I have heard it a number of times over the years and every time I hear it I feel bad. It is when someone says, “Oh, I tried magic, but gave up on it. I just couldn’t do it.”
That statement troubles me for two reasons.
First of all, I’m sorry to learn that a person has given up on the fun and wonder magic can provide.
Second, I am peeved that the person probably received bad advice, was sold cheap props, or had both things happen. This led to belief that “I can’t do magic.” The problem was not with the person, it was with inferior equipment and the frustration that resulted from not knowing how to move forward at the right pace.
The matter of cheap props and inferior equipment is a sad reality in magic. In this age of the internet people are accustomed to doing a search to find who sells items at the lowest price. Knowing this, there are sellers who try to have the lowest prices irregardless of quality. Especially when it comes to magic props, the lowest price is not always the best deal.
It is easy to understand how a person would think, Why should I purchase a Change Bag from one seller at $35.00 when there is another seller who offers Change Bags for only $7.00 each?
What the person does not understand is the huge difference that can exist between a low priced Change Bag and a higher priced Change Bag. Change Bags are not all the same.
I was recently at a magic convention where a dealer in the vendor room was selling Change Bags for $7.00 each. At the end of the convention he had several left. His display was located right next to ours. He leaned over and said, “Hey, want to buy these from me. I will sell all of them to you for only $3.50 each. You can easily double your money, or you can mark them up to $10.00 each and they will still sell.”
I refused the deal. He was surprised, He said, “How can you turn down such a low price?” I said, “I don’t sell junk.” He didn’t like my answer.
I didn’t really care that he didn’t like my answer. Over the course of the convention I had been disturbed by repeatedly hearing his sales pitch that, “This is the best price on a Change Bag you will ever get. Everyone needs a Change Bag. Get them from me!”
I knew this Change Bag did not work properly. The lever was hard to move and, when the switchover was made, the bag did not fully line up under the hoop. Uninformed customers would not know this. They would not understand they were getting a bad version of an otherwise wonderful prop. Trusting the person who sold it to them, they would likely assume this is what a Change Bag is supposed to be. When trying to use it and having trouble they might then also assume, I can’t even make a Change Bag work, maybe magic isn’t for me. I was distressed to see people purchasing something with which I knew they would have a bad experience.
Apart from the matter of ethics and integrity, magic dealers who sell inferior props and equipment are robbing themselves of future customers. Having a bad experience with a magic trick will rarely lead a person back to the same business to purchase something else.
The lesson is: Value quality above price. Price can quickly be forgotten. The quality of your purchase will stare you in the face for a long time. Be careful to research what you intend to buy and be careful to acquire good props. Well-made magic tricks make it much easier to find success in doing magic. It is hard to feel good about performing when your equipment is mostly junk and you know it!
Even if you do not always get the lowest price, in the long run, supporting reputable businesses that stand behind their products is the best way to go. If you want to do good magic, invest in good equipment!
Then there is the issue of moving forward at the right pace. Another thing some magic dealers do is work hard to make a sale without concern about the buyer’s ability to actually perform what is sold. They will push a card trick onto a customer that, if a person can already do advanced card sleights, truly is a great trick. When a beginner purchases such a trick, but does not know the required moves, the conclusion I can’t do magic may come quickly.
Relatively early in my magic career I visited a magic shop and watched on unscrupulous demonstrator in action. He showed an amazing trick. customers jumped to purchase it. What the customers did not realize was the impressiveness of the trick was a result of the demonstrator working behind a large counter. The barrier allowed him to secretly drop things down and out of sight. He could let things fall all the way to the floor and no one would notice. Those who bought the trick were not likely to be standing behind such a counter when trying to perform the same trick. Without the giant hiding place, not only would the trick not be impressive, it would be difficult to do at all. Customers would be disappointed in their investment. The demonstrator obviously did not care whether or not his customers would have success with what he was selling them.
Those who sell magic have a responsibility to care about the ability of purchasers to perform what is sold. I applaud magic dealers who provide video instruction to ensure their customers will find success. I greatly appreciate magic dealers who try to assess a customer’s experience and skills before suggesting the purchase of a particular prop. I am thankful for magic dealers who have made the commitment “not to sell junk” and I wish more would make such a commitment.
On the part of customers, it is wise and necessary to “begin at the beginning.” Entry into the performance of magic tricks should involve doing things which are simple. Start with things you are confident you can do. There are many easy tricks which are nevertheless wonderful tricks. This is much better than trying to “start at the top.” It will encourage you to keep on learning and eventually advance to more difficult things.
As well, do not make the mistake of rushing out to buy an item just because you see it used by a famous magician on television, or a professional performer on stage. If you do not have the knowledge and abilities of the person you see, the trick may not work for you.
As exciting as it is to try to immediately know everything there is to know relating to magic, and to quickly acquire fancy clever props, keep in mind the need to “get there from here.” Build a foundation by learning the proper use of basic props and apparatus. Become familiar with the standards of magic (Change Bag, Ghost Tube, Square Circle, Drawer Box, etc). Start working on fundamental sleight of hand moves such as the French Drop and Thumb Palm. Master things like this and then move to the next level. Those who take this approach typically find magical success. Better yet, the fun of doing magic stays with them for years to come.