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Since the very first shell was placed over a pebble, man has been performing one rendition or another of a Cups and Balls routine. The Rosellini/ Wilkinson drawing (left), sketched from a mural in the tomb of Baqt III at Beni Hassan - circa 2500 B.C., is a representation of what is commonly regarded as the first depiction of a conjuring feat.  Not just the first rendition of the Cups and Balls...the first depiction of ANY trick.

Did the cavemen perform his manipulation?  Probably not, but think about this for a moment.  How advanced did man have to be top put a shell of some kind on top of a pebble and then, to the amazement of his or her child, make that pebble disappear?  How long did it take a fairly dexterous member of a Pharaoh's court to "master" a routine using multiple cups and balls (and perhaps a large piece of fruit for the finale), and therefore gather additional favor and trust from his king?  Probably not at all...and for good reasons.  No fancy gimmicks or gadgetry are needed.  All the magician needs is a good imagination, the ability to "weave" a routine into a story and the skills that come from practice.

In Egypt and India the cup-and-ball performers knelt on the ground; in Turkey they conjured on a carpet in the open air; in Greece and Rome they preferred to work standing behind a table.  Seneca the Younger, who was born in Spain in 3 B.C., said the bewildering sleights were similar tot he tricks of speech used by orators.  Both were "pleasing descriptions, harmless to those who do not know them, and without interest to those who do."

 The Cups and Balls has been described by Tommy Wonder, the the forward for Michael Ammar's The Complete Cups and Balls, in this way: "What a beautiful premise.  A trick which truly represents the roots of our art, and is capable of infinite variation."  Inspired by the endless possibilities, magicians such as: Charlie Miller, Ross Bertman, Max Malini, Dai Vernon, Paul Gertner, Cellini and Mike Ammar have become synonymous with Cups and Balls mastery.
The history and importance of the Cups and Balls as an illusion is undeniable.  So, too, is the history and importance associated with collecting these "tools of the trade".  Because the trick dates back to the beginning of prestidigitation, sets of Cups and Balls are notoriously among the most prized possessions of collectors.  When we asked Ken Klosterman, one of the world's preeminent collectors of magic paraphernalia and (among other accomplishments) a past president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, to join the T. Frank Mint in a consulting capacity, we knew he would be able to provide invaluable insight into what collectors are looking for.

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