Buying magic now, vs. then.

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
Robert77
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Joined: February 26th, 2017, 4:17 pm

Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby Robert77 » March 2nd, 2017, 7:01 pm

I ran across this older post (2005) by Eugene Burger http://www.magicbeard.com/presentations-essays/the-sad-death-of-the-magic-shop.php and it raised both nostalgia and a question in my mind.

The link above discusses how magic was sold, and more importantly, how magic training was transferred, in the 1950's. That was a bit before my time having been born in the early 60's. I was more of a late 60's/early 70's magic kid, but I still got to experience a variety of magic stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in Seattle, 'back in the day'.

What strikes me, as I now look around the Intertubes for the online equivalents of magic stores, is how nowadays there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of DVD 'tricks'. It's sort of like buying a magic book one page at a time. At the same time it makes seeing non-DVD 'tricks' extremely difficult.

Along with this it seems that the vendors of quality props/tricks are more and more delivering directly, from their websites, when you can find them.

And finally it seems like printed books, properly edited and illustrated, seem to be less popular. Somewhat interesting since such books are typically from a single magician with a plethora of material, rather than an anthology from different magicians. Have magicians of this type decreased, or are they just vending their materials differently?

My question, then, has the quality magic described by Burger in his essay above gone, or has it just gone underground?

brianarudolph
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Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby brianarudolph » March 2nd, 2017, 8:44 pm

They do it this way now because they can. There wasn't much recorded (video) magic instruction for sale prior to the home VCR that I'm aware of (did anyone ever sell magic instruction on 8mm film or such? Certainly couldn't have been too widespread a practice if they did.) What used to be a serious "you really had to know someone and earn their respect and trust" thing morphed into the age of Google that we have today. People used the resources they had/have available to them - both to learn and to sell learning.

If Harry Lorayne had a time machine back in 1962 a few days before sending the first draft of the first manuscript for Close-Up Card Magic to the publisher, he could have jumped into it, set it for 2017, and sold every *individual effect* he ever created from that book and all of his other books going forward as its own standalone download. And they would have been worth every penny. And Harry probably would have ended up purchasing Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and a few other corporations just to have something to amuse himself with. :D

MagicbyAlfred
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Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby MagicbyAlfred » March 2nd, 2017, 9:05 pm

I don't really know that the quality of the magic available in the brick and mortar stores has really gone downhill, and certainly there are a host of high quality magic books continuing to be written. I think it is more the entire holistic experience and the mystique of being physically able to visit a shop that Eugene laments: the feeling and ambience of seeing the tricks on the shelves and in the glass showcase; the experienced and knowledgeable magician(s) behind the counter demonstrating and explaining the magic in person, as opposed to the impersonal online video demos accompanied by the hype that each new effect is the trick of the century; the camaraderie of meeting, hanging out, and sessioning with other magicians in the store.

For me, those were great moments, and great memories. From the very first magic store I ever visited - at age 6 in Brooklyn. My Uncle Alfred, a very fine and charismatic amateur magician, took me there. It was called "The Third Avenue Bazaar." I remember being wide-eyed and feeling the intense excitement seeing the brightly colored painted boxes, with Chinese characters on them, and many other classic tricks, and the magician blowing my little mind with nickels and dimes and the magic milk pitcher (which ended up being my first acquisitions) and rocking my little world by pushing a quarter into the glass through the rubber dental dam. I fell in love with magic that day - and never turned back...

Robert77
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Joined: February 26th, 2017, 4:17 pm

Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby Robert77 » March 2nd, 2017, 9:19 pm

brianarudolph wrote:They do it this way now because they can. There wasn't much recorded (video) magic instruction for sale prior to the home VCR that I'm aware of (did anyone ever sell magic instruction on 8mm film or such? Certainly couldn't have been too widespread a practice if they did.) What used to be a serious "you really had to know someone and earn their respect and trust" thing morphed into the age of Google that we have today. People used the resources they had/have available to them - both to learn and to sell learning.

If Harry Lorayne had a time machine back in 1962 a few days before sending the first draft of the first manuscript for Close-Up Card Magic to the publisher, he could have jumped into it, set it for 2017, and sold every *individual effect* he ever created from that book and all of his other books going forward as its own standalone download. And they would have been worth every penny. And Harry probably would have ended up purchasing Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and a few other corporations just to have something to amuse himself with. :D


You make a good point. Certainly it's the case that well produced video makes learning something orders of magnitude easier than a few drawings in a book. While I've never head of film being used to teach magic, there was The Best of Slydini books which featured one volume of text and another of hundreds of photos. It wasn't a huge amount of help. The magic club I was in briefly as a kid had a then-new, massive, VHS camera and recorder which could be used to record practice sessions for later critique, but it went away when the owner of it (a teacher at the club) moved away.

