I have been following this company’s auctions for quite some time. Always something for the circus, sideshow, magic, collector. I wanted to find out how this auction house got started so I contacted the owner Gabe Fajuri. He was very cooperative in giving me the following interview.
btw…the upcoming auction has many wonderful items for consideration!
1. Can you tell us the source of most of the items being auctioned in the upcoming auction?
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A large portion of the auction was consigned by the widow of Giovanni Pasqua, known as “Roxy,” to his colleagues in the magic field. Roxy was a performer, lecturer, and dealer in antiquarian books, prints, and related objects in the fields of magic and its allied arts. He lived in Italy.
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2. The Potter & Potter company has numerous auctions annually. Would you say that most of them are ‘magic’ or ‘circus’ related items?
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About half of our sales are magic related, maybe a bit less. It’s what we are known for, but we deal in objects in many other categories, including rare books, vintage posters, photographs and autographs, vintage advertising, coin-operated machines, comic books and movie memorabilia, and other unusual collectibles.
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3. What is the history of Potter & Potter auction company?
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The business started on my coffee table about twelve years ago. We started the business by offering just a single collection – but what a collection! Jay Marshall was a legendary performer, who worked on the Ed Sullivan show over a dozen times, and had an illustrious career as an entertainer (mostly performing as a magician and ventriloquist). He was also a very serious collector of antique magic memorabilia and books, and virtually everything else he could get his hands on, trash and treasure alike. Jay owned something like 250,000 books, and the best of them were magic and showbiz related. After conducting four auctions of material from his collection, we were most definitely on the map in the auction world.
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4. Are you a magic collector (or magician?) and has this fascination been the original impetus for Potter & Potter Auction?
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Yes, I’ve been collecting magic and interested in its history since about the age of 13, which is what led to my interest in the field in the first place. While in college, I helped pay my way through school by selling magic collectibles on eBay. In a way, I was training for a job I never knew I was going to have (being an auctioneer). I was primarily selling items on consignment at that time, which is exactly how we do things today. I continue to be a huge fan of magic and its history, and yes, I’m still a collector.
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5. Is Potter & Potter the only company to auction off magic collectibles? Is it the company that hosts most auctions of these items nationally?
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We are not the only company that auctions magic memorabilia, but we are certainly the largest and best-known. Other companies conduct regular online auctions of magic collectibles, and occasionally a few of the big players in the auction field offer significant objects or collections.
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Thank You, Gabe. I appreciate the insight into your company’s origins.
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For information and to peruse the Winter Magic Auction catalog click HERE!
Winter Magic Auction – Dec. 14, 2019
Featuring selections from the collection of Giovanni Pasqua – aka Roxy – our Winter sale features rare conjuring books from the sixteenth century to the present day. Complementing the books from Roxy’s collection will be an assortment of collectible props, Houdiniana, and choice posters.
Catalogs ship approximately three weeks before the auction. Previews will be held in our gallery December 12—13, 10—5 pm
Wyatt, Snap. King of Swords. Sideshow Banner. Tampa: Snap Wyatt Studios, ca. 1947. Attractive canvas sideshow banner bears a full-length portrait of a sword swallower in performance, with a handful of shiny blades in one outstretched hand. 103 x 119”. Soiled and worn from use.
Wyatt, Snap. Headless Girl. Sideshow Banner. Tampa: Snap Wyatt Studios, ca. 1965. Bright banner shows a comely lady’s body that lacks a head, yet remains “Alive” and is able to answer questions and communicate through hand gestures. 101 x 118 ½”. Minor wear and tears evident, but overall well preserved. See lot 646 for a sturdy and functional version of the apparatus used to create this classic sideshow attraction.
Wyatt, Snap. Frank Lentini. 3 Legged Man Sideshow Banner. Tampa: Snap Wyatt Studios, ca. 1950. Vibrant orange and red canvas banner advertises the man with “3 Legs, 4 Feet, 16 Toes.” 97 x 115”. Worn but very good condition. Wyatt (1905 – 1984) created many iconic banner designs. He worked quickly, claiming he could paint at least one banner per day at a retail cost of $85 each. In his heyday, he reportedly produced as many as 400 banners per year.
Johnson, Fred. Human Dynamo Sideshow Banner. Chicago: O’Henry Tent and Awning, ca. 1950. Vibrant painted canvas banner depicting the classic Electric Chair sideshow illusion. 91 x 111”. Scattered holes, wear, and soiling from use, primarily in borders.
Circassian Enchantress Magic Program. Gardiner: Fountain Printing, ca. 1842. Early American program advertising a lecture by Dr. Shattuck on the Mysteries in Nature, Miracles of Indian Bramins, Hindoo Jugglers and Chinese Magi, followed by the performance of Mrs. Shattuck, the Circassian Enchantress, The Original and Greatest Lady Magician in America. Light creases and stains consistent with age, else very good.
One of my favorite magicians of all time! Cardini. Here is an item of his.
Cardini Combination Watch/Finger Reel. New York: Richard Cardini, ca. 1965. Uncommon model of this thread reel with custom-made flexible watchband and metal housing. Lathe-turned device clips in to strap or is easily removed for use in either of two manners. Interior of case stamped “CARDINI.” An uncommon model. Cardini designed and built thread reels of many types – for the mouth, shoe, and hand. He also manufactured wristwatch reels of various styles. This is the first combination finger/wristwatch reel we have encountered. The device slips securely in to or out of the watch housing with a minimum of effort, for use in the hand, or strapped to the wrist.
Head on Sword Sideshow Illusion. A disembodied human head – alive, talking, and moving – sits on the blade of a sword resting across the arms of a large wooden throne-type chair. Black art. Breaks down for packing. 62” high. Used but good condition.
Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weisz). Houdini Signed Letter, Houdini Key, and Houdini-Era Handcuffs. Framed presentation includes a TLS from Houdini to Remigius Weiss regarding books on alchemy, boldly signed “Houdini,” together with original mailing envelope bearing Houdini’s return address; flat metal Houdini-owned key, and a pair of Houdini-era Bean Cobb handcuffs. Handsomely framed with a later photo of Houdini in restraints and chains to 19 ¾ x 22 ½”.
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This auction takes place on Nov. 1st, 2018.
These are merely ‘scraping the surface’ of the collection. Go to the site to see all of the items up for auction.
Richard Valentine Pitchford – presto change-o! Cardini – who does things to a cigarette that no Indian fakir ever did to a rope – was born in Wales in 1898 and could bewitch a pack of cards before he was old enough to talk. Four years overseas in the War left him shell-shocked, and, after eighteen months in a hospital, he was discharged as disabled. Working his way to Australia on a freighter, he made his debut as a sorcerer in Sydney. Since then, Cardini has prestidigitated in twelve countries and was the first magacian to mystify his King and Queen by Royal Command. His vanishing-cigarette trick involves thirty lighted cigarettes, a cigar and a pipe. One the stage, he remains absolutely mute, shunning the patter of magicians and retaining impressive calm. Of late, he has been gathering laurels in the music halls of Manhattan with his cards, his cigarettes and his billiard balls.
1962 Autographed photograph of Cardini inscribed to Dai Vernon.
Publicity photograph for Cardini
Poster for one of Cardini’s appearances at a Keith theater for the Annual IBM Convention.