by Herb Scher
There I was roaming around Cartersville, Georgia, poking into Main Street shops on a sunny Saturday. I was in town for my nephew’s wedding and we had a little extra time after a breakfast thrown by relatives of the bride. In my fantasy world of hunting for vintage items it’s these small, lost-in-time towns where the treasures lie. Many times I’ve imagined wandering into some dusty old shop and finding the magic items of my dreams.
But these scenarios hardly ever come true. First of all most of these places aren't so lost-in-time. And, in my experience it’s extremely rare to find magic items in random thrift stores, for example. More likely you’ll find mismatched sets of drinking glasses and out-of-date cookbooks.
I didn’t even really have magic on the mind at all when I wandered into the Creative Tag Estate Sales Shop. There seemed to be random bric-a-brac all over the place. There was stuff on the floor, stuff on the counters, and stuff in Tupperware tubs. One feature that stood out immediately was a huge wall of wooden cubby holes that stretched from floor to ceiling for about forty-five feet with a tall ladder that would move along the length of the wall on a metal track. There was also a massive antique cash register sitting in a recess in the shelving area. The expansive shop had previously housed a hardware store that had been run by four generations of the same family.
After about an hour of shooting up there, I finally pulled myself away and wandered back downstairs. It was time to head back to the agenda of the weekend. On the way out, I stopped to say a brief hello across a counter to the store’s proprietor, who hadn’t been around when I arrived earlier. As I greeted her, I looked down and there I saw something that caught me by surprise. Directly in front of me was a card box, specifically a box of blue Steamboats. I spotted one of the old blue tax stamps, putting the box immediately into the realm of an earlier era.
Despite my excitement over spotting a box of Steamboats, I have learned that things aren’t always what you hope. I was sure I would find splits in the seams of the box or a deck with missing cards. I pulled out the deck and counted. See, only 48 cards were there. But when I looked at the cards I noticed something unusual. This was a Steamboat Svengali deck, cards specifically designed to produce magic. And 48 was the number of cards with which Svengalis were usually prepared. And the box was entirely intact (I did ask but I wasn't able to find out anything about how the deck got to the shop in the first place).
So, despite my doubts, there it was, one of the best random magic-related finds I’ve come across. In the scheme of things this is a rather minor acquisition. It’s not like finding dozens of decks or a trunk full of magic apparatus or a library-full of old books. But in terms of the picture-perfect fulfillment of the fantasy of a lover of vintage magic items, this was as good as it gets.
The Steamboats are currently for sale on ebay.