Imagine that we released a new magic trick. It's an electronic, state of the art device that can tell what colour a spectator is thinking about from across a room. It's an astounding electronic box that does all the hard work for you. The downside: It requires 6 AAA batteries and you need to wear an arm strap. It sells for £100
A year later, we invent a new version of the device. This one does exactly the same thing, but it only needs a paperclip, a straw and 2 magnets to make it work.
Should the simpler, easier method sell for more than the first version? Perhaps a retail price of £150? After all, it works better and doesn't require batteries. There's no arguing that these extra features are of immense value to the user.
Maybe instead, we should sell the new simple version for the same price as the original? Perhaps discounting the older electronic version to half price, as a cheaper alternative?
Which one should be more expensive: The one with more equipment, or the one with the best method?
The gimmick is often a disappointment.
How you answer the questions above, has more to do with your attitude to magic, than the economics of selling magic. Do you view commercial magic as something that has a value proportionate to the props and manufacturing process involved, or as an exchange of a method and ideas needed to perform a magical act?
As new magic tricks (and old tricks that have been re-imagined) are released every day, it's exceptionally easy to forget that their worth is in the magical 'effect' that they allow you to perform, rather than the props required to achieve the magic trick.
Many beginners face this problem when they start buying magic tricks. It has a name in the magic community: Jiffy Bag Rage. The name stems from the fact that many magic tricks come with just a few props and a sheet of instructions sealed in a clear plastic jiffy bag. The magician has been excitedly waiting for the trick to arrive and thinking about what the method will be. When it finally arrives, there is a moment of anti-climax when they open the jiffy bag and discover the secret. In that moment, the 'mystery' of how to do the magic trick is removed, and all that is left is a few very basic props and the prospect of starting the process of practice.
When you first examine a new trick, it's vital that you remember the feeling you had BEFORE you received the trick, when you watched it being performed and experienced the amazement and wonder of the magic.
The birthday magic catch 22.
There is time of the year when this becomes a crucial issue: Children's Birthdays. Magic shops help parents choose gifts for their children. The magic they buy is a gift and one of many items that the child will be receiving. It has to compete with all the toys that will also be given to that child. In this situation, the product is often judged on its physical appearance rather than the magic it produces. It's totally understandable to want impressive packaging in these situations as the products additional function is as a gift.
Kids birthday gifts can put a magic dealer in a tremendously difficult position. There are many incredible tricks that would be perfect for a child wanting to learn magic, but they usually come in everyday packaging or just a jiffy bag. It's the tuition that has the real value for the child, but the packaging creates value for the parent. This is a reason why so many magic sets sold in toy shops are so poor. The manufacturers know that the person buying the set is a gift giver and is attracted by the huge box, graphics and images on the outside, rather than the content.
A good magic shop, is concerned with the quality of tuition, so may well recommend a collection of tricks, or a pack that has excellent tricks, but is not dressed up in a gift box. The magic shop knows these tricks will be the best for teaching a child magic, but not the best at competing with the boxed toys that children are used to receiving from the toy industry.
A magic secret
These challenges faced by the best magic shops, is not your problem as a magician, but there is something useful you can take from this:
Don't be fooled by the packaging and props of any magic trick you consider ordering. Those things are designed by manufactures and by marketers to sell you magic as a product or toy, rather than teach you to perform a magical 'effect'.
Read the trick descriptions and watch the magic video demonstrated. Decide if the magic trick, is right for you, regardless of props included. If it amazes you, entertains you, and fits in with your style and your other tricks, that should be the reason to order and learn it.
Keep in mind when you receive the trick, the TRUE value is in how practical, effective or useful the trick will be to you. It's in the creative genius of the method and the thought process, real world testing and refining that a magic creator has put into its development.
How many batteries it requires or if the instructions come on a DVD rather a booklet, is a distraction from its true value to you.
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, or a magic trick by its props. The value of a magic trick is in the experience it creates for the spectators, not the equipment or method used to achieve it.
DO THIS: Make a quick list of you favorite tricks. The ones you perform all the time. Notice how many of them just came from a book or a DVD or require only a few basic props. What does that tell you about the relationship between excessive, complex equipment/props and value for money?
What do you think? Share your thoughts about this in the comments section below: