When done right, stage magic can be a captivating display of a magician’s dexterity, intelligence, and technique. We’ve all dreamed of it at one point or another, but few of us take the plunge and actually try to learn magic for real. As someone with the drive to succeed who wants to try, though, where should you actually start?
Just like any hobby, a magician is only as good as their tools. A comprehensive magic set makes learning both the fundamentals and advanced tricks that much easier, as you’ll have a wide variety of things to use while you perform. The earlier you can get a good set the better, as you have more time to practice from the basics onward.
What’s the best magic set going to include, you might ask? Let’s explore some of the magic essentials you should look for in any magic set you’re looking to buy or put together, as well as several other factors that will help you determine what the best purchase will be for a new magician.
Magic set components
Though individual contents of a magic set will change based on personal preference, experience, and a number of other factors, there are several pieces of equipment the vast majority of magicians will carry with them whenever they expect to perform. Think of these like the most basic tools in your toolbox, with each having a purpose to fulfill in performing simple magic.
While it might not be something you’d deploy up on stage, a piece of equipment every new magician should own is Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic. This book, available in both hardcover and softcover, gives you insight into how to perform hundreds of different tricks from one of the greatest magicians to ever live. It also gives advice on how to stage a magic show for those who one day wish to perform. Far and away one of the best resources for learners out there, it should always be on the list for any magic set.
As the basis for some of the most fundamental displays of magic, a deck of standard playing cards is a must. Two decks would be the minimum – one red and one blue, or something similar – though extra decks are always a benefit, especially to have some sealed and on hand. Bicycle Rider is the brand of choice for many magicians, though experimenting with the different tools you have on hand is part of learning magic. Don’t be afraid to shop around and see what style fits you best.
Any respectable magician should know how to do some coin tricks, too, and the best sized coins for magic tricks are American half-dollars. Appropriately, a good number to have would be a half-dozen, all close in size and appearance. Most banks should have a few to give you, though pawn shops or online auctions could come through in a pinch.
English pennies (the kind that are close to the size of half-dollars) can also come in handy for various tricks. Despite their age, these shouldn’t be too exceedingly difficult to find. Online collectors will likely have some to sell for relatively cheap, as will pawn shops or other coin collectors at different businesses like conventions or flea markets.
Additionally, while the previous four items might be what’s considered essential for most fundamental tricks, there are also a plethora of items you can use for other kinds of tricks. Having these items on hand can be a good way to mix things up, as well as help you in practicing a variety of tricks as you improve.
One of these tools would be an assortment of soft sponge balls. Outside of just being fun to throw around on their own, small, easily compressible balls like these can be worked into many different tricks and provide an extra pop of color to your performance.
Linking rings are another good choice. Though simple, these rings have become a classic for a reason. The more rings you have, the more impressive the tricks can become. While you’d do well to start out small first, don’t be afraid to expand as your skills improve.
A magic cup and ball game is a staple of closeup magic. While a normal cup can work for some tricks, the best way to ensure you can always pull of a trick is by stacking the deck in your favor ahead of time (metaphorically and literally in some cases). Cups designed specifically for disappearing and reappearing balls as well as balls that can pass through cups are available depending on what kind of tricks you’re wanting to perform.
A trick many people have seen but few know the name of involves something known as the professor’s nightmare. At first glance, they appear to be three normal strings of different lengths, but with a bit of work they’ll instantly match in size. Though simple, it still remains as effective as ever. Not to mention there are plenty of uses for ropes in other tricks, making the professor’s nightmare even more versatile.
The 21-century silk handkerchiefs are unique and useful tools for simple magic without much need of skill. These fabrics can change color right before an audience member’s eyes. Even beyond this, a handkerchief is both a great asset for other tricks as well as a very magician-like accessory for an outfit.
The Okito box is a unique brass box about the size of a half-dollar. Working off a similar principle as magic cups, these boxes can be used to vanish coins or make them appear to slide through the metal of the container. While a bit uncommon, they’re certainly worth a look for the unique possibilities for tricks that can be built off some of your most basic tools.
