Update to the Auction of the Century - The Christopher Collection

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Magic Auctioneer » 03/25/11 02:45 PM

As I have announced before, I have been retained by Martinka's to call the live auction of the Christopher Collection taking place in New York City on April 20th, 2011.

The sale will be held at the Hotel Pennsylvania (401 Seventh Ave., 800-223-8585) with a preview on April 19th. On-line bidding will be available as well.

Martinka through arrangement with Maurine Brooks Christopher will hold this unique and extensive auction of numerous rare and exciting items from the famous Christopher Collection. This collection has been a source of wonder for magicians and collectors that has spanned decades. Milbourne Christopher, a name synonymous with magic the world over, began collecting when he was a boy. At the time of his death on June 17, 1984 he amassed one of the most complete and extensive historical collections on conjuring in the world. Posters, etchings, photos, scrapbooks, memorabilia and artifacts beyond belief, plus a great variety of the rarest of books resulted from a lifelong effort to build and assemble one of the great treasure troves of magic in existence.

Here are just a few of the wonderful offerings that will be included in this historic sale:

Boscos Copper Duck Pan with a cabinet photo of Leon Bosco holding the pan.

The bronze Magician Desk set featured on the cover of Christophers The Illustrated History of Magic.

An assortment of Chung Ling Soo posters.

Deans The Whole Art of Legerdaemain 3rd Edition ca 1763 Stott 201

An original pen and ink as well as engraving from Bartholomew Fair featuring Isaac Fawkes described as a Souvenir Fan in Panorama on page 18.

Horace Goldins Half Sheet Tiger God
[img:left]http://www.martinka.com/media/christopher/CA-GoldinCat-300.jpg[/img]


























Carl Hertzs Vanishing Bird Cage

Hocus Pocus JR 13th Edition 1697

Hardeens personal scrapbooks

Lots of wonderful Houdini material
[img:left]http://www.martinka.com/media/christopher/CA-2347-250.jpg[/img]














LeRoyS Personal Scrapbooks

Confidences d'un Prestidigitateur par Robert-Houdin Vol 1 & 2 First Edition, First Issue -Signed by Robert-Houdin.
Image

Talmas Personal Break-away Fan

This will truly be be a magical offering.

Stay tuned for more updates and get ready to be the new owner of these incredibly historic items.

[size:14pt]David A. Goodman
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Postby JohnCox » 03/25/11 04:11 PM

Hardeen's personal scrapbooks?

Now you have my attention.
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 03/25/11 05:04 PM

Sorry for the question, which may be st*pid or naive... In 1997 was held (by Swann) a big "Christopher Auction" which, I remember, caused quite a stir in the magic community. I don't really remember the details of the auction and all the details of the controversy around it, but my impression was that most, if not all, of Christopher's material had been sold by that time.

Perhaps Mr. Goodman or Mr. Bogusta may tell us something more about this material now offered for sale. I, personally, am looking forward to the auction and its catalog and will appreciate any other information on the items :)

Thank you!
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Postby JohnCox » 03/25/11 05:45 PM

That's a good question, Marco. I was wondering the same thing myself.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 03/25/11 05:50 PM

I don't remember it and Swann hired me to work on it. I must be getting old. :confused:

Maybe that was it? :D
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Postby magicam » 03/25/11 05:55 PM

Marco and John There were actually two auctions held by Swann Galleries which featured mostly stuff from Chris' collection, held on October 15, 1981 and October 30, 1997. These auctions offered mostly duplicates from his collection.

The "auction of the century" claim is a bit over the top, but certainly well within the bounds of typical marketing hyperbole. There's no doubt, however, that the disposal of Chris' core collection is a very significant event, though we won't know for another 90 years if this auction will prove to be the "auction of the century." Milbourne had a wonderful library, but in terms of rare books it doesn't compare to, say, Roland Winder's library (auctioned in the last century) or a few other libraries which will come up for auction in the next 10-20 years.
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 03/25/11 06:21 PM

Many thanks, Clay! I don't remember the 1981 auction (way too young then! :) ) but I've been interested in the 1997 one, where a poster in which I am very interested was sold (but haven't been able to find the buyer :( ).

