NEMCA: An Overview

The New England Magic Collectors Association (NEMCA) began in 1980 when Ray Goulet, Jerry Fields, Bob Schoof and Ed Hill, all enthusiastic collectors of conjuring memorabilia, were conversing about their latest acquisitions. They proposed getting together periodically to continue talking about their mutual interest, and envisioned inviting other collectors to participate in what would be friendly exchanges of information about magic history and collectibles.

The first meeting of the fledgeling organization was held at Ray Goulet’s Magic Art Studio in Watertown, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, on November 21, 1980. H. Adrian Smith, whose  monumental collection now resides at Brown University, was installed as NEMCA’s first President. One of the club’s 30 Charter Members was Walter Gibson, the legendary magician, author, novelist and creator of The Shadow.

Initially, most members resided in New England. Today, because the organization has grown during its 38 year existence, members hail not only from New England, but from throughout the United States and Europe. Members are of all ages, from all walks of life and are respected members of their communities. Some have encyclopedic collections reflecting their wide-ranging interests, others prefer to focus on a particular area such as posters, books, apparatus, periodicals or playing cards. NEMCA meets at least three times a year, and one must be 18 years or older with a genuine interest in magic collecting to apply for membership status. 

In 2017, NEMCA became a 501(c)(3) non-profit association. Since its inception, its purpose has steadfastly remained the education and promotion of interest in the collecting of books, memorabilia, history, and apparatus relating to magic and the allied arts; the preservation of the history and knowledge of the theater arts; and the sharing of knowledge and expertise in the collection and preservation of magic apparatus and literature.

The Yankee Gathering: Essential to achieving that purpose, the New England Magic Collectors Association hosts the biennial Yankee Gathering, widely considered one of the premier magic collectors conventions, in November of even-numbered years. The Yankee Gathering offers a unique opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and to enjoy the camaraderie of this “collection of collectors.”

In 1986, the first Yankee Gathering convened at the Hawthorne Hotel in historic Salem, Massachusetts. It was a sold-out affair. The success of what was truly a venture into unknown territory paved the way for future Yankee Gatherings, with the next, the seventeenth, scheduled for November, 2018. 

Past Yankee Gatherings have honored numerous luminaries in the world of magic history, preservation, and collecting such as Dr. Robert Albo, Ray and Ann Goulet, John Gaughan, Norm and Lupe Nielsen among others.

Over the years, these three-day events have included a list of presenters that is a veritable Who’s Who of experts on magic lore and collecting. The evening shows have featured historical reenactments and performances with strong classical elements. The Dealer Room includes purveyors of choice collectibles, while the Exhibition Room displays outstanding examples of rare artifacts from magic’s storied past, often those used by legendary practitioners of the art.

The Yankee Magic Collector is the official journal of the association. Each issue contains a broad range of articles, news and research of interest to magic collectors and historians. The Yankee Magic Collector is published every two years for distribution at the Yankee Gathering and is free to NEMCA members.