdiniana in our May auction, some culled directly from the family's personal holdings and which has gone unseen for over 100 years.
The above are only a portion of what will find its way to Potter & Potter customers in the next four months - and rest of the year looks equally exciting, too. Stay tuned to this space or our email list for regular updates.
The Salon de Magie Virtual Tour
In anticipation of next week's auction, we've produced - along with our friends at Art of Play - a virtual tour of Ken Klosterman's famous Salon de Magie museum, led by Potter and Potter president and magic expert, Gabe Fajuri.
Click below to take a final look at one of the most significant and unusual collections of magicana in private hands. From Robert-Houdin's Light and Heavy Chest to Houdini memorabilia and more, this "museum down the mineshaft" was home to true relics of magic history.
SPECIAL NOTE: At the conclusion of Saturday's auction, Potter & Potter will conduct a brief Broken Wand ceremony for Ken Klosterman, a rite that has been used for decades to celebrate the life of a magician who has passed away. The ceremony will take place immediately following the auction, and will be broadcast via the live video stream.
Preview and Reception - The Salon de Magie - October 28th
Salon de Magie: The Klosterman Collection Part I
Potter & Potter is pleased to announce the first sale from Ken Klosterman's legendary collection of magicana, the Salon de Magie, on October 30, 2021 in its Chicago gallery.
This important collection, gathered over a span of five decades, has been home to many of magic's finest relics, among them props and memorabilia from the careers of many of magic's great "golden age" illusionists.
In addition to the remarkable objects included in the collection, the Salon itself is a jewel box showplace like no other, outfitted with secret passages and hidden doors, all buried down a mine shaft some 83 feet underground.
Exclusive pre-auction private tours of the collection, with all lots on display in situ, will be conducted on-site in Loveland, Ohio from October 1-5.
These tours, scheduled by appointment only, will offer bidders a final opportunity to view the Salon de Magie and its holdings, including the objects that will be part of this first history-making sale, as well as forthcoming auctions. We strongly encourage all potential bidders to join us for a last memorable look at this remarkable museum.
Please contact the staff at Potter & Potter now to schedule your appointment and view what has been widely regarded for over half a century as one of the finest collections of magicana in private hands.
For those who cannot join us, a deluxe cloth bound catalog has been issued for the sale. Purchase your copy here. Limited quantities available.
A public preview of the auction lots will be held our Chicago gallery on October 28 and 29 from 10am to 5pm.
Old Year, New Year, New Address
As 2020 draws to a close, everyone at Potter & Potter would like to extend sincere thanks to our customers and consignors alike for what has been a year like no other - for so many reasons. We'd also like to make three brief announcements.
-Our offices will be closed from December 23 to January 4th, 2021, though we will intermittently be attending to calls, emails, and packages, both outgoing and incoming. Regular shipping will resume in January.
-Access to online accounts and past auctions are currently suspended due to server issues, but login capabilities - and our next auction catalog - should be back online next week, if not sooner.
-The new year will bring a big change at Potter & Potter; namely, a new address. The move to our own facility is already underway, and with more space to spread our wings and a full calendar of auctions already on the books, the coming year is looking bright. Watch this space for more information on our newer, bigger, and better permanent home here in Chicago.
Happy Holidays from all of us to all of you!
Magic Sale to Offer Property From The Historic Home Of Harry and Bess Houdini, Including The Bathtub From Their New York City Residence.
This can't miss event also features apparatus, posters, and props from the Jim Rawlins collection, as well as premier Houdiniana and memorabilia from other prominent 20th century magicians and performers.
Chicago, Il, June 25, 2020 - Potter & Potter Auctions is excited to announce its upcoming Magic Collection of Jim Rawlins IV event to be held on Saturday, July 25th starting at 10am, CDT. Given the current public health situation, this sale will be streamed live from Potter & Potter's gallery and held on www.potterauctions.com. Bids can be placed on the company's website. Phone and absentee bidding are available as well. All lots are available for preview now on Potter & Potter's website.
Lot #380, Harry and Bess Houdini’s bathtub, is certain to capture the eye, interest, and curiosity of enthusiasts worldwide. This enameled, cast iron tub measures 60 x 26 x 23”. It was removed from the Houdini's home, located at 278 W. 113th Street in New York City, and is accompanied by extensive documentation and photographs related to its provenance. This material includes a letter of authenticity from the homeowner, attesting to the history of the object and its presence in the home during and since Houdini’s time. The tub has wear consistent with its age, but is intact and entirely structurally sound. This once-in-a-lifetime find, which carries and auction estimate of $8,000-12,000, would be a remarkable addition to a private collection or one held by a museum or historical society specializing in the history of magic, New York City, or Houdini.