I don't have a problem with this auction being called "auction of the century"... every collector can pick these claims up "cum grano salis" :) but it seems nevertheless interesting: M. Christopher mentioned some of the books for sale in his articles in The Linking Ring (I'm thinking of the Alberti, but we don't know (yet) if it is a true first edition or a later edition - I have both a third and a fourth edition myself - a first one would be nice ;) ) and the posters and other items may be of interest too.

Glad to know that the Swann auctions did not sell the whole collection, though!

Many thanks, Clay!
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Postby David Haversat » 03/25/11 07:44 PM

In 1981 while Milbourne Christopher was living, he sat back and enjoyed as a number of his duplicates were sold at auction. At the conclusion of the sale nearly $75,000 of material had been sold, minus buyers premiums a lot of money in 1981.

16 years later, Christophers widow Maurine would hold the second auction. In that sale the original manuscript for Magician Among the Spirits. sold for $36,800. Another Houdini item, The Right Way to Do Wrong published in 1906, with and inscription to his brother, brought $14,950. This auction also included some of the props Chris used in his shows. The sale brought in a total of $315,491 excluding premiums and yes it did cause a lot of talk as it was a record setting magic auction for that time.

Now 14 years later there is yet another Christopher auction and this will not be the last! The April 20th sale will contain the strongest selection of book posters and overall paper when comparing to the others. As far as books are concerned and when comparing to Roland Winderswhat all I can say is Winder and Christopher were great friends and when Winder passed away he willed Christopher his rarest books including the Sa. Rid which is the only known copy in private hands. It is not the largest book collection, but at nearly 4,200 publications with many dating from 1589- 1910, its nothing to sneeze at! As far as Houdini goes, Id say it was comparable to Mulhollands. Look in the back of Houdini The Untold Story and Christopher explains a little about the number of Houdini items in his collection. Or you can look in Houdini A Pictorial Life and see all the Houdini images. So even with three auctions its impossible to sell off thousands of items when the average auction has 300 lots.

My role in all of this is curator for the auctions. I worked hand in hand with Maurine Christopher, selected the items for the sale and have written all the descriptions. Martinka has been entrusted to handle this historic sale and Auctioneer David Goodman will be the live auctioneer. In all this is a good thing for magic - as Mrs. Christopher wants more than just one person to have a piece of the Christopher collection. Perhaps Milbourne will be watching as he did in 1981, but this time from galaxies of the unknown as his prized possessions are sold to yet a new generation of collectors.

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Postby JohnCox » 03/25/11 08:03 PM

Fantastic! Thank you, guys. I'm looking forward to learning what Houdini/Hardeen items will be in the auction. I'll then give it a nice shout out on my blog.
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Postby David Haversat » 03/25/11 08:13 PM

Hi John,

Here are a few items to peak the interest.

Best,

David Haversat

HARDEEN, THEO. Oversized (13" x 18.5") personal scrapbook belonging to Hardeen. Gold stamped on cover Newspaper Notices, T.W. Hardeen Over 50 pages containing valuable information for the researcher and collector. All articles are dated from 1916 and have notations in Hardeen's hand. Various write-ups depict Theo in shackles and straitjackets. A very interesting article reads " Magnificent memorial dedicated with fitting ceremonies - sculptor toils a year providing work which marks last resting place for Houdini's Father and Mother." Written above in the margin is the sum of $20,000. A rare and unique offering.

HARDEEN, THEO. Hardeens PERSONAL scrapbook as compiled by Hardeen in 1927. Much of the content consists of Hardeens accepted challenges to escape from packing boxes and crates; letters of congratulations; newspaper articles mentioning Houdini and Hardeen as successor; original photographs, some never published before. 40 pages in all - a number of pages with notations by Hardeen. Scrapbook is brittle, contains interesting, historical material, not to be seen elsewhere or again.

