Saturday, June 4, 2016

Houdini posters at auction, June 25

On June 25 Potter & Potter Auctions will hold the first of their two-part sale of Norm Nielsen's legendary magic poster collection. Among the 324 lots are several Houdini posters, including a beautiful 1916 lithograph for his Water Torture Cell and a one-sheet for The Grim Game.

You might recall one of these Grim Game posters sold in 2013 for a staggering $67,166. It will be interesting to see if that value holds or if that sale was a fluke. The auction house puts the estimate at $40,000 - $60,000. Estimate on the Water Torture Cell is $50,000 - $70,000. There are no reserves on either poster.

Among the other Houdini posters is a terrific "DOOMED TO DIE!!" broadside advertising a coffin escape exposé by Houdini. The auction dates this as 1909, but Houdini most famously exposed the coffin escape of Carl Mysto in England in September 1904, so I'm wondering if it might actually date from then. Or maybe Houdini made exposing the coffin escape a periodic feature of his act.

There is also a 1925 poster is for Houdini's "3 Shows in One" showing some of the Halloween imagery that, eerily and ironically, appeared on Houdini final advertising. A German playbill  for Houdini's 1902 appearance at the Colosseum in Essen shows early and unique Houdini photos.

Not be left out is a Hardeen playbill. The auction dates it as 1928, but I believe it's actually from 1915, not just because of Hardeen's "King of Handcuffs" billing, but because it also features two movies from 1915, A Man and His Mate and The Heart of Maryland with Leslie Carter. This was a year Houdini and Hardeen both toured the U.S.

Not among the lots is Norm Nielsen's Overboard Box Escape poster, which may be the only one in existence. But I hear some of Norm's Houdini posters sold privately.

Potter & Potter has issued a hardbound auction catalog for this sale, a collector's item in itself! You can download or purchase a copy at their website.

The Golden Age of Magic Posters - The Nielsen Collection Part I takes place at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 25th in Potter & Potter's Chicago Gallery. Previews run June 21-24, from 10am - 5pm, CST.

UPDATEPotter & Potter Houdini poster auction results.



  1. My guess is $30K each. keep spending men........

  2. Yes but Copperfield already cherry picked the best posters including a half dozen Houdini full color lithographs from the collection. So these are the ones he already has which may mean there's a chance to get them at a decent price. J.B.

  3. Thats what Im saying ten K , Ali Boombaya

  4. My copy of this catalog arrived today. Wow! It's a beauty!