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Harter Houdini key

September 29 2012 at 7:45 PM
John Cox 

Can anyone tell me more about this Houdini key from the Paul Harter collection? With so many "Houdini keys" out there via the Radner collection, I'm surprised to see this sell for $310. Is it a particularly collectable key in itself? Or maybe the booklet is the real appeal? Also curious what year these were originally sold. Thanks.


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clyde lowe in KC

Harter Keys

September 30 2012, 10:45 AM 

The first time I saw them was 1995 or 96, They were about 500$ but framed with a certificat of authentisity. And a photo of the framed key on the back of the booklet. I think I bought one out of a Sharper Image Cataloge. Here is an excerp. from the booklet (When Harry Houdini died in 1926, most of the equipment and devices used in his magic shows, including his extensive collection of locks and keys, passed on to his brother Hardeen, also a magician and illusionist. In 1941, Hardeen began a correspondence with Mr. Paul Harter of Mansfield, Ohio, an avid lock and key collector. Their correspondence lasted for three years until Hardeen's death in 1944. During this period, Hardeen sold approximately 78 of his famous brother's locks and keys to Mr. Harter for the incredible price of 25 cents each. Then, sometime later, Hardeen also sent Mr. Harter 60 pounds of keys from the Houdini collection (See boxed area in accompanying feature article). After Mr. Harter's death, his widow eventually authorized the sale of her husband's various locks and keys. The Key accompanying this certificate is part of the 60 pounds of keys orginally sent to Mr. Harter by Hardeen.) They were not handcuff keys.

John Cox

Re: Harter Houdini key

September 30 2012, 12:48 PM 

Thank you, Clyde. Appreciate the info.


Mr. Houdini........... We're out of toilet paper again!

September 30 2012, 8:33 PM 


This key is for paper-towel, hand soap (powdered), and TP dispensers.

This key was originally made by the Eagle Lock Co. of Terryville CT. It is shown in one of their 1940's catalog reprint as having the EXACT bow/head shape, and the original Eagle part # is 2173.

These keys are still produced by the magillions by Ilco as part # 1416.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Commercial-Paper-Towel-Bath-Tissue-Dispenser-Precut-Key-Ilco-1416-/290736443100 (The bow is different, cuts the same)

Unless Harry was originally employed as a "Sunday sweeper" before becoming the world's most famous EA, or he was ever challenged to be locked in a 14"x9"x3.5" inter-weaved folded paper towel dispenser, then whoever believed in the BOGUS story attached to this key now suffers from a butthole full of smoke wink.gif

On a side note, there is a key (Ilco part #T86) which was also originally made by Eagle, originally intended as a dispenser key, but was also adopted for use in really cheap stamped-tin toy banks and metal coin boxes circa WWII. The difference between this, and the afformentioned key, while they're both stamped pre-cut keys, is that 2 of the cuts on the key are reversed, making them non-interchangeable.

Hope this helps.

(While I almost ALWAYS post with my name and E-mail, today I am going to remain Anon, so please nobody take offense wink.gif .........THANKS!)


Ian McColl


September 30 2012, 9:27 PM 

ANON, I think the oo gave it away.

I have seen the key in the auction but I haven't read the auction, mainly because I feel so many things associated with Houdini/Hardeen are false unless so unique there is no doubt.
Years after the fact, anyone can make any claim of the history. The allegations are well known that both Bess Houdini and Hardeen cashed in on Houdinis name. It is alleged that Bess would buy old second-hand furniture and sell if off as Houdinis. There are probably countless desks, chairs etc, all which belonged to Houdini (?)
It is alleged that Hardeen bought cuffs and locks and sold them to Sid Radner as belonging to Houdini. Its also alleged that Sid himself one said any cuffs that passes thru my hands will be known as once belonging to Houdini. The guy couldnt tell a Mattatuck from a Tower.

Clyde Lowe

Harter Keys

September 30 2012, 10:37 PM 

I agree, I do not beleive that was a Houdini key, a Hardeen Key or even A Harter Key. I was just explaining how the original keys were marketed, they at least were framed with a COA to console the buyers. Some of them were just old door keys. When I bought one it was to find out who aquired the whole collection from Harters widow.

John Cox

Re: Harter Houdini key

September 30 2012, 11:06 PM 

A key for a 1940s hand soap dispenser? Yikes!

John Cox

Re: Harter Houdini key

September 30 2012, 11:28 PM 

Check it out. Another auction using the same pics. This is starting to feel pretty sketchy.


Thinking I should maybe zap the story on my site? I don't was to give this legitimacy it doesn't deserve. But I have updated with a link to this thread.

What do you guys think?

Ian McColl

Re: Harter Houdini key

October 1 2012, 12:49 AM 

Hi John, I would revamp the blog to incorporate what is generally thought about all these 'Houdini'keys and cuffs.
Even cuffs sold after Sid's passing didn't have any prov. back to Houdini. Just Sid's belated word, but people bought and only when they go to sell will they realise their folly. They might get their money back, but it's not going to earn them a fortune.

It's like the Bramah key mentioned here a while back and it's conection to the Mirror handcuff.
It had nothing to do with Houdini or Mirror AT ALL.

Anyone researching Houdini should have been aware of the photos of the Mirror keys at the Houdini Hall of Fame 1970's Then there would have never been a reason to question that Bramah key.



Re: Harter Houdini key

October 1 2012, 6:50 PM 

[linked image] The value of the "Houdini Bathroom Key" is dependent on just how badly one needs to go.

Michael Lee

Re: Harter Houdini key

October 3 2012, 5:16 PM 

$310.00 OUCH ! ......

and that key comes with exactly how many rolls of TP ?


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