This unusual piece of Houdiniana generates more tantalizing research questions than it answers. What is known about the tub is that it is from the third floor bathroom of the Houdini's home. This indicates that it was likely used most often by Houdini's wife, Bess. A closer study of its materials and form may reveal other secrets behind the Houdini family's domestic priorities and sense of the aesthetic. Although there is no way to prove it, it is entirely possible that Houdini may have conceptualized or rehearsed parts of his escape acts in this tub. The idea of him using it to practice endurance feats or breath-holding is a tantalizing one, indeed.
There is something for every collector among this sale's 500 lots of finely curated offerings. Additional selections of top-tier magicana include:
• Lot #56, a giant card wheel from c. 1940, is estimated at $8,000-12,000. This fully provenanced and oversized apparatus, believed to be a unique example, was a feature of magician Chuck Vance’s shows for decades.
• Lot #188, a working aluminum spirit lock, is estimated at $5,000-10,000. This entirely mechanical prop, which opens on voice command, was made by engineering expert Jon Martin in the 1940s and is one of a handful exant.
• Lot #287, a Tarbell orange vase combination from F.G. Thayer of Los Angeles, is estimated at $5,000-7,000. This prop from 1927 is perhaps the finest example of the wood turning talents of Floyd Thayer. Offered for sale for $8.50 to his students, this apparatus was devised by Dr. Harlan Tarbell and advertised as part of his famous Tarbell Course in Magic in the late 1920s.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "While the idea of owning a famous person's fixtures may seem bizarre at first blush, on reflection, I find the idea of items from Houdini's historic home at 278 W. 113th Street entirely enchanting. The fact that rock-solid provenance backs up what are truly one-of-a-kind artifacts makes the auction of these relics even more exciting. I can't wait to see what the new owners of these pieces of history do with them."
Fine Books & Manuscripts at Auction April 18
This early spring sale includes a fine collection of books, articles, and materials on or by Ian Fleming, the English writer best known for his James Bond series of spy novels.
Remarkable, hand-signed books and works from some of the world's most recognized authors and personalities take several of the top slots in this this signature Potter & Potter event.
· Lot #35, a first edition, first printing copy of Ian Fleming's 1963 Thrilling Cities, is estimated at $5,000-7,000. It was published in London by Jonathan Cape, and is inscribed and signed on the title page to Fleming’s personal friend and American spy, David Bruce: “Dave/To keep your mind/off your work!/Ian”.
· Lot #448, a first edition, signed copy of Amelia Earhart's 1932 Fun of It, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This fully provenanced example is uncommonly signed on the frontispiece page; in most cases, she signed her name on the front flyleaf. Accompanying the book are two copies of a handbill for an in person appearance of Earhart and a stack of 1930s newspaper clippings reporting on her.
· Lot #286, George Herman Ruth's Babe Ruth's Own Book of Baseball from 1928 is estimated at $3,000-5,000. This book was limited to 1,000 signed copies; this example is No. 434. It features the author's clean and bold signature on its limitation page.
· Lot #392, a near fine example of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, The Astronomer-Poet of Persia…with an accompaniment of drawings by Elihu Vedder, is estimated at $6,000-8,000. This first edition, published in 1884 in Boston by Houghton Mifflin and Company, was signed by the illustrator on its limitation page. It was limited to 100 copies and sold out within six days; this specific example is No. 22.
· Lot #665, Sean Scully's Heart of Darkness signed portfolio - created exclusively for the classic novella of the same name by Joseph Conrad - is estimated at $4,000-6,000. Created for The Limited Editions Club in 1992, this 20 set limited edition includes 8 color aquatint etchings on cream wove paper; each is signed and numbered in pencil by the artist. This rare complete edition has never before been offered at auction; the etchings are usually sold individually.
This sale features a fine collection of rare, first edition books, including some of the most popular titles of the 19th and 20th centuries.
· Lot #1, a first edition of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, published in 1953 by Jonathan Cape of London, is estimated at $8,000-12,000. It retains its original first issue dust jacket and is housed in a matching custom cloth clamshell case, stamped in gilt and with red heart-shaped morocco inlays. This rarity is one of 4,728 copies printed, the majority of which went to public libraries.
· Lot #28, a first edition, uncorrected proof of Fleming's 1963 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service - also published by Cape - is estimated at $800-1,200. One of 500 printed, it includes its original publisher’s printed wrapper. According to Gilbert A.11.a., "The proof of On Her Majesty's Secret Service has more errors and required more amendments than any other Fleming title, both in terms of careless composition and poor spelling..."
