Specializing in Houdiniana
Weather In LasVegas, Nevada
(A Little Biography)
In this bio., I mention several other Collectible Dealers by name. I do this because each and every one of them has certainly contributed, in one way or another, to my Metamorphosis over the years....and....I shall always be grateful for their help and guidance, way back when.....
You will see photo's of One of a kind Houdini items, scattered throughout. A detailed list, of the photo's, will be at the end of this page.
All photo's are the copyright of The Stephen A. Sparks Collection and may not be reproduced in any form or manner without permission of Stephen A. Sparks.
I started Collecting almost 45 years ago. Well, I wouldn’t say I was a Collector, in the beginning, more like an accumulator. If I liked it, I bought it.
It wasn’t until I started to look at the advertisements in the back of magazines, like Genii and Linking Ring, that I noticed there were people out there who issued occasional lists with books, magazines and photographs for sale. Older material - Collectible material.
The Dealers, from back when, which come to mind are Anthony Vander Linden, J.B.Findlay and George Jenness. Great Lists to mull over and to buy an assortment of material from.
So, now I was an Accumulator/Collector.
I found what I really enjoyed was trying to collect magazine files. It was a RealThrill when I’d find that last issue to complete my set. Pallbearer Reviews, Epilogues, Magical Bookies -and- it took me 40 years to complete American’s first Magic Magazine called Mahatma.
This style of Collecting went on for quite awhile, till I moved to Las Vegas. Ah, 23 years old and living in Las Vegas - I’m sorry to say, my collecting went by the wayside for probably 10 years - although I did attend Gary Darwin’s Wednesday night gathering of magicians - when I could stay awake till the meeting time of Midnight.
When I moved back home to Texas, after 11 years in Las Vegas - it was probably
another couple years before I got back into Collecting.
One day, I had a call from a guy by the name of Richard Hatch.
Somehow, Dick had found there was a Magician/Collector living out near him, so he called. How he got this information, I’ll never know - maybe the Texas Association of Magicians annual directory?
Well, Dick came over with a box of ‘goodies’. I took out several books I was interested in (still the accumulator), but also took out a bound edition of Houdini’s “Conjurers' Monthly Magazine”. All 12 issues from Volume 2, 1907-08. It even had a nice small Original photo of Houdini pasted to the inside of the front cover. Best part - the page across from the photo was signed “With Compliments, Harry Handcuff Houdini”.
I believe Dick buried me in the piece at a whopping $750.00. Just kidding, but it is funny how we collectors perceive paying too much for an item, -then later on- wish we had dozens more of what seemed to be a high price then and ‘a bargain’ today.
Dick, being the Dealer/Collector (I was only an Accumulator/Collector) found many things in my collection he’d take in trade - which was fine with me, since (if memory serves) he was taking out a ton of the duplicate magazines issues I had ‘accumulated’.
Almost 15 years had passed since I had ‘accumulated’ something -and now- Dick Hatch had me hooked again on Collecting. Anthony Vander Linden, J.B.Findlay and George Jenness were now gone -but- New Dealers were now out there - waiting to take my money.
Those, such as Richard Hatch/Charlie Randall - George Daily, Jr. - Ron Allesi - Byron Walker - Mario Carrandi. These Wonderful buyers of collections, picking out what they’d want for themselves, then selling off the duplicates to waiting buyers, such as myself.
My direction of being an Accumulator/Collector continued until 1992, when I attended my first Magic Collector’s Weekend. Normally held in Chicago, but this year it moved to Appleton, Wisconsin - the boyhood home of Houdini.
This annual convention honors someone in the collecting/magic field - this year it was Sidney Radner. I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t familiar with the name - well, you’ve got to remember, I was only an Accumulator/Collector at the time.
Whenever you see a TV special about Harry Houdini - there’s always one of the leading Houdini’s experts appearing on the program....more times than not, it’s Sid Radner.
Sid was Hardeen’s protégé'. And most of you know, Hardeen was Houdini’s brother.
