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Buying Magic

One of the most gratifying things in magic for me is the ingenious ideas and methods that fellow magicians put out in magic shops and other outlets in there effects and the seeming boundless of creative minds that these people seem to process. To me, learning the secret and looking at the effect it creates is not only part of the fun, it creates a glimpse of the creativeness and thought process of the inventor himself. Like a kid in a sweet shop, I have a great eagerness to take the trick home from the post office and learn the contents of the package, with all these thoughts in mind.

But as good as all that sounds, the negative side is that this could be creating a cloud in your judgement that may not bring about the best purchase for you. Many times I have the heard people taken in by hype and the buzz words of ads with the end result being something that now collects dust in the bottom of a draw somewhere. This is due to no application for the trick like a act, unfulfilled high expectations in method, and something that’s not suitable for your persona and style of performance. So the first thing in buying magic is to check all feelings at the door as they will not help you.

What’s next is a set of rules that you can apply that will make your magic purchase a good one and not something that you will regret later. But before that, you have to understand things that are not seen that you are paying for. Have you ever thought where these effects came from and how they came to be? The most obvious is other magicians as to where they come from, but how they came about could lead to many enjoyable stories to be told at your next convention or club meeting. Despite these things, time was spent in there conception and magicians minds and souls have poured into what your placing your hard earned cash for. A fine example is Mark Mason’s marketed effect called “Float” which a card floats about the rest of the deck without any means of support. But Mark spent five years in this effects development, so when you scuff at how expansive a item is, just remember this fact.

How would you feel after all this time, someone at your next meeting exposed an effect you created after you spent so long in its development, just because someone wanted to know? You would naturally feel angry and I wouldn’t blame you if you decide to give the double under cut a new meaning. But this is precisely the reason why magic shops don’t reveal how an effect is done until it is sold. They have a responsibility to reward where it is due to the creator in terms of income, not to mention their own interests which include lucrative deals to have exclusively selling rights as well as sealing supplying contracts that can be up to thousands of dollars. So from there prospective, like you, they have a reason for keeping secrets as their money is invested in them.

Which brings us to the next thing you are paying for and that is the secret. The thing about once knowing the secret is you can’t unlearn it unless you have a sudden case of memory lose, it’s there for good. So if you find that its not to your liking or to what you expect, well that’s just tough for you since you can’t return it. However in terms of faulty goods, you have every right under the law to have them replaced or if agreed a refund. But in the end it’s just about making the right choice.

It’s interesting to note that beginners and pros alike take little into consideration when buying magic and this leads to Disappointment by the aspects already talked about. But by applying the following rules, this can be considerably reduced.

Rule 1: Ask yourself honestly weather the trick, not matter how spectacular it sounds, is really for you. The best way to describe this is picking a video from a video store. As you go about your selection and scan the titles to see what you like, there is an element of judging a book by its cover, but you can still get a good indication what things are about. In the video scenario you’re a action man, so the pink cover with the goofy girl and guy on the front will not be to your liking. Get the drift?

Rule 2: To the best of your knowledge and ingenuity, try to work out how the trick works. The chances are you’ll be right, or at least very close. If so, do you really want or even need to buy this trick? This is asked because many things on the market can be made yourself and also helps in some questions you might have in rule four.

Rule 3: Make sure the price is not too low. This may sound odd since everybody now days is looking for a bargain, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. That is not to say there is no good quality magic out there that’s at a reasonable price, but as you go down in price and starts to become a more of a hit and miss affair in terms of working the good from the bad.

Quality is an easy thing to gauge since you can see the workmanship or the quality of production and see if it looks like it will hold up to repeat performances. Some packing of the effects sold in shops do completely enclose the props that accompany the effect, there for making viewing of them difficult. In this case its simply asking the shop attendant if he would oblige to take them out for inspection. Most shops keep one effect aside for demos, so this should not become a great problem.

Rule 4: If ordering by phone, ask the dealer any questions you may have about the trick and don’t be afraid to sound ignorant. After all, it is your money. Ask him frankly about the quality of the product. Make sure you’re clear about the construction materials and size. Forget about the ad, make sure you learn about the conditions under which the trick can be performed. Surrounded? Half-surrounded? For just one person?

If these rules are followed, you will have made a good and safe purchase that should hold value for you for a long period of time. One of the most obvious reasons that many overlook is having a good reason to buy the effect in the first place. It seems these days that the only reason needed for some is that the effect fools them which is really no reason at all. So make sure you have a reason.


