Over 1,000 magic tricks auctioned in Houston on Saturday

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Freddy and Joanne the forgetful duck sit on shelves biding their time. At some point in their decades-old life, they made children gasp in awe and laugh with joy in magic shows.

Freddy “forgot” his head, a magician popped a balloon for him and suddenly his head reappeared. Joanne, a wooden duck, was part of a card trick in which she could always choose any card that a person in the audience could choose.

The two will be part of an auction of more than 1,000 ancient, old and current magic tricks, props and illusions from the collection of the late Lonnie Frankel, an avid magic collector who, along with his wife Terrie, owned Frankel’s Costume Co., which operated in Houston for decades before closing in 2017.

Saturday’s event, at Auction Gallery, is considered the largest such auction in the world.

“It’s not just an unusual auction for me, it’s unusual for the whole world,” said auctioneer Vicki Vines. “A lot of these things haven’t been seen. (Frankel) acquired them over 40 to 45 years, so they are out of circulation.

And now it’s time to share the bounty.

“All of these pieces were things Lonnie loved, and he enjoyed the way they were made,” Terrie Frankel said of her decision to auction the items.

Inquiries have come from across the country, including from the David Copperfield Conjuring Arts Museum in Las Vegas.

The family business began in 1950 when Lonnie’s father Morty Frankel opened Morty’s Magic Mart in downtown Houston. At one point, an aspiring magician requested a skeleton costume for his act; Morty’s wife Leola, a trained seamstress, offered to help. More costume requests came in and Leola got busier and busier.

Lonnie and Terrie bought the business from her parents in 1978, when Leola – only half kidding – said her feet hurt. In her defense, she was up all day, everyday for years, Terrie said, pointing out that her own feet were now hurting her.

Their sons, Aaron and Jason Frankel, can’t perform a single magic trick, but they have helped run the family business. Now Aaron is a marketing consultant and Jason continues to look after the affairs of his family and his father’s estate.

Terrie was only 19 when she walked into the Frankels store to buy a wig and met Lonnie. They got engaged a week later and had been married for 53 years when Lonnie passed away in 2017, shortly after the store closed. It was an interesting life, she said. On their second date, Lonnie performed a fire-breathing trick. When she kissed him, she discovered that he had lined his mouth with lighter fluid. It was the only secret of a trick Lonnie had ever revealed. (Eating fire is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted at home.)

When the Frankels closed their business, they had 57,000 costumes. You can rent the insignia of Henry VIII for the Renaissance Festival, become Luke Skywalker for Halloween, or outfit a high school theater group for “My Fair Lady”.

What: 1000 magic pieces from the Lonnie Frankel collection

When: Preview, Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. auction Saturday 9 am.

Or: Auctions Gallery, 13310 Luthe Road; galerieauctions.com


A corner in the back of the store was relegated to magic tricks, props and joke items, from whoopee cushions to fake poo, wands, and bunny boxes. Anyone who performed as a magician in Houston had likely met Lonnie, either as a client or as a student in the classes there.

When the couple closed the business, they let schools and church groups buy the costumes at rental prices. (Terrie advised them to rent them to other groups when not in use, to help fund future plays.)

Then the store opened to the public, and for many months past customers came to buy costumes for the holidays or those they had worn for memorable events. This Henry VIII costume was purchased by a man who was married there at the Renaissance Festival. A wellness instructor bought a banana costume.

“We did the whole shutdown not because we had to, but because it was about time,” Terrie said of the store’s 67 years of operation. “This last part is the celebration. This is what this auction will be.

The Frankels moved the store from its long-standing location on Fannin Street to a warehouse on Polk in 2000. They owned the entire block and sold it to developer Frank Liu of Lovett Homes, who is considering a mixed-use project. for the site.

Scott Hollingsworth, a local magician who has been interested in magic since the age of 7, has fond memories of his work at Frankel. . Then he became the director of entertainment for Magic Island, Houston’s dinner theater damaged by fire after Hurricane Ike.

Hollingsworth, 82, walked past tables of collectibles set up to be sold at Gallery Auctions recently in what felt like a trip down memory lane. Many items weren’t very expensive when new – $ 20 or $ 30 – but their collectable nature will likely increase the price dramatically.

The auction’s inventory includes a number of production boxes, all lined with black velvet – at least one still containing a fair amount of rabbit fur – and painted in colorful hues.

“These are production boxes that you would use to produce a lot of things from rabbits, birds, silks,” he said, examining a wooden box shaped like a circus car. “You would use this one for a children’s show and use a bunny or even a toy poodle.” Children love animals.

Some tricks are out of fashion, like the Canton Torture Box from the 1950s or mini-guillotines. Wartime atrocities have made tricks related to violence or mutilation obsolete, Hollingsworth said.

Magician Jamie Salinas caught the virus after watching a street magician in San Antonio. “I met Lonnie as a client when I was 20 years old. I bought my first magic trick from Frankel, ”said Salinas, now 53. “It was an invisible game – a card trick – and I’m still doing a variation of it today.

Hollingsworth and Salinas are busy magicians, Hollingsworth giving 283 shows this year. Salinas said he did 70 shows in December alone. The audience is there, they said, because of the mysterious nature of magic.

“It’s a word: mystery,” Salinas said. “Think of a juggler, you see his talent. With a magician, we do not see his talent. You don’t see anything.

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