Bidders ante up at gambling memorabilia auction

Gambling memorabilia sale: Antique gambling books

CHICAGO – Collectors hit the jackpot at Potter & Potter’s May 19 gambling memorabilia sale.

“Faro Exposed; or The Gambler and his Prey. Being a Complete Explanation of the Famous Game, its Origin and Development, and how its Skins are Worked,” $24,000.

“Faro Exposed; or The Gambler and his Prey. Being a Complete Explanation of the Famous Game, its Origin and Development, and how its Skins are Worked,” $24,000.

According to Gabe Fajuri, President at Potter & Potter Auctions, “Strong participation in all categories made for a spirited, lively, and profitable auction on Saturday. Highlights included cheating books … as well as gambling devices, poker chips, and rare playing cards. Uncommon trade catalogs also fared well. This was our most successful gambling memorabilia sale to date.” Prices noted include the company’s 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Enthusiasts took notice of this sale’s phenomenal collection of antique gambling books. The odds-on favorite for the auction’s top sale – lot #151, Alfred Trumble’s Faro Exposed; or The Gambler and his Prey. Being a Complete Explanation of the Famous Game, its Origin and Development, and how its Skins are Worked – did not disappoint. This rare 1882 publication dealing with the subject of advantage play made $24,000 – a possible new world’s record for a gambling book. Collectors also anted up to lot #126, F.R. Ritter’s Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker. This book from 1905, featuring the first photograph of a Jacob’s Ladder-style holdout ever printed, Ritter’s 20 rules for playing poker, and images of cards marked with “blockout” work, sold for $14,400.

The auction also featured a number of additional best sellers in its book category. Lot #7, John Blackbridge’s 1875 The Complete Poker Player realized $2,640, and lot #139, an original, first edition copy of R.A. Smith’s Poker to Win from 1925 made $1,800. The book included a treatise on card sharping, including false shuffles, false deals, cons, tricks, and other sleight-of-hand poker dodges.

Gambling devices

“Faro Exposed; or The Gambler and his Prey. Being a Complete Explanation of the Famous Game, its Origin and Development, and how its Skins are Worked,” $24,000.

“Faro Exposed” interior view

Collectors didn’t keep things close to the vest in regards to the spectacular dice, cards, and chips on offer through this sale. Lot #455, a crooked dice making jig with a pair of dice, rolled to $1,140. Good things came in threes with lot #467, a trio of scrimshawed ivory mustang dice which more than tripled it high estimate to make $1,560. Lot #325, a deck of Steamboat No. 1999 playing cards made $660. This exceptional deck, which was made by the Dorrity Card Manufacturing Company of New York, featured a very rare joker.

Cheating devices

Jig for making crooked dice, with pair of dice, $1,140. Photo courtesy Potter & Potter Auctions.

Jig for making crooked dice, with pair of dice, $1,140.
Photo courtesy Potter & Potter Auctions.

You can bet your bottom dollar that this auction presented a breathtaking array of gambling accessories and devices. Lot #254, an adjustable brass card edge notcher with a turned wooden handle sold for $5,760. This circa 1890 tool was used to prepare cards for four-pin dealing boxes. And lot #260, a Shiner ring and instruction sheet made $1,320. This reflective piece of jewelry was used to read cards as they were dealt off the top of the deck.

Will & Finck’s cheating devices, game accessories, and company ephemera remain the “gold standard” amongst gambling memorabilia collectors. All eyes were on lot #249, a circa 1880 Jacob’s Ladder style brass sleeve holdout mounted on a porcelain display hand; it realized $12,000. Lot #262, a petite, circa 1880 ivory handled brass card trimmer in its original wooden packing crate shuffled its way to $9,600.

For more information on Potter and Potter Auctions and its auction results, visit www.potterauctions.com. 

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