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StephenP
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I'm finding it hard to figure out what a good/fair price is for tricks. I've seen e-books with card tricks from $5 up, gaffed coins and card decks for a wide variety of prices, and DVDs from $10 to $50. How can you tell which are worth paying more for? If you're on a budget, is it better to go with one $50 trick or five $10 ones?

I know there is probably no blanket answer to this, but looking around at all the stuff that's available out there is overwhelming. I'm looking forward to hearing if anyone has any thoughts to share on this.

Thanks!
WazMeister
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I started with a £2 pack of cards and a book titled royal road that cost £5. Had loads of tricks and content to last forever. Though after awhile I did not get on with royal road and stopes reading. Then started on harry loranye classic card book. C enough there to go pro! Smile
rklew64
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I second what Wazmeister says!
UnderYourNose
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Yeah, I think everyone is going to have a different answer for this one, to a certain extent. I also think it has a lot to do with how long you've been doing magic.

I imagine if you're just starting out, a $50 book with several techniques is where real value lies. As WazMeister said, there's enough in The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel to go pro, which is $36 over at Elmwood Magic. Or, heck, grab a copy of The Expert at the Card Table by Erdnase for $8.05. That will keep you busy for ages, and you'll have enough left over for burgers, a bottle of cab, and some magician's wax, the making of any fine evening!

I'm not saying I wouldn't pay $50 (or much more) for a single trick that knocked my socks off, but not at the start of my learning career.
volto
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Sorry if this post is a bit long, it's an 'advice to my younger self' kind of post. If I'd read it, it would have saved me a bunch of money and months - maybe years - of practice time. Apologies if this isn't relevant for you. I got carried away.

Crappy props can cost a lot. Pointless DVDs are regularly inflicted on an unsuspecting public. Legendarily good magic can also be incredibly cheap, if someone tells you where to look and what to buy. Here's where to look, and what to buy:

-Henry Hay's amateur magician's handbook. Used paperback on amazon is $4.
-The Tarbell course in magic, Vol1. Used hardback, amazon, $9.89.
-Bobo's modern coin magic. Used paperback on amazon for $2.25.
-The royal road to card magic, amazon, $2.12

Then, get a deck of cards. If you started with $20, you'll still have enough change for a coins across. Smile

That equips you with a solid grounding, and magic you can carry around and perform anywhere. So what do you do next, in terms of a stand-up show? Well, Hay and Tarbell have a lot to say about that, and you can put it all together for another $20, depending on what you're doing. You could learn the cups and balls, for instance, with almost any cups and balls. You can build a square circle for a few bucks.

A major cautionary note, though - if you're buying gaffed items, go for quality. Several times I've tried to go with the cheapest, then got one that was a little better, then given up and gone for the best. You need to be sure it won't fail during the show. I've found in several cases that more expensive gaffed items tend to be more deceptive; the makers care about them, test them before shipping and so on. Also, you're going to need to practice with that specific item, so it's worth getting the best - it will actually save you money, and practice time in some cases (e.g. cups, billiard balls, rings, thread). Bricks and mortar shops can help in this respect because you may be able to handle the item, although some of the very best items (not necessarily the most expensive) are only available online. Sherwood cups would be a good example.

Have an idea of what you'd like to perform. Keep it to a half-hour show. Research the tricks and routine them well. Buy only what need. Spend as much as you can afford on your gaffed items, but make sure you know *exactly* what you're buying, and be *sure* that you'll use it in your act. If you're never going to perform it, you wasted money you could have spent improving quality in another area.

Do not buy material that's not in your planned act.
Do not buy cool stuff just to learn how it's done. There's not enough money in the world for that strategy. Bill Palmer has much excellent stuff to say on secrets, exposure and ethics in his "From The Wizards Cave" part of the Café.