· Lot #90, a first edition of A. Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1892 by George Newnes of London, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. This rarity features the noteworthy misprint of ‘Violent Hunter’ for ‘Violet Hunter’ on p. 317. It is accompanied by a first edition of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes from 1894, also published by Newnes.
Outstanding selections of ephemera, including letters penned by authors and artists, are well represented in this sale.
· Lot #442, a typed and signed letter from Albert Einstein, dated June 13, 1935, is estimated at $2,000-2,500. This fully provenanced letter is on his personal letterhead, written in German, and addressed to author and scholar Avraham Yarmolinsky.
· Lot #9, a collection early ephemera relating to Ian Fleming, is estimated at $200-300. This material includes A & I Stop Press (1947; supplement to Alphabet and Image) Nos. 1 and 7 and a book catalogue for Elkin Mathews LTD. (1937; No. 69) listing Fleming as one of its directors. These rare and desirable examples are some of the earliest ‘Ian-cunabula’ ephemera on the market.
Also on offer is an eclectic and intriguing range of visually stunning albums and archives.
· Lot #109, an early photograph album of the Chicago Police Department and scenes of Chicago’s waterfront and downtown areas from c. 1907–22 is estimated at $2,000-2,500. The album contains about 115 neatly mounted black-and-white photos and is handsomely rebound in cloth with a side tie.
· Lot #112, a Folsom Prison mugshot book from 1914-1919, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This original prisoner discharge book features approximately 1,090 silver gelatin black and white full-face mugshots affixed to each page, with accompanying handwritten descriptions next to each inmate photo.
This auction presents wall-to-wall selections of eye-popping and important posters and broadsides.
· Lot #662, a nuclear disarmament poster by artist Keith Haring (1958–1990), is estimated at $2,000-2,500. This black and white example is printed on smooth wove paper and is inscribed and signed in ink by the artist in lower right: “For Ken/Keith Haring/82”.
· Lot #268, The Dodo Presenting the Thimble to Alice, from Lewis Carroll's book Alice in Wonderland, is estimated at $500-1,000. This iconic image is one in a series of 6 large, color lithographic posters based on Carroll's tale and was printed by Macmillian in London in 1921.
The auction closes the loop with carefully curated selections of antiques, fine and decorative art, and other rarities that defy conventional categories.
· Lot #484, a c. 1930 Philips’ 18-inch merchant shippers’ globe is estimated at $3,000-5,000. This remarkable example is comprised of 36 half gores with Philips’ cartouche, is supported in a graduated brass meridian ring with latitude numerals, and stands on four reeded legs linked by turned stretchers.
· Lot #663, a color lithograph by Joan Miró (1893–1983) from the album L’Enfance d’Ubu, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. This example from 1975 is on wove paper, signed and numbered (21/120) in pencil by Miró, and includes a COA from Merrill Chase Art Gallery.
· Lot #666, a 25 ½” tall polystyrene on wood sculpture, by Victor Vasarely (1908–1997) is estimated at $3,000-4,000. Titled MC 146, it was produced in 1974, signed by the artist on the lower front, and numbered 12/50.
While the auction gallery will be closed for preview prior to the sale, Potter & Potter specialists are available to answer inquiries, provide additional photographs or information regarding specific lots, and can provide videos of individual objects for bidders. Auction bidding, live, in real time, will take place on Potter & Potter's website. Absentee bids, phone bid requests, and other inquiries should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regarding COVID-19: Streaming, Shipping & More
In response to the COVID-19 health threat, Potter & Potter has been proactive in taking all the necessary steps to help keep our clients, consignors, friends, and staff healthy and safe, and to do our part in helping contain the virus. To that end, a few updates are in order.
First and foremost, we remain open for business. That said, for the immediate future, our auctions will continue, but without a live floor of bidders. And, with challenges come new solutions. In an effort to bring the saleroom directly to your living room, we will soon offer a live video stream of our auctions on the Potter & Potter's online bidding platform. As always, online bidding, in real time, will make your experience comfortable, safe, and seamless.
While taking every measure necessary to help "flatten the curve," our staff will be pleased to provide additional information and images to prospective bidders, respond to messages, emails, and other inquiries in a timely manner.
It should also be noted that shipping delays are inevitable. Our staff works hard to securely pack and send thousands of auction lots each year, but delivery times will most certainly be significantly longer as a result of current conditions. We thank you for your patience and understanding regarding these and other delays.
Many thanks to all of you for years of patronage, confidence, and trust at this most challenging of times. Stay safe and be well.
The Staff of Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.
