Swann Galleries to auction Magic Collection of a Gentleman, Oct. 28

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Swann Galleries will conduct their annual auction devoted to Magic. The material in this year’s sale comes from a single collection containing books, periodicals, catalogs, ephemera, signed photographs, posters and more, including three of Robert Houdin’s elaborate clocks and a collection of micro-magic apparatus.

Among the most desirable items are approximately 80 lots of Houdini material, including a pair of handcuffs owned by Houdini (estimate $5,000 to $7,500); a magician’s wand, likely given to him while presiding as president of the Magician’s Circle, London ($2,000 to $3,000); a group of four water torture cell hinges and clasps ($5,000 to $7,500); an inscribed and signed press booklet for “The Master Mystery,” New York, 1918 ($3,000 to $4,000); and a large poster from his final tour, The World Famous Houdini, Master Mystifier, 3 Shows in One, 1926 ($5,000 to $7,500). There are also books, rare challenges, letters with excellent content, and photographs related to the escape artist.

Also very sought after are items associated with the performer Chung Ling Soo. The sale features an ornately embroidered Chinese-style costume used by Soo, circa 1910 ($5,000 to $7,500); and choice color lithograph posters, one picturing him sitting in a chair flanked by Oriental banners, Birmingham ($8,000 to $12,000), one showing him facing down a floating spirit, Ashton-under-Lyne ($5,000 to $7,500); and one subtitled Hits the Bull’s Eye of Public Opinion Every Time, Birmingham ($6,000 to $9,000).

Other highly valued posters include Miss Baldwin, a Modern Witch of Endor, three-sheet color wood-engraved poster, 1880s ($4,000 to $6,000); Blackstone, Oriental Nights, Biggest Necromantic Exposition on Earth, color lithograph poster, Erie ($3,000 to $4,000); Dante, Sim-Sala-Bim, Do Spirits Return, Dante Says Yes!, six-sheet black-and-white lithograph poster ($3,000 to $4,000); Raymond, Enchantress, Birmingham ($3,000 to $4,000); and Thurston, The World’s Master Magician, Cincinnati, 1907 ($5,000 to $7,500); and several promotional items for Harry Kellar, including Kellar in His Latest Mystery – Self Decapitation, color lithograph, New York, 1898 ($4,000 to $6,000), and a portrait of Mrs. Kellar, Cincinnati, 1900 ($5,000 to $7,500).

There is also autograph material related to Kellar, including two Autograph Letters Signed to Harry Houdini, one with a description of fire-eating, Los Angeles, 1918; the other congratulating him on an honor from the Society of American Magicians, 1919 ($2,000 to $3,000 each).

Other highlights include three glass-dial clocks by Robert-Houdin. These items are as intriguing as they are beautiful, due to their concealed mechanics that leave them with no visible means by which the hands are advanced. Two of the clocks are single-handed ($20,000 to $25,000 and $25,000 to $35,000); the third is one of his rarest designs, featuring two hands, Paris, 1860s ($80,000 to $120,000).

Rounding out the auction are books, broadsides, magic sets, photographs, postcards and a selection of Taytelbaum micro-magic apparatus.

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28. The items will be on public exhibition Thursday, Oct. 23 and Friday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, tel. 212-254-4710, and may also be viewed online at www.swanngalleries.com.

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Gary Garland at 212-254-4710, extension 17, or by e-mail at ggarland@swanngalleries.com.