08 September 2008

Cards as Weapons by Ricky Jay

"Put a Deck of Cards in Your Pocket, Put a Feeling of Confidence in Your Life."

Ricky Jay. CARDS AS WEAPONS. Darien House, NY 1977.

ISBN 0446387568 (paperback) 0882010174 (hardback)

Current Prices
$200-$900 /£110-£500

Amusing and useful illustrated book showing how to throw playing cards better - subtitled "A Treatise on the art of throwing, scaling, juggling, boomeranging and manipulating ordinary playing cards with particular emphasis on impressing one's friends and providing a deadly yet inexpensive means of self-defence". The book, a perennial Ebay special and Library sale 'sleeper', is now being seen as a self help book that 'changes lives' - several comments at Amazon, not entirely tongue in cheek, attest to this. Apparently people take up card throwing in the way they used to take up tap dancing or juggling -to get out of a rut. Jay is something of a media star (MTV etc.,) and the book is much wanted. It is not especially elusive although it's hard to find a sharp copy as it is a thin large format paperback. It reveals secrets that some magicians feel should not have been revealed; as a manual it has been used by blokes like Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau, and Stephen Chow in their Asian gambling films.

VALUE? Copies show up a bit creased at around $200 and twice that for fine copies. Signed should show up as Jay is pretty approachable and was often seen at book fairs etc., being a serious book collector. God bless him. Magicians are often pretty serious book collectors - at one time one heard quite a bit about the highly acquisitive David Copperfield and his awesome collection. It is worth noting that there is also a hardback of the book that is much prized and dealers (who are not mad) sometimes ask $1000 or more for it, although a cautious punter could probably pick one up in the $600 to $800 range - in a jacket.

When the book came out some shops insisted that it was obscene because Ricky's assistant was naked as a Jay bird (okay, okay) and it got sold under the counter or even returned by bible bashers. 30 years later this persists - e.g. this ad on the web right now:
'A humorous and entertaining book. Even has a few pictures of a totally nude gal throwing cards. Due to this, you must be 18, or older, to purchase this book. Should you wish to practice your scaling, this offering comes with a 10 aluminum playing cards - made from a sheet of metal. Softback. $275.00
OUTLOOK. Ricky Jay, for some reason, will not allow the book to be reprinted. Only lousy copies drop beneath $100 (there is one on AMZ at present 'good only, with an "S" shaped bend to it' for $95.) Signed copies are becoming difficult -- only one is available right now, and in paperback, at $480 (signed 'The meagre efforts of a callow youth., Ricky Jay'.) The hardback seems to be showing up more and generally copies are coming home to roost a little. Unless someone finds an abandoned pallet full of them it should hold its value but is unlikely to ascend in price.
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