in: Games & Tricks, Living

• Last updated: July 8, 2023

Amaze Your Friends: 5 Props For Beginners That Will Make You a Great Magician (And They Each Cost Less Than $10!)

Vintage people showing magician of cards trick.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from magician Peter Sharpe which originally appeared in the Art of Manliness Community.

After recently joining this site and reading the post on 45 Manly Hobbies, I was pleased to see that magic was included in the list. I have been performing magic since the age of 16 (I’m now 24) and have experimented with many different tricks.

For guys who want to get started in this hobby or who just want to learn a few tricks to impress their friends, I have compiled this short list of 5 things every magician should have. The magic market is huge nowadays, and it could be quite intimidating for a beginner to know where to start. So I have picked these props with the following criteria in mind:

  1. Easy to learn and perform.
  2. Costs less than $10.
  3. Strong magic that I have performed and is in the routines of working professionals the world over.

1. Bicycle Playing Cards

Cards box magic tricks.

Bicycles are the standard magicians’ cards. Most guys will already have some of these at home due to their popularity and use in card games. They are used by a vast number of magicians for the following reasons:

  • They are amazingly durable. Bikes are quite tough and last for ages through both practice and performance. For example, I bought a brick of 12 last Christmas (2008), and I just used the last pack for a gig in December. Excellent value for the money.
  • They handle wonderfully! Bikes (and most of the lines carried by the United States Playing Card Company) are famous for their finish which makes them very easy to handle, spread, fan, flourish, shuffle and just about everything else a magician could need to do with them!
  • They look great. The standard back and box design are both excellent, and there are several tricks which are based on the markings on a deck of Bikes. There are also a wide range of styles available and the guys at the USPCC, working with other companies, keep bringing out interesting new designs, including “vintage” ones that look old, striking red ones, and “arcane” ones made just for magicians.
  • They are cheap. Even in the UK where we get them imported, we can get a box of 12 for about £10 in the local wholesalers.

2. Karl Fulves’ Self-Working Card Magic (Book)

Book cover, self working card tricks by Karl Fullness.

The definition of a “self-working” magic trick is one that does not require any sleight of hand or other skill on the part of the magician but works due to a mathematical principle, stacked deck, key card or other principle.

Whilst I do recommend that all magicians learn some basic sleight of hand, self-working tricks are a great place to start for beginners and will let them get out and perform as soon as possible. Even the best professionals in the world use some self-working magic.

This book was my first magic book and is still a trusty source of inspiration. Fulves offers a range of tricks including coincidences, predictions and gambling swindles. All are presented in a clear and accessible way that is excellently illustrated by Joseph K. Schmidt.

3. Sponge Balls

Sponge magic balls.

Sponge balls are an absolute, dyed-in-the-wool classic of magic that a vast amount of working professionals utilize every night (such as this performance by Wayne Dobson at the Royal Variety Show, starting at 1min 49 seconds).

This video shows the basic idea of the routine: a ball vanishes from the magician’s hand and ends up in the spectator’s. There is (as you can imagine) plenty of gags you can throw in here and plenty of other moves to spice up the routine. This does require a bit of sleight of hand, but it isn’t too difficult, and the payoff is well worth the work. This is a staple of my professional routine.

The best ones to buy are Goshman sponges which come in a range of colours and sizes.

4. The Invisible Deck

(There’s a picture of an invisible deck here-you just can’t see it.)

The Invisible Deck is one of the strongest, most mind bendingly amazing tricks you can possibly do. The effect goes something like this. You offer the spectator an invisible deck of cards, get them to choose one, remember it and put it back in upside down so it is the only card facing the other way. You then take a real deck of cards out of your pocket, fan them out and there is one card upside down! Shock! Horror! They slowly look at the card, and it is their card! You can then pick the spectator up off the floor.

This is an amazing trick that works on a devilishly simple principle the audience will never realize. It takes a bit of memorization and performance to pull it off, but no sleight of hand as such. You could quite easily perform this on the same day you get it. It has never let me down.

5. Color Monte

Color monte magician cards.

Color Monte is an ideal trick to carry in your wallet for performing at a moment’s notice as it only comprises 3 cards! However, the amount of magic you squeeze out of these cards is incredible. It is a gambling trick similar to “find the lady” where you challenge a person to find a money card. The spectator, however, can never find the money card no matter how easy you try to make it! This all leads up to a killer twist in the tale which will leave the audience stunned.

This probably requires the most practice out of all of the effects but the sleights that you learn will come in handy with plenty of other tricks. The excellent story and portability earns the color monte the final slot in this list.

Listen to our podcast on one magician’s search for wonder in the modern world: 

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