Carter Beats the Devil – Stone Lithograph Magic Poster Window Card

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Magic Posters: Original Vintage, Rare & Modern Day Since 1990

Nielsen Magic has been buying, selling, and trading magic posters for thirty years.

Since 1990, Norm Nielsen started amassing one of the largest vintage magic poster collections in the world, part of which was auctioned off a few years ago, although I still selectively purchase a piece here or there.

As of year 2020, Nielsen Magic is still one of the number one magic stores in the world to sell vintage posters. Not only do we sell original vintage magic posters, but we also sell modern day magic posters and reproductions with all your favorite magicians and theatrical magic acts.

Over the next few months, I plan to spotlight some of my favorite magic posters and I hope you will be entertained with the stories and information I can share on these beautiful works of art.

“Carter Beats the Devil” Window Card

Carter "Beats the Devil" Window Card
This is an original stone-lithograph printed in 1926 of magician Charles Carter, aka Carter the Great

Last week, a new customer who has never done business with us before ordered one of my favorite pieces: A Carter “Beats the Devil” Window Card. This piece is an original stone lithograph printed in 1926.

And yes, I should know all this, as the poster has an interesting provenance. These Carter the Great magic posters were printed in 1926, but illusionist Charles Carter passed away during his 7th world tour in 1936, leaving behind all his paper and apparatus in his home, Carter Manor, in San Francisco, California. From Carter Manor, the entire magic show was eventually owned by Turk Murphy and Peter and Cedric Clute. Props for the show even decorated a magic club called the Magic Cellar for a few years until its closure. Eventually, the Carter material was put in storage, until Mike Caveney and Bill Smith bought the bulk of it in 1990.

How Norm Nielsen Acquired the “Carter Beats the Devil” Magic Poster

Norm eventually came into the picture and managed to purchase a quantity of the Carter paper from the Clutes.

So, we still sell this magical image, and still have window cards in absolutely beautiful condition. It is a really pretty piece, and it is available simply because Carter passed away before he used up all his paper advertising. This doesn’t mean that it is not a fine vintage example of printing from an older era.

How to tell the difference between an Original Poster and a Reproduction

Earlier this week, after the new customer received the image, he e-mailed me to complain. He was completely disappointed and not happy at all. He said: “That is a modern printing of the poster. It cannot be an original one.” I called him back and told him that I personally picked a beautiful piece for him and guaranteed that it was a vintage poster. I even told him that if he was not satisfied, he was welcome to return it within two weeks for a full refund. He told me he would take it to a printer friend of his, as he was still skeptical.

I just have to laugh out loud as this is the first time someone complained about a vintage poster being in such good condition. Most complaints come from people who don’t like a tear or an imperfection in their old piece of paper.

I did give the customer one tip that should help him identify an original stone-lithograph from a reproduction or modern print. What you have to do is take a strong magnifying glass and look at the poster very closely. If it is a stone-litho, you will see a random pattern in the color layout. Stone-lithographs were printed using ink applied to slabs of limestone. When seen up close, all you see is the random pattern of the stone on the paper.

Carter the Great Magic Poster - How to tell if it's an original vintage poster
Selected detailed area of the “Carter Beats the Devil” Window Card lithograph.
Stone Lithograph Pattern at the eye of the "Carter Beats the Devil" Magic Poster
Close-up view of the eye in the “Carter Beats the Devil” magic poster. Notice the random pattern of the limestone used to print it.

Modern offset printing has a definite halftone dot pattern, that is not random. Even current giclée prints have a dot pattern as well.

Newspaper insert from Las Vegas Review Journal
Newspaper insert from the Las Vegas Review Journal. This is what modern printing looks like.
Close up of the newspaper print
Close-up of the newspaper print. Notice the halftone pattern on the print. Old stone-lithographs do NOT show this.

So, most vintage posters prior to 1930, printed on stone, can be identified easily. There are a few exceptions, but the “stone pattern” tells you if it is the real thing.

I do hope the customer proves to his satisfaction that it is an original magic poster, as it is a hassle to do the paperwork for the return.

As for me, I am considering probably to purposely put a few bends, tears and scuff marks on the nice pieces of vintage paper we have. Maybe spilling a cup of coffee or two on the lithos might make them look older to pass the most discerning client’s criteria! I guess I could even raise the price while I am at it! Lol!

Have a great week folks!

-Lupe Nielsen
(October 11, 2020)

2 thoughts on “Carter Beats the Devil – Stone Lithograph Magic Poster Window Card”

  1. That,s quite a story–but true–I was skeptical–the paper appeared too pristine to be from 1926—I did some research and found Lupe to be correct–my apology—BILL

    1. Dear Bill: Glad that you were able to do research on the piece. :-). And no, no apologies are needed. I would also be skeptical if an old piece looked just as new. Lol! It did give me an excuse to write a little blog post about telling the difference between the real thing and a reproduction. Every couple of weeks we get this question over the phone. Hope you are well and safe during these pandemic times. Take care!

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