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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » A turn of the page » » Tarbell System equivalent cost 1927 vs today (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of drhackenbush
Having just completed my set of Tarbells, I wondered what the $79.50 Tarbell System in 1927 would cost in today's dollars... Using a very scientific (or not - just looked a a website that calculated a $1 in '27 equals around $32 today) method of calculation, it looks like those who bought the whole course paid the equivalent for them of over $2,500. Even the $21.95 price reduction they offered would've still been like $700. Maybe I'm totally wrong on this, but it sounds neat.. Hey, people were contracting Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build their houses for the princely sum of $7,000 plus or minus...

In any case, what a treasure trove the Course is!
David Charvet
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Profile of David Charvet
According to my U.S. Consumer Price Index calculation chart, $79.50 in 1927 would be roughly equivalent to $834.00 today. Still a huge sum. But, Tarbell was equating his course to a college education in magic. So, his "tuition" was probably based on that premise. There were other high-priced home correspondence courses advertised for sale in the late 1920's; saw sharpening, radio repair, piano lessons ("They All Laughed When I Sat Down at The Piano...") etc. that also sold their courses using installment payments (credit) which was just becoming popular - and helped lead to the stock market crash in 1929.

Thayer once sold high-priced illusions with their "Pay As You Show" Plan. You'd send them a down payment for the illusion and then pay as your high-priced engagements inevitably (?) came rolling in from your new prop. Needless to say, this idea was quickly discontinued.
Kevin Connolly
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Profile of Kevin Connolly
Then Lou Tannen got the deal of a lifetime when he bought the rights from Tarbell for around $1,200. :o
Please visit my website.

Always looking buy or trade for original Houdini, Hardeen and escape artist items. I'm interested in books, pitchbooks and ephemera. Email [email][/email]
Clay Shevlin
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Profile of Clay Shevlin
Originally, the price was $60 if paid in installments, $50 for cash. Later, the price was increased to $79.50 and $69.50, respectively. At its low point in the depression, the price was $21.75 and $18 for payment plan and cash purchases, respectively. Still, as you point out, no mean sum.

David Charvet has a good point, with respect to the pricing justification. One of the key elements of Tarbell's advertising was the earning power of a professional magician ("Earn $250 to $1,000 per month!"). Ironically, the Tarbell System suffered financially because it could not collect from minors (i.e., folks who were not yet real candidates for being professionals) who had enrolled in the course on the payment plan -- they had no capacity to contract!

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