Circus • Sideshow • Oddities Press Release
Potter & Potter Auctions' November, 2019 Sale to Present Over 750 Lots of Circus and Sideshow Memorabilia, Oddities, and Entertainment Relics That Defy Conventional Collecting Categories.
This can't-miss event features the collection of Dave and Mary Jane Price, including rare and important broadsides, costumes, and ephemera from the Clyde Beatty–Cole Bros. Circus.
Chicago, Il, October 25, 2019 - Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce their Circus, Sideshow, and Oddities sale to be held on Saturday, November 16th, 2019 starting at 10am at the company's gallery, located at 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. All lots from this event will be on display and available for public preview on Thursday, November 14th and Friday, November 15th from 10:00am to 5:00pm in the Potter & Potter facility.
Breathtaking circus related antiques represent several of the top lots in this sale, with merchandise from Buffalo Bill (American, 1846-1917) and other legacy performers taking center ring.
Lot #175 a program from Buffalo Bill’s first Wild West performance, is estimated at $5,000-7,000. It is profusely illustrated and likely the only surviving example of the debut performance of his Wild West show on May 19, 1883. It was sold to help the audience understand the purpose of the Wild West “exhibition” and about the key performers. It is also arguably the rarest of all the surviving Buffalo Bill’s Wild West programs.
Lot #231 a very rare Wild Bill Hickok, Texas Jack Omohundro, and Buffalo Bill CDV (carte de visite or "visiting card") from 1874 is estimated at $3,500-4,500. This photograph features the three scouts of the prairie in civilian clothes. For the 1874 theatrical season, Wild Bill joined Cody and Texas Jack but soon dropped out due to his aversion to show business.
Lot #328 a collection of Johann Petursson (Iceland, 1913-1984) “The Viking Giant" materials is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This early midcentury archive features about 150 rings, ephemera including an unopened box of pictorial envelopes and a full ream of oversized pictorial stationery, and Petursson's wooden Viking war hammer that was displayed at his shows.
Dazzling, can't look away entertainment banners are also well represented in this sale. Lot #242, a Mule-Face Woman canvas sideshow banner by artist Snap Wyatt (American, 1905-1984) is estimated at $3,000-5,000. This hand painted, 240 x 108” example from the 1960s is signed “Snap Wyatt Studios/Rt. 3 Tampa Fla”. And lot #245, a How the Stars Bring Success, The Graysons astrology sideshow banner, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. This c. 1930-era, expertly painted banner advertises astrological readings. It measures 88 x 110" and was likely used inside a circus tent.
Carnival related merchandise adds an entertaining perspective to this expertly curated sale. Lot #449, an ersatz c. 1940 sideshow electric chair, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. It is well-worn but functional and attractive, with a somewhat vintage folk art appearance. The electric chair illusion, a classic and nearly-forgotten sideshow staple, allowed showmen to advertise something far more macabre than the act they actually exhibited. Lot #268, a group of six canvas knock down “punk” dolls, is estimated at $800-1,200. Five are clowns and one is a cat; they average 10 ½” tall each and date from the 20th century. And lot #278, a Coney Island fiberglass carousel horse, is estimated at $800-1,200.This life-sized equine comes to life with a fur-like flocked exterior and a finely rendered head and saddle pad.
The posters and photographs on offer through this sale offer a glimpse into the competitive and frenetic traveling entertainment industry of yesteryear. Lot #5, Raymond & Company’s Menagerie for 1847, is estimated at $4,000-6,000. This extremely rare pre-Civil War era poster advertises the lineup of this little-known circus; its border features woodcuts of the exhibition's animals, and its center image depicts a bandwagon, drawn by a team of sixteen horses. Lot #7, a poster advertising The Great London Circus, is estimated at $4,000-6,000. This colorful, 1879 example is illustrated with a rowboat filled with sailors, a snarling seal, and polar bears. Lot #20, a poster from Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth and featuring The Four Funniest and Most Original of All Acting Clowns / Educated Animals is estimated at $1,200-1,800. This rare 1890s broadside is decorated with vignettes of clowns performing with pigs and monkeys. And two photographs by traveling photographer Edward Kelty (American, 1888-1967) merit collector's focus. The first, lot #573, is a 1929 print of his Congress of Freaks with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. An airbrushed version of this photo is known, but this specific version, in which the performers pose slightly differently, is rarer. And the second, lot #574, is a panoramic photograph of the Dreamland Circus Side Show from 1927. The image captures a tattooed woman, dog faced boy, giantess, and possibly Frank Lentini, among others. These images are estimated at $2,500-3,500 and $1,000-2,000 respectively.
