McKinven gambling novelty collection a work of art

Riverboat hustlers may take 5-card stud to an art form but they’ve got nothing on John McKinven. His love affair with gambling novelties is on display (and up for bids) at Potter & Potter’s Auction closing May 13.

McKinven was a suburban Chicago advertising executive by day. But his almost-secret, all-consuming passion was the art of magic: stage illusions, and the history of the craft of conjuring. Now McKinven’s collection of magic memorabilia is going up for auction.

Chief among the items in the sale will be many of the exquisite hand-crafted tricks McKinven himself made. These items include wooden lathe-turned tricks, vanishing bird cages, and the elusive apparatus known as the Expanding Die.

One example is the trick shown here, known as The Change Box. Made by McKinven, circa 1995, a user drops a colored bead into a turned wooden vase. When the bead exits the 7 ½ inch high vase it appears to be a different color. This can be repeated four times, the bead changing color each time. McKinven modeled this vase after a description of Une Boite a Transformations published in St. J. De L’Escap’s Les Secrets de la Prestidigitation, published in Paris in 1913. He manufactured perhaps less than 12 units.

Also going on the block are selections from McKinven’s vast library, and large research archives on illusions, levitation, sideshow tricks, sheet music, and more.

McKinven served as editor of the journal of the Magic Collectors Association, Magicol, and authored several books on magic, most notably Stage Flying, and a biography of a great vaudevillian family, The Hanlon Brothers.

McKinven’s treasures will be complemented by a choice assortment of Houdini artifacts, posters, and rare and early books on magic from other consignors.

Learn more at Potter & Potter’s catalog on LiveAuctioneers.com.

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