Magic Tricks and Equipment

Let’s have a look at the tools of the magic trade.

The first things you will need to get hold of if you’re going to be a magician are:

  • a good supply of packs of cards
  • some Sharpie marker pens, mainly for spectators to use to sign cards
  • a big mirror, in front of which to practise.

Next, consider buying:

  • a close-up mat (a nice, soft mat that provides the right surface for putting down and picking up cards, coins and so on)
  • some simple tricks (see below)
  • a smart jacket with inside pockets.

Beyond these items, you’ll know from the books and DVDs that teach you magic how magical effects can be created with all sorts of everday objects – elastic bands, pens, coins, newspapers, drinking glasses, etc, etc. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create great magic!

Playing Cards

Cards are a staple of magic. You have almost certainly got some already but be warned that, once you start using cards for tricks, you will get through packs at an alarming rate. The cards that most magicians have been using for years are an American brand called Bicycle, which are available quite cheaply from all sorts of places in Britain now, not just from magic shops. They are poker size, slightly bigger than the bridge size a lot of us grew up playing games with. It’s better to learn on the bigger ones because then smaller cards – if you use a borrowed pack, for example – will be easy for you.

However, it is rumoured that the US Playing Card Company, who makes the Bicycle cards, is no longer interested in supporting magic by manufacturing the unusual cards magicians refer to as gaffes (double-backed cards, cards with one face on one side and a different face on the other, and so on). In anticipation of Bicycle stopping making these cards, some magicians are beginning to change their brand.

A popular alternative to the American Bicycle is the German Phoenix deck, produced by Christian Schenk and his Card-Shark company.

Beginners’ Magic Tricks

Although it’s fun to buy a trick, with a gimmick that makes the ‘magic’ happen for you, there are millions of them on the market, all looking amazing in the promotional video, and it can be easy to buy far too many. In general terms, I recommend you focus your energy on learning principles and sleight of hand, rather than buying ready-made tricks, because this way you are far more in control and will be able to do magic with borrowed props. However, this is not to say the odd gimmick isn’t well worth having, nor that you won’t get huge mileage out of a few bought tricks. What I am saying is that gimmicks are no substitute for practice.

In any case, far too many magicians are corny and unoriginal. If you get into the habit from the beginning of not just buying and performing other people’s stuff but thinking laterally and inventing your own effects, you will stand out from the crowd.

A Few Recommended Magic Tricks to Buy

Despite being easy for a beginner to learn, the tricks below are one step up from the standard stuff children get in their Christmas stockings. You don’t want to be hearing your spectators say, “Oh yes, I’ve got one of those”.

See what appeals to you. If you’re not sure where to start, cards are probably a safe bet – it’s always useful to know a few impressive card tricks and a pack or two of cards is relatively easy to carry.

The links are all to Dude That’s Cool Magic, a British dealer with an excellent reputation for, amongst other things, fast and reliable delivery. (Each link will open in a new window.)

Invisible Deck

A simple, straightforward, powerful effect with a (special) deck of cards. You can invent all sorts of stories and hooks for this but, basically, the spectator names any card and the magician shows there is only one card face down in the pack: the one they named. It works every time!

This is a deck of Bicycle cards, which at the moment is still by far the most widely used brand amongst magicians. Later, if and when you change to another brand (for example, Phoenix), it’s possible to make up your own Invisible Deck with whatever cards you want to use. I suggest you buy this and learn the trick with this pack, then talk to a dealer about making your own once you know what you’re aiming at and whether the effect suits you.

Read more, see a demo and maybe buy the Invisible Deck.

White Bikes by Paul Richards

A beautiful routine that builds, with three moments of magic. Easy to perform, yet so effective.
Read more, see a demo and maybe buy White Bikes.

Kids Kards by Richard Pinner

A very engaging routine in which playing cards are transformed from ones apparently drawn by children into normal ones – and back again.
Read more, see a demo and maybe buy Kids Kards.

CardToon by Dan Harlan

A lovely routine with cartoon stick figures. The cards used here are not Bicycle or Phoenix but it really doesn’t matter. The point of getting gaffed decks to match the cards you normally use is so you can switch them around and give the impression you’re always using the same, normal pack. In this case, the cards have got a cartoon on the back, so this is obviously not your normal pack and the audience will understand and accept that without question.
See a demo on YouTube. Read more and maybe buy CardToon.

Hydro by Diamond Jim Tyler

Turn an open bottle upside down and control whether or not the liquid pours out. Pretty cool.
Read more and maybe buy Hydro.

The Great Square Ball Mystery by Goshman

Sponge ball routines can be more difficult for the beginner to master than a lot of experienced magicians seem to remember. However, this trick is extremely easy to perform!
Read more and maybe buy The Great Square Ball Mystery.

Cork Stopper by Kreis Magic

Another very easy trick to perform. Coins mysteriously penetrate a cork that’s wrapped in a banknote.
Read more, see a demo and maybe buy Cork Stopper.

10p Coin Squeeze

An alternative to Cork Stopper, with coins penetrating something solid – in this case, a brass tube.
Read more, see a demo and maybe buy 10p Coin Squeeze.

In N Outer Box

A simple effect that’s easy to perform and mind-boggling to watch. The red box fits inside the black box, then the black box fits inside the red box.
Look at and maybe buy the In N Outer Box.

Thought Transmitter by John Cornelius

In case you’d like to try a bit of mentalism, here is an ingenious device that allows you to (appear to) read people’s minds.
Read more and maybe buy Thought Transmitter.

Killer Key by Jay Sankey

An effective transposition that doesn’t require sleight of hand. The magician holds a key in one hand and a coin in the other. Abracadabra, they have changed places.
Read more, see a demo and maybe buy Killer Key.