Concentrate on doing your own act as well as you can. Create new secrets.
Oh yeah - and have fun!
Harry Lorayne
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Wazmeister was referring to my books - LORAYNE: THE CLASSIC COLLECTION, Volumes 1 and 2 (working on Volume 3), not The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel, although there's nothing wrong with learning the stuff in that book - much more advanced stuff. If you want to learn more about my products (magic and memory, go to my fairly new magic website - it's listed under this post, with the word "magic" in it. Best - HARRY L.
[email]harrylorayne@earthlink.net[/email]

http://www.harrylorayne.com
http://www.harryloraynemagic.com
UnderYourNose
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Ah, sorry for the misinformation, Harry. I got tripped up by the wording in the post.
StephenP
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Thanks everybody! And thanks to Harry for responding. I am honored! I'm definitely starting with the basics, want to learn the sleights and moves before going in for any gimmicks. I did succumb to the sight of all the flashy goodies and bought a cheap disappearing dime trick from Amazon, and I definitely got what I paid for. I was also given a rainbow deck for a gift, but have been mostly working on handling techniques with a classic Bicycle deck and learning some classic card tricks from turn-of-the-century books.

Since I'm new (first time doing magic since my Adams set as a kid) this kind of input is really helpful. Thanks again!
sethb
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StephenP -- When I started out many years ago, my mentor Al Flosso made sure that in addition to whatever single tricks I purchased, that I also bought a book each time I came to his shop. At the time, I thought that was a silly requirement.

But now, most of those tricks have long since disappeared, while the books [the "Tarbell Course," "Hugard's Magic Manual," "Greater Magic" & Bobo's "Modern Coin Magic," to name a few] are still being used. To that short list I'd add the first two volumes of "Card College," if you like card magic. In my own opinion, Tarbell is a great place to start, and at a cost of about $25 each, volumes 1-3 will keep you busy for a LONG time, with hundreds of different effects using cards, rope, rings, balls, coins and more.

You should still buy some tricks, but for starters I'd stick to the classics like the Cups and Balls, the Egg Bag, Scotch & Soda, Color-Changing Knives and so forth. A lot of these new DVD's are just rehashes of older material, and often are not so great. But there are also excellent DVD's like David Roth's "Expert Coin Magic" or Michael Ammar's "Complete Cups and Balls," that are classics in their own right and a good value. They can be very helpful in showing you how to execute a sleight or a move in a way that a book can't.

Hope this is helpful, and welcome to the Café! SETH
"Watch the Professor!!" -- Al Flosso (1895-1976)
"The better you are, the closer they watch" -- Darwin Ortiz, STRONG MAGIC
Cyberqat
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In terms of props there are two broad categories: closeup/parlor and stage.

Stage props tend to be the most expensive, mostly because of their size and construction costs, although there are exceptions (mostly in the "build it yourself" category such as the classic Victory Cartons).

Don't let "parlor" or "closeup" terms fool you however. You can make almost any illusion "play big" on a stage with the right routining. A great example is the classic Invisible Deck which has been part of many stage routines and is always a crowd-pleaser. I've done stage performance in small to medium halls a number of times even though the only "stage" props I've ever owned are the aforementioned cartons.

Within those categories, what will be most expensive will be the newest thing (whether it's really new or not). That isn't to say the newest thing is the best. (Or even really new). It's often the most fun to buy, because its what everyone is talking about, but classics are classics because they have stood the test of time.

Ask any card workers about their top 3 or 5 favorite illusions and the Invisible Deck almost always comes up, even though its quite old at this point and you can buy it for $3.00 - $7.00.

Sometimes expensive things are worth the price... my purchase of the Double Take DVD was about $50.00 which I consider pretty expensive, but it was highly recommended to me and was well worth the price in that it got me over some fundamental things I wasn't understanding well enough from the books I had.

In the end, there are two questions to ask: if you are an amateur its primarily (1) what is it worth to you? In many cases you can't really know this ahead of time in magic so I rely pretty heavily on the recommendations I get here. If you are a profession then you need to ask (2) how much income will this bring me that I wouldn't make otherwise? For many people, an Axtell animatronic may never be worth the price, but if it gets you into some high priced markets you couldn't otherwise penetrate, then maybe it is.

Number (2) really is about having a business plan, which any real business should.

I agree with many others that books are still your best value for the dollar in almost all cases. Particularly when you are first starting out. Really learning one or two sleights well can keep you busy practicing for months.


