Thursday, February 1, 2007

Houdini book and letter fetch $45,426 in auction

In what certainly must be the highest price ever paid for a Houdini book and letter, a signed copy of Magical Rope Ties and Escapes together with an unsigned letter from Houdini to the publisher suggesting ideas for the book’s layout, cover design, etc., has fetched an amazing $45,426.00 at the Random Treasures Auctions.

This is all the more amazing as Magical Rope Ties and Escapes is not a particularly rare book. Copies on eBay tend to sell for between $300 and $800 depending on condition. The auction description played up the attachment of the Harry Keller dedication sticker below Houdini’s signature, perhaps leading some to think that this book was given to Keller by Houdini. But this Keller dedication sticker is inside almost all copies of Magical Rope Ties and Escapes (including the one in my own collection).

The auction lot also included a carbon copy of publisher Will Goldston’s response to Houdini’s letter, assuring the magician he will receive final approval on the book design. While these letters are nice, I fail to see what brought on such an astronomical sale price, especially as an equally significant (signed) letter fetched $3,072.00 (a more typical price for a Houdini letter).

The Magical Rope Ties and Escapes lot was the second highest price realized on a Houdini item in the entire auction. The highest price paid was $58,526.00 for a beautiful original lithograph for the Water Torture Cell (right). The highest realized price for the entire auction was $106,123.00 for a rare Robert-Houdin clock.

The auction, which opened on January 1 and closed January 31, included four different Robert-Houdin clocks; original costumes and props of Chung Ling Soo; signed photograph by the Great Herrmann; Thurston ephemera and much more.

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