Meet Arthur Moses: Inside the Collection

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This is one magical collection! Take a look at this Harry Houdini collection that you'll never want to escape from.

May. 1, 2023

After picking up a Harry Houdini book in the seventh grade, Arthur Moses found his love for the magician's skill and bravado. His love for Houdini turned into one of the most historical and valuable collections we've seen yet on Collector's Call.

His collection includes everything from Houdini's famous straitjacket to a very magical collection of props used during Houdini's live performances. It also features one of the largest collections of Houdini literature in the world.

Even though Moses isn't a magician, he kept a few tricks up his sleeve while sharing his incredible collection. Moses said he feels the need to share his magical collection with the world, so let's start here.

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1. Harry Houdini sidewalk stand

This gorgeous Harry Houdini sidewalk stand is from 1926. Sidewalk stands were very popular at many different venues during the Vaudeville era, and they could be seen on the sidewalk in front of theaters in all types of weather.

This one is an oil painting that was meant for Houdini's 1926-1927 season. However, Houdini died in 1926, and the only other one known to exist today is in the David Copperfield Collection.

As we learned in the episode, vintage advertising art is one of the most collectible items in the magic realm. Moses bought this piece in the '90s for less than $1,000. Today it's worth around $100,000.

2. Rare Harry Houdini book

This is the oldest known printed book in Harry Houdini's personal collection. The book is written in Latin and is originally from 1591.

Houdini bought this book in Germany in 1902, proven by his signature scribbled on the front page. The book is about criminal law and was purchased during his first European tour.

Moses bought this book for $4,000. Today it would be worth around $50,000.

3. An original Houdini straitjacket

This is one of Harry Houdini's original straitjackets, which he used as part of his famous escape act. Moses paid less than $500 for this incredible item with a historical past.

Moses mounted the straitjacket on a mannequin and put it on display. There is even a photo of Houdini wearing this straitjacket to prove its authenticity. Moses found the holy grail piece for any Houdini collector and fan.

Today this item is worth around $60,000.

4. Houdini's box of glass lantern slides

These glass lantern slides were precursors to 35mm slides. These specific slides were part of an anti-spiritualism campaign Houdini did after becoming upset with many mediums claiming to connect others with people from their past. He felt innocent people were being taken advantage of.

There are only four known sets that have survived. This very special piece was a large part of Houdini's act. One of the last surviving sets is in the Library of Congress, and that one doesn't even have the box!

Today this item is worth around $60,000.

5. Houdini's handcuffs and keys

These are more than a handful of handcuffs! Moses owns six of Houdini's handcuffs, one pair of leg irons and around 75 Houdini keys. Any Houdini fan will recognize these classic items Houdini used during his live performances.

Today this piece of his collection is worth around $6,000 (depending on the cuff). How did Houdini escape from all these handcuffs? We'll never know. A magician never reveals their secret.

6. Harry and Bess Houdini mirror cards

These vintage mirror cards have images of Harry and Bess Houdini on them. Bess had 24 sets produced in the 1930s and gave them as appreciation gifts to the Houdini Club of Philadelphia. There are only six known surviving sets.

They were used for marketing, but they are very special items because of their rarity. Bess continued to honor the Houdini name long after he died and was a big part of his act in the early days. They were married for 32 years, which is a trick in itself.

With her signature on it, they are worth around $9,000 today.

7. The total value of Arthur Moses' collection:

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bru 14 months ago
I remember going to Niagara Falls in Canada, on the Hill where all the wax museums & Houses of horrors were when I was young (early 1970s). There was a Houdini Museum which had many of his items. One of his items was a box with a pencil hanging over a sheet of paper & according to the legend, Harry & his wife had a secret word they would use if one of them died, was able to come back in some form, since he was always debunking spiritualism by fakes. Either Harry or Bess (whoever died first) would try to write the secret word on the paper to let the other person know there was a way to come back to interact if they could (like Patrick Swayze in Ghost). I wondered what happened to that box and display? Does David Copperfield have it, this gentleman in his collection, or was it destroyed?
MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
I never would have thought Houdini’s collectibles would be worth that amount.
Runeshaper 14 months ago
This is an AMAZING collection! To think that these items are around or over 100 years old is truly something.
LoveMETV22 14 months ago
Good episode. Always enjoy anything magic/illusion related, whether TV Special or Movie.
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