Monday, July 13, 2020

Relics from Houdini's 278 at auction

Genuine relics from Houdini's former New York brownstone (278) will be auctioned by Potter & Potter on July 25 and by Haversat & Ewing Galleries on July 17-18. Here's a full rundown of all the 278 items at auction this month.

First up from Potter & Potter is a wagon wheel that has long been stored in the basement of 278. I discussed this wheel at length in this post, and I'm excited to see it finally come up for sale. While we're still not able to prove it, I do think there's a strong possibility this is the last Houdini escape prop to have remained in the house. "Houdini’s Wooden Wagon Wheel" is Lot 384. The auction estimate is $4,000 - $8,000.

Houdini's Wagon Wheel - P&P Lot 384.

Potter & Potter is also offering an original bathtub from 278. This is one of three original tubs that, while no longer in place, remained in the house. David Copperfield owns the clawfoot bathtub that most likely came from Houdini's own bathroom. (It's unclear where former owner Fred Thomas stored this tub.) Michael Mitnick bought a second clawfoot tub from Fred Thomas shortly after the open house in 2017. That tub was stored in the front of the house in the garden level foray. Which bathroom it came from is not clear.

This last tub spent several years in the backyard used as a planter. It is the smallest of the tubs and the only one that is sunken. The owners of 278 believe it may have come from Bessie's top floor bathroom. "Houdini’s Bathtub" is Lot 380. It has a $8,000 - $12,000 estimate.

Houdini's Bathtub - P&P Lot 380.

Potter & Potter are also offering two porcelain sinks from Houdini's time. "Houdini’s Garden Sink" came from the backyard and was still in use until recently. The owners believe it may have been 278's original kitchen sink. It's Lot 382 with a $3,000 - $5,000 estimate.

Houdini's Garden Sink - P&P Lot 382.

The second sink was discovered stored in the basement and is listed as "Houdini’s Laundry Sink." However, the owners now believe this sink was part of Dr. Leopold Weiss's "operating room," which was off the back of the house. I had deemed this a "mystery room" in my 2017 blog post about the house. But during renovation it was discovered this room was at one time a tiled "wet room." This sink is Lot 381 and has an estimate of $3,000 - $5,000.

Houdini's Laundry Sink - P&P Lot 381.

Finally, Potter & Potter is offering "Houdini’s Fruit or Wine Press" which, like the wagon wheel, has long been stored in the basement of 278. This is Lot 383 with an estimate of $4,000 - $8,000.

Houdini's Fruit or Wine Press - P&P Lot 383.

But the first piece of 278 to go up for auction will be "Houdini's Medicine Chest" from Haversat & Ewing Galleries. The cabinet is made of painted metal with a mirror. Inside it has three shelves and inner cabinet with a lock (no key). While this came from Houdini's bathroom, it may not have been original to the bathroom as the owners have a wooden cabinet in storage that pre-dates it. It may have even originated in the surgery! Houdini's Medicine Chest is Lot 155 and has a $2500+ estimate.

Houdini's Medicine Chest - H&E Lot 155.

Haversat & Ewing Galleries "More from the Gary Darwin Magic Museum" auction will be held July 17-18 and can be viewed online HERE.

Potter & Potter Auctions "Magic Collection of Jim Rawlins Part IV" will be held on July 25 and can be viewed HERE.

Good luck to all!



  1. Wonder if Harry every thought these things would ever be worth so much money. I always wanted a tub like that when I was younger (most likely so I could fill it up and not worry about it leaking out the back flow hole, lol).

    1. I don't think even he could conceive of this. But he would love it! :)

  2. The medicine cabinet originated in the surgery?

    1. Maybe! A lot of stuff has been moved around the house and repurposed, especially by Fred, but also likely by Houdini. The medicine cabinet is too new to have been the original cabinet in the bathroom (and by "new" I mean post 1910). The owners have seen similar cabinets as well as the "laundry" sink used in old surgeries. So possible when Leo left the house items from the surgery got moved into other rooms.

    2. Actually, the "operating room" was still there when Houdini listed the house for sale in 1914. So I bet the changes to that room happened when he returned in 1918. By then he had fallen out with Leo and felt free to use the room and what was in for himself. Get that sweet metal medicine chest in his own bathroom!

    3. So "surgery" means the operating room? I thought Leo was an X-Ray technician, not a surgeon. I always thought his practice was x-raying patients for doctors and hospitals.

    4. Yes, I'm talking about the "tiled operating room" (as it's called in the 1914 house listing). I thought "surgery" was just another way to say that. Maybe I'm wrong. Leo was a radiologist. But maybe he also did general practice? I don't know. It would be interesting to try and find an ad for his practice, see what he was up to.

    5. 278 was listed in 1914? For sale? Is this listing in a newspaper or real estate ad somewhere?

    6. Thanks! It's easy to forget the contents of WAH after years of increasing database. I like the mention of the trick front door that opened from the hinges.

    7. Haha. Tell me about it! I'm waiting for the day I write an blog post and then discover I wrote the same post 8 years ago. :p

    8. FYI, Chuck Romano just sent me something that shows Leo DID "perform operations" in his early days of practice. What kind I don't know.

    9. Did Chuck provide a link? I thought Leo was a radiologist and he cut into people?

  3. Medicine Chest sold for $1600.


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