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Profile of Spider
A rather old but still very useful book is Marvin Kaye Catalog Of Magic. This book, available only in trade paperback (octavo size) is a general description of the effect, difficulty level, necessary skills the magician must possess for the item, and relative expense of some 150 popular and/or classic magic tricks, circa 1977. The title is somewhat of a misnomer, since it is not a catalog in the ordering sense, but only in the arrangement of the entries. A better description would be "buyer's guide."

No secrets are given away, but there is enough info to make an informed decision about choosing to purchase a trick. Nearly everything in the book is still available today, which makes it great to consult before making a purchase.

Even the pricing is relevant: rather than quote prices, each item is rated from one to four moneybags, which is a relative way to express how expensive each item is. An item which was $10 30 years ago and is $40 now has more or less maintained its same value relative to the USA dollar's buying power then and now.

I bought it new in 1977, but it is easy to find in used book services like: and

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Profile of Naven
Wish I would have found that out before I packed a room with tricks that never really fit the bill. Live and learn. Finding a good friend that has been doing this a while ended up helping too.
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Profile of troppobob
Giday Aus

Great advice. I find myself reflecting on a couple of expensive things I have purchased at convention-type events which have potential but do not fit me as well as I first imagined. Your approach is more or less where I have ended up but I would like to have learned from you experience (at a lower cost to myself).

After doing five years in mainly children's shows I recognize that I do need to update as I am now getting return bookings and it appears that some of these will continue to rebook if I can supply a different show.

I find myself very much in agreement with the other theme of the value in constructing your own props, it brings a lot of satisfaction.
Troppo Bob Smile
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Profile of Insanity_Inc
Very sound advice all around. Though I wish now I had heard it sooner. I have on occasion fallen victim to flashy ads and bought tricks that are even now collecting dust somewhere. Adrianbent, I found your tip about purchasing with an aim especially helpful. Hopefully I can avoid repeating my past purchasing mistakes. Thanks for the help.

Insanity Inc.
If you want to stay sane in an insane world, You have to be carzy.
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Buffalo, New York
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Profile of Renegade
I think an important component of the decision process is to ask yourself how does this effect support and/or relate to other effects I have? Rather than buying individual tricks, try to purchase those effects that support a theme in your magic. Make your magic tell a story rather than being just a series of discrete "tricks."

Renegade Mike
mystic mickey
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Profile of mystic mickey
Best advice to new magicians...get a mentor...someone in the field you are interested in...someone who's working...join a club...or at least go to open meetings. These are the folks who can help you with your purchases...most magic dealers don't bother with demo-ing tricks anymore. When I started some 30 years ago magic shops were user friendly, they didn't just push product...those days are mostly most magic is bought on the web from ads in magic mags...these are to sell need a guide...clubs and chat rooms like this are the way to go. Never buy anything based on it's ad alone. Check out The site reviews lots of stuff...but most of all get a teacher. It's worth all the mispent money in the world.
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Profile of Renegade
One of the best criteria for me has been to ask myself how the effect fits into the "theme" of my act or the storyline, if it doesn't fit don't buy! Smile
Bill Palmer
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Profile of Bill Palmer
I would also recommend one other thing. Find a good magic dealer locally and support him, if there is one available. Yes, you will pay more from a magic dealer than you will from an internet store. But a good magic dealer can often tell you when something isn't for you. He can also tell you if a prop is well made and, often, how to use it. You can't get that from an internet dealer, unless he knows you personally.

Sometimes we buy things with only the goal in mind of finding out how a trick works. That is the WORST reason to purchase a trick. The best reason is because it fits your act.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."
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Profile of JJDrew
Gimmicks are fun and can be useful tools, but working in a magic shop I've seen too many people sucked into the idea that they can buy magical skill. I applaud those of you who limit the bulk of your magical investments to books and videos. You get a lot more information for your money and often you can find ways to construct your own gimmicks, not only saving money but allowing you to 1) have a more in-depth understanding and appreciation of the gimmick and 2) Adjust it to suit your individual needs.
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Profile of ABlair36
Also don't buy a magic book or magic video in book or video stores. Only buy them from magic shops.

Only get a book/video from a different store if you have gotten recommendations for it. Most magic books in book stores have tricks just made up by non-magicians to get money. A lot of them have a lot of tricks with the step "Now Turn Around" or "Now Riffle" to make it look like you are shuffling the deck. Start with RRTCM.
Chickens and Beandip
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Profile of Chickens and Beandip
I was taken in to buying a stripper deck by a lot of flourishing. Some shop owners will go all out in showing a simple trick to make a product seem better than it is. I already had an idea of what a marked deck was and then the stripper deck was a modified version. I thought all the actions were part of the trick, but in the end, well you know how a stripper deck works.

Needless to say I don't use it because in order to use it I need to know tricks that I can do with an ordinary deck, and there isn't a whole lot more of "trick" as a failsafe. I might use it some time in the future, but needless to say I was rather disappointed. The magic shops I've seen will only let you see a demo, but as far as inspection, you usually can't touch till you buy.

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Profile of Ember
Over here in the UK if you walk into a magic shop you are most likely to be sold an invisible deck. Personal point of view but I hate the effect and have never seen anyone perform it even remotely convincingly. However, Eugene Berger has a great version called Devil's Deck in his Experience of Magic. Buy this book. I am not Eugene Berger and make no money on this sale but this is one of the best books I own. In addition to Devil's Deck you will get his wonderful insights into magic as well as some stunning effects.