Finally, one last piece of equipment any self-respecting magician should have is a briefcase. Though it could technically be “optional” as well, a fancy leather briefcase to store your magic set in helps sell your authenticity as a real performer, not to mention there are tons of ways to incorporate it into different tricks. Don’t slouch on quality even if it means paying a bit more, either, as it’s well worth it to sell your image.
Whole Sets Versus Ordering Piecemeal
The debate always rages about whether you should buy an entire set of magic tools rather than ordering different pieces from multiple sources. Each option has its pros and cons, and which avenue you pursue will largely depend on personal tastes and your specific situation.
First and foremost, buying a premade magic set will often be cheaper than purchasing the same contents of a premade set separately. While exceptions may apply just like with any kind of product, you can usually count on bundle deals being a better value, both in terms of overall cost as well as shipping costs.
As far as shipping goes, it can also be advantageous to order a set rather than individual pieces. Beyond a monetary value, having a whole magic set shipped to you at once means you can start practicing earlier than if you were to wait on the individual pieces you needed to arrive from several different stores. There’s also less chances of something getting lost or damaged in transit when placing a single order versus several smaller orders.
Order individually, however, is not without its own advantages. For starters, it allows you to better personalize your magic set in ways ordering one that’s premade would not allow for. If you wanted to focus on a few specific tricks, you could pick only those pieces of a magic set to order without ending up with several other tools you don’t intend to use at that point.
It could also be more cost effective for a person’s economic situation to order individual pieces of a magic set over time, building up a larger set as they have more free income and master certain basic tricks. While not necessary for everyone, this can help those who don’t have as much money or time learn magic without as big of a commitment.
Additionally, certain pieces of a magic set might just be easier to buy on their own. For example, many magic sets will come with a deck of playing cards, but those are extremely easy to buy at many different stores. This same reasoning can apply to other tools, as well, letting you pick and choose what to buy where for greater control over your set.
Finally, selecting pieces for your own magic set can allow you a larger range of tricks than with a premade set. Like mentioned previously, having the freedom to pick and choose which kinds of tricks you wish to do is one of the major benefits of making your own set. To go along with this, making your own set will allow you a much wider range of possibilities when starting out than with most premade sets.
Size of a Beginner’s Set
When you first begin learning magic, it’s a good idea to try not to overextend yourself in terms of the size of your magic set. Variety is always helpful, but buying too large or extensive a magic set when first learning can be seriously confusing if you haven’t even mastered the basics.
Magic sets can be designed for people of different skill levels, with those meant for beginners often having simpler tools in them compared to more advanced sets. While it can be tempting to get a larger set right from the start, it might not be as user friendly or focused as you would need to really start building skills as a magician. Overall, it might end up hurting more than helping.
Not only that, starting small can also help you save time, energy, and money in the event you stop practicing magic. Whether it be a lack of time or interest, beginning with a smaller magic set is just an all around better idea if there’s a chance you could lose the ability to keep doing magic. While this isn’t something to hope for, it’s always good to start off slow just in case you realize magic just isn’t the hobby for you.
Magic Set Reviews
To help you get a better idea of what kind of magic sets are out there for you and what they might contain, let’s take a quick look at three different sets and examine what they contain along with a list of pros and cons.
1. Ideal 100-Trick Spectacular Magic Show Suitcase
As the name would imply, the Ideal 100-Trick Spectacular Magic Show Suitcase is a magic set that gives you the tools you’ll need to perform up to 100 different tricks right out of the box. Shaped as a cardboard suitcase complete with handle, this set pulls double duty as both a carrying case and a performance table when unfolded.
In addition to the tools, an instructional DVD is included in every set with step-by-step instructions by Ryan Oaks. Teaching you everything you’ll need to know to work with the set, it’s a great resource for beginners. There’s even an included magician’s hat and wand.
The set in its entirety is composed of a drawer box, a magic cup set (3 cups, 4 balls), a double-sided lollipop prop, a coin box with a top, an X-ray color cube with a lid, a 3-piece dice escape trick, 3 red plastic balls and a single half ball, a quarter box with a top, 6 toy “multiplying rabbits”, a false-bottomed ring, a rabbit ring mat with a paddle and token, a thumb tip, spot and number cards, mystery cards, a flip box, a “crazy coin cap”, 2 apple cans, 2 blue and 2 clear tubes, a color cube, and a hanky vanisher.
