Wednesday, February 15, 2012


When I was a kid, I thought magicians were real.  I thought they were really performing feats of magic and that fascinated me.  My brother was also an amateur magician (I fell completely for his old "stretching the thumb" trick.  Always freaked me out.), so that added to the appeal -- I wanted to be a magician when I grew up.  My sister bought me my first magic set for Christmas when I was about 10.  It was a Pressman Magic Show bought at Toy Chest and looked a lot like this:

It contained what I've come to realize are the standards -- The Multiplying Spots, Penetrating Vision, the Endless Water Vase, Bullet Trick, etc.  The set actually contained a fairly good trick which I believe was called The Imprisoned Coin.  The trick was you would take a penny and have someone make a mark on it.  You would then put the coin in your back pocket and pull out a large matchbox.  You opened the matchbox and inside was another smaller matchbox.  Inside that was a small baggie tied with a rubber band.  When you untied the baggie, inside was the marked penny.  I won't spoil the trick (after all, a magician never tells his secrets), but it was a pretty simple trick, yet always entertained.

Around this time, my best friend (who was also into magic and could afford some of the more expensive tricks like the finger guillotine) decided we would throw a magic show at his house.  He lived in a subdivision, so we canvassed the neighborhood handing out handmade flyers.  We prepared for the show, set up the stage in his basement, and waited.  And waited.  Nobody showed. 

Oh well.  I never became a magician either.   Heck, I didn't even learn all the tricks in the set.  But I still have a soft spot for magic sets.  I still have parts of my Presto set and I came across a nearly complete one at a garage sale a few years ago.  I also came across this TV Magic set at an estate sale last week for $5:

It dates from the early '70's.  Marshall Brodien was known by the unfortunate name Wizzo the Wizard on Bozo's Circus.  The set has some old favorites like the 3 cup and ball trick, rope in the bottle, the rice bowls (which never worked!), the ever-present Penetrating vision trick (also known as the Whispering Colors), the multiplying rabbits, the multiplying spots and an official magic wand.  The penetrating vision trick is the one where an audience member chooses a color on  a cube and places it in a container.  The magician places the container behind his back, then holds the container to his forehead, concentrates and then reveals what color the audience member chose.  You don't have to think too hard to figure out how that one works.  Also, a stock item included in all of these sets was Adams' 101 Magic Tricks.  Marshall Brodien, not to be outdone by Adams included his own book of 102 Magic Tricks.  As a bonus to this purchase, there was a trick I'm sure was not original to the set called the Bead Trick.  It's actually a fairly good illusion where 3 cups of loose beads are shown to an audience member who chooses one color.  That color is then mixed in with the beads from another cup and shaken.  The cups are placed behind the magician's back and are then revealed to have returned to their original cups.

A number of years back, I found this Remco Sneaky Pete Magic set at an estate sale for $15:

Again making an appearance are the 3 cups and balls and the Penetrating Vision/Whispering Colors tricks.  But there are a couple of pretty cool tricks in this set as well, in particular the Mystic Vanishing Box and the Cut the "Lady" in half trick.  The "Lady" is really a Swami-looking Genie and is also used for the Mystic Vanishing Box.  These really aren't tricks, but rather illusions performed by mechanical means.  For the incorrectly-named Mystic Vanishing Box (the box doesn't vanish!), you open to doors to show it's empty, drop the genie in the top, then open the doors again to reveal the box is still empty.  The trick is done with mirrors (aren't they always?!)  that give the illusion of the box being empty.  For the Cut the Lady in half trick, a sword is passed through the intact genie who remains intact after the illusion is complete.  This is done by a fairly complex gear mechanism in the body of the genie that rotates and allows the sword to pass through, yet holds the 2 body halves together.

You know, with all these magic sets, I could put together a pretty good show.  I could even hand out flyers in my neighborhood...or maybe not.  At a minimum, I can at least freak out my own kids with the old "stretching thumb" trick.

For the rest of the Sneaky Pete story, read here.


  1. do all kids go through a magician phase? i was probably 9 or 10 when i got into magic tricks, too. i guess i'm still one, in a way -- i have NO idea how even the simplest tricks you describe here are done. despite having seen many penn & teller shows describing how everything happens, i'm still baffled.

  2. Congrats on the great TV Magic Show find. That was the very first set that Marshall put out. The set originally had a cardboard insert to hold the props.

  3. Would you be interested in selling your Sneaky Pete Magic Set?Would you be interested in selling your Sneaky Pete Magic Set? If so, please email me at Thanks! James

  4. Tom, I am revisiting this post. If you responded previously I didn't get your response. Please let me know if you are interested in selling your Remco Sneaky Pete Magic Set. Contact me through my website Thanks!


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