Monday, December 21, 2015

Houdini "America's Sensation" poster discovered in California

I'm delaying my year end review and break to share some exciting news! Collector David Haversat has discovered and purchased an original Houdini "America's Sensation!" poster from an antique store in California. As far as I know, this is only the third America's Sensation poster to ever turn up. Here's a photo of David's find.


America's Sensation was the first poster advertising Houdini solely as an escape artist. Houdini commissioned it from the St. Paul printing company in London shortly after he arrived in England in 1900. It might also be the only poster billing him as "Harry Handcuff Houdini."

As I said, this is only the third known example of this rare poster. Collector Gale Molovinsky has one that he purchased from Mario Carrandi in 1980. The other was discovered in a scrapbook in the collection of the New York Public Library.

This newly discovered America's Sensation poster might be the same one that hung in the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada years ago. (You can see it in the photo I took in 1990 below.) The fold marks on this poster match those seen on the black and white reproduction in Houdini His Life and Art, which is credited to the museum. But how did the Houdini world lose track of this poster for so many years?


David plans to have restoration work done on the poster. And if you're wondering whether it will appear in a future Haversat & Ewing Galleries auction...sorry. Says David, "It's a keeper!"

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22 comments:

  1. Wow! This is great! I enjoy stories like this, thanks for sharing. Congrads to him!

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  2. Classic. Every collectors dream !! :-)
    Congratulations.

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  3. Was this in Los Angeles? I once emailed you about a set of posters that were in a coin shop in Santa Monica. One of them looked like this one and the owner said he bought them in an auction after the Houdini Museum had caught fire.

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    1. David didn't say where this store was, but that's a good guess. I still gotta go check out that SM coin shop. Early 2016, I promise!

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  4. I wonder what Haversat paid for this poster. Makes you also wonder what else disappeared from the Museum after the fire.

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    1. As far as I can tell, almost everything in that museum, besides the USD, survived the fire. It's all shown up for auction. Heck, even I have a mannequin head from the museum. Still has smoke ash on the face.

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  5. Makes you want to go and find what other items have been lost or forgotten over time! It's great to see in the year 2015, soon to be 2016 that Houdini discoveries are still being made and an interest to magicians, collectors and the general public. Pleased to know Mr. David obtained this treasure, let's find more!

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    1. It is great that this kind of thing can still happen.

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  6. Which antique shops, yard sales, and farmer's markets do we case? It was pure luck that Rabbi Weiss' Bible turned up in a yard sale in Upstate New York.

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  7. Really like to have a clue what he paid??5K 10K More??

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    1. I'd like to hear that he paid $150 for it because the store didn't realize what it was. I want to know that can still happen. :)

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  8. I'm sure the amount will never be disclosed and it should not be, not the point. A shame that $ is more important to some then the fact the poster is still in existence. When I began to collect in the early days we collected because it we enjoyed it, not because of the value. That has all changed with the new generation. Yes that was 50 + years ago, but it was a better time.

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    1. I don't think anyone is saying money is more important than this poster's existence. It's just the piece of the story we don't have. Did David experience the collector's dream? It's only natural to wonder that.

      But you're certainly correct that big money has changed the world of Houdini collecting. But that's because Houdini material has shot through the roof in value and brought in "investment collectors," who have existed in all generations -- just look at the art world. Blame Houdini for becoming an icon.

      But I envy those who collected Houdini 50+ years ago. It would be wonderful to own something like this. But it's now out of the realm for someone like me. Thank goodness I did get some nice thing in the '80s before it all went crazy.

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  9. The world of collection in general has already turned its back on collecting for the fun of it. Vintage guitars regularly fetch huge sums of money from wealthy collectors. After winning those guitars, some of the collectors store them in climate controlled vaults to protect their assets. They're investors, not musicians, and are hoping their valuables appreciate over time.

    The world of Houdini collecting is no different. Be that as it may, there is no shame in wondering what an item sold for.

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    1. In the '80s I collected James Bond first editions for fun and because I loved them. Never thought about future value. No one did. Now their value has exploded, even eclipsing everything I have on Houdini. Only good investment I've ever made in my life was the one I didn't know I was making. :)

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  10. Wow Not my point at all about how much it cost. I am thrilled its still out there my curiosity is what would I have to pay. For most serious collectors money is no object it just a means to acquire what you want, that's it.. But for the rest of us we would like to know maybe there's a chance. As we love to collect and add more and different items.
    I do want it but will have to wait my turn. later John

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    1. Was I the one who misunderstood your point? If so, sorry. (There are 3 people commenting as Anonymous, so I'm not sure who's taking to who.)

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  11. The folks at the museum must have used real vintage posters to decorate their exhibits. Or are we looking at copies on that prison wall?

    That mannequin looks more like Lance Burton in tighty whities than HH.

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  12. They (The posters) were 100% the real deal. Today you would not think of it, but the value of those posters were a fraction of what they are now.

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  13. I own the bars from the cell from the Hall of Fame in Canada. They are in my basement

    Jon Oliver

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    1. The bars? Do you mean the cage or "the steel grill" (as Houdini phrased it) that went into the cell?

      Would love to see a pic! :)

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  14. the jail cell the dummy Houdini is in, in the above photo. Henry M. told me they were suppose to be a cell
    H.H. was in an escaped from. I doubt highly.
    Even have the barred window. Jon Oliver

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