Cards as Weapons, by Ricky Jay

Bookride, a blog about the collectable book trade, has a post about magician/magician historian/actor Ricky Jay's long out-of-print but highly-sought-after book, Cards as Weapons.
200809091248.jpg 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.


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.

Cards as Weapons by Ricky Jay



  1. Not sure of policies on talking about this sort of thing but last I looked you could find copies of this rarity on torrent sites.

  2. Holy crap! A guy at work left without clearing his desk a year ago, and I snagged this because it looked fun.


  3. I’ve always been puzzled by the lack of a reprint. I wonder if Jay is not proud of the book and he hopes it will just disappear, or if he just enjoys the books reputation as one of the most valued possession of hobbyists such as myself. I’d never sell my copy, but I’ve always wanted to be able to buy copies for friends.
    Hopefully he will someday change his mind, or better; he’ll write a new one.

  4. @ DOC POP

    I’d bet that he revealed some tricks of the trade that other magicians felt he shouldn’t have.

  5. Hmmmm, I think I have a scan of this I picked up from OiNK in my ‘ebooks I’ve never read’ folder (along with the shuttle manual, and all of Uncle Fester’s works among others. God, I hope I never get busted & they check my HD).

    OT, but does anyone know what’s happened to Hack-A-Day? It seems to have disappeared.

  6. I have a copy. It was a gift from an ex. It’s actually signed as well.

    I’d NEVER sell it, too much of a Ricky Jay fan to do so. The patter and style of the book is wonderful. If you’ve never seen his act live and get the chance, DO SO.

    Here is the man and his weapons at work.

  7. I have the hardback edition. I bought it for $30 a couple years ago. They’re around offline if you look.

  8. Has anybody ever seen his HBO special, Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants? I’m surprised that was never released anywhere. Just him and a deck of cards for an hour, it was amazing.

  9. Wow, I have a copy in not at all bad condition, but no way am I selling it either.

    I didn’t know 52 Assistants was ever filmed. Jack Womack once sent me into paroxysms of envy by recounting how he’d seen a live performance from the front row (at the time, I was waiting pathetically for the third time in the returns line; since you have to see his hands, Jay performs this show to extremely small audiences).

  10. Okay, I have to chime in here. I worked for Ricky a few years ago while he was doing “On The Stem”, his follow-up one man show to “52 Assistants”. All I can say is that he’s a towering genius but also very stubborn. I can’t remember if there was a legal issue or not regarding the reprinting of “Cards As Weapons”, but I can assure you it isn’t because he gives a shit about the collectors. I think that quote above – ‘The meagre efforts of a callow youth.’ – says a lot. He’s a fascinating guy. That “magic” shows have been ghettoized for years as children’s entertainment, or something done by cheesy guys in shiny tuxedoes with sequined tart assistants, drove him nuts, and he was constantly battling against that image, trying to restore the bygone glories of Robert-Houdin and Matthew Buchinger. One of the things that was a constant source of irritation to the audience members was that no one under sixteen was allowed into the show. The sign in the box office alluded to “adult content” or something, but in fact there was nothing in the show that wasn’t suitable for the whole family. It was merely the fact that Ricky takes his craft seriously, and considers what he does sophisticated entertainment for adults. Anyhow, check out “Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women”, which has one of the greatest prologues of all time (seriously), and his collection “Jay’s Journal of Anomalies”. Both incredibly rich works to explore.

  11. …A magician buddy of mine says that according to the scuttlebutt, Jay got his shit jumped by a lot of fellow card tricks for giving away their secrets, and apparently agreed to not reprint the book. I can respect the Magicians’ Code and all that, but when someone price gouges a book like that…well, the only thing I can say is more power to the scanners and may that book wind up on alt.binaries.ebooks or on a torrent :-P

  12. I have vague memories of seeing 52 Assistants on HBO years and and years ago, when I was a kid. I was mesmerized, by both the patter and the tricks. I occasionally try to hunt down a copy via the magic of the internets, but ‘no joy.’

  13. Fun book. Picked up a paperback copy about eight years ago at a yard sale in New Jersey for two bucks. Had no idea that it was valued by the collector’s market at the time.

  14. Figures. I had a signed hardback edition, and gave it away with crates and crates of books that had piled up a few years ago.

  15. There ARE reprints of ‘Cards as Weapons’! I run an magic shop on Ebay and my wholesaler, which is the source for most retail magic, was selling them for months. They were also available at and a few other sources.

    I was in the middle of composing an email to with an ‘I-told-you’ hyperlink to Mark when I realized it had been taken off the site. There may have been lawyers involved. Anyway there are absolutely reprints out there. Someone must have picked one up.

    Check out this clip from ‘Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants’ Some old school SW Erdnase stuff:

  16. 52 Assistants aired once on HBO and copies are still floating around the Internets. Keep searching.

    #18 …A magician buddy of mine says that according to the scuttlebutt, Jay got his shit jumped by a lot of fellow card tricks for giving away their secrets, and apparently agreed to not reprint the book.

    Hogwash. Cards as Weapons is doesn’t reveal anything any magician would get worked up about.

    The answer’s much simpler. As #14 Chet points out, Ricky’s an old-school magic genius, but a stubborn one.

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