Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tricky Wallet Story

The year was 1998, I had a wife, 3 kids, a house in the suburbs, I owned and operated The Carew Tower Magic Shop, as well as FunKIDelic Toys, in downtown Cincinnati. Life was good and I had big dreams. I took a trip to China to go into manufacturing. I had a head full of ideas, not sure if any of them would pan out.

While in China I visited 11 cities in 21 days and and met a variety of factory owners and businessmen. It was at late night meeting in a small hotel room in Baoding (87 miles from Beijing) where my version of tricky wallet was born. Don't remember the guys name, but his primary business was in leather goods. He showed me a bunch of samples and I studied the quality of materials and craftsmanship, paying close attention to the stitching and lining.

I had an antique Tricky Wallet with me that I showed him. He examined it completely and I asked him if he could make one to my specifications (to hold a poker size card). He said he could and I asked him when I could see a sample. It was pushing 2AM and to my surprise he said that I could see a sample at 8:30AM. My guess is, that he stayed up all night messing with the thing till he got it right.

In the morning he showed me a working sample. A bit rough around the edges with some issues in color contrast of the ribbons and some cosmetic issues. A day later I came back and approved the order for 1000 wallets. They would be ready by the end of my trip and I would take them back with me on the flip side.

After getting back to the States and setting up the T. Frank Mint which included The Phoenix Cups, I got busy working on a video to sell the with wallet, teaching a trick that used the wallet in a diabolical way and was a favorite of mine for years. It was a variation of a variation. The original effect was Alex Elmsly's "Between Your Palms". The variation of the effect that was my inspiration, was a trick out of Kabbala called "Between Elmsly, Brown & Himber". It used a Himber Notebook (with out the paper) and the card was placed behind a plastic window.

A funny thing happened around that time, all of a sudden the TV airwaves were full of commercials selling the Tricky Wallet. It was designed to hold money and receipts and was the width of a credit card making it good to carry those as well. What I thought of as a niche market, trick for magicians; someone else saw a mass market opportunity and probably made millions. Good lesson on short sightedness

Over the years, I sold 600 of them. I've moved many times since then. While cleaning out the garage I uncovered, in a box marked 3/4 inch masters the remaining 400 Tricky Wallets!

I looked at the tape I used to sell with it and thought it looked pretty dated. Time to shoot a new one and make available again, a pretty nifty routine, if I do say so myself. I've talked to Alfonso, Aaron Fisher and Danny Sylvester about the project and gotten feedback from them all. I started shooting some roughs at home by myself but realize I'm going to need help shooting it. Also not so happy with the live performances of the trick that I have from the Magic Castle. The video is good but the audio is crap. Put together a rough cut trailer from the footage I've been shooting. Gives me an idea of what it might look like.


Stinky Mouse said...

Hey Tom,
Cool story, haven't had time to watch the videos yet, but enjoyed hearing about your experience in Baoding. That's where my son Kai is from. I've been there a couple times.
-Scott Ocheltree

tommEE said...


I love the effect and I cannot wait to see you again. You are truly one of my inspirations.

Tom said...

awwwwww schucks. . . .