Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Houdini key" sells for $310 on eBay

A Houdini key has sold on eBay for $310. There are a fair amount of keys out there that claim a Houdini connection. Most of these originate from the Sidney Radner collection. But this key has an entirely different provenance that I find interesting and worth sharing.

This key came from the collection of lock and key collector Paul Harter of Mansfield, Ohio. Harter began a correspondence with Hardeen in 1941, and Hardeen sold Harter some 78 locks and keys that once belonged to Houdini for 25 cents each. Hardeen then sent Harter 60 pounds of keys from the Houdini collection. After Hartner's death, his widow authorized the sale of the keys. This key was part of the 60 pound stash.

All this is nicely explained in a booklet called The Story Behind The Houdini Keys that accompanies each key. I've never seen one of these Harter keys before, but with a sale price of $310, it certainly appears collectors take these seriously. Or is the booklet the thing that draws the hardcore HH collector?

One thing I'd like to know is what year these keys were originally sold.

UPDATE: There's an interesting discussion going on at questioning the authenticity of this key. Also, another auction has appeared using this same pic. This might be a case of buyer beware. (I'm considering removing this story.)


  1. Unrelated to this post but........last year I commented on the wristwatch Houdini is seen wearing during his Shelton pool test. I collect watches and have looked high and low for an example of this watch to no avail. However I did determine something a bit unusual......the watch he is wearing has a relatively small rectangular case with cut cornered angled lugs along with a relatively massive winding crown. An unusual combination! To make things even more different I realized tonight that this watches crown is on it's LEFT side. So bearing in mind the trends during the 20's this s a watch designed to be worn on the inside of the right wrist! Houdini however is wearing this watch the modern way that a right handed person would wear it......outside of the left wrist.

    1. Did you see this follow-up post?

  2. Is there any possibility that the photo could have been reversed?

  3. The watches crown is facing toward Houdinis forearm rather than towards his hand. I would think no matter if the photo were reversed or not this would not effect the winding crown position. It was a style for some in the 1920's to wear wristwatches on the inside of the right wrist. Looks like this watch was designed to be that kind of watch but Houdini instead decided to wear it on his left wrist. He would then need to take the watch off to give it it's daily wind..I am a watch collector and I've never seen a watch like he is wearing during the Shelton pool test. That crown looks so unusually large for such a small watch. Large crowns were common in those days but this one is exceptionally huge. I showed the picture to a watch expert and he also commented that it's crown looked way to large. As mentioned I've been looking but have not found a watch that matches this watch. Unusual to say the least.

  4. I think Kevin Connoly was selling these back in the 1990s.