HOUDINI, HARRY, ORIGINAL Houdini Manuscript, Magic in Boston 1792-1918. Researched and written for Houdini by H. J. Moulton. Later published by Christopher in 1983. Contains All correspondence from Moulton to Houdini, 14 typed letters in all and two envelopes addressed to Houdini. Over 150 typed pages covering various performers such as Potter, Blitz, Heller, Hartz, Herrmann, Kellar, LeRoy, Lafayette, Hardeen, Houdini and more. Original binding from the Houdini collection. Sample letter Reads; Mr. Harry, March 26, 1918. Houdini. Dear Sir: Your favor of the 22nd inst, with check for $60 enclosed has been received and I will begin work tomorrow. Of course the results of the work will be your exclusive property and I hope they will be satisfactory. I do not think, however, the extent of the task which is contemplated is as appreciated by you, for it will certainly be a considerable history. Yours very truly, (signed) H, J. Moulton
A rare and historical offering as commissioned by Houdini himself.

HOUDINI, HARRY. ORIGINAL Houdini unused window decal (8 x 10). Image depicts a detailed Houdini portrait in full color. Upper shoulder portion of decal is missing a small area of black near border and very small sliver specs on other portions. As very few of these have survived, this is a rare offering.

HOUDINI, HARRY - Typed letter to Will Goldston dated May 25, 1921. Houdini stationary with HOUDINI appearing on left hand side. "If you will send your Martinka bill to Mr. Alf T. Wilton, Palace Theatre Building." "Regarding Clyde Powers, he is still manager at the Hippodrome." "Regarding Magical Rope Ties and Escapes, I will go into this matter thoroughly with you at my first leisure day. Signed with ink in Houdini's hand "You you yours [sic] as always HOUDINI." Mounted on a scrapbook page. Letter with good content.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/25/11 08:20 PM

David Haversat wrote:HOUDINI, HARRY, ORIGINAL Houdini Manuscript, Magic in Boston 1792-1918. Researched and written for Houdini by H. J. Moulton. Later published by Christopher in 1983.

I believe this was not published by Christopher but by David Meyer's MEYERBOOKS.
Some great stuff!
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Postby JohnCox » 03/25/11 08:33 PM

Oooo...thank you, David. :)
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 03/25/11 09:28 PM

Is there going to be a catalog? Seems-like a great catalog to own.
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Postby magicam » 03/25/11 10:56 PM

Mrs. Christopher wants more than just one person to have a piece of the Christopher collection.

Kudos to Maurine for this approach. It is great that this collection will be recycled back into other (mostly) private collections.

when Winder passed away he willed Christopher his rarest books including the Sa. Rid

David, this is very interesting news! I was aware of the Rid, but was not aware that Winder gave anything else to Chris. What other rare books did Winder bequeath to Milbourne?
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Postby David Haversat » 03/26/11 08:44 AM

A few more Christopher auction items for you book, ephemera and association piece collectors. The rest will be available on the Martinka web / catalog in the very near future. See you on April 20th in New York or via online auction. Enjoy and best!


David Haversat



HERTZ, CARL. Vanishing Birdcage. Circa 1890s. Personally used and owned by Hertz through his career. A truly unique historical, association item that was a feature in Hertzs act. In 1921, having to prove in court that his act did not harm the bird, Hertz performed the trick, then produced the unharmed bird. RARE.

KELLAR, HARRY. Letter SIGNED to HOUDINI, Strong Content, two pages on Kellars stationary. Dated Jan 29, 1918. Kellar gives hearty congratulations to Houdini for the vanishing elephant. Kellar also mentions that he is very sorry to hear about the death of Mrs. Leon Herrmann and that both Leon and his wife were devoted to each other. Closes with Regards to you and all you love, your old friend Kellar.

[PEEDLE, THOMAS; AND COZBIE, THOMAS]. The Falacie of the Great Water-Drinker Discovered. Water spouter illustration. 66 pages. Small 8vo, light brown boards, 1/2 red cloth. Printed by B. Alsop for T. Dunster, to be sold at Red Lion in Grub Street, 1650. Good Condition.


PINCHBECK, WILLIAM FREDERICK. Witchcraft: or the Art of Fortune-Telling Unveiled...Comprizing...Phantasmagora, or Magick Well...A few Philosophical Experiments... Frontispiece woodcut of man terrified by spectre. 108 pages. 12mo, patterned boards.
Boston, Mass.: Printed for the author, 1805 original wood boards, foxing.