Oh btw, something I've said before.

As a performing high-schooler, $100 was a lot of money to me, As such I bought slowly and well, and with expert advice. I bought many of my best props then.

As an amateur magician, but full time businessman with more money, frankly I haven't been as careful and I've bought some great stuff but also some real losers.

I've also bought too much stuff recently, frankly, and am trying hard to restrain myself so I really take the time to learn the stuff I have.

In many ways, its easier to be a really good magician if you're a poor one..., you have to learn how to use everything you buy to its utmost potential.
It is always darkest just before you are eaten by a grue.
rklew64
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Can I also say give yourself a year or so to really understand what the hell your doing, because for some reason it ALL makes sense after months of practice - passively and active. Obviously these things are not overnight and also in my opinion, presentation is a tad higher priority over technique, but not saying neglect skill set of sleight of hand. I see more skilled magicians with a poor/dry/boring/recited/defensive/unsure/... presentation or act or schtick, but can kick ass on technique and do all the knuckle busting moves.
So think story or some detail to put a trick or routine or even a 5-10 minute show into context - for the most part.
Just re-read parts of Lorayne's The Magic Book - very key important foundational content in that book. Go get it.
As you read throughout this forum, it's obvious, but notice how even seasoned vets are constantly learning and tweaking their moves and routines after having performed it for "years". Try not to play catch up - find your learning curve pace and stay with it but mindfully adjust it if need be.
And after you know some things (principles and handlings, etc.) close up magic wise, you can go to Home Depot to buy magic supplies. For me it was washers, 8" spike nails and stainless steel nuts.
pradell
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There are so many trick of the week fads out there that it is easy to not see the forest through the trees. I have an exchange student magician living with me for a year and what we are doing is learning (relearning for me) the classics. We've read books and watched videos on such things as the cups and balls, the zombie, black art, basic coin and card magic, etc. And we are working on practicing and performance techniques. The classics are not going to go away tomorrow, next week or a decade from now. They are classic for many reasons, which include that learning them may teach you a lot about a broad range of ideas, skills, audience interaction and performance techniques. The cups and balls alone, perhaps the oldest magic trick still performed, offers so many variations, techniques and skills that one can spend years perfecting that trick alone. And compared to buying the trick of the week, a fair set of cups and balls and a wand won't set you back too much in your pocketbook although, as always, you can buy a very expensive set of cups, balls and a wand, such as the Paul Fox cups and a Thomas Wayne wand, if you are so inclined.

:magicrabbit:
Cyberqat
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Heh. I spent most of junior high school learning to perform a top quality (pure sleight) Miser's Dream and my cheap Miracle Ball Zombie.

You can spend a life-time exploring some of the classics, I agree. Smile
It is always darkest just before you are eaten by a grue.
Wizard of Oz
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1. Books. Start at the library.
2. DVDs from trusted magicians, who are well-proven and good teachers, i.e. Michael Ammar for one, but there are many.
3. Keep visiting The Café and read the "The Good, the Bad, and the Garbage" or "Latest and Greatest" forums for reviews. This site is full of smart, realistic, fair, and objective performers and buyers of classic magic, as well as the "latest" things. Chances are if you begin to trust a reviewer, you won't be disappointed when you invest in a trick. Research first. Buy later.
4. Shop around.
5. Continue to contribute interesting, informative, or constructive posts here at The Café and you'll eventually have enough posts to access the "Let's Make a Magic Deal" forum. You'll find a lot of deals here from trusted sellers.
6. Subscribe to Genii or Magic or both. Great reading, great magic, and informative reviews.
7. Check out the "Reel Magic" dvd-magazines. David Regal has an awesome set of reviews every issue.
8. Did I mention books?

Seriously though, magic effects and props are strange purchases. Most sellers will tell you "you're paying for the secret." Whatever. What's a secret worth? I think a fair price is one where the seller makes a fair profit, and the buyer isn't disappointed.

With magic, learning how to buy prudently takes time. And it's very, very easy to be seduced by "the stuff." And then, you're not a magician, or a hobbyest, or a collector. You're just a hoarder.