If you are starting out the most important thing to remember is that you are buying knowledge not the piece of plastic that might be sold with the effect. The best quality props I have are those I have made myself. Not only because I have made them for me but because they are customized for my performance that you will not get from a shop.
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Profile of NYKnicks5
On 2003-09-09 13:33, adrianbent wrote:
I find I always get that when I use something that looks like a prop... like a hot-rod, or color deception brass, etc. I have never gotten the "lemme see that" with the invisible deck. The "beat" of trying to figure it out plays to an easy transition of putting it away. Their head is more on
"how did he do that" than "how is that gimmicked". Look for props that make you look like a star. Your performance and presentation of an effect is huge in this area.

Very good point. I am a strong believer that certain gimmicks cause people to say, "Let me see that!" This CAN be good at times, but overall, I think it disrupts the flow of a routine. If someone is playing with a prop, they are not focusing on the next trick. However, if you work restaurants, regulars might like to see props, since you are "testing" material and usually do not have a full routine for them.

Just my two cents.
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Profile of Aus
I don't agree, if this is what's happening then I'm guessing that the prop is more making the magician than the magician making the prop. If your props are getting all the attention, ask yourself what am I doing to make this so? More times than not you'll find a soultion.

Richard Lucas
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Profile of Richard Lucas
Excellent advice. Between Aus and Mickey. Well, if only I had known... I recently stepped back into magic after a 20 year hiatus and was awe struck with the amount stuff on the Internet and before I knew it I had bought a few items that were big disappointments. However, it is never too late to learn how to buy wisely and how to learn. A big round of applause and THANK YOU for all those who contributed.
"The only difference between a Card Cheat and a Magician is that the Magician shows off.".......... Jay Ose 1965

Black Hart
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Profile of Black Hart
I've just browsed through this thread and believe me from a dealers point of view it was very interesting. At Black Artefacts we are always very interested to get a handle on the customers point of view.

I started Black Artefacts 8 years ago because I was interested in weird and bizarre magic, but in the UK and Europe there were no dealers specialising in this genre. I had no idea that it would grow the way it has. I had no real idea about the business of magic dealing. I wanted to be able to supply the kind of effects and props that I myself would like to purchase. I also wanted Black Artefacts to be the sort of magic dealer that I would like to deal with.

My philosopy was: good quality, fair price, honesty, a range of exclusive effects.

I never wanted to be the sort of dealer who buys cheap wholesale packet tricks and then sells them to all and sundry.

Let me state now that Black Artefacts is a commercial business. We invest a lot of money in equipment, stock, time developing new effects, general running costs including credit card transactions and one full time member of staff. All of this has to be taken into account when setting prices.

However I do feel that over the 8 years we have stuck to our principles.

For example how many magic dealers offer an unconditional 90 day money back guarantee? Yes, you can return any product within 90 days and we will refund the purchase price in full - no questions asked.

Why do we do this? Simple. We want our customers to be able to shop with confidence. As has been mentioned if you purchase something you are dissapointed with, you (the customer) feels cheated and you may not deal with that dealer again. However if you can send it back and get your money back or request a different item instead, then the chances are that you will use that dealer again. It is a win win situation.

Of course we are open to the devious person who may want to copy a book, steal a secret or copy a video. But we feel that people trust us to send them the items ordered so we must trust them as well. In actual fact we get very few items returned because we are honest in our descriptions and dealings.

Also we never try to sell customers anything that we do not think is suitable for them. What is the point - you will have a dissatisfied customer.

At Black Artefacts you can speak by telephone or email to the person who actualy developed the effect, purchased the props and uses them in real life preforming situations.

I believe that all of this makes a real difference to the experience of buying magic.

Of course we ARE human and will occasionaly mess things up. Sometimes we will be waiting for delivery of an item that we need to manufacture an effect. But we will always tell you if there is a delay and we will do whatever is possible to rectify a problem. We find that our customers appreciate this and we find that we have many regular customers who are now more like friends than just customers. It makes the business of magic dealing an enjoyable exberience for BOTH the customer and the dealer.

Our genre of magic may not be to the liking of all magicians, but it was never intended to be so. We are a specialist dealer for a niche market and we intend to stay that way.

Anyway there has been some good advice on this thread, especially the bit about asking questions. Ask away, it's your money bt remember there is a bit more to being a magic dealer than just buying in cheap tat and bumping it out again at twice the least for some of us anyway.


Black Hart
Black Artefacts, manufacturer and dealer of weird, bizarre and psychic magic:
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Profile of nakulshenoy
Hey Aus,

Another great post. Way to go!

Keep up the great work.

Nakul Shenoy
The Mind Reader
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Profile of GavinK
Great advice. I only wish I could've read this when I started.
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Profile of Azheim
Good stuff here. I'm still left wondering where to actually buy magic though.
There's a magic shop about 30 miles from my town-the only one in the area. It has rather high prices as compared to However, as I've looked around this board I've read a lot of anti-penguin/anti-sankey/anti-everything-I've-heard-of posts. Naturally, I want to save as much money as I can, so what other good magic sellers are ther online?

BTW, I'll be going to Minnesota this summer, and I've heard there's a great magic shop in Minneapolis that I should check out. Anybody know what I'm talking about?
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Profile of alextsui

I think that if you have a magic shop in your city or neighborhood, you should definitely check that out on a regular basis. 2 reasons:

1. It's always better to be able to check out a trick physically (at least sighting the display item) rather than just ordering online with not much idea what will arrive at your doorstep.

2. The demo guy would usually have worked with the trick for a while. You can let him know what you're looking for and sometimes he'll be honest and tell you that this trick would not be right for you.

However, if you have no choice but to order online then at least read the reviews about the trick in the forums and try to view some demo video clips of it. They can help you to minimize the chances of making a bad buy.

Hope this helps.
The Best Magic Effects to Take Your Performance to the Next Level
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