With books vs. video I suppose it's as you suggest with your time machine story; the magicians need to earn, and they can make more selling their greatest hits in an easily produced, compact medium, rather than trying to publish them in a book. Too bad for me, as I love the look, feel, and smell of books. And I like to be able to unplug from technology (ie. video playback) sometimes.

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jkeyes1000
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Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby jkeyes1000 » March 2nd, 2017, 9:20 pm

What has changed is the fascination, the wonder and the awe of the magic buying experience. I don’t think it was only because we were young that we felt this, but because there was, well, a magical character to a shop tended by someone who was glad to share their secrets, not just with a paying customer, but with a future representative of the art. They felt a responsibility to both the buyer and the profession at large, a responsibility to do justice to the craft as a whole. Selling to someone who was not serious, who only wanted to know how it was done, who might flub it for others was counter productive. Bad business. A dead end. And so it goes.

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Christopher1979
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Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby Christopher1979 » March 2nd, 2017, 9:39 pm

jkeyes1000 wrote:What has changed is the fascination, the wonder and the awe of the magic buying experience. I don’t think it was only because we were young that we felt this, but because there was, well, a magical character to a shop tended by someone who was glad to share their secrets, not just with a paying customer, but with a future representative of the art. They felt a responsibility to both the buyer and the profession at large, a responsibility to do justice to the craft as a whole. Selling to someone who was not serious, who only wanted to know how it was done, who might flub it for others was counter productive. Bad business. A dead end. And so it goes.


I totally agree with you. I remember when i was a kid going to Davenports magic shop in London and before even getting there i was full of excitement. The people that worked there were great and genuinely wanted to help. Soon as i walked in the door to the dimly lit shop it was like i was transported to Hogwarts. Nowadays, in my opinion magic secrets are far too accessible. Almost anything you want to know you can find out with a few taps of your keyboard.

brianarudolph
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Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby brianarudolph » March 2nd, 2017, 10:04 pm

I agree with everyone here. I miss that sense of wonder that going into a brick and mortar magic shop used to evoke. I still get s faint twinge of it nowadays when I do, but's it's very faint compared to what it used to be.

And that's not a slam on the brick and mortar shops at all. The world (especially technology) has advanced so rapidly that magic is growing distant in the world's rearview mirror. Major kudos to all the creators out there who are doing great work to bring magic forward - and I don't just mean in terms of technology but also, and more importantly, as an entertainment art form.

There was a a period of my life where I was out of magic for many years. Two things astounded me when I first walked back into a magic shop: a) how much magic has changed, and b) how much magic hasn't changed. I loved the new authors and tomes to be had and to catch up on (you can take my magic books when you can pry them from my cold, dead hands so to speak.) I was stunned by how much of the "same stuff" was still on the shelves. Yes, there are always new audiences and new magicians; no one has seen everything. At the same time, I expected there would be a lot more "new stuff" than there seemed to be.

I'll take a good magic book any day. If I can get something as a book AND as a DVD, I'll take both. But if I can only have one, I still like a good book - especially over videos and downloads of magic at crotch-level.

Robert77
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Joined: February 26th, 2017, 4:17 pm

Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby Robert77 » March 3rd, 2017, 12:07 am

Almost anything you want to know you can find out with a few taps of your keyboard.


No kidding :(. I was considering buying a product (ending in "2.0") and looking for reviews of it on youtube. I quickly stumbled across a complete expose of the method, possibly by someone who's manufacturing or distributing the damned thing. They clearly intended the video for a non public audience but... (I've forwarded the link to the distributor so they can take action.)

Speaking of video reviews, there's also the annoying way that the myriad video ads for these new products fail to actually demo the product, as it must actually be used. Now back in the day, if you ordered something mail order from a catalog, you could get the same painful experience. (I bought a few things from Busby this way and still smart from the experience.) But with video there's simply no excuse but for someone to be money grubbing and trying to sell something that no one would buy if it was demonstrated as you would see it done in a magic shop.

If such misleading videos were removed it would probably cut down quite a bit on some of the foolish stuff flooding the market.

Robert77
Posts: 33
Joined: February 26th, 2017, 4:17 pm

Re: Buying magic now, vs. then.

Postby Robert77 » March 3rd, 2017, 12:26 am

brianarudolph wrote:I'll take a good magic book any day. If I can get something as a book AND as a DVD, I'll take both. But if I can only have one, I still like a good book - especially over videos and downloads of magic at crotch-level.



Now that I think about it...stuff published in books is perhaps slightly safer from deliberate exposure. The offenders would have to buy at least one book, fabricate any props, and then video it.

...just stumbled over yet another exposure, where an Asian guy actually went to the effort to build his own props and video it. It reminds me why some say to avoid magic clubs, and why a well known magi wouldn't do certain tricks on TV for fear of them being reverse engineered.


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