New York City hosts a number of magic shops, but only one can be the oldest. It is also perhaps the city’s most hidden magic shop, as well as perhaps its most subdued magic shop.
Tannen’s has been around since 1925, and has moved four times since then — its current space is a small room on the sixth floor of an unremarkable office building on busy 34th Street in Manhattan.
Tannen’s, a room at the end of a hall in an unexciting office building
Because the space is so unassuming, Tannen’s has a feel of being for serious magicians, though while I was there, the clientele was mostly young boys and their fathers.
The shop may not a have lot of bells and whistles, but it does have some nice Houdini artifacts.
Keys used by Houdini, complete with certificates of authenticity
“Rankin Leg Irons” used by Houdini
A somewhat mundane letter from Houdini, in which he promises to send a book he has written, and discusses how he is sort of busy, but also not really.
Tannen’s antique magic books, individually wrapped, so that budding magicians are not tempted to learn the secrets within without paying the price.
Mysterious drawers, full of wonders
Wonders like, “Thumb Tips: Classic, Junior, Soft.”
A drawer of wands; I was told by the clerk that these are the “cheap” ones…the nice ones are under a glass case and look remarkably like Harry Potter’s.
In its heyday, Tannen’s produced its own line of magic tricks, and held a yearly “Magic Jubilee” in which magicians were awarded Louis, named after Louis Tannen, the original owner. The current owner is on a mission to collect as much Tannen’s memorabilia and products as he can find, and many years of Tannen’s history is on display in the shop.
Tannen’s Magic Jubilee Cards
Tannen’s Magic Jubilee Medals and ribbons throughout the years
For more about Tannen’s, there is a great piece over at Narratively on its history, and the aplomb with which the clerks there will demonstrate any trick the shop carries.
Magic Week is February 24-28, 2014 at Atlas Obscura. Follow along on Twitter (hashtag #MagicWeek), Facebook, & Tumblr.