When Houdini passed away at 1:26pm on Halloween in 1926, Hardeen received much of Houdini’s magic effects, illusions, etc.
When Hardeen passed away - Sid Radner now received the massive amount of material Houdini had passed on to Hardeen. This included, among other things, the Original Houdini Water Torture Cell.
Sid Radner happened to set up (one evening) as one of the Dealers at the Convention, but didn’t do so until the convention was nearly half over.
Now, we’ve all heard about being at the right place at the right time - well, this was my
I was in the dealers room, standing next to what would turn out to be Sid Radner’s dealers table - when Sid walks over with a brown cardboard box and starts putting items on his table.
One of these items was a key, which Houdini had beveled out a portion of the top - in order to help him use it as a lockpick. All this nicely framed and with a Certificate of Authenticity.
I asked Sid for information on the key and he informed me, he had a total of five lockpicks, from his Houdini/Hardeen collection. He'd thought about framing and selling them and this was the first to be offered. He wanted to see if there would be any interest. I told him I was interested - "how much do you want for the piece?" He replied he really didn’t know, but thought $750 would be fair. Well, I bought it - right then and there.
Sid said, OK, but he’d like to keep it at his table a little longer - he would give it to me the next day.
All this probably only took a minute, or so, to conclude -and- about this time, everybody else, in the room, noticed Sid was setting up - SO HERE EVERYBODY CAME!!!!
One after another would ask or state, “Sid, how much is the lockpick?” “Sid, I want the Framed Key”, etc. Sid would quietly remark, “I’m sorry, it’s already sold.” I quietly just backed out of the crowd realizing, I'd just been at the right place at the right time.
You might say, this was my turning point, for I have been focused on Houdini and Houdini material ever since. What did I say at the beginning of this bio. "better late than never"?
I came home from the convention and started to go through my massive "Accumulation" Magic Library. Pulling out what I wanted to keep and
the rest would now be for sale. I would issue my First Magic Collectors List -and- use that money to buy Houdini material. I didn’t know where I was going to get any, but I would be ready....
So now, I had been transformed from an Accumulator/Collector to Collector/Dealer.
In the Spring of 1993, I issued my 'packed' printed first list. Remember, the world wide internet hadn't come about, yet.
Gad, what a job to put out a list, but it was favorably met and I had started to get my name out there in CollectorLand - there’s a New Collectibles Seller around and his name is Stephen A. Sparks.
That same Spring, the Magic Collector’s Weekend convention (which had been at Appleton, Wisconsin the previous year) -
would now be in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
What perfect timing - it was close enough to drive to (well, if you want to call 10 hours on the road close), so I registered and took my First Dealers Table. Since I was driving, I filled my MiniVan to the brim. My display was probably the largest, but this was only because I was lucky enough to have driven.
England’s Frank Koval was there - and I was able to buy from him a couple signed Houdini pieces. Like those you would see in an autograph book. Ah, two more Original Houdini items to add to my collection.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have bought/sold many Original Houdini items over the years. A person once told me - “there’s a ton of Houdini material out there”. This is true, but in the years I’ve been Collecting/Dealing in Houdiniana - I’ve noticed whenever anything shows up (be it one item or many), they are all absorbed by waiting buyers from All Over The World!
With the invention of the Internet and Ebay Auctions - the World of Collecting/Dealing would be completely changed. Now, anybody and everybody could sit down at their computer to buy/sell whatever they want, from the comfort of their own home. How many of you who sell your magic related items on Ebay -wish now- You Now Had all the ‘junk’ you threw away over the years? It’s not junk anymore, is it?
The Internet has increased my business many times over and up till that point in time, I didn’t even have a web page. But, that’s all changed. If you’d like to view my WebSite, here's the link: www.GranHoudini.net
Thanks to the Internet, I no longer issue Printed Lists -but- instead issue what I like to call my MagicCollector's CyberList. These are monthly and usually contain a couple dozen assorted Magic Collectibles (not just Houdini material). If you’d like to start receiving these Lists, pleaes email - Houdini374@aol.com - and I’ll add you to my data base.
