Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Pat Croce auction items: Magical, ornate ... and man cave?

Exhibition continues till Friday afternoon sale.

On Friday, Pat Croce hopes to make Harry Houdini disappear.

The former Sixers president, through Briggs Auction, is selling off 62 pieces of his collection of magic memorabilia, including a shadow box full of "wrist and ankle shackles" collected by the legendary escape artist (estimated value: $60,000 to $80,000).

But that's only a third of the assorted valuables and curiosities going up for bid on Friday afternoon in Garnet Valley, available because Croce and his wife, Diane, chose to sell their Villanova mansion and move to smaller local digs.

Gallery: Pat Croce's Main Line mansion

Some items are even suitable -- and affordable enough -- for that man cave.

There are opulent decorative objects, including vases, urns, candlesticks, fireplace screens, and a 19th-century French gilt bronze clock and candelabra set valued at $2,500 to $3,000.

There are fancy furnishings, including an assortment of chests, chairs and tables, including a French Empire walnut center table supported by carved winged lions ($6,000 to $8,000).

There are impressive garden statues, including four life-size marble maidens, purchased in Rome, valued at $15,000 to $18,000. There's even a statue of David standing on Goliath's severed head ($4,000 to $6,000).

But don't assume it's all for fans of Houdini or Louis XV.

There are swords, putters with Sixers and Harley Davidson logos, ceramic pirate heads, an original screenplay from Braveheart, a rattlesnake skin cowboy hat, "Pirate Island" signs from two mini golf coures at the Shore, a street sign for "Pat Croce Blvd." and an 1805 Navy-themed gentleman's mannequin, all valued for $50 to $100.

Slide Show: "See treasures Pat Croce plans to auction"

Sorry, sports fans, but physical therapist turned Flyers conditioning coach and Sixers trainer seems to be keeping his pro sports memorabilia, though there is an autographed "76ers Pat Croce" sign ($50 to $100).

Pricier are a cigar store Indian ($600 to $900), a bronze mermaid ($750 to $1,500) and a Chinese bronze weapons rack ($1,500 to $3,000.)

The magic memorabilia also includes European castle locks collected by Houdini, (estimated to be worth $50,000 to $70,000), memorabilia of Houdini’s famed water-torture cell ($3,000 to $5,000) and various show advertisements (one of which might fetch $3,000 or more), including publicized challenges, like one vowing to nail him in a box, wrap it with ropes, then nail the ropes.

And those eye-popping lifesize or large-than-life sculptures of a mermaid, Chinese warriors and David stepping Goliath's head? "I'm the one that bought them. I'm the crazy Italian who loves statues," said Croce in December when he talked about the downsizing.

No, he laughed, despite rumors, "I'm not selling my house to make money for the Pirate Museum."

The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum has been thriving since moving from Key West to St. Augustine, where it's become a favorite for school field trips, he said. He also has a living history museum there called Colonial Quarter, as well as a half a half-dozen taverns in Key West, and a couple of others in St. Augustine.

The asking price for his Main Line mansion hasn't changed: $7.95 million.

The auction is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at Briggs Auction, in Garnet Valley, Delaware County, with exhibitions continuing noon to 5 p.m. today, noon to 7 p.m. Thursday, and starting at 9 a.m. Friday.

The auction house can accommodate hundreds of visitors, and several thousand registered bidders, who can join in through the Internet or by phone, explained John Turner,  president of Briggs Auction.

Croce, who has dabbled in reality TV, is also well known for inspirational best sellers, including his autobiography, I Feel Great and You Will Too.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Pat Croce isn't selling Houdini's straitjacket, even if he sometimes fears his wife, Diane, would like him to wear it now and then.

But he will auction off all sorts of other treasures, including a set of Harry Houdini's handcuffs valued at $60,000, as part as a downsizing move that includes selling his Villanova mansion.

Asking price for his digs: $7.95 million.

"We bought a new home in the Philadelphia area," and the townhouse is only about half the size, the former Sixers president said.

And, no, he laughed, it's not about raising cash, despite "smart remarks" in readers’ comments at the end of the house sale article on Philly.com.

"I'm not selling my house to make money for the Pirate Museum," he said.

The museum's doing great after moving in 2010 from Key West, where the tourists prefer partying and water-activity thrills, to more sedate St. Augustine on the mainland, where schoolbuses now come at a rate of 800 a year, instead of just 30, he said.

The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum has a "perfect" location, he said -- right on the waterway that privateer Sir Francis Drake used to raid an early Spanish outpost in 1586.

Croce also has a living history museum there called Colonial Quarter, which opened last spring. It's like "Epcot meets Colonial Williamsburg," he said. His enterpreneurial bent -- which began by turning a  physical therapy practice into a chain of centers he sold for $40 million in the early ’90s  --  these days also extends to a half-dozen taverns in Key West, and a couple of others in St. Augustine, on the northern Florida coast.


The auction, which will contain over 250 lots, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at Briggs Auction, in Garnet Valley, Delaware County, with previews starting the Monday before.

"All this won't fit into the new property, whether it's size, or the look that my wife wants," he said.

The furnishings for sale, some in styles indebted to French kings, reflect the eye of Diane Croce.

 

“She'll do something new with the new place ... She's already out there shopping, are you kidding?" he said.

And those eye-popping lifesize or large-than-life sculptures of a mermaid, Chinese warriors and David stepping Goliath's head? "I'm the one that bought them. I'm the crazy Italian who loves statues," Pat Croce said.