Potter and Potter Auctions enjoys an outstanding, well deserved reputation of consistently offering archives from extraordinary people and institutions. These materials provide researchers, museums, and institutions remarkable, first hand materials for study and collection building. Lot #613, a collection of about 350 photos of human oddities from the 1950s, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. The images include those of giants, midgets, morbidly obese people, Siamese twins, strong men, piercings, people with hypertrichosis or albinism, snake charmers, amputees, and others. Lot #618, a C.W. Parker Carousel and Amusement Factory archive, is estimated at $1,000-1,500. It includes around 100 items related to, sent to, or created by the Parker company - reported to be the largest business building carousels, Ferris wheels, shooting galleries, and related amusement devices through the first half of the twentieth century. And lot #398, a collection of Johnny Eck “Half Boy” materials - including canes, photos, business cards, and personal stationery - is estimated at $800-1,200. John Eckhardt Jr. (American, 1911-1991) was performer and a film actor best known for his role in the 1932 cult classic film "Freaks."
Oddities, puppets, ephemera, and other "freak show" themed rarities bring this can't miss sale full circle. Lot #329, Santa Cruz / Solomon islands currency coil is estimated at $5,000-7,000. This rare piece of ethnographic art, uncommon outside institutions, required the feathers from 300 to 600 Scarlet Honeyeater birds and hundreds of hours to construct. As currency, these coils were reserved for major transactions such as pigs and canoes, or as wedding payments. Lot #629, a c. 1910 cyanotype blueprint for alterations to Coney Island's “Tunnel of Love” ride by W.F. Mangels Co., is estimated at $300-500. Lot #751, an 1880-era French hand painted opera theatre puppet stage with thirteen porcelain puppets, is estimated at $1,000-1,500. And bidders may just have a bone to pick with lot #365, a midcentury medical school human skeleton model. This anatomically correct, resin, full-body skeleton is assembled with metal wiring, bolts, and springs, and is secured on a metal rod with a rolling base. It is estimated at $400-600.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "The success of last year's Freakatorium auction will, with any luck, be with us again with this sale. The combination of spectacular posters, outrageous banners and objects, and showbusiness history (in the form of rare and unusual Buffalo Bill material) is one of the most diverse and unusual offerings in our calendar this season."
Coin-Op & Advertising Press Release
Potter & Potter Auctions’ September Coin-Op and Advertising Event to Feature Premier Selections of 20th Century Arcade, Vending, and Slot Machines.
This can’t miss, early fall event also includes antique advertising, rare Black Americana, playthings from times past, and other fine collectibles.
Chicago, Il, September 3, 2019 - Potter & Potter Auctions is pleased to announce their annual fall Coin-Op & Advertising Auction to be held on Saturday, September 28, 2019 starting at 10am at the company's gallery, located at 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. All items from this upcoming sale will be on display and available for public preview on Thursday, September 26th and Friday, September 27th from 10:00am to 5:00pm in the Potter & Potter facility.
There is certain to be great interest in this event’s offering of coin-op machines spanning more than a century of production. Vending examples represent several of the top lots in this sale. Lot #19, a c. 1910 Goo Goo Gum one cent vendor, is estimated at $10,000-15,000. This rare and desirable piece is one of only a handful extant. It is in working, original condition and decorated with the words “Goo Goo Gum” in gilt lettering on both sides of its cabinet and cartoonish figures of a boy and girl. Lot #20, a c. 1910 Mills Novelty One Cent “Little Perfection” vending machine is estimated at $8,000-12,000. This all original machine - branded with the Mills name and owl logo and featuring the company’s “dust-proof chute” – is evenly oxidized and includes its lock and keys. And it’s a two for one with lot #16, a c. 1920s Sunny Boy countertop gumball vendor and slot machine combo made by Field Manufacturing. This machine offers the opportunity to purchase a gumball for a penny as well as a chance to flip the coin into Sunny Boy’s mouth. If victorious, the customer turns a handle and collects the jackpot. It is estimated at $5,000-7,000.
This sale’s gambling and trade stimulator selections are also a sure bet. Lot #17, a 1930s era Pace Mfg. “Pace’s Races” 5 Cent console floor model slot machine, is estimated at $6,000-9,000. This working model, in fine condition, is housed within a paneled wooden cabinet with metal castings of a racehorse to both sides. Players bet on one of seven cast iron horses by dropping a nickel into one of the corresponding slots and then pulling a lever. Lot #9, a Mills Pirate 25 cent high top slot machine is estimated at $3,000-4,500. This life-sized machine is activated by pulling the pirate’s lever arm which holds a realistic flintlock pistol. And lot #77, a c. 1890 Excelsior Race Track Co. 5 Cent Excelsior automatic trade stimulator, is estimated at $4,000-5,000. This wood and glass beauty, one of the first trade stimulators produced, was advertised in the National Police Gazette of 1890.
