We get many emails from customers from the 70s, 80s and 90s reminiscing about the time they received their joke and magic parcels through the post as kids. To celebrate 40 years in the business we have created a little overview of our history.
Do you remember Jokers Corner, Matchrite the Funny Business, Joke Shop by Post, Cheques, Postal Orders, X-Ray Specs, Sea Monkey, Richard the Turd and please allow 28 day for delivery? Read on…
Early 1970s – the beginning
My name is Andrew Mulcahy, in the early 1970s a friend lent me a book called ‘The Lazy Mans Way to Riches’ by Jo Karbo. At the time I was running a Denture Repair laboratory and was looking for a side line to fill in the quiet times. Jo Karbos book showed me the benefits running a mail order business and also to look for ways to find demand and meet it.
After reading the book, I was at a night club with a group of lads, all watching the girls but everyone was too shy to go up and ask them for a dance. This is where Jo Karbos ideas kicked in, why not write a book on how to get 100 Girlfriends and sell it by mail order I thought? I aimed it at teenage boys advertising in pop magazines (Sounds, Melody Maker) and Match football magazine. Soon, national newspapers including The People and News of the World ran full page stories about my book and sales really took off.
Mid 1970s – A Joke Shop is born
Back to Jo Karbos book, what else could I sell that boys like and I could put in with every book sent out? One day I passed a Joke Shop which also did wholesale (Bristol Novelty Ltd). There was my answer, put a list of practical jokes in with every book! I pulled together a list of stink bombs, joke teeth etc and called the first list ‘Be a Hit with Your Friends’. Orders started to trickle in and I put together a second list with even more practical jokes including ‘saucy jokes’ for older kids. I renamed the list Jokers Corner and the book ran under Matchrite publications. The kids wrote out cheques and postal orders to Matchrite, this was 1974.
Late 1970s – A Joke Shop grows
Jokers Corner started to grow and grow as book sales started to fall away so I started to advertise in popular comics, pop and football magazines. I would offer a free catalogue which I sent out with a free gift, normally a packet of sneezing or itching powder. I was now getting 1000 catalogues printed every month with new pages for pop and football novelties. Magic tricks and party novelties were also added to the range as the business grew. At this point I had a staff of 10 working for me and we were sending out thousands of catalogues every month.
Early 1980s – We are the biggest!
In 1980 The No.1 Joke Shop Company was Ellisdon based at 246 High Holborn, London WC1. They were established in 1897 and had the mail order joke market to themselves. I soon overtook them and when they went into liquidation I purchased their entire mailing list with thousands of customer names. Jokers Corner was now the biggest joke company in the country with adverts in comics and magazines including Roy of the Rovers, Buster, Wizzer & Chips, Free Stuff for Kids, BMX, Marvel Comics, Early Times, Exchange & Mart, IPC Holiday Special, Kerrang, Smash Hits, Sounds, Melody Maker. For saucy jokes we also advertised in the Sun, the Star, News of the World and Private Eye. Where did you see us?
Early 1980s – Joke Shop by Post is born
To keep on top I made an appointment with Dobinson Larner, Design Consultants from Bath. I thought the business needed refreshing so I turned to the experts for advice. This was 1982. They looked at the whole business and came back with the following:
The name Jokers Corner reflects only a small area of the Jokes and Magic market. Corner also restricts in terms of size and space.
Matchrite publications has been associated with the business for some time and the name they came up with was MATCHRITE the funny business.
Jokers Corner changed to Joke Shop by Post with a sub heading ‘The Bargain Place for Lots of Fun’.
The tick box system was replaced with a separate order form.
All this helped increase sales even more and at Halloween, April Fools and Christmas time we were receiving 1000 orders per week, sometimes working through the night to get them out the door.
Mid 1980s – Joke Shop Sales Peak
Throughout 1980s we grew bigger. Even Jeremy Beadle, the famous TV prankster, got in touch. After several meetings we helped him create a video, ‘Jeremy Beadles guide to Practical Joking’.
Annual sales peaked in 1986 with total orders of 55,565. The Joke Club I started now had 10,000 members and we started selling Agent Kits where kids sold our jokes in school for commission. Were you a Matchrite agent?
Do you still have the badge?
1990s – Magic by Post is born
During the 1990s after sending out over 1 million catalogues, the joke market started to decline, children were now spending time and money on computer games. We had always sold a small selection of magic tricks and as our customer base matured we found that magic sales were increasing as joke sales fell away.
Excited by this change, we increased our magic collection 10 fold and started a separate catalogue called Magic by Post. Our adverts now appeared in, Exchange & Mart, Mail on Sunday, Times, Express and The Telegraph, Abracadabra and other specialist magazines.
We were now getting older more affluent customers (our average customer age is 45) and although orders were now in the 100s per month, the value of them was 10 times the Joke market.
Throughout the 1990s we reviewed 1000s of magic tricks and refined our magic collection by working with amazing talented young magicians like Jay Fortune and experienced legends like Desmond George. I also started to learn the art myself and my magic skills grew with my collection! Even my dental laboratory came in handy and we started to manufacture a small number of tricks ourselves.
Magic by Post was now introducing magic to youngsters, working with amateurs and hobbyists as well as supplying professional magicians, theatres and TV.
In the nineties we were an early advocate of the web and we became one of the first magic shops (if not the first) to have a website, even if it was only a one page placeholder advertising our catalogue!
2000s – MagicbyPost.co.uk is born
As printing and postal costs increased dramatically, the web was getting more popular. Working with my son and a number of experts we invested in a significant upgrade to our site and orders shifted online. Sadly, the postal catalogue was now in decline.
Today – Magic all around the world
As we reach 40 years of trading, I still run the same dental laboratory in Bristol. The Joke and Magic shop is still based in custom built building behind the lab and my staff and I continue to review and manufacture magic tricks.
We no longer send out magic or joke catalogues but the money saved on printing and postage is invested in the latest web technology and lower magic prices. There is still a Joke Section on our site with all the old favourites. Many of our old customers from the 1980s and 1990s are buying jokes for their kids (or so they tell us!).
We now sell to magicians all around the world but the UK remains our home and main market.
A big thank you for your custom throughout the decades. We are a small independent family run business. Your money goes to real individual people and not faceless multinational companies.