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Magic Tricks

The earliest magic trick, the cup and ball trick, is documented in ancient Egypt around 2700 BC. Another ancient magic trick, the Indian rope trick, was used in India for hundreds of years. These and other early magic tricks were usually used by con artists to scam people out of their money. Magic shows and magic tricks as we know them today, however, did not become popular until the 1800s.

The modern magic show originated with a French clockmaker named Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, who opened a magic theater in the 1840s. Houdin's magic show consisted of automated mechanical animals that appeared to be alive to the audience. The most famous magician of all time, Harry Houdini, took his name from Houdin. Houdini had his own repertoire of magic tricks, most of them based on his famous ability to escape bondage and traps. Today's modern magicians, including famous acts such as David Copperfield and Penn and Teller, continue the tradition of illusion.

Vintage magic tricks from famous magicians are popular with collectors and can command high prices. Magic tricks from magicians such as Maskelyne, Harry Kellar, and The Great Lafayette are all hot items with collectors. Of course, the highest prices are paid for Harry Houdini collectibles. Even a pair of Houdini handcuffs in good condition will sell for over $3000.

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  • Magic books are highly collectible because they show how to perform well known magic tricks. Magicians do not like to share their tricks, so these books are often difficult to find
  • An advertising fan used by a guest of Robert-Houdin's magic show was valued at around £3000 in 2010
  • In 2004, famous magician David Copperfield purchased Harry Houdini's "water torture cell" for $150,000. The cell had been destroyed in a fire, but enough of the frame and glass remained to allow the piece to be restored to sellable condition

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