I never thought that I would perform magic using a conventional change bag-a well known and rather infamous magic prop that switches items. However, Paul Gallagher's Miracles From the Sock Drawer DVD explained an excellent change-bag-based routine that is great for young children. I recently purchased a change bag and have been performing the routine, but my change bag is less than optimal. If you're shopping for a change bag, here are things to consider.
Suspicious Magic Prop
To start, I never thought that I would use a change bag in any of my shows-even those for young kids. For one thing, a change bag screams "magic prop." The magician brings out a bag of sorts that's hanging from a stick and resembles nothing that spectators have seen before. And the device's typical bright colors, fringe and tassles only add to its appearance as a gimmicked prop that's only found in magic stores. I can recall as a kid watching a magic show at my school and wondering about the odd-looking device the magician brought out.
(I've heard that a change bag is based on a device that was once used in churches to collect money, the way that plates are used today. But I've never been able to verify this.)
Another reason why change bags have never appealed to me is because they're often used by poor entertainers who present equally poor effects. I've never wanted to be associated with such things.
Miracle with Wands and Silks
That said, I was intrigued by Paul Gallaghers silk and wand routine that was explained on his Miracles From the Sock Drawer DVD. In the routine, two kids are brought up and they wave wands to produce silks of different colors, change the colors of their silks and then make them disappear-all of which is accomplished with a conventional change bag.
The routine is colorful and offers lots of opportunity to interact with spectators. I felt that the routine would play well to young audiences, those five and under, and after performing the trick several times, I'm pleased with the results.
The best piece of advice that I can offer when purchasing a change bag is to go to your local magic dealer and handle and evaluate the prop before you purchase it. I drove into Hollywood and purchased mine from Hollywood Magic. The store offered several versions to try out.
Change bags come in different versions. The two basic styles are determined by the switching mechanism. One relies on a tiny lever that you flick with your finger. The second requires you to twist the handle to facilitate the change.
I found the lever type to be easier to use. But the device featured a clumsy looking wooden frame that I found unattractive. The handle-based device, on the other hand, offered a cleaner look that I was drawn to. I recommend that you try both to see which one feels more comfortable in your hands and that you can most easily operate.
Zip it Good
After settling on a handle-based change bag because of the look, I then had to decide between zippered and non-zippered versions. Some change bags offer zippers in the bottom of the cloth bag that may be unzipped. This way, you can shove your hand through the unzipped opening to seemingly prove that the bag is truly empty.
The zippered version was more expensive, but I figured that it would be nice to have the option should I want to use it. After opting for the higher-priced zippered bag, it wasn't until I got home to develop the routine that I realized that the zipper was an inexpensive one. I'm afraid that if I regularly use the zipper, it will eventually jam and render my change bag useless.
Since I don't use the bag's zipper, it looks suspicious at the bottom of the bag-as if there's a secret compartment that is somehow accessed through the zipper. And those who reach into the bag to verify that nothing is there can feel it-raising further speculation.
I'm not concerned about the zipper because I only perform the change bag routine during an occasional young kids show. But I would be very concerned if I were performing this trick for older kids. Thus, if you decide to purchase a change bag with a zipper, be sure that the zipper looks like a good one that won't jam on you.
When purchasing a change bag, there's nothing better than a good local dealer that will let you handle them before you lay down your hard earned cash. I would not want to purchase such a device without first trying it out.
-Wayne N. Kawamoto