Tarbell or Wilson?

What's up everyone

I haven't ever posted one of those "which is better" threads and I know how they usually go but I want to ask YOUR opinion on some products I am interested in getting. No, I'm not asking if I should use bikes or tally ho's . . . I am considering getting either Mark Wilson's Complete Course in Magic or the original Tarbell lessons in magic. Now I know both have a wide variety of magic from stage to street, coins to cards etc . . . What do you think is the better choice? Which has better material? From what I have heard, Wilson's book is more "beginner" compared to Tarbells. I honestly haven't done much research on the two (yet) so I really wanted to get your input on which YOU think is the better choice. Thanks in advance for any help/info you have to offer.

Mar 6, 2008
A Land Down Under
It depends how serious you are.

Wilsons is excellent and substantially cheaper. On ther other hand Tarbell (either the original lessons book recentl released or the 8 volume set is a mountain of material.)
Thanks Draven, appreciate the answer. Its good to know that both books are good learning sources, I don't think I would be disappointed with either. They both have a lot more knowledge to learn so I see what you mean about it pretty much being a win-win.

D ICE R- you're right Tarbell does have a lot of material, right now it seems like I'm leaning more towards Tarbell. I just left my local magic shop a few hours ago, that book is HUGE. From what I heard, the newer book has the 8 volumes (or at least most of them) put into that one book, do you know if that is true?

(By the way, I don't want to make it seem like I'm looking for all the answers asking all these questions without putting in my own work. I'm definitely going to look further into them tomorrow. I appreciate the input.)


Nov 1, 2009
New Jersey
I vote for Mark Wilson's book. The cards section isn't very strong, but the rope, bills, coins, sponge balls and mentalism sections are excellent. It is an easy read and the instructions and pictures are really good.
Interesting, that's good to know. Right now I think my card skills are pretty strong as is so my interest in the books is definitly for the other varieties, or "branches" of magic. Thanks for the advice.
Dec 18, 2007
Northampton, MA - USA
Most of what's been said is reasonable but I wish to point out that the Wilson Course isn't nearly as involved or "complete" as Tarbell. Tarbell is after all, an encyclopedic collection of several volumes vs. Wilson's single (though large) tome. The big difference is however, it's easier to learn from the Wilson book when it comes to slights and too, Mark has scaled the material in a way that allows you to better understand and be prepared for the "next step"

Information wise I've not seen much of anything that beats Tarbell where with the Wilson Course you will need supplements (the two key add-ons being the Bill Tarr "Now You See It; Now You Don't" books)

The other thing I'll point out is that Tarbell offers much more when it comes to simple large-scaled illusions and stage magic. You'll likewise find that there's some dynamite stuff in there that few if anyone else, is aware of and using; the kind of material that can give you a serious boost in reputation as things move on.
Great! Thanks for all the advice Craig. You have given some good points on both sides. Even like Draven said, best bet would be to eventually get both (over time). I'm going to start off with Tarbell first. I appreciate all the advice.


Mar 10, 2011
Texas San Antonio
I started with Mark's course when I first began learning magic so I am biased. But knowing what I know now, I'd say The Complete Course is a great tool to see what sort of magic you tend to favor, ie close up, cards, parlor, etc. Then I'd do some research on Tarbell Course, which books will focus on the type of magic you have an interest in. I found Tarbell overwhelming the first time I got to browse through the books, I can only imagine what a complete beginner to magic would feel.
Right now I'm going to start off with Tarbell. I know what you mean, I kind of felt overwhelmed when I started with Expert at the Card Table too. I wouldn't consider myself to be a beginner, I've been going at it for a few years now. I appreciate your input.
Sep 2, 2007
Houston, TX
The new bigger Tarbell book that came out not too long ago is only the first 60 original lessons (I say "only" but believe me, it's a lot of material). It isn't all 8 volumes packed into one book. I'm pretty sure the 8th volume (and maybe the 7th) of Tarbell wasn't even written by Tarbell. Anyhow, I have the new Tarbell book, and Mark Wilson's Complete Course and I definitely prefer Tarbell. It has a lot more theory than MWCC and definitely has a lot more hidden gems.
I know I'm biased, but when I started learning magic I was given the Mark Wilson course. I find MWCC an easy read, and it does cover a very wide range of magic, where Tarbell is more encyclopedic. I guess you could consider MWCC a primer course in magic, but really I can't devalue one over the other. As I already said they are both excellent sources for information.
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