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Oakboro N.C.
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Profile of bowers
And rule #5 Don't rush buying a effect.
Wait on the reviews to come in and see what others think
about what they purchased.I agree about all you said above Aus.
Dick Oslund
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Dear friend Aus!

I offer my praise, and, thanks for your post. You have over the past several years provided some very worthwhile suggestions,information,and, even encouragement to the people who come to the Café for such "nourishment". It is apparent to me that you have done a lot of thinking before you write!

Here comes the "but", and, I have no desire to start a battle of minds when I say this, because your good intent is also quite apparent to me.

My professors, especially, "them that teached" philosophy, invariably reminded me to DEFINE TERMS, before a discussion. I, too, have done my "homework". I have read, no, STUDIED, Fitzkee, Maskelynne & Devant, Nelms, Tarbell, Ken Weber, et al. I'm 84, and, I've studied magic since I was about 9. I began performing, for money, when I was 13, as a part time professional, and, am/was a full time successful professional performer since my 30s. I toured the USA, coast to coast and border to border, until I retired at 76.

I just published, at Jon Racherbaumer's insistence, an autobiography, which includes, not only "my story", but also "hundreds" of anecdotes of things that happened "on the road", so that readers might realize what "really happens" when one performs for real people! Also, included were complete routines that I developed and used successfully all those years, so that new or young magician "wannabees" might realize that it's not necessary to present the "latest and greatest" tricks. A majority of my repertoire originated from reading Tarbell! (Naturally, I updated the "patter"!!!!! and style of presentation!!!!!)

Therefore, I submit that I can speak with some ability when I define some terms which, I hope, will help to clarify some of your statements.

I have lectured for Rings, Assemblies, Regional and National Conventions, even twice at the Castle, since the '60s, and, have had return bookings at many of those events. For many of those lectures, I began with a definition of terms, like "magic", "trick", "prop", "effect", etc.

When I "came into" the magic Café, Michael BAKER welcomed me, and, wrote that he had "experienced" my lecture in Birmingham, AL, when he was a teenager. He told me that, that lecture had "changed my thinking about magic"! (I had defined some terms!)

I have written what I'm about to write, many times, in posts.

So! "Magic" exists only in a spectator's mind. One cannot buy "magic".

One cannot buy a "trick" either. One cannot buy an "effect". One can buy a "prop" or a "secret (in a book or dvd).

A trick, like music, exists while it is being performed. When one stops dragging the rosined horsehair over the catgut, the music stops!

An "effect" is what the spectator sees, or THINKS he sees". An effect is subjective. No two people in the theater will see exactly the same effect. They will ee according to their own imagination, intelligence, and experience.

A magic trick is "5% sensory illusion, 5% esoteric science principles, 5% sleight of hand techniques, AND EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT P S Y C H O L O G Y! (I'm a rather poor mathematician!)

A qualified "performer of magic" (a magician) using his personality, lots of psychology (!) and a good presentation, can, using a prop or secret, perform a trick.

If he keeps his presentation SIMPLE, so that his performance is relatively easy for him to do, and easy for the spectator to understand what he has experienced, the magic will happen, in the mind, of the spectator.

If he makes his presentation FUN, it is likely that the spectator will be entertained.

MAGIC IS NOT INHERENTLY ENTERTAINING! (Dr. A. M. WILSON, editor of the "SPHINX" magazine was WRONG, when he wrote: "Magic is an art that sometimes instructs, often amuses, but always entertains.")

Anyone who has been "around", and seen a few magic shows, will agree with THAT statement!

The acronym "KIS MIF" (Keep It SIMPLE Make It FUN has guided my life in magic.

So, if you would be willing to re-define your terms, I could ENDORSE your essay!

I hope that I haven't upset you with these comments! I congratulate you for taking the time to express your thoughts!

Dick Oslund
Sneaky, underhanded, devious and surreptitious itinerant mountebank --and, soon to be certified as a qualified quacksalver!
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Very helpful post, Aus. I definitely have a tendency to compulsively buy effects and tutorials. Hopefully, these rules will help keep me in check.
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Profile of Aus

I concede my terminology is loose and in hindsight I should have double checked it more thoroughly then I did, unfortunately since people have already posted a reply the time frame for editing has passed unless a grammar host is willing to make the necessary edits for me which I would appreciate. Alternatively I could get the topic deleted and re-post the thread again.


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Harris Deutsch
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One is to wait a certain period of time on most purchases.

Sometimes I have thought about a routine or a prop and come upon it at ie a convention or shop.

