A Victorian satyr head automaton starred at Potter & Potter's magic auction on the weekend.
The papier-mache prop was used in card tricks, with audience members' chosen cards appearing from the top of its head.
Rare: just a handful were made
Its mouth can open to reveal items such as watches borrowed from the audience earlier in the show, and it can also smoke a cigarette – while all the time rolling its eyes.
"Holes in the base of the platform represent openings through which pistons in a conjurer's table could be used to operate the head remotely by an offstage assistant," explained the auction house.
French manufacturer E Voisin produced just a handful of the extraordinary-looking objects at great cost in around 1890. That rarity helped the item to a $15,000 price on the weekend.
Satyrs were half-man, half-goat creatures in Greek mythology.
The April 8 Chicago sale was topped by a jewelled brooch that belonged to Harry Houdini’s wife, Bess. It achieved $60,000, comfortably surpassing its $40,000 valuation.
It’s thought Tsar Nicholas II gave Bess (1876-1943) the brooch in 1903 while she and her husband were touring Russia.
A gift from the Tsar to Houdini's wife
There was also plenty on offer for magic collectors at the more affordable end of the market.
A 1960s "Chinese chopper" – a guillotine that would remove everything but the assistant's head – sold for $350, while two trick swords used by British comedian Tommy Cooper, housed in a wooden packing case bearing his name, achieved $3,000.
Please sign up to our free newsletter to receive exciting news about unique collectible auctions.