The Jeff Busby Collection is coming up for auction on August 19th, via Potter & Potter Auctions Inc. Gathered throughout his career as a publisher of highly regarded magic related newsletters, props, and booklets, the collection is the stuff of underground legend, including personal memorabilia of acclaimed magicians to historic posters, ephemera and unique props. The late Jeff Busby (1954-2014) was hooked on magic since the age of seven, working both as a security consultant to numerous casinos in California and Nevada, teaching how to detect cheating methods, and running an international mail order business for professional magicians all over the world. An eccentric character who was seen by some as controversial, his insider knowledge of the magic community was unparalleled. The sale is hosted on eBay’s Live Auctions platform, making it a truly global event that reaches eBay’s 171 million active buyers in real time.
One of the auction’s highlights include “Csuri Notes”, the original typewritten transcriptions of Frank Csuri’s famous notebooks (circa 1960s) collecting the unpublished and published magic effects of Dai Vernon, Paul Fox, Charlie Miller, Faucett Ross, Bill Woodfield, and Dr. Jacob Daley. Spanning over 3,000 pages of text and hand-drawn illustrations, the notebooks feature a handwritten inscription to Busby. After emigrating from Hungary as a child, Frank Csuri (1911-1994) was a successful nightclub magician as a young man before becoming an engineer, however his life’s work was deciphering and transcribing the methods – many of them unpublished – of magic’s legendary “inner circle” from the 50s-60s. The text includes Csuri’s transcription of “The Vernon Touch” columns from Genii Magazine as well as handwritten pages by Dai Vernon (1894–1992), correcting Csuri’s transcription. A separate lot contains Frank Csuri’s two volume set of original typescript The Magic of Dai Vernon including original pencil sketch portraits of Dai Vernon himself.
The available lots include a compilation of over 400 pages of carefully preserved original correspondence from the 50s-60s between slight of hand masters Ross Bertram (1912-1992) and Faucett Ross (1900-1987). The set contains detailed sketches and lengthy discussions about the methods for various techniques with dice, cards, crooked gambling, demonstrations of shell games, table props and impromptu tricks, referencing the work of contemporary magicians, including Charlie Miller, Frank Garcia, Gene Gordon, Loring Campbell, Eddie McLaughlin, Msgr. Foy, Roger Klause, Herb Zarrow, Bill Gusias, Jay Marshall, and others. It is accompanied by related ephemera such as hand-annotated instructions, original photographs, and promotional materials.
Original posters within the sale include a 1894 color lithograph from Cincinnati of the iconic Harry (Heinrich) Keller (1849–1922) as “Kellar the Great Magician”, introducing the whispering devils that would be copied endlessly afterward; a 1912 poster from Hamburg depicting Servais LeRoy (1865-1953) performing the famous Asrah levitation; a 1920’s poster of Edwin Brush (1873-1967) conjuring objects through the Hindu Basket trick; a 1933 Kansas City advertisement of the great mentalist Mel-Roy (Wilbert Wills Holly) (1888-1966); and an early (ca 1910) poster advertising the magic act of Belgian magician and manipulator Suzy Wandas (1896-1986), who worked with her family in European music halls before settling in Detroit. The later is inscribed and signed by Suzy Wandas herself.
Unique props within the sale include a wooden Mental Miracle Table (ca 1990) – one of fewer than ten manufactured – notable for its inlaid checkerboard top and concealed method for reading messages from the person seated across the table from the mentalist. Other props for sale include a set of 1945 Chick Cup Steel Toolin designed by inventor Paul Fox (1898-1976) and an Automated Sefalaljia or miniature spirit cabinet devised by Stewart James (1908- 1996) in which bells ring, knots untie themselves, balls roll as if pushed by invisible hands (fortunately for amateur magicians, an instruction booklet is included).
In addition to a 1926 Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) Membership Card signed by then S.A.M. president Harry Houdini (1874-1926), the auction also includes rare conjuring books from 1950s, 60s, 70s, such as number 164 from a strictly limited edition of 500 of the Magic of Robert Harbin and volumes 1-6 of Edward Marlo’s seminal magazine (1976-88) – most of which are numbered, signed, and inscribed by Marlo. Edward Marlo (1913-1991) was a prestidigitator who specialized in card magic. Also included, number 55 from the restricted first edition of The Dai Vernon Book of Magic (1957). Bound in pebbled maroon leather with a gilt stamped spine, pictorial jacket, marbled endsheets and a tipped-in gilt leaf interior page, the book is numbered, inscribed, and signed by Vernon to Warner Brothers’ producer Felix Greenfield (1917-1974) on the flyleaf. Also featured, the 20’s-30s notebooks of Al Baker (1874-1951) and Eugene Bulson (1894-1954), including many of Baker’s best-known effects, such as The Pack that Cuts Itself, Vanishing Lead Pencil, The Bakerscope, Al Baker’s Master Addition Slate, tricks with a hook coin, the Telephone Book Test, and the Erectile Dollar Bill.
The scope and quality of works in the collection are truly exceptional – with something for historians of magic, professional practitioners, and amateurs alike. That the a collection of this caliber is available to a global audience via eBay Live Auctions is a bit of magic itself, so check out the lots before they all “vanish”.
To join the bidding or learn more about specific lots, visit: http://www.ebay.com/clt/collectibles-live-events/sleight-of-hand-the-jeff-busby-collection-610069
About the author – Juan Rosa writes about pop culture and comics. His dreams of being a magician culminated in mastering the Fisher Price Magic Show Toy® as a child, but he has never stopped wanting to understand the workings behind the curtain.