And be careful. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
AGMagic
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Lots of good information from the posters above. One thing I have found helpful is to become known as a knowledgeable magician at your local magic shop (hopefully you have one near by). Once you are known, they will often let you examine the prop BEFORE you buy it. This can be a great advantage.

Don't avoid a gaff, method or effect just because your magic buddies can figure it out. Gear your magic towards a lay audience. A friend of mine, a professional magician for over 40 years, uses a Lota bowl in every one of his performances. Anyone who has ever studied magic knows how this prop works, but lay audiences love it. He gets more positive comments and questions on that one effect than anything else he does.

The secret to most magic is relatively simple. Some effects require some rather sophisticated props to accomplish but others require little more that a piece of string or some rubberbands. Expensive props do not make your magic better, only you can do that. A $10 trick in the hands of a pro can be a million dollar miracle while a $10,000 illusion in the wrong hands is worth nothing.

That said, if you are buying a prop, buy the best you can afford - or maybe a little better than you can afford. Avoid cheap knock-offs as they will probably not work as well as the original and will not last. Quality costs extra but will generally pay for itself over time.
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Wizard of Oz
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Wow AGMagic, I couldn't have said it better myself. You're right, even a "slum" trick like a plastic ball vase, can be a miracle in the right hands. I remember seeing a dealer at a magic shop when I was a teen, who did a routine with a plastic set of cups and balls that blew me away. I had a Rings & Things set at that time, and this guy made me feel like a toddler. It's the routine that makes the man, not the cups.

Come to think of it, Bill Malone's Rub a Dub cups and balls, still floors me - whether you like his comedic style or not. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SfaTbMHMl4 . It's done with a cheap set of cups and balls.

So, I agree, quality is never a bad investment. But in the hands of a professional, even plastic becomes gold.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
rklew64
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Exactly
55Hudson
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StevenP:

You've noticed the trend of BOOKS -- and lots of them. See the Sticky Note at the top of New To Magic on recommended books -- 12 pages of them! You cannot go wrong with a couple of classics.

Not sure what your budget is or your level of experience, but if you do have ~$100 to invest in learning magic as a serious amateur or professional, I suggest cups and balls. I played at magic for many more years than I'd like to admit (~30 years -- Ouch, I must be old!) and it wasn't till Pedro at Magic Inc told me I should try cups & balls, selling me Michael Ammar's two volume DVD set and a mid-priced set of cups. (RNT2's lowest price full size cup set is about $50) . Although I don't do the routine that often (most of what I do is impromptu) I learned so much about the craft of magic -- wish I had started with C&B! Certainly you could do this cheaper using Mark Wilson's book and low end cups, depending on your budget.

Regarding bang for buck, the advice on cards is right on. At Costco you can by a 12 pack block of Bicycle decks for $13 -- a couple of classic books and you are off and running...

Good luck!

Hudson
Harry Lorayne
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See, I was lucky when I was a boy - I HAD NO MONEY AT ALL. So, instead of following the kind of (and kind) advice herein - spend only $100 or less on cups and balls, etc., I learned from a book - no cost, library - and then used regular coffee cups and crumpled pieces of paper to learn the routine I wanted to learn. Then, as years went by, and I knew I could do the necessary moves for the routine, I started to save to buy a "real" cup and ball set. But you know what? I never did. I borrowed regular cups at friends houses, borrowed three $1 bills (had the gaff set), used a pencil or pen for the wand, and did the routine! Went over great. STILL DOES. Now, that's all the advice I have for cups and balls - but if you want to learn cards - IMPROMPTU - go to my magic website and check out my available books. HL.
[email]harrylorayne@earthlink.net[/email]

http://www.harrylorayne.com
http://www.harryloraynemagic.com
Harry Lorayne
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Oh,and again, how lucky can you get? Having no money at all was also good for learning "real" card magic. Couldn't afford trick decks of any kind, so I had no choice - had to learn to wow my friends with a regular/borrowed deck. I used to pitch Svengali decks but sure as h@ll never used them personally. Anyway... HL.
[email]harrylorayne@earthlink.net[/email]

http://www.harrylorayne.com
http://www.harryloraynemagic.com
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