Advertising representing a full range of businesses, brands, and movements of days gone by is another important category in this signature sale. These outstanding signs, displays, and posters all but promote themselves.
Lot #231, a Prohibition-era Woman’s Christian Temperance Union porcelain street sign, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This double sided, black lettered sign features a skull and crossbones and likens alcohol to poison. Next, let’s focus on lot #238, a c. 1900 American gilt metal optometrist trade sign. This example, in the form of oversized spectacles, is estimated at $700-900 and retains its all original blue-tinted lens inserts. Lot #215, a Merrick’s six cord spool cotton thread revolving cabinet, is estimated at $600-900. This round oak cabinet is detailed with glass panels with gold leaf lettering and retains and its original maker’s plaque with a patent date of 1897.
Lot #325 a Goodrich Clincher automobile tires posters made for The B.F. Goodrich Company is estimated at $800-1,200. Illustrated by Albert Lynch (Peruvian, 1851–1912), this c. 1905 lithograph features a portrait of “Gwendolen,” one of the 17 Goodrich Girls. Lot #332, a Western Cartridge Ammunition poster for The Western Cartridge Co., of East Alton, Illinois is estimated at $600-800. This c. 1921 example features colorful scenery of a couple frog hunting, using the company’s ammunition. And lot #368, an elegantly framed French c. 1930s Le Savon Dirtoff poster depicting a caricatured African American male washing his hands, is estimated at $600-800. Dirtoff was promoted as a soap made “for mechanics, drivers, and housewives.”
Also on offer through this can’t miss sale is a museum-quality range of Black Americana. Many of these important examples mirror challenging social periods in our history. Lot #466, a traveling folk art puppet minstrel show from the 1920s, is estimated at $1,500-2,500. This collection includes a wooden suitcase housing the show; a lithographed backdrop of rolling hills and greenery; a wooden stage with a miniature Oriental rug for the performers to stand on; three hand painted wooden jiggers with articulated hips, knees, and arms; and a red curtain with gilt trim. Lot #432, a folk art minstrel jigger display show, is estimated at $800-1,200. This working set consists of a hand painted wooden and glass display case depicting a log cabin, a red felt musical stage, and six African American wooden dancers. They stand side by side and move up-and-down in tandem when the display mechanism is cranked. Lot #382, a moveable store display featuring a portrait of an African American man, is estimated at $1,000-1,500. This working example features a die cut lithograph attached to an electric motor that moves the man's eyes and mouth when it is plugged in. And lot #407, a complete set of c. 1880 Aunt Louisa’s cube puzzles made by McLoughlin Bros. Publishers of New York, is estimated at $800-1,200. This collection includes thirty wood puzzle blocks forming six different puzzle images taken from the “Ethiopian Minstrels,” a blackface minstrel troupe of the era.
This comprehensive sale comes full circle with robust selections of toys, automatons, clocks, and fine antiques. Lot #274, a musical, ornately carved black forest carved bear smoking stand, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. This late 19th century model depicts a standing bear and three smaller sitting bears, and functions as a storage unit, tabletop, and ashtray. Lot #534, a pair of Marx Amos ‘N’ Andy walkers, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. These c. 1930 tin litho wind-up figures are in working condition and include their original pictorial box. Lot #516, a c. 1900 coffee drinking moor electric automaton in working condition, is estimated at $5,000-7,000. When activated, the figure brings the pitcher over to his cup, pours coffee, makes a drinking motion, moves his lips, eyebrows, and eyes, and turns his head from side to side. And this countdown ends with lot #362, a c. 1930 Cleveland Electric “Aztec” neon clock, estimated at $1,000-2,000. This stunning red and green neon example is in working condition and measures 26” in diameter and 7” wide.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, “We look forward to our annual coin op and advertising sale each year with great anticipation, and more than ever before, this year's wait was worth it. The auction includes one of our best and most diverse offerings of machines in all categories, but truly exemplifies the cliché - sorry to say it! - of "something for everyone" in that the broad advertising and toy categories are very strong this year, as well. Advance interest for the sale has been quite strong."
Potter & Potter, founded in 2007, is a Chicago area auction house specializing in paper Americana, vintage advertising, rare books, playing cards, gambling memorabilia, posters, fine prints, vintage toys, and magicana - antiques and collectibles related to magic and magicians. The company's next live sale, featuring books, manuscripts and fine art, will be held on October 18, 2019. For more information, please see www.potterauctions.com. Follow us on Facebook (potterandpotterauctions), Twitter (PnPAuctions), and Instagram (potterauctions).