One suspects the Asian weapons rack that's full of ceremonial spears was also his acquisition.

In addition, besides “a few pieces of Sixers memorabilia ... there is a very cool vintage gas pump and a pinball machine of Pat's that we will be auctioning, as well as bedroom furnishings, china, glassware, decorative items and some cool samurai pieces,” said Stephen Turner, director of business development at Briggs.

 

Setting this action apart, though, will be about a hundred lots devoted to magic and especially Houdini memorabilia, including European castle locks collected by the legendary escape artist, (estimated to be worth $50,000 to $70,000), memorabilia of Houdini’s famed water-torture cell ($3,000 to $5,000) and various show advertisements (one might fetch $3,000 or more)  including challenges, like one from a construction company vowing to nail him in a box, wrap it with ropes, then nail the ropes down.

 

Croce’s collection grew from his lifelong interest in magic. He’s even done a little himself.

 

"Not professionally, but I'm pretty good at a party,” he said.

Croce’s holding on to his pirate collectibles, of course, including the skull-and-crossbones-emblazoned chairs that were in the mansion’s bar.

Despite the mansion having a 10-car garage, no vehicles will be offered, because Croce’s not a car collector, and he got rid of his motorcycles after a nearly fatal crash during a cross-country attempt in 1999.

He was the escape artist then. His recovery and other accomplishments were recounted in his autobiography, I Feel Great and You Will Too, one of several inspirational best-sellers he's written.

The auction house can accommodate hundreds of visitors, and more than a thousand registered bidders, who can join in through the Internet or by phone, explained John Turner, Stephen’s father and president of Briggs Auction.

The catalogue is still being researched, but when it's finished, it will be available online.

 

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Pat Croce isn't selling Houdini's straitjacket, even if he sometimes fears his wife, Diane, would like him to wear it now and then.

But he will auction off all sorts of other treasures, including a set of Harry Houdini's handcuffs valued at $60,000, as part as a downsizing move that includes selling his Villanova mansion.

Asking price for his digs: $7.95 million.

"We bought a new home in the Philadelphia area," and the townhouse is only about half the size, the former Sixers president said.

And, no, he laughed, it's not about raising cash, despite "smart remarks" in readers’ comments at the end of the house sale article on Philly.com.

"I'm not selling my house to make money for the Pirate Museum," he said.

The museum's doing great after moving in 2010 from Key West, where the tourists prefer partying and water-activity thrills, to more sedate St. Augustine on the mainland, where schoolbuses now come at a rate of 800 a year, instead of just 30, he said.

The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum has a "perfect" location, he said -- right on the waterway that privateer Sir Francis Drake used to raid an early Spanish outpost in 1586.

Croce also has a living history museum there called Colonial Quarter, which opened last spring. It's like "Epcot meets Colonial Williamsburg," he said. His enterpreneurial bent -- which began by turning a  physical therapy practice into a chain of centers he sold for $40 million in the early ’90s  --  these days also extends to a half-dozen taverns in Key West, and a couple of others in St. Augustine, on the northern Florida coast.


The auction, which will contain over 250 lots, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at Briggs Auction, in Garnet Valley, Delaware County, with previews starting the Monday before.

"All this won't fit into the new property, whether it's size, or the look that my wife wants," he said.

The furnishings for sale, some in styles indebted to French kings, reflect the eye of Diane Croce.

 

“She'll do something new with the new place ... She's already out there shopping, are you kidding?" he said.

And those eye-popping lifesize or large-than-life sculptures of a mermaid, Chinese warriors and David stepping Goliath's head? "I'm the one that bought them. I'm the crazy Italian who loves statues," Pat Croce said.

One suspects the Asian weapons rack that's full of ceremonial spears was also his acquisition.

In addition, besides “a few pieces of Sixers memorabilia ... there is a very cool vintage gas pump and a pinball machine of Pat's that we will be auctioning, as well as bedroom furnishings, china, glassware, decorative items and some cool samurai pieces,” said Stephen Turner, director of business development at Briggs.

 

Setting this action apart, though, will be about a hundred lots devoted to magic and especially Houdini memorabilia, including European castle locks collected by the legendary escape artist, (estimated to be worth $50,000 to $70,000), memorabilia of Houdini’s famed water-torture cell ($3,000 to $5,000) and various show advertisements (one might fetch $3,000 or more)  including challenges, like one from a construction company vowing to nail him in a box, wrap it with ropes, then nail the ropes down.

 

Croce’s collection grew from his lifelong interest in magic. He’s even done a little himself.

 

"Not professionally, but I'm pretty good at a party,” he said.

Croce’s holding on to his pirate collectibles, of course, including the skull-and-crossbones-emblazoned chairs that were in the mansion’s bar.

Despite the mansion having a 10-car garage, no vehicles will be offered, because Croce’s not a car collector, and he got rid of his motorcycles after a nearly fatal crash during a cross-country attempt in 1999.

He was the escape artist then. His recovery and other accomplishments were recounted in his autobiography, I Feel Great and You Will Too, one of several inspirational best-sellers he's written.

The auction house can accommodate hundreds of visitors, and more than a thousand registered bidders, who can join in through the Internet or by phone, explained John Turner, Stephen’s father and president of Briggs Auction.

The catalogue is still being researched, but when it's finished, it will be available online.

 

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Peter Mucha Phillly.com
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