Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Milk Can poster sets new auction record at $180,000

Let's kick off 2024 with the big news that happened during my holiday break. 

An original Houdini Milk Can poster sold at Potter & Potter's "Select Secrets" magic auction on December 9th for $180,000 (including buyer's premium). That is a new record for a magic poster. The auction description says this poster originally came from 278 and is one of only five known to exist.

This is easily one of my favorite Houdini posters. It just perfectly captures the drama of this famous escape. In Houdini: A Mind in Chains, Bernard Meyer suggests the imagery is womb-like. Sure, I see that. What I also see are Houdini's brothers doing the locking. The man in the goatee and glasses certainly appears to be Leopold Weiss. I'm betting the other men are Nathan and Bill. Has anyone else ever noticed this?

Another auction lot of note was a copy of The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin inscribed to Terror Island director James Cruze during the production of the film. That went for a not unreasonable $3000.

Want more? You can watch video of the historic sale of this poster as a member of my Patreon below.


  1. Very keen observation John. Never noticed the resemblance of the three locking Houdini in the Milk can and Houdinis brothers. Do you have a theory as to why their resemblance was used? Were they assisting Houdini during that time period?


    1. No, they never worked as assistants. I think it was just a nod to the boys and a bit of an inside joke.

    2. I did notice years ago that the guy in the middle looked like Leo. The Nat and Bill resemblance slipped by me. I guess Nat is the fellow on the far right. Interesting that this poster is believed to have come from 278. Houdini's personal copy? I would presume the magicians of that era who commissioned posters kept a personal copy of each one.

  2. I liked Meyer's book for the family history and dynamics not seen in previous biographies. This came out around 1976 when there were a number of Houdini-realted books (new and reprints)
    I though some of his speculations of the mother/womb imagery was a stretch, like those who see scrawlings on old caves as proof of space alien visits.
    I remember mentioning it to Robert Lund in 1978 at his Museum and he said it was the most ridculous, far-fetched stuff he had seen. ("Like those who try to analyize Nixon on how he scratched his head......")
    He was very dismissive of it. Regardless the family history is worth the read.

    Diego Domingo