VERNON, DAI. Two important letters discussing Vernons book projects (1) Letter dated January 31, 1957. In which Vernon mentions that the past few months have brought a number of inquiries in regard to the forthcoming publication, I will have exclusive American Sales rights for one year and will offer in a limited edition of one thousand copies. One page typed and signed Dai. (2) Letter handwritten to Milbourne Christopher on April 16, 1961. Vernon speaks of working steadily on a book devoted to a discussion and analysis of Erdnase, tentatively titled Revelation. One page handwritten, signed Dai..


ZYKES. Large colored print. Zykes open air magic attracts a crowd to his tent with the cups and balls, linking rings, and troublewit paper folding. Pictured in Panorama at 162. 24 x 19(Metropolitan Printing Co.).
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 03/26/11 10:26 AM

David.....Will there be a catalog?
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Postby David Haversat » 03/31/11 08:12 AM

A few more items...Milbourne Christopher Auction - April 20th.

BRONZE, MAGICIAN DESK SET. Painted cast bronze of magician, holding a wand and standing behind a table with cups and balls. Magicians trunk and drum sit on the side and open to hold ink or postage stamps. The magicians hat is also hinged to hold a pen. Measures 8 inches stall base 5 x 7. This outstanding piece is featured on the cover of Illustrated History.

FATAL BOOK OPENED. John Albert, A young gentleman in Hamburg. Necromancy, and the Black Art. The powers of darkness, attended by a host of Griffins and other monsters of hideous appearance, vomiting sulphur and fire! Image used as frontispiece of Illustrated History. Mounted on stiff board, ready for framing. Rare. 14.5 x 24. N.d.

GOLDIN, HORACE. Goldins personal scrapbook from the years 1924-1925. Contains numerous newspaper clippings and publicity with many handwritten notations by Goldin. A wonderful lot of material from Goldins personal collection.

HARDEEN, THEO. Seven piece ephemera Lot. (1) John Mulhollands 1930 SAM Membership Card SIGNED by Hardeen, (2) Early 1903 Hardeen program, (3)Hardeen, Successor to Houdin handbill from, the Globe Theatre, (4)1928 Hardeen Christmas Card (5) 8 x 10 of Hardeen in bathing suite photographed in 1935, Atlantic City (6) Photo of Hardeen shaking Jean Hugards hand in 1945 with a photo of Houdini tipped in the center (7) Society of American Magicians Parent Assembly death notice for Hardeen.

HERRMANN, ADELAIDE. Eight photographs of Adelaide, some as early as age 13. All mounted to backing boards with notations and signatures from her. Most likely from her personal collection. Rare.

HOUDINI. A Magician Among The Spirits. Photographic plates. Xxi, 294 pages and a 2 page errata leaf tipped in Large 8vo, original blue-gray cloth. Book shows some wear to spine. Inscribed in ink SIGNED by HOUDINI To my friend Fulton Oursler. Best Wishes from Houdini. 4/30/24 Contains Oursler bookplate.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 03/31/11 09:08 AM

Is there going to be a catalog to purchase?
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Postby JohnCox » 03/31/11 10:59 AM

Yes, I'd love to know if there is going to be a catalog as well. Also when is the online catalog going live? Thanks.
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Postby David Haversat » 03/31/11 02:24 PM

Yes, Everything in the auction will be online with complete descriptions and photographs. A notice will go out from Martinka regarding the online catalog and / or a hard copy catalog in the first week of April. Thank you for your interest!
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 03/31/11 02:48 PM

A hard copy catalog will be welcome - I believe - by many collectors and will be an important research document for years to come. I hope a hard copy will be available.

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Postby magicam » 04/01/11 03:43 AM

^ Marco, from my vantage point, that's a huge understatement!

Hopefully I'm reading too much into David Haversat's and/or phrasing ([announcement coming re] online catalog and/or a hard copy catalog in the first week of April), but it strikes fear into the heart of this collector that there is any possibility that a good quality, printed catalog might not be issued. Normally, printed auction catalogs are in the hands of buyers at least 3-4 weeks before an auction, and here we are, with less than 3 weeks before the auction and no clear statement on whether or not a printed catalog will be issued. Not terribly encouraging, but I understand that, last November, Ted Bogusta or David indicated to collectors at the Yankee Gathering that a printed catalog would definitely be issued, so will keep the fingers crossed.

If a printed catalog were not issued, that would be an unprecedented, major blunder for an auction of this caliber (especially for an Auction of the Century! ;) ).

