1899 poster for the magician Zan Zig (via Wikimedia)
The first magic tricks were recorded as far back at 2700 BCE, with the (possibly fictional) magician Dedi’s conjuring tricks in ancient Egypt. But despite magic’s lengthy history, it still remains a field shrouded in mystery. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a magician stumps you with the eternal question of, “how the hell did he do that?”
The home base of the professional magician used to be their local magic shop, once an exclusive gathering place for magicians to hone their craft while stocking their supplies. Unfortunately, with the popularity of internet retail, many of the world’s magic shops have closed up their doors and gone online. However, there are some magic shops that are just too exceptional to do anything but thrive. These incredible shops continue to mystify professional magicians and amateurs alike.
New York, New York
Tannen’s Magic (photograph by Michelle Enemark/Atlas Obscura)
New York City has a rich and long history with the modern magic movement; the city is even home base to the Society of American Magicians, the oldest magic society in the world. However, only one shop in New York has earned bragging rights as the city’s oldest magic emporium and that’s Tannen’s Magic. Situated in a dimly lit office building on Herald Square, the shop’s modest exterior belies a charming interior where supplies are conveniently organized by type of magic: coin, dove, cigarette, and knife, to name just a few.
Serving magicians since 1925, the shop has seen its share of famous names come through its doors. However, for the novice magician, the store’s knowledgeable staff will gladly demonstrate any of the store’s copious tricks and products. In addition to its impressive supplies and staff, the store also hosts several lectures and workshops throughout the year, as well as a full-fledged magic camp, which has been frequented by several professionals including master illusionist David Blaine.
Vintage photograph of Davenports (via Davenports Magic)
Founded by Lewis Davenport in 1898, Davenports Magic has earned the unique distinction of being the oldest family-owned magic shop in the world. Currently run by Roy Davenport, who, like his great, great grandfather, is a professional magician, the shop’s current location is in the Charing Cross Underground arcade. Along with an impressive array of tricks, tools, and illusions the store has a private theater that can be accessed from inside.
This magic studio not only serves as a base of operations for Davenports’ acclaimed magic school, but also as a meeting place for the London Society of Magicians.
DENNY AND LEE’S MAGIC STUDIO
After retiring from a lucrative career performing at cooperate events across the United States, master magician Denny Haney became disillusioned by the commercialization of the modern magic shop. Yearning for the stores of his youth where real magicians would convene and learn the tricks of the trade, he founded Denny and Lee’s Magic Studio in 1990. The shop takes a no-nonsense approach to magic (gag gifts and novelty items are strictly prohibited) and caters exclusively towards a clientele with a true interest in learning the craft.
In addition to carrying a comprehensive stock of tricks and tools, Denny and Lee’s Magic Studio also hosts several classes and workshops to train the upcoming generation of magicians. Haney’s purist approach to the modern magic shop has been surprisingly successful and the shop has since opened a Las Vegas location based on the same values.
THE MAGIC APPLE
Los Angeles, California
The Magic Apple (photograph by Brent Geris)
In a city built on entertainment and the real life illusions of the film and television industries, it’s no surprise that Los Angeles is filled with its share of magic shops. However, the shop most renowned by professional magicians isn’t occupying a glitzy spot on the Sunset Strip or Hollywood Boulevard — it’s in an unassuming strip mall in Studio City.
The Magic Apple is a store with serious magicians in mind. While admittedly, the store’s number one seller is the rubber chicken, the main offerings are in traditional magic fare: cups, balls, silks, cards, coins, all with elusive secret tricks that only a skilled magic practitioner can unlock. As owner Brent Geris states, “there hasn’t been a magician in town that hasn’t come through here,” and with the shop’s traditionalist approach to magic, it seems to be true.
Magic scene (via Eclectica)
Located in the heart of Rome, walking distance from the Pantheon, is Italy’s oldest magic and curiosity shop: Eclectica. The store truly lives up to its name, carrying not only the latest in magic tricks and props, but also a bevy of quirky vintage goods and antiques. In Eclectica’s eccentric atmosphere, it is not uncommon to find garden gnomes and vintage bicycles alongside rope tricks and invisible ink.
The juxtaposition of campy antique treasures and top-of-the-line magic supplies give the shop an otherworldly charm not to be found elsewhere.
Unlike other cities where magic is performed in comedy clubs or theaters, Japan has a thriving magic bar scene that has sprung an entire subculture of magicians and practitioners of “close-up” magic. Typically owned by magicians, Japan’s magic bars offer an intimate venue where magic and magic alone is the only entertainment on the menu. Ton San Onosaka’s delightfully ramshackle MagicLand serves as both the unofficial hub and supply house for this thriving magic bar movement. Onosaka is a master magician with over 40 years of experience, his card tricks are legendary, and his shop is very much geared towards the magic insider.
Located in the business district of Nihombashi, the shop is small and difficult to find, but once inside it’s hard to deny the shop’s chaotic charm. The ceiling is plastered with photos of famous magicians who have visited the shop and the walls are filled to the ceiling with props and tricks. Onosaka’s wife, who is known as Mama-san, presides over the shop and demonstrates tricks to prospective customers, giving a familial air to this cluttered gem.
TAM SHEPHERD’S TRICK SHOP
Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop (photograph by Jordanhill School D&T Dept/Flickr)
Originally opened in 1886 by Tam Shepherd and later purchased by Lewis Davenport (of Davenports London fame) in the 1930s, Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop has delighted would-be magicians and tricksters for over 100 years. The shop has stayed in the family, and is currently owned by Davenport’s great, great granddaughter Jean and her husband, world-renowned magician and creator of the “card warp,” Roy Walton. Still housed in its original location on Queen Street, the store is small, but packed with hidden treasures: props, tricks, masks, gags, and a series of mysterious boxes under the counter that house the latest in magic.
While the shop is part of the ultimate in UK magic pedigree, it still never takes itself too seriously; requests for fake dog poop are treated with the same gravity as the latest illusion. It’s this cheerful, laissez-faire attitude towards magic that has made the shop a favorite among children for generations.
MAYETTE MAGIE MODERNE
Paris is a truly bewitching city with a deep history in magic, so it’s hardly surprising the city is home to the oldest magic shop in the world. Mayette Magie Moderne, which translates to Mayette Modern Magic, was originally opened in 1808. It has also earned the distinction as the first magic store in the world to sell magic tricks and tools to the public, opening up the world of magic to generations of non-professionals.
This magic for everyone attitude is still prevalent in the shop today, which has tricks and supplies for everyone from the magic loving novice, to the seasoned professional. Located in the heart of Paris, the store is still chock full of historical charm and whimsy.