August 22, 2019 • Automata: Life & Other Illustions Gallery Opening
Please join us in our Ravenswood, Chicago gallery on Thursday the 22nd of August from 5:30-7:30 for refreshments and an exciting opportunity to view all of the items heading to the block on August 24th in our highly anticipated auction: Automata: Life & Other Illusions.
Potter & Potter Auctions' August, 2019 Automata: Life and Other Illusions Sale to Include Museum Quality Rarities From Makers Including Vichy, Lambert, Bertrand, and Phalbois. This event features over 150 mechanical marvels from the Michael Kam collection, as well as fine selections of kinetic art, puppets, and associated objects. Remarkable automatons spotlighting magicians and magic acts take center stage - and several top lot slots - at this late summer sale.
Lot #45, a nearly life-sized Magician Automaton, is estimated at $40,000-60,000. This example, most likely made by JAF in the 1920s, features a turbaned, costumed conjurer holding a wand and a large velvet cone in his hands. This eight movement example looks from side to side, shifts his eyes to the left and right, and moves his lower lip as though mumbling spells. He then waves his wand four times, and lifts a cone to display one of six items. This extraordinary automaton was featured in the Oscar-nominated “whodunit” mystery film Sleuth, and was one of two playing a prominent role in the movie. Lot #1, a c. 1860 musical Magician Automaton made by Alexandre Theroude, is estimated at $20,000-30,000.In this example, an exotically dressed conjurer stands at a decorated table. He looks to the right and left, nods, moves his eyes and mouth, and performs a series of changes with his cups. First, a die transposes positions, then changes for a loaf of bread and three balls, then for an apple and three balls, then two pears, and finally nothing. Lot #11, a c. 1920s Levitation Automaton made by Roullet & Decamps, is estimated at $15,000-25,000.This automaton features a standing, tuxedo-clad magician and his assistant resting on a table. When the mechanism is activated, the woman floats up, and the conjurer passes his hoop over her levitating body, proving there is no connection between her body and the table below. And fast forwarding a century, lot #42, a c. 1993 Clown Magician Automaton by Michel Bertrand, is estimated at $20,000-30,000.This modern example was built to order for Jerry and Bunny Steinbaum, and inspired by the legacy Vichy/Triboulet automaton “Clown aux boules Mysterieuses.” Michel Bertrand is acknowledged as the successor to the famous firms of Vichy/Triboulet/JAF, and incorporated many original Vichy parts in his automata.
Automata in the form of acrobatic clowns is a key category in this well curated sale. Two examples with chairs offer collectors a leg up in terms of their quality and rarity. The first, lot #3, is a c. 1910 example by Louis Renou. This moving marvel features a clown, his hands resting between two chairs. He slowly raises his body, until he is entirely upside down, balanced precariously between the chairs. At each stage of his ascent, he pauses dramatically, probably in anticipation of the next step in his balancing act. And the second, lot #36, is a c. 1895 example made by Vichy. This delight has a clown standing between two chairs. When he is activated, he lifts one chair in his right hand, then lowers it to the stage. Next, he performs a handstand atop the opposite chair, moving up and down and lifting the other chair in his free hand. Each of these breathtaking - and apparently gravity defying - automatons is estimated at $20,000-30,000.
This event showcases a remarkable selection of automata doing "everyday" things in the most extraordinary ways. Lot #44, a c. 1975 seated Pierrot Writing Automaton made by Michel Bertrand, is estimated at $20,000-30,000. He is seated at a desk with a lamp. When activated, the lamp lights, and the Pierrot beings writing. He nods off and his lamp dims. He then awakens, reaches toward the lamp, adjusts the flame, and begins writing again, finishing his letter. Lot #5, a c. 1890s “Piano Watteau” Pianist Automaton by Vichy, is estimated at $15,000-25,000. This elegant example features a beautiful musician seated at a piano harp. When wound, she plays four songs, turns her head side to side, blinks her eyes and runs her hands along keyboard, occasionally stopping and pressing down quickly with her hands and shoulders as if striking staccato notes. And lot #6, a c. 1900 musical Chanteur by the Gaslight Automaton made by Vichy, is estimated at $15,000-25,000. When activated, the entertainer raises and lowers both arms, nods his head, blinks his eyes open and closed, and opens and closes his lips. The top of his lamp also rotates.