An example was for a few years I have thought about getting Nigel a Grand Puppet.

At the IBM convention in KC. I saw the perfect puppet at the right price at Lafflin's Magic.

It was not in my "scheduled budget" but it was in the thought process a long time.

Many times I look through old magazines ads rather than the "newer stuff."

In fact some of the new is the old.(???)

Just my two Liberty Half Dollars worth.

Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
music, magic and marvelous toys
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Profile of magicfan456
Hi Aus: Another great post! Thank you so much for providing this how-to guide for beginning magicians. I'm sure this will save a lot of people (myself included) both time and money. Keep up the good work!
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Profile of Aus
Hi Guys

Just would like to add that one plus of those who make educated choices in purchasing by following my steps, can take advantage of those who bought the items in a less educated way. They have walked the path you are considering already, so make good use of it.


Jonathan Townsend
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Somewhere after the Tarbell Course... and Greater Magic comes 'stuff'.

I'll go with Aus on the how to buy 'stuff' advice.

-jon all the coins I've dropped here
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Good advice Aus, thanks for contributing your thoughts!
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I don't know if it's only me but I also find that when I figure out how to create a specific effect by watching a video of a performance over and over again, I find it much more satisfying. I may not even use the same techniques but as long as it works, that's good enough for me.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." Albert Einstein
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Yorktown, Virginia (Previously Germany)
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I have to agree, Aus offers some quite sound advice that's well worth a read.
Rob "Riff, the Magical Clown" Eubank aka RiffClown
<BR>Magic is not the method, but the presentation.
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Profile of adrianbent
I would like to add that your purchase should have an aim. By that I mean, (from personal experience) I got into a rut where I had budgeted XX amount of money from each paycheck for magic. After a short while, I had more magic than I could master (for the present time). I am still a bit "addicted" to my regular purchases, and really I should be scaling back now, because my purchases are lacking purpose... I must now ask, "WHY am I buying this? Is it just because it is cool? Shouldn't I be practicing and mastering the stuff I already have?"

For example, my next purpose was going to include Easy to Master Card Miracles, Volume 2, and Basic Card Technique, with the following aim: I want to be better with cards. I was tempted to also purchase
"Misled", which I could afford, but why? I mean other than the fact that I have heard great things about this gimmick, I don't really need it now, and so it doesn't fit my aim. Also, I wouldn't be able to
"Digest" 3 volumes of EZ2MCM so I am deciding to buy them one at a time.

I hope my 2 cents has been worthy to some. Smile
Marcus Taylor
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Well said Aus! I completely agree. What is the pont of buying something if you have no intention in using it in your act? It is a waste of money! Don't just buy things for the sake of buying things!

Magically Yours,

Marcus Taylor
Douglas Bench
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Thank you all for the advice, I must admit to being a victim of the effect rather than being able to use the item myself. Can I add a point? Do fellow coffee drinkers ever find that killer prop, gone and practiced, and then when performed been faced with
"can I see that....... whatever it may be" from the layperson? I personally find that the effect is then severely diminished.
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Profile of adrianbent
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.
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Profile of ninjaduffy
I am new to magic and have spent a bit of money already... the things I have bought are.

Butter coin..... brilliant, just don't spend it when you are drunk at a wedding. I did, but will definitely be buying another... well worth it.

Brainwave deck...... also brilliant, but practice.....

I bought the prop to make a lit cigarette disappear... people love it.... I will always have one handy..... I don't wanna say it's name, but you all know what it is.

Lots of cards..... a blank deck is a neat buy..... a few tricks really lend themselves to them.... I do a trick that asks "think of a card"

They do.

I hand them four from a deck

Ask them to shuffle.

I tell them to pick a card from the four they have

It's their card

Then they get their card and the other 51 are blank.... cool, and good for us beginners.

I have bought only a couple of silly things... a little disappointed, but... hey.

And now I'm to get back into cards for another 6 months using Royal Road to Card Magic and Ammars dvds, Easy to Master Card Miracles.......

I think I am being wise.

The best thing I have found so far, is this forum... thanks for all the help guys.

uk. Smile
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Profile of crazyhands
Thanks for the info, I'm sure the next purchase will be more informed.
The Magician
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Brilliant advice Aus, it will come in handy for a beginner like myself and all the other magicians just starting out in magic.

Best Regards Smile Smile Smile
The Magician

Expect the Unexpected
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Profile of Magicol-1
The advice is so true, I have a closet full of my purchasing mistakes.

M1 Smile
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