Given the huge amount of props, magician accessories, instructional DVD, and convenience of storage, the Ideal 100-Trick Spectacular Magic Show Suitcase comes highly recommended. That being said, some of the props are fairly low quality and might break easily, especially if used by younger children.
2. Thames & Kosmos World’s Greatest Magic Show with 415 Tricks Magic Set
One of the largest premade sets you can buy, the Thames & Kosmos World’s Greatest Magic Show with 415 Tricks Magic Set is not for the feint of heart. As advertised, the 49 pieces of equipment contained within the box can be used to perform up to 415 different magic tricks.
The 60-page instructional manual will teach you everything you need to know to use this set to its fullest. Complete with full-color pictures of each trick to help you along the way, this guide is exceptionally easy to follow and will have you performing magic like a pro in no time. Additionally, if you want to watch the tricks in real time, free web videos are available online at the manufacturer’s website.
Even better, this set includes another 32-page manual exclusively outlining card tricks. With just a standard deck of playing cards, this book will teach you over 140 different tricks you can perform.
For its immense size and helpful instruction manuals and videos, this is a great product for magicians. However, the manuals can be somewhat hard to decipher without a bit of knowledge on the basics of magic, and the size of the set may actually be a disadvantage for those who have never tried magic before simply from being overwhelmed.
3. Criss Angel MINDFREAK Ultimate Magic Kit
Based on the tricks performed by the famous magician himself, the Criss Angel MINDFREAK Ultimate Magic Kit has everything you need to become an experienced magician in no time. Voted as one of the best magic kits available by the International Magicians Society, this set is set to deliver when it comes to tricks.
With the props necessary to replicate many of the illusions seen on the MINDFREAK television program, beginners and veterans alike can find value in this set. For ease of learning, each set comes with an instructional DVD teaching you how to perform all 550+ tricks, plus an extra DVD containing the secret to Criss Angel’s ability to levitate anytime and anywhere with no props.
Among the many props features in this set are three different decks of Criss Angel-themed playing cards. You’ll also receive a practice guide and trick book written by Criss Angel, plus a free trial ULTIMATE LOYALFREAK membership at the Criss Angel website for even more magic.
With lots of props and plenty of helpful extra, beginner and experienced magicians might find use in the Criss Angel MINDFREAK Ultimate Magic Kit. There is, however, what many would complain of as a lack of sturdy construction with some of the props, many of them being made of cheaper plastics compared to some of the heartier tools used by Criss Angel on his show.
Best magic set also included:
- Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic autographed and personalized.
- Two decks of Bicycle Rider-back cards, one red and one blue.
- Six American half-dollars, reasonably well-matched, from the bank.
- Two old-fashioned English pennies, the kind the size of a half-dollar, from any coin shop (cheapest you can get: you aren’t looking for a collectible).
- Multiplying Sponge Balls
- Cups and Balls
- Linking Rings
- Professor’s Nightmare
- Twentieth-Century Silks
- Okito Box
- Nice leather briefcase.
- Bow on it.
It can be hard to know where to start when you begin a new hobby, magic being no different. As a beginner, just trying to jump in can be a bit intimidating. While people on stage are making audience members levitate, you might still struggle just to cut a deck of cards.
It’s all part of learning, though, and one aspect of learning is finding the right set of tools for the job. Just like with trying out magic, finding a good magic set to fit your needs can be a challenge in and of itself. That’s why it’s important to inform yourself before taking the plunge and buying anything.
Using this review, you can now get a better idea about what to look for in your first magic kit, with some insight into three different kits to give you a look at some of your options and what you might find while searching. Each of the previewed sets have their positives and negatives, which can give you an idea of what to expect upon buying a kit for yourself. Whether it’s one of these three or something else entirely, hopefully this review has helped you get a clearer picture as to what you’re looking for.
If there are any sets you’re particularly fond of or tips on how to build up your own magic set, share your opinions with us.