This auction's flora and fauna themed automatons made by Roullet & Decamps are certain to bring out many collector's animal instincts. Highly entertaining drinking, bubble blowing, walking, ironing, and growling animals are on offer. Lot #22, a c. 1910 Walking Peacock Automaton, is estimated at $7,000-9,000. When activated, the bird starts walking, then stops to raise and triumphantly fan his tail feathers. They then drop back into place and he continues walking along. And lot #7, a c. 1930 Bubble Blowing Bear, is estimated at $2,000-3,000. This white cub holds a metal bowl in one paw and a bubble wand in the other. Upon activation, he dips the wand in the bowl, raises it to his lips, and blows bubbles.
Puppets, clocks, toys, and other kinetic collectibles bring this outstanding sale full circle. Lot #59, a contemporary Enrico Bertschinger Mickey Mouse Magician Automaton, is estimated at $1,000-2,000. This fine example - equally suited for Disney and automata collectors - is made in Switzerland and depicts Mickey Mouse on a stage behind a table, surrounded by magic props, with a curtain background.
Videos demonstrating the movement and detailing for all auction highlights are available; please contact Potter & Potter at email@example.com for more information.
According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, "We're excited to present one of the largest auctions of automatons in recent memory - not only because of the rarity and value of the objects themselves, but because of the special nature of the automatons and how they intersect with the other antiques we regularly auction. To see these proto-robots come to life in our gallery has been a true joy over the last two months, and watching them delight our office staff in addition to visitors to our gallery was an instant tipoff that we had something extra special on our hands. Which is not to say we didn't know that already. But when you see the reaction, the wonder, and the fascination that these mechanical marvels elicit, it reinforces how special they truly are - and always have been."
Jim Rawlins on some of his favorite items from the upcoming auction
There are wonderful things in the auction and most speak for themselves. Here I would like to focus on a few items that deserve further details.
This was my favorite piece of apparatus. The workmanship and rarity add up to make it truly incredible. I have seen most of the major magic collections (even the top two in the Unite States) and this prop is not represented in them. You will not find it in the Albo books. I have only seen one other and the condition was not comparable to this. The rim sparkles like diamonds because of the detailed cuts made to embellish it. I don’t know how they possibly produced this at the turn of the century. There is a period Martinka coin attached to the bottom which they did on only the finest of props they produced.
This was one of two that were commissioned by Bob Albo to Paul Lembo. The original name was “Shower of Gold”. Doc Albo provide both period large glass containers and explained the mechanism that he would like to have built. Paul Built two one for Albo and one to keep for himself. It is this one that I later acquired form Paul. The jar can be shown freely and even examined in the beginning if you wish. The Clockwork mechanism is picked up in the jar lid from the table. Once activated the coins drop from the hiding place in the lid as the clockwork mechanism rotates to release them.
From the act of my “all-time” favorite close up magicians. Del went through a number of these. He modified them for his use and placed them on a wooden pedestal with the electronics concealed inside. This was used by Del and came from the Estate of Bob Escher who was a great friend of Del’s. Bob inherited many of Del’s props upon Del’s passing. The bird conversed with Del throughout the slow telling him what numbers on the dice would be thrown etc. It was prominently displayed in my Del Ray collection.
Dr. Albo had an original fire globe from Willman and had 3 additional turned from the original to match it exactly. He gave the task of building the Fire Globe props to Carl Williams (this told to me by Doc Albo himself). Years went buy with no progress so he had Carl ship them to Paul Lembo for the recreation. They turned out to be magnificent props. Paul built a pneumatic system to rise the appearing pump. Just release the switch and the globe slowly rises within the empty tube. Again, Doc ALbo let Paul keep one for himself (their relationship was extremely close). After years of begging Paul finally agreed to sell this to me.
When I bought the remains of the original Thayer Company I said at the time that I would have bought the entire inventory just to get these. They are intended to have a crystal ball on top for reading. One is gimmicked and has a door that opens on the rear to expose a roller of notes for the reader. This is like the taller standard stand that Thayer produced and sold in the Catalog. The wood turning is remarkable. The ungimmicked matching stand that they produced sealed the deal for me. I had to have them. Both marked Thayer and likely a special order or an experiment. You will not find another.
Circa 1870- How did this survive? How was it painted to this detail on the lid of a box this size? It is an amazing scene of a cups and balls worker on reverse painted glass. It is one of the most beautiful decorative items I owned.
This started me on my quest for books signed from one magician to another. I don’t know that I ever topped this one. Think about it. “The Greatest Genius with the card I have ever seen, and I have seen many”. I bet she had. It would not be the last time Dia was referred to as a genius with the cards. This written to a man that had famously fooled her husband with a simple card trick.
I want to focus on the 10k gold badge that was presented to Edward Bryan. How many of these can exist? It has the Houdini Magic Club of Philadelphia logo on the front and is dated on the rear 1933. Amazing! I called Gabe at one point and asked for this back. It was hard to let it go.