When I first started to get really serious about magic, I started spending a lot of money. Like most new magicians, I bought every trick that sounded wonderful and baffling.
Some of these I still use, but most have either been sold on EBay or are in one of several boxes waiting to be listed on EBay.
Over time, I have learned that having the newest tricks is not the secret to becoming a good magician.
Some of the best tricks are in the local library. Checkout the magic books in both the adult and youth sections of the library. You will learn many tricks that can be done with things around the house.
Once folks learn you are a magician, you will be asked in many an impromptu situation to perform a trick or two. Tricks with paperclips, rubberbands, dollar bills and coins, pencils are all available for free at your library. Some of these may look simple, but with a little practice, they can be performance masterpieces.
You may also want to carry something in your pocket for the times you are asked to do something. The best ting to have in your pocket - a soft plastic thumbtip. Keep a small silk square or a thumbtip streamer in it and you will always have something amazing. There must be 100's of tricks you can do with a thumbtip. Doug Henning used one in his stage show.
If you are not familiar with the thumbtip or if you only know one or two tricks with it, get a book on the subject. I saw a restaurant magician recently, and two of the five tricks he did at my table used a thumbtip. Same prop, but two tricks that looked very different.
You can use a thumbtip to pull a streamer out of a dollar bill, to vanish a scarf, to change a one dollar into a five dollar bill, to produce or vanish salt, to tear and restore a packet of Sweet&Low and the list goes on.
You notice, the thumbtip is not a trick - it is a prop that can be used in many tricks. As I've matured in my magic, I've stopped buying tricks and focus on getting good props and learning new techniques to use them. What I want to do with this article is share some of the props I feel you should add to your collection instead of just buying the newest tricks.
If I could have only one prop, it would be the thumbtip. Give me a thumbtip, a pair of scissors and a hank of rope and I could do a show. A pad of paper and a pencil for some mental tricks would add a few more tricks for this impromptu show.
Another prop you should consider is the "change-bag." You don't think these will fool people? Guess again. Change bags come in many forms. The fancy store bought bags on handles, switch wallets, and even simple mailing envelopes can be adapted to switch items.
You can use change bags to switch cards, to change several scarves into a larger one, for color changes, productions, vanishes, and to force selection of poker chips, coins, billets or other items on a volunteer. Like a thumbtip, the changebag and similar props can be used in a multitude of tricks.
One of my favorite props is the silk cylinder. It is a clear tube and a cover used to transform silk scarves into oranges, sodapop cans, or even livestock. It is a fooler. Although it basically only does one thing, you can adapt it to many themes.
Along with the basic props, I would also recommend doing the classics of magic. I have two routines I do using the Chinese linking rings, plus linking rings with ropes. I do the cups and balls, the chop cup and I am now learning billiard ball manipulation and thimbles manipulation. The interesting thing with all of these "classics," and the reason I believe they have endured all these years, is that there is a multitude of stories and patterlines you can use with them. They can be adapted to any audience.
I know a lot of rope tricks. I do rope magic in almost every show I do. Everyone knows what rope is, it doesn't look magical, yet it becomes magical in the magician's hands and it is a real crowd pleaser. The first trick I learned with rope was the "Professor's Nightmare." Three ropes of different lengths all become the same size. It is probably one of the first tricks most magicians learn and is really pretty simple to learn. I saw 3 magic shows in Florida last winter, two out three shows had the professor's nightmare performed. The restaurant magician I mentioned above also did it at my table. Audiences love it. As well known as it is among magicians, it is still a fooler.
A good magician is not a guy or gal that can demonstrate the newest tricks. It is a person who can entertain under any circumstance with little warning. Have a bag with the basics and master them and you will always be ready to perform. That is when you can truly call yourself a magician. A real magician never says, "I'm not ready to perform."
I was asked last summer at a camp to do an extra show. I did not have any extra props or tricks with me. I needed twenty minutes worth, so I went on a scavenger hunt. I got some drywall tape from the camp maintenance man and made "Mobius Loops." I put together 5 minutes of rope magic, and also borrowed a newspaper for a tear and restore paper trick. The old thumbtip and boom, I had a show.
I hope this article has given you some new ideas and motivation. Feel free to write me with questions and comments.