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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The Depository » » Why Playing Cards (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Scott Horn
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Dallas, TX
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I'm new to this forum, so I hope this isn't a worn out topic.

Typically, when close up magic is discussed it most always involves cards and coins. I can understand coins... they are universally familiar, and for hundreds of years just about everyone always has a few "on them."

BUT, how did playing cards become a staple for magic effects ? Did this association arise out of gambling cheats ?
RICH 644
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Hi Scott,
I'm new to this group, so I'll take a stab at your question. I have always loved magic since I watched a magician at a PTA meeting at our grade school when I was a kid. Later on my uncle's best friend was a party magician and he did mostly "Card Magic" along with a few coin tricks. He almost always had a deck in his pocket, and looking back I think he was practicing with me as his audience. For me there was always a mistique about cards, and the origin of playing cards. We heard the stories about the evil Duke who invented these "Devils Playthings", so that made card tricks more enticing. A few years later I went to Abbotts Magic Get-together where I was introduced to Cards & Cards, and More Cards, even cards in the streets. People everywhere with a card trick to show me. Cards were easy to carry around, and the 2 or 3 card montes were cheap and easy to do. Even me with dyslexia could do those. When I retired I developed an interest in The Mysto Magic sets that A C Gilbert sold in the first half of the 21st. Century. Once again a lot of card tricks with gaffed cards, because they were cheap and fun for "kids of all ages". Doing research on early Mysto Magic, I ran across the name of Theodore DeLand, who worked for Gilbert in 1911, and originated all of the Mysto card tricks. I just got the new book "Theodore DeLand Mystery & Madness" by Richard Kaufman describing over 100 card tricks that DeLand invented. I'm only about half way thru the book, and I'm amazed by the detail that both DeLand and Kaufman have put into cards, and card tricks.
RICH644
Richard Kaufman
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Thank you.
Tortuga
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Ballwin, MO
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Quote:
On Jan 26, 2019, Scott Horn wrote:
I'm new to this forum, so I hope this isn't a worn out topic.

Typically, when close up magic is discussed it most always involves cards and coins. I can understand coins... they are universally familiar, and for hundreds of years just about everyone always has a few "on them."

BUT, how did playing cards become a staple for magic effects ? Did this association arise out of gambling cheats ?


I think you are generally correct in stating that cards have become a staple of magic effects, primarily close up, as you stated. In my opinion, since most people have played some form of cards, they are familiar with them and they treat them as a normal, everyday item. Even if they only played "Go Fish" or "War", they have basic understanding of shuffling and the various values of the cards, so they can comprehend what is going on.

Another classic, the cups and balls, usually involves cups with which they are not so familiar. So their acceptance of those items is somewhat questionable. Sure, you can use coffee cups or other "normal" cups and get around that, but in most cases, the cups you use look like something designed for magic because they are.

As pervasive as card magic is, there have been a number of magicians that have become famous and not relied on cards so much. Slydini could work for hours and never open a pack of cards. He did a few card routines such as Helicopter Card, but most of his work was with coins, balls, silks and cigarettes. Albert Goshman did some card routines, but again, didn't have to. He could entertain all night with his coins, sponge balls and napkins.

Cards are an amazing medium for magic. Every year new tricks are introduced with ordinary cards, gaffed cards and even "pseudo cards" on smart phones. We are a long way from having exhausted the creativity of magicians in developing new material with cards.
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