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 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.
Gallery: See Pat Croce's Main Line mansion
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 northern Florida coast, 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.
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 Harry 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 of which might fetch $3,000 or more), including publicized 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.