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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Going through old Magic (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Mary Mowder
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Inner circle
Sacramento / Elk Grove, CA
3649 Posts

Profile of Mary Mowder
I'm at an age where it is occasionally coming up that I'll be going through the Magic of a deceased or retired Magician's Magic collection.

This can be due to death, house downsizing or infirmity but it is never pleasant. there are a lot of issues involved with this. It takes a lot of space and work.

Tom and my best friend couple are the ones most often tagged for this duty locally but Tom and I are second here in town. We try to help each other.

I know we aren't the only ones dealing with these issues as the Magic Club Demographic is an older one.

Most Magic collections we deal with are in horrible condition. You'd be surprised at how junky even the Magic of ex-professionals can look after a few years in the garage or where ever.
Lots of Magic was homemade in the past and they didn't have access to modern materials so it can be very heavy. Tape disintegrates, glue gives way. Old cards get clumpy, Rubber bands and balloons ruin every thing they touch, Spiders and musty smells move in etc...

Most Magician's have an inflated idea of the worth of their old Magic. Cigarette Magic is passe, Old coin ga**s are interesting but not in big use and corrosion and separation from other pieces takes its toll. Some books are worth something if you find the right buyer but in a local flea market they don't bring in much for the Magician or his Family.

There is a lot of sentimental value and fear that one may be throwing away something of value. Some old wallets may still contain sensitive I.D. so they have to be checked.

We spend hours going through what is essentially trash with the small chance of finding a tiny key or knob needed to make an effect whole again.

It hurts to sell a lifetime of Magic for a song.

I'd like to ask of myself and you all.

Please throw away your obvious trash Magic. Have the courage to throw away broken Magic even if it was expensive. Don't save boxes of old cards. Leave your "trick Decks" in the original packaging with instruction at least 'till you put in in your repertoire. If you know you won't be performing an effect, throw it out, give it away or sell it. Trash old molting feather flowers they are a health hazard. Trash racist, dated, and ribald Magic or your friends may see it after you are gone.

Keep all your instructions in one place if you need to separate them from Magic.

Keep your Silk separate from everything else and roll valuable silk on a tube and bag the tube to protect from bugs.

Label Magic Pens, Keys etc... Don't put your spare change in with Magic coins or valuable coins or your interesting token and coin collection. Don't put flash powder, fanning powder, lycopodium etc... in unmarked containers. If you are using dangerous chemicals, label them clearly, (we are friends not a HAZMAT team).

Don't mix Magic and non-Magic in boxes. Your family won't know what's what and frankly neither do we.

I'm sitting in our Magic Room filled with shelves of future headaches for some kind Magician who does this for us at some point. I'm hoping I will get my house in order after this current project is done.

I'm interested in the thoughts and comments of others on this.

I respect those of you who have stepped up to help your friend or friend's families with this. A friend indeed.

Sorry about the rambling post.

-Mary Mowder
ClintonMagus
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Inner circle
Southwestern Southeast
3999 Posts

Profile of ClintonMagus
I feel sorry for my family if I pass away soon. I have a lot of cool stuff, and probably some junk, but they will have no idea that my Linking Rings are Owen, or that the handpainted items on the bottom shelf were made by Eric Lewis. The "Chanin" or "Mysterious Smith" written inside the front cover of some of my books will be meaningless to them. The green book entitled "Magic" written by some Harbin guy is just a magic book, no different from the Cub Scout Book of Magic on the shelf above. And all those posters, window cards, photos, and programs from that bucktoothed Canadian guy... I only hope they call a magician first and don't put in a yard sale! Smile

Your post has started me to thinking - I need to write down all this stuff...
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
Mary Mowder
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Inner circle
Sacramento / Elk Grove, CA
3649 Posts

Profile of Mary Mowder
Thank you ClintonMagus,

All the writing was worth it and you pointed out some really important points I'd missed.

-Mary Mowder
Jim Sparx
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Far Out, Texas
1144 Posts

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You can check out Potter Auctions to see some of the big names and their collections. You can even see how much it brought in, money wise after the sale. A recent auction sold a $7500 magic poster.

I had a friend in New Orleans who bought out the Great Hermmann collection. He kept it in a storage barn. New Orleans is hot and wet in the summer and I can imagine what people found when they went through the old trunks of this collection. It does not take many years for a piece of wood to deteriorate or paper in old books turn yellow and crumble like confetti.
Doubt if it survived the Katrina thing if it was still in storage. I had a lot of magic friends in New Orleans who lost everything in the flood.

What is valuable to me is probably junk to others. I collect catalogs, no apparatus. And it is all going to Father Photius who has promised to do the Broken Wand ceremony when I pass. What he does with it is up to him, but I will leave him enough money to ship it to New York and the Conjuring Arts Research Center if he wants.
It is all paper and will crumble to dust, just like me. And that day draws even closer.
Leland
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St Louis
1180 Posts

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I own lots of books, some decent and some that would make a nice Good Will box.

I just turned the big 50 this year, time to start getting my house in order. A lifetime of collecting will go out the door when I do.
Life of Magic!
MobilityBundle
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Regular user
Las Vegas/Boston
120 Posts

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Fantastic message (albeit inspired by non-fantastic circumstances). It's good to keep in mind for life in general, not just magic.

I've sold two large collections of books in my life, totaling about 800 books in all. The first was when I decided to quit playing competitive chess, I sold almost all my chess books. When I got out of math and into law school, I sold almost all my math and physics books. (Now, I probably have only about 30 math and chess books combined. Most of them have some kind of sentimental value; a few of them are junk that couldn't be sold -- and THEREFORE have sentimental value!

