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Sidney Radner, famous collector of Houdini memorabilia

Sidney Radner, collector and steward of priceless Houdini collectionSidney Radner, collector and steward of priceless Houdini collection

On June 26, 2011, Sidney Hollis Radner passed away of cancer in Holyoke, Massachusetts.   He had been given a sizable collection of  Harry Houdini  memorabilia from Houdini’s brother, Theo. Theo €”performed as an escape artist in his own right under the stage name of Hardeen.   In addition to those gifts, Sidney Radner purchased additional items from Hardeen. This resulted in one of the world’€™s largest and most valuable collection of Harry Houdini items. The collection included Houdini’€™s signature Water Torture Cell.

Sidney Radner leased parts of his collections to various museums, including the Houdini Museum in Houdini’s home town of Appleton, Wisconsin.   A strong disagreement broke out between Radner and the museum when the museum began showing secrets to Houdini’€™s (and other magicians) magical and escape effects.   In 2004, Sid Radner auctioned off his collection of over 1,000 Houdini items to a variety of people, including David Copperfield among others.

“Mr. Radner, aka Rendar the Magician, owns one of the world’s biggest and most valuable collections of Harry Houdini artifacts, including the Chinese Water Torture Cell, one of Houdini’s signature props from 1912 until his death in 1926. Most of the items were given to Mr. Radner in the 1940’s by Houdini’s brother, another escape artist who went by the stage name Hardeen. Hardeen considered Mr. Radner, then a student at Yale with a reputation for jumping from diving boards in handcuffs, as his protege. Until early this year, the collection was on display at the Outagamie Museum in Appleton, Wis., where Houdini’s father was the town rabbi in the 1870’s. But after a rancorous falling out between Mr. Radner and museum officials, the 1,000-piece collection was packed up and shipped here, where it will be auctioned on Saturday in the windowless back room at the Liberace Museum and on eBay. …”

—  New York Times, October 29, 2004

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