There is no substitute for magic tricks that require skill and heavy practice for effective presentation. Such effects are typically the most amazing of all, and the best professional magicians can leverage such feats into reputation-making performances with many repeat bookings.
However, for the beginning magician, or for the practicing amateur or professional looking to expeditiously augment his or her repertoire, self-working tricks play an important role. Self-working magic tricks are effects that require essentially no skill, and can be learned in a few minutes. Yet many self-working tricks are quite baffling and entertaining.
This is not to say that self-working tricks do not require practice. Far from it! Any magic trick, regardless of how easy, should be scripted and repeatedly practiced for smooth and compelling presentation. But with a self-working trick, the performer can concentrate on entertaining the audience, rather than worry that a particular sleight, misdirection, or tricky bit of business will reveal the modus operandi.
On this web site, I have listed my favorite self-working magic tricks, and where they can be ordered on the Internet. With the tricks I currently list here, I have focused primarily on tricks that children can easily perform, though many of these tricks are also highly appropriate for performance by adults. As this site matures, I hope to add additional self-working tricks that are particularly suited for performance by adults in a separate section.
I have divided these self-working tricks into inexpensive close-up tricks, and more expensive parlor tricks for larger audiences. These two categories have separate pages here. See the link buttons above at the left.
Each trick I list here has a link where it can be purchased online. I do not own or get any kickbacks from these online magic stores. I am providing my humble list of favorite self-working magic tricks in the hope it will be useful to someone, particularly beginning magicians.
It is tempting to think that a child can borrow a magic book from the library, and learn several tricks to put together a small show. However, I would like to mostly dissuade you of this notion. It is true that a century ago, budding magicians learned most of their magic from books, and today, experienced professional and amateur magicians get some of their best effects and routines from advanced magic books. But for the beginning performer in this modern day, it can be frustrating trying to put together an entertaining show from reading a book. So frustrating, in fact, it rarely happens successfully.
I am about to say something that I realize is controversial in the magic community. With few exceptions, despite the important role of magic books to experienced performers, most magic tricks described in books are either too difficult for a beginner to perform, require more talent for constructing props than most children possess, or are not baffling enough to be truly entertaining. If a child expresses interest in learning magic, it is important to nurture that interest in the most expeditious and efficacious manner possible, to give positive reinforcement to the child while the flame of interest is lit. In my opinion, the best way to accomplish this is to provide the child with some baffling but inexpensive self-working magic tricks from a magic store, which come with all the props needed and have clear printed instructions.
You don't need to be a professional magician to buy tricks from a magic store. Indeed, anyone who walks in the door can typically purchase any trick in the shop. The challenge is to find good tricks that are easy to perform. That is the purpose of this web site.
It turns out that magic sets are not a good substitute for individually-selected self-working tricks. Despite claims on the box to the contrary, every magic set I have ever seen (and I've seen many) will contain only 2 or 3 easy and baffling tricks. The remaining tricks in the set will either be too difficult to perform, too easy for the audience to figure out, or too poorly constructed to be useful. You do much better to obtain individual, recommended, self-working tricks. (The notable exceptions are the magic sets put out by Marvin's Magic, available at many brick-and-mortar and online magic stores, which are normally filled with high-quality tricks, though not all of the tricks will necessarily be self-working.)
One final note. Doing magic can be such a confidence builder,
particularly for children. Doing magic develops poise, social skills, and
helps make friends. I have been doing amateur magic shows on and off for
almost 40 years, since I was 10 years old. I have performed at birthday
parties, I was the magician at an amusement park, and I worked in a magic
store for several years. Even though magic has only been a side interest for
me, and these days I do at most a few shows a year, magic has had a profoundly
positive effect on my life. When young, I was shy and introverted, yet
today — largely due to my interest in magic — I am very comfortable in front of large crowds, and that confidence
has made all the difference in my professional and social life. If your
own child, or a child you know, is interested in magic, I urge you to encourage that interest.