Each time it was painful to get rid of those collections and close a chapter in my life. But now that I have recovered from the momentary pain, life is much MUCH better. Especially in Boston (where space is at a premium), it's nice to not have a vestigial collection of stuff. Moving is substantially easier. Finding stuff is substantially easier. Etc.

My wife shares my somewhat minimalist tendencies. We tend to follow the guideline that if you don't use something for over a year, then it needs to be sold / donated / recycled / junked. Fortunately, I've convinced her that magic books are an exception... at least the ones I already own. As for new purchases, I have to make a strong showing in order to be allowed to buy anything. Part of that showing is having mastered a substantial part of the last book I got (or, in the alternative, getting rid of the last book.) She runs a tight ship. Smile
Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
11159 Posts

Profile of Michael Baker
I too have had the pleasure and headaches of going through the estates of several magicians. I have also found myself invited to sales where such estates were being liquidated. Sometimes the collections were noteworthy and well cared for, in spite of the their relative value regarding individual items (some guys collect MAK and others collect P&L, for instance). Other times, they were as Mary described, piles and boxes of non-cohesive junk.

If the magician chooses to leave his worldly goods to his heirs, then it would be wise to catalog and organized as much as possible. This will help insure that the family has the best shot at receiving something from all this. At least it becomes easier to know which particular items hold value, and which don't so much.

The families and friends of the magician rarely know the particulars of what we own. Sometimes that even includes other magicians. That's part of the price paid for the secrecy, I guess. However, even these things considered, magic estates rarely bring face value, as virtually all buyers will either be bargain hunters, or re-sellers, same as any yard sale or auction draw. Higher prices can be commanded, but it takes much time, effort and patience. Fast sales have their price. In many cases, magic friends of the deceased have first ops. That seems appropriate.

On the other hand, there is a certain charm with treasure hunting, which I have also taken part in. This is where the buyer can enjoy finding that gold nugget in the bottom of the pan, getting a great deal by acquiring something worth more than the price paid. One might hope though, that such occurrences happen between strangers, and not that a "friend" is taking advantage of a widow for self-betterment.

In such transactions between stranger parties, the buyer occasionally coming out ahead should be viewed as quite acceptable. Without advanced dedication to managing the estate of another, those selling such collections should recognize that someone else will sometimes come out on top. Sellers remorse is best avoided by understanding this.

It should be noted that sometimes buyers take risks, too. This is often the case with auction sales and when lots are being sold. In many of these cases, a buyer must agree to purchase the good with the bad. It is up to him to decide if the investment (or the adventure) is worth it. I have purchased many boxfuls of magic at auction, without having much opportunity to examine the contents. In some cases I got lucky, in others, I ended up with incomplete but perhaps salvageable props, or the entire box eventually found itself in the trash.

There are no guarantees for the executors of an estate, unless the previous owner made arrangements for disposal of their collection, or those responsible have the capacity and knowledge to do so themselves. The fact that I know many magicians who would be classified as hoarders will probably continue to keep this challenging aspect alive, though.

It is never joyful going through the remains of a life gone, but while there are some measures that can preserve some of these things, all things eventually come to pass.

For anyone saddled with the responsibility of managing such estates, rest assured nobody will expect the results to be perfect, but hopefully those that eventually end up with these pieces honor and love them by doing wonderful things and spreading the joy of magical entertainment.

~michael
~michael baker
The Magic Company
Payne
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Inner circle
Seattle
4572 Posts

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My plan is to be cremated on a pyre built out of all my old magic magazines.

My magic library will be donated to the local club library where all the choice pieces will be checked out never to be returned. The rest of it will either molder away or be sold off at magic swap meets over the years.

There are already several local magician's line up to swoop in after my demise to tell my wife that my life long collection of magic is worthless. but that they will be more than willing to take it off of her hands for a small fee.

It really doesn't matter to me what happens to my collection after my demise as I'll be dead and beyond caring about such things. I know whoever has to settle my estate will be cursing my name as it will take them months to go through it.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Cliffg37
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Long Beach, CA
2488 Posts

Profile of Cliffg37
Mary, I want to thanks you for posting this. I intend to read it out loud at the next meeting of my magic club. I think I and many others can take a lesson from what you had to say.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
Mary Mowder
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Inner circle
Sacramento / Elk Grove, CA
3649 Posts

Profile of Mary Mowder
I hope so Cliffg37.

I hope I take that lesson!

-Mary
Father Photius
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Grammar Host
El Paso, TX (Formerly Amarillo)
17198 Posts

Profile of Father Photius
Good points all, Mary. But you are no where near old by any definition of the term.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
Mary Mowder
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Inner circle
Sacramento / Elk Grove, CA
3649 Posts

Profile of Mary Mowder
Thank you Father Photius,

Actually the "old" here is my photo. LOL I'm going to have to change it sometime but I'm not looking forward to it.

Our Magic has a large component of "hand me downs" so some of our Magic is really older than we are.

We are always hoping we will be able to figure out how to fix broken Die Boxes etc and we buy a lot of stuff that we are "sure will come in handy" and we save a lot of interesting looking molded plastic or good malleable wire and such.

It seems a shame to throw out this effect (even though it is c**p) when we paid good money for it and it looks brand new (but we can't bring ourselves to foist it off on our friends).

I think we all know the drill.

-Mary Mowder
edshern
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Inner circle
1429 Posts

Profile of edshern
I've been going through my collection and following the advice above.
It's pretty well organized now and I've listed everything of value for them on spread sheets.
My collection consists of a couple hundred items, mostly; Tenyo, Magic Wagon & Alan Warner.
So here is the next question;
When I die who should I tell the family call to handle the sale of everything?
Thanks,
Ed

PS- I have no intention of dying anytime soon !
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