Potter & Potter’s Gabe Fajuri Discusses Gambling Memorabilia, New Location, and 2020 Success

James Ardis
Published on
$100 Scrimshawed Poker Chip. Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter.
$100 Scrimshawed Poker Chip. Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter.

Already renowned for its magicana and memorabilia sales, Potter & Potter looks to expand in 2021. The Chicago-based auction house begins that journey by relocating to a bigger space at 5001 W. Belmont. It will also offer 700+ lots of gambling memorabilia in its first auction of the year. 

Auction Daily recently spoke with Gabe Fajuri, the president and founder of Potter & Potter. From gambling memorabilia to better jokes during the live streams, Fajuri discusses everything collectors have to look forward to from the auction house in 2021.

Auction Daily: The last time we spoke with you, in April of 2020, Potter & Potter was adapting to the ongoing pandemic. What lessons did your team learn in the first year of lockdowns? Where do you think there’s room for improvement in 2021?

Gabe Fajuri: We’ve learned that online auctions are more popular than ever before and that a pandemic can bring you a pretty healthy viewing audience when it comes to a live-streamed sale. Many bidders have reported tuning in (at least in the background) for an entire day, watching the auction on-and-off as a result of the live video stream on our website. I’ve also learned that I need to write a few new jokes for the viewers at home. The same old material is getting a bit stale. 

As for room for improvement, other than the jokes, there are always lessons to be learned – including how to best blend a live streaming sale with a live audience (when they return). 

AD: Despite trials and tribulations, Potter & Potter accomplished a lot in 2020. That includes a nearly 100% sell-through rate in your Winter Magic Auction. What were some of your favorite moments and accomplishments from Potter & Potter’s 2020 sales?

First edition copy of Casino Royale by Ian Fleming that sold with Potter & Potter for $23,750 in April, 2020. Photo courtesy of the auction house.
First edition copy of Casino Royale by Ian Fleming that sold with Potter & Potter for $23,750 in April, 2020. Photo courtesy of the auction house.

Fajuri: My favorite moment was watching the staff come together for what was, hands down, the strongest year we’ve ever had. We found new ways to work together with our customers and consignors to deliver exceptional service and bring more unusual and uncommon things to auction. I’m particularly proud of the results in our October sale, which defied all expectations at nearly every turn. And the outpouring of interest in our Fine Book & Manuscript sales this year showed a permanent place in that market for us. 

AD: One of the biggest changes for your auction house this year is the move to a new location. Tell our readers about the space and what they may have to look forward to after the lockdowns.

Fajuri: We’ve more than doubled our space. The new building is 15,000 square feet, with a spacious warehouse and a gallery at least three times the size of our previous location. While we’re still in the moving process – the first sale we hold there will be on January 30th – and elements of the facility are still under construction, the benefits of our own purpose-built property are already evident. We’ll be able to spread our wings there and complete our transformation from a scrappy boutique auction house to a real player in the Midwest and beyond. 

First edition of The Expert at the Card Table by S.W. Erdnase. Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter.
First edition of The Expert at the Card Table by S.W. Erdnase. Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter.

AD: Potter & Potter will kick off the new year with the Ante Up: Gambling Memorabilia sale on January 30th. Of the 700+ lots on offer, which items are you most enthusiastic about?

Fajuri: It’s the breadth of the sale that excites me. Never before have we offered so many unusual and genuinely rare poker chips at auction. The key consignor to this sale had one of the best chip collections in the world. But gambling literature is what interests me the most, and a first edition of Erdnase’s Expert at the Card Table is a book I’ve always admired. I’m also fond of the handsome lithographed covers on the issues of Poker Chips magazine, and the unusual gambling supply house catalogs that are over 100 years old fascinate me, too.

Complete file of Poker Chips magazine. Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter.
Complete file of Poker Chips magazine. Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter.

Want to learn more about Potter & Potter including recent news and auction previews? Check out Potter & Potter’s news channel