I’ve been watching the feeding frenzy that found expression in eBay auctions wherein sellers are offering up copies of the Max Maven book, “The Protocols of the Elders of Magic,” at prices ranging from the truly sublime, to the truly — and I mean truly — fantastic.

After tabulating the results, I find that the “Grand Prize” (such as it is) goes to Internet magic shop owner and “Cheating at Hold’em” author, David Malek, who handily sold five copies at twice the original price:

November 30, 2005 $100
December 1, 2005 $100
December 1, 2005 $100
December 1, 2005 $100
December 2, 2005 $100

Now, there are those who might suggest Malek is “just doing good business” — buy low, sell high, the American Way. And what do I know? Maybe the buyers are perfectly happy with the $100 they each spent on the book. I hear people are initially and literally ecstatic with some of the purchases they make in Pahrump, NV, too.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum we find eBay ID “a.messenger” who sold a copy at a “Buy It Now” price of just $60. (Apparently this seller didn’t attend the same business school as did Malek.)

The Most Amusing award goes to Brian Glicker and his auction with a “Buy It Now” price of $150. He apparently wasn’t convinced by my answer to his wondering regarding what’d he’d bought.

Q: Don’t bragging rights count for anything any more?
A: Yes. Apparently they go for about $150 these days.

Clearly, the Most Ambitious award goes to “New York Comedy Stage Hypnotist” Sebastion Black for attempting a drive-by “Buy It Now” of $355. A subsequent auction yielded $136.26 from one of my favorite members of the mystery entertainment community.

While not an auction, I want to mention fellow guitar picker Jon Elion, who sold his copy of “The Protocols of the Elders of Magic” for precisely what he paid: $50

Interestingly enough, I’m still getting the occasional email accusing me of all sorts of un-American Way things because of publicly noting my opinion of some people purchasing multiple copies of the book to resell. If these people won’t read the plain language I’ve already used to describe what I meant, I’m not going to spend additional valuable time restating it using only one- and two-syllable words. “Do what thou wilt” is the hole of the law, that’s for sure.

My copy is on my bookshelf. It’s another of my talisman books, a concept I’ll explain some day soon.

12 thoughts on “The Protocols of Selling the Protocols Book

  1. Almost all of us would feel uncomfortable about “making a profit” from close friends or family. If we saw something unique which we knew a friend or family member really wanted we would be much more likely to tell them about it (or buy it and sell it on to them at the same price) than we would be to try to profit from them.

    Perhaps those choosing to profit from Protocols don’t feel the same closeness or sense of community with other magicians than you do John?


  2. Well, I’m still not going to come out and judge anyone particular person for their actions. I’ve so far described a situation I disagreed with and if any one particular person fits that description, well, if the glass slipper fits and all of that.

    That said, I think you covered it nicely, Ian.

  3. He was definitely one who knew how to “work the crowd” that’s for sure. I’m not sure who pulled it off better, Crowley or Doc Shiels. If Pagey ever buys a Sheils house we’ll have a dead heat.

  4. Mr. LeBlanc,
    I’m curious to find out how you feel about the sellers of the commodity (The Protocols) and their willingness to sell more than one unit per individual? It would seem that in order for the buyers to take unfair advantage of the situation (by purchasing more than one unit and then selling them / auctioning them at a mark up over the original retail price) they would need to be aided by the suppliers. Do you agree?

    Tony Tuccillo
    Sebastian, Florida

  5. “Commodity”? I’d say you may need to look up the definition of that word, Tony. This was not a commodity; it was a very limited edition book. “Limited” even by magic’s definition.

    Tony, I spoke with Stephen a week ago and he allowed that they could have put a limit to the orders — but that would have required that he believe they would sell out before the book was shipped. And that was not the case.

    Apparently, some people felt otherwise and purchased additional copies as speculative purchases.

    But to get to the point I believe you were making, no I do not assign any responsibility at all to Hermetic Press for the predatory actions of other people. Don’t be absurd.

