You know how much I love antique square corner no indices playing cards, so you can imagine how excited I was to find these antique magic trick cards! Even cooler to learn about the fascinating life of "Professor" Robert Heller (born William Henry Palmer; 1826–1878) the English magician, mentalist and musician who devised these (more about him below)--and to find no other sets of these trick cards anywhere out there, at least that I can see. When properly arranged they indeed pass perfectly for actual 8s and 2s, but I personally love the fact that they are now entirely archaic unless one happens to have a 19th c. deck to insert them into!
About Heller: The son of a famous concert pianist, began his life as a musician studying at the Royal Academy of Music. After becoming fascinated with magic at age 14, Heller began copying his idol Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, from whom he adopted his first name, and left his scholarship at the academy to become a professional magician.His magic career began inauspiciously in New York City in 1858--his act, for which he wore a dark wig and spoke in a French accent, was such a great failure that he moved to Washington, D.C. to become a music teacher.A few years later, after marrying a wealthy student, he returned to magic act again, focusing on the presentation of illusions--like this card trick--that he had devised. This time his tour (1869 to 1875) was a great success, taking him throughout much of the United States,Great Britain, Europe, and Asia, after which he retired.
The cards measure 3 5/8" x 2 3/4" and are show some use--I think it's so much fun to picture these being performed with!--but are in overall very good antique condition. They fit into their original envelop, which is a bit worn on the flap side but still holding together well. There are two different backs, which would have matched popular decks of the time, allowing the trick to be performed with different decks. I believe the fronts were hand-printed--the color is lush but a little uneven, and with a little bleeding around the edges.