Circus Auction- Edward J. Kelty and the Circus
Taken almost a century ago, the rare photographs of Edward Kelty offer an unprecedented visual narrative of the American circus in the 1920s and 30s. With over 40 original prints, Potter & Potter is pleased to present the largest collection of Kelty photographs ever to be offered at public auction on November 18th.
Edward J. Kelty (1888-1967) is one of the most famous and mysterious circus photographers in American history. After finishing his service in the Navy, Kelty moved to New York City and established Century Flashlight Photographers, his first studio. Beginning in 1922, Kelty traveled across the country photographing the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey, Hagenbeck-Wallace, Clyde Beatty, and Cole Brothers circuses as well as many trunk, wagon, and train shows. Kelty produced all photographs out of his truck, which he transformed into a studio, darkroom and living space and offered prints to the public for $1.25 each.
His panoramic views reveal the magnificence of the circus both inside and outside the big top. Kelty has been called “the Cecil B. DeMille of still photography” due to the precision and artistry exhibited in his large format photographs. The perfectly orchestrated images have an undeniable cinematic quality that captures the grandeur and glamor of the circus in its prime.
In the early 1940s, Kelty cashed in all of his negatives in order to pay off a large bar tab, moved to Chicago and as far as anyone knows, never took another photograph. Working as a vendor at Wrigley Field, Kelty lived out his days in modest fashion. When he passed away in 1967, his estranged family found only a single camera lens as evidence of his former life documenting America’s circuses.
The pre-auction estimate of the Kelty collection falls between $16,000 and $23,000, with each photograph estimated between $200 and $1,000.
Other highlights of the sale include over 1,000 posters and broadsides advertising circus, carnival and Wild West shows, Buffalo Bill and Tom Thumb ephemera, as well as many side show CDVs and cabinet cards.
A public exhibition of the 650 lots in the sale will be held November 18th at the auction house’s Chicago gallery located at 3759 Ravenswood Ave. A full color auction catalog is available to order or download on Potter & Potter’s website. Live Internet bidding will be hosted through Liveauctioneers.com, Bidsquare.com, and Invaluable.com.
Deluxe Edition Book • The Golden Age of Magic Posters
In 2016 and 2017, Potter & Potter was pleased to offer the collection of Norm Nielsen at auction. The record-setting sale of vintage magic posters were memorable not only for their content, but the catalogs produced to commemorate them. Now Potter & Potter is pleased to announce a deluxe coffee-table book, produced in a strictly limited edition, that showcases hundreds of posters from Nielsen's storied collection.
This volume is vastly different from the auction catalogs: completely redesigned and bound in a single large format (9 x 12") volume of over 300 pages, the book is complete with a handsome cloth slipcase and ribbon bookmark. Nearly 100 posters not featured in the auction catalogs have been added to the volume. Each numbered volume has been signed by Norm and Lupe Nielsen, as well as Gabe Fajuri (author), Stina Henslee (designer), and David Linsell (photographer).
Only 200 copies of this publication will be available for sale. Books are expected to ship in mid-July. CLICK HERE to order your copy of what is sure to be not only a lovely souvenir of this legendary collection, but a valuable reference work for years to come. The price is $200 plus postage.
World Record Price - Houdini Poster
A rare poster depicting Harry Houdini performing his famous Water Torture Cell escape has sold for a world record price of $114,000.00 at Potter & Potter Auctions in Chicago. That price now stands as the most expensive magic poster ever sold at public auction.
The anonymous winning bidder participated by phone.
Printed in London in 1912, the poster depicts Houdini locked upside down and underwater in the Torture Cell, perhaps the most famous escape the magician ever invented and performed. The poster was produced one year after the trick’s invention.
“Advance buzz for the auction was high, and especially for the Houdini posters,” said Gabe Fajuri, President of Potter & Potter. “Chatter on social media included considerable speculation about just how high the price would go,” he added. “Several outlets wondered if we’d set a new world record. We’re glad they were right!”
Another Houdini poster, Houdini – King of Cards also set a record in the auction, bringing in $24,000.00. The poster was printed in 1898 in Chicago, several years before Houdini became a star. The previous record for the image (also held by Potter & Potter) was $20,400.00.
The posters were two of some 1000 vintage lithographs from the collection of professional magician Norm Nielsen. Offered for sale on February 4th, 2017 as part of an auction entitled The Golden Age of Magic Posters, Part II, the posters were collected of the course of 25 years. The first sale from Nielsen’s collection was conducted in June of 2016. In all, the two auctions from Nielsen’s collection totaled of over $1,400,000.00.
Quicker than the Eye • Our Online Shop
Not a day goes by that we don't receive an inquiry from a customer along the lines of: "Do you have _________ available or know where I can get one?" For years, we've answered as best we can, tracking down unusual books and collectibles on a case-by-case basis.
Now, we have an even better answer to the question: a new website called Quicker Than The Eye.
A subsidiary of Potter & Potter, QTTE will be updated on a weekly basis with rare, uncommon, and unusual collectibles related to magic and its allied arts (gambling, juggling, origami, puzzles, etc.). There are nearly 2000 items listed for sale on the site as of this writing, with plenty more to come. So, should you or someone you know have an interest in an item that's out-of-print or hard to find, please direct them to Quicker Than the Eye. With any luck, you'll find what you're looking for.
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.