    That’s like blaming Smith & Wesson because some idiot put a bullet in the heart of some innocent person. Let’s assign blame where blame belongs, not attempt to share it to molify someone’s guilty concience.

  6. Mr. LeBlanc,

    You are correct; commodity was a poor word choice. Originally I didn’t refer to the book as a commodity, but changed it at the last minute. Your choice of the word ‘predatory’ is accurate and fitting for the situation.

    I’ve been struggling with this issue somewhat, as it has been pointed out the practice is perfectly legal, but suggests a lack of ethics. I agree with your bullet / crime analogy, although gun manufacturers and dealers do have a minimum legal obligation in terms of sales practices. True they have no control or obligation (legal or moral) in what an individual does with their product after the purchase, but they are obligated to minimize the risks.

    Therefore, I don’t believe I’m being absurd in asking whether the publisher / distributor have some obligation to ensure they’re not selling to ‘predators’?

    Their marketing method was intending to create hype and speculation regarding the book’s content, which would lead to internet ‘talk’ and ultimately a sell out. Since Mr. Minch is not a novice in publishing for the magic community, didn’t he anticipate predators would buy multiple copies for resale / profit? And isn’t the point of this topic that as many people as possible (at a minimum 500) should have access to this information by paying the retail price from the publisher?

    So I’m not sure why Hermetic Press needed to be sure the book would sell out prior to publication before assigning a limit of purchases per individual. There must have been some level of confidence it would sell out, if not prior to publication, then certainly shortly thereafter.

    That said, I’m not in the publishing business and have never operated my own business. It was not my intent to assign blame to Mr. Minch for the actions of others. The question was only meant to suggest the publisher may have instituted safeguards that would have prevented or minimized multiple purchases for profit.

    Perhaps they did consider it but realized it wasn’t prudent or realistic. It’s a shame they would need to consider such actions in the first place, but such is the nature of our species (or some members of our species).

    I enjoy reading your observations and opinions via your blog and your posts on other discussion boards and love your passion for the art.

    Tony Tuccillo
    Sebastian, Florida

  7. So I’m not sure why Hermetic Press needed to be sure the book would sell out prior to publication before assigning a limit of purchases per individual. There must have been some level of confidence it would sell out, if not prior to publication, then certainly shortly thereafter.

    I specifically asked Stephen, and he was clear on his answer: he did not expect the book to sell out prior to shipping. I don’t believe a Color Series situation even crossed his mind.

    I find Minch to be a very nice fellow — decent guy, does not drip guile like some other magic business people with whom I’ve come across. I have no reason to disbelieve what he told me.

    I do suspect, however, that he may consider the results of this episode in future sales of limited production books of this type.

    Finally, I want you to know I appreciate you taking the time to leave your comments, Tony. You’ve been thoughtful and obviously gave this some consideration. I’m glad you left your thoughts in this thread. Thanks.

  8. I collect magic books. I have never sold a magic book before. I had no intention of selling Protocols when I bought it. When I saw it and read it I realized that this was to magic books what pizza is to Thai food – Completely irrelevant. To ay I was disappointed is an understatement. I expected better. That is the reason I sold it, and I’m happy that I did. I love Max’s works, I have all of them and wouldn’t think of selling. This was not a book written by Max, he was merely the editor. The book was not worth $50, let alone the $150 I sold it for.

  9. Well, Brian, Jeremy didn’t feel the book had a place in his library either, so he sold it. Better the two of you let the book go to someone who wanted it than not.

  10. Max seems to have gotten what he wanted from the book. The book contained roughly 5000 words in total. To date, I’d guess that nearly 3 million words have been generated as a result of the book.

    I too, was disappointed. I expected much better of Max. My copy never made it to my shelf.

  11. Somebody asked why I went out of my way to have a copy of the book, given it’s nature.

    The questions about magic and its market(ing) are of interest to me. Sure, what we used to call magic in the storybooks is now relegated to the stories, but there is still much to be said for our craft.

    I considered it an admission ticket to a larger discussion and a statement of my willingness to invest in our future.

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