Auction block: Ricky Jay ephemera - A magical trove

Conjurers, conjurers, scammers, hustlers. pranksters. jokesters. posturers.

Auction block: Ricky Jay ephemera - A magical trove

These were the things that Ricky Jay, a 72-year-old sleight of hand artist, card shark, author and actor, was interested in. He died in 2018 at the age of 72. He left behind many rare books, posters and broadsides, which he used to honor those who had gone before him.

After Jay's widow, Emmy-winning producer Chrisann Verges turned them over, almost 2,000 of the more than 10,000 pieces found in his Beverly Hill home will now be available for bid at an unusual Sotheby's auction.

Selby Kiffer was Sotheby's senior international specialist for books, manuscripts and art. He was one of two experts who visited Verges in California to help them choose what they wanted for their Ricky Jay Collection.

Kiffer stated that "it's really just a collection of collections" before the live auction, which began Wednesday. "The challenge was finding an institution that was not only interested in magic, but also circus, not just in books, but also posters, apparatus, and all the elements of popular entertainment.

Sotheby's divided the collection into 634 lots and estimates that the collection will fetch between $2.2 million and $3.2 million. They are looking for bidders from Jay's fans, magicians far away, and art lovers who want to decorate their walls. There are many options.

Jay considers Harry Houdini an ever-present obligation. Jay was more close to Max Malini, a magician from the early 20th century. An advertisement for Malini's appearance in King's Theatre, New York features a round portrait, medals on one shoulder and highlighting performances before six heads. It dates back to 1916 and is one of two copies known. It's estimated to sell for $15,000-20,000.

Jay was so infatuated with Malini, he dedicated an entire chapter to his book "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women", which he called "last of mountebanks."

Jay wrote that Malini was not often featured on theater or music hall stages. He was, rather, the "embodiment of what magicians should be." He is not a magician who needs a stage with elaborate equipment, elephants, handcuffs, or an elaborate stage. But he can stand just a few inches away from you, and with a borrowed penny, a lemon or a knife convince you that he has performed miracles.

A rare Houdini poster depicting the escape artist in water torture cell. It dates back to 1913. The look on his face is one of concern.

Jay was attracted to Matthias Buchinger by a large room in Sotheby's Manhattan headquarters. His height was just 29 inches and he was a German magician, artist, and calligrapher. Buchinger, who was born in Germany and died in 1740, lived his entire life in the UK. He was married four times, and had at most 14 children.

Buchinger made a lot of his living in calligraphy. He even inked family trees to make money. Buchinger's tree for his family is one of Kiffer’s most treasured pieces. It is a testament to his unusual skill with not only a pen, but also a knife or scissors for intricate paper overlays. The tree was created in 1734 and is up for auction at $20,000-$30,000,000.

Kiffer stated that Jay was more than a collector who wanted everything.

He was serious about his research. He was also curious about his predecessors. He wondered what tricks and illusions they used and how they achieved them. He lectured widely and published extensively. Kiffer explained that he was not looking for trophies and said, "Well, I want the most expensive book about conjuring" or, "Well, I want the rarest, best-selling Houdini poster."

Jay, who was born Richard Jay Potash in Brooklyn, grew up and became Jay Potash in Elizabeth. Jay rarely spoke out about his parents, but a grandfather introduced him to magic and encouraged Jay to become a boy magician. At age 7, Jay made his first TV appearance. Jay, who was long-haired, reached stardom in his 20s opening for rock bands and appearing as a host on talk shows.

Steve Martin, a friend and admirer, once described Jay as "The con man who never conned", the con man who never conned and the cheat who never cheated. And, most importantly, the eccentric collector who collects everything that is eccentric."

Jay was an actor in many of David Mamet's films, including "House of Games" and "Deadwood." Jay was also a regular in "House of Games," as well as "House of Games." Jay was also a card shark Eddie Sawyer and was a popular consultant in Hollywood for all things magic, gambling, and cards. Paul Thomas Anderson cast him in "Boogie Nights," and Magnolia.

Jay was a card thrower. Jay once held the Guinness World Record at 190 feet and 90 mph. He would often transform a lowly deck of cards into weapons. He could throw one card and it would penetrate a watermelon, while a second card would shear a pencil.

Jay's intelligently dressed automaton "Neppy" is up for auction. He was a veteran performer in Jay's stage show, Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants. Named after Dr. Johan Nepomuk Höfzinger, Neppy performed silent routines with his human companion. The card would be torn and handed to the audience. It would then be collected by Neppy, who is seated on a small red velvet stage.

Sotheby's listed Neppy as a price range of $10,000-15,000.

Jay has published 11 books, which reflect his passions. These range from cards and characters to mystery solving and Buchinger admiration. Jay donated the majority of his Buchinger treasures and authored the catalog.

Kiffer referred to Jay's Buchinger fascination as a telling sign of the collector, saying that Jay liked figures like Buchinger because they were similar to others.

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