Monday, December 12, 2016

The Roterberg Stock Card

As the curator of the now-defunct website, it was a privilege to further the study of throwout cards through the aggregation of information from a number of generous and knowledgeable magic collectors and historians.  Through an iterative process, we were able to assemble an interesting history of the Roterberg stock throwing card, which began with curiosity over a beautiful card back.  I wanted to share that here:

Ken Klosterman sent me this charming, elegant piece, circa 1927, featuring Clarence Rothschild, a little-known, California-based performer and dealer.   The face is mostly text with a small period graphic.  More interesting is the back, pictured below, showcasing a plethora of magical images, including skulls and renderings of vintage magic equipment.  

The very same day I received the Rothschild card, Scott Morley asked me about a blank throwing card he had in his collection, bearing this same back.  Scott has been able to trace his blank card to a listing in a August Roterberg magic catalog, as seen below:

It thus appears that Rothschild used a stock throwing card, available from Roterberg, overprinted with information about him and his act.   We even know the cost of the stock -- $2.50 per 1,000.   This was the first use of a stock throwing card that I'd been able to identify.

Enter Jay Hunter, throwing card collector extraordinaire, who has assembled a collection of hundreds of throwing cards.   Jay scoured his collection in search for other examples of the Roterberg stock card.  Amazingly, in addition to Rothschild, he found ten:

1. Millo the Mystic

2. Adolphe Blind

3. Earl A. Lockman

4. Eddie Bass

5. Phil Dalee

6. Troseth.

7. Alvin Gentil

8. Loring Campbell

9. Patricola

10. Oran Dent

Having uncovered all of these examples of Roterberg stock throwing cards, Jay provided another remarkable service for magic history.    At the 2007 Magi-Fest in Columbus, Ohio, he sought out Ohio magician Oran Dent, and put him in contact with us.   Oran kindly provided a copy of his Roterberg card, pictured above, and related the following history of its manufacture:

"I think my use of this back design dates to the early 1970's, when I lived in Cincinnati. I think I simply copied the design from a blank face stock card that I had on hand, and which I found today, still in my accumulation of interesting bits and pieces. The back is very striking, I thought at the time, and very magical, and I still agree with these observations! Ron Maifeld, who was active in magic circles in Cincinnati at that time, worked for the Post Office and had a small printing business on the side that he ran from his basement. He handled the printing for me, but I don't know whether he did it himself or farmed out the job. As far as I know, Ron is still in Cincinnati, but I haven't seen him in quite a while. I don't remember how many were printed or what they cost, but now I just have a few remaining and I'm sure that Ron charged me a very reasonable amount for the work. I know I didn't give out all that I had--they were discarded along the way. At the time of printing, I had developed a club act using all jumbo cards and was trying to market it locally. I did some targeted direct mailing, and I even had a nice mention in one of the popular columns in a Cincinnati newspaper. Would you believe, not a single booking emerged from this! After a while, I went on to other approaches in my magic, although I'm still partial to jumbo cards, even after all these years."

Many thanks to Ken, Scott, Jay and Oran for their help with documenting this interesting bit of magic history.

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