One thing to note from the descriptions provided in earlier posts, and just in case this typo is from the auction cataloging or in the MC library checklist (vol. 1): the 1650 Peedle & Cozbie book has 8 pages, not 66.

Finally, David can you also provide some more info on this most interesting tidbit mentioned earlier: when Winder passed away he willed Christopher his rarest books including the Sa. Rid. Many thanks in advance!
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 04/01/11 11:50 AM

magicam wrote:^ Marco, from my vantage point, that's a huge understatement!


:D indeed! I'm the prince of understatements! :D

A printed catalog is a necessity for auctions: Mr. Goodman announced, in the first post about the auction (here: http://www.geniimagazine.com/forums/ubb ... ber=240210) that
Magic Auctioneer wrote:a catalog will be available as well.

From that phrase, I understand that a printed catalog will be available, but you are right... time is clicking and no catalog is being offered for sale.

We are all a-waiting... it's the only thing I can say!

All the best!
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Postby Bill Palmer » 04/06/11 05:21 AM

The longer they wait, the more difficult it will be for people to make the necessary arrangements.
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Postby JohnCox » 04/06/11 12:24 PM

David kindly provided me a pic of one of the Houdini decals. I've also listed the Houdini items that we know so far (gathered from this thread).

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/04 ... opher.html
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Postby Richard Hatch » 04/06/11 08:15 PM

Any word on the catalog? Two weeks till the auction...
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Postby Daniel Bain » 04/08/11 08:57 AM

Just noticed that Christopher Collection auction items are now listed online at Live Auctioneers web site:

http://www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/24688
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 04/08/11 11:37 AM

Thank you, Daniel! Very interesting!

But what about a printed catalog?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/08/11 11:45 AM

Holy Christmas! What a pile of great stuff. Wish I had some dough to spend.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 04/08/11 12:41 PM

Speaking of Christmas, since I still believe in Santa, maybe hell bring me Lot #169.
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Postby magicam » 04/09/11 07:39 PM

FAIR WARNING TO ALL: I will not be outbid on Lot 67.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/09/11 07:40 PM

Dem's big words, Clay.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 04/09/11 07:52 PM

Only if he can tell us what it is (along with 84).
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Postby Gary Hunt » 04/09/11 11:19 PM

I sure do hope that the on-line catalog is fixed before the auction. A number of pictures are missing. Not sure anyone would bid on lot 50 (Dean) sight unseen. Have a feeling this may not end well. Though it is going to be fun to watch. I seem to have scheduled some out of office "meetings" around 10:00 next Wednesday. <g> Does anyone have some favorite items?
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 04/10/11 12:16 AM

Gary Hunt wrote:Does anyone have some favorite items?

A bunch: 12, 13, 14, 29, 34, 64, 70, 85, 86, 90, 91, 126, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 177, 244.
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 04/10/11 04:45 AM

It's interesting on how all of a sudden Fawkes is coming back to the market... The same day of the Christopher's auction, Bloomsbury here in London will offer for sale the following:

http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/8947735

Indeed, it looks very similar :) to lot 86 from Christopher's:

http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/8964841

And that's Magic! :D
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Postby Richard Hatch » 04/10/11 12:20 PM

Marco, the discrepancy in the estimates between the two auctions is interesting!
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 04/11/11 03:46 AM

Richard Hatch wrote:Marco, the discrepancy in the estimates between the two auctions is interesting!

Indeed! Somebody will get a bargain and somebody else will be really stung in the wallet...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/11/11 11:28 AM

One auction has an original drawing of some sort, the other only the print.

Reserves are fairly meaningless: the only thing that counts is the price when the gavel hits the podium.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/11/11 02:09 PM

Estimates and reserves are different creatures. In the manor auction houses, though, the estimate is usually ( if not always) set higher than the reserve. Estimates can influence bidding on an item and do impact the 'feelingful response' on has post auction. I suspect setting estimates low encourages more people to enter the fray and, when prices are finally realized, it allows the auctioneer or house to more readily claim the event a financial success - "prices went well over estimates'. Obviously, though, if this is true of most pieces, then the auction house did a poor job, either through ignorance or intention, of setting estimates.
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