Throughout this bio/page, I’ve included many photos of items from my collection and/or use to be in my collection and now passed onto another collector.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them. If you’ve any questions, have something to sell, etc. etc., please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The Following is a detailed list of the Photos above:
Opening photo is of myself holding the Hiatt Bar Cuffs (with one large lock and key still in tact) from the Houdini/Hardeen Collection.
1) Four 5"x7" Glass Slides for Houdini's 1919 movie "The Grim Game". (Both the Negative and Positive images shown)
2) Joe Hayman Scrapbook. (Houdini's boyhood friend and the second partner in "The Houdini Brother's")
3) Window Card for what would be Houdini's final tour Season of 1926-27.
4) Postcard showing the wreath Houdini had made for The Great Lafayette's Dog "Beauty". Houdini comment and signature on other side.
5) Two different snapshots of Houdini and Civil War Magician Harry Cooke. Houdini comment and signature on the back of each.
6) Two photos from the Ben Reeves Scrapbook. 100+ postcards of the Circus and all the people Reeves would come in contact with over the years from the turn of the Century to the 1920s.
7) The only known Pressbook for Houdini's 1919 movie "The Grim Game".
8) Houdini and Bess' final portrait (6 1/2"x8 1/2") together in 1925. (from a different Joe Hayman scrapbook)
9) Presentation piece, honoring Houdini as being the first to fly an airplane in the country of Australia. This originally hung in the "Houdini Magical Hall of Fame" museum, Niagara Falls, Canada.
10) Great 8"x10" signed photo of Houdini.
11) Great 7 1/2"x8" photo of Houdini being placed into a Strait-Jacket.
12) Double signed Hardeen postcard.
13) Photo of myself with Sid Radner -and- the Key, Houdini had changed into a working Lockpick. Germany, circa 1902.
14) (8) 4 1/2"x3 1/2" photo's of Houdini, Bess, Vickery & Brassac en route to Australia in 1910 - with stop overs in Egypt, Ceylon, Arabia, etc. (from a different Joe Hayman scrapbook)
15) Postcard shows "the Willsons". These gentleman made Houdini's posters for his European tours. Signed on both sides by Houdini.
16) Great signed postcard of Houdini. Other side shows it was a gift to someone by Rose Bonanno - the person who bought Houdini's house, in New York, after his death.
17) Two pieces which would have come from someone's scrapbook, having met the great Houdini.
18) 5 1/2"x4 3/4" photo of "The Bros. Houdini". (from a different Joe Hayman scrapbook)
19) "Gold" Invitation for the Final Houdini Séance on October 31, 1936. Only the inner circle of guests (12) received these.
20) My office wall showing Eight Lobby Cards from Houdini's 1919 movie "The Grim Game" -and- the Window Card from Houdini's final touring season of 1926-27.
21) Early postcard (again to the Willsons) of Houdini. Same photo he would use at the front of his book "The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin". Signed on the photo side (at the bottom), then again on the other side - where he informs the Willsons, he'll be appearing at the Royal Hippodrome in Liverpool, the weeks of Oct. 17th & 24th, 1904.
22) Trimmed photo of Houdini holding a midget in his arms. "Kansas City - Houdini and Herr General" written on the photo by Houdini. For a look at the photo probably taken just before this one, check out pages 80-81 in Doug Henning's book "Houdini, His Legend and His Magic".
23) Invitation for Houdini's underwater/coffin "Buried Alive Experiment" at the Hotel Shelton in New York City on August 5, 1926 - signed by Houdini.
Please CLICK HERE to return to my www.GranHoudini.net WebSite.
If you've any questions or need further information, please don't hesitate to contact me:
Stephen A. Sparks
The Stephen A. Sparks Collection
Specializing in Houdiniana
2873 Foxtail Creek Avenue
Henderson, Nevada 89052 USA
Email: Houdini374@aol.com Ebay's: Gran*Houdini