''Outlook Good'' for 60th Anniversary of the Original Magic 8 Ball

by Jay Cochran
December 11, 2006
Magic 8 Ball®, the prophetic oracular sphere from Mattel, is celebrating 60 years of predicting fortunes and providing answers to advice-seekers around the world. While the first iteration of the Magic 8 Ball®, sold commercially as the Syco-Seer and then the Syco-Slate, was cylindrical rather than spherical, the concept behind the toy has remained the same since 1946: advice-seekers find the answers to their future by asking the Magic 8 Ball® yes or no questions.

“The Magic 8 Ball has remained popular year after year because it’s many things at once – a conversation starter, a novelty item, a fortune teller. It can provide advice on everything from which route to take on a road trip to whether you should pursue your newest love interest,” said Cynthia Neiman, vice president of marketing, Mattel Games. “While we can’t guarantee the fortune-telling abilities of the Magic 8 Ball, we can guarantee that it will provide entertainment and fun for years to come.”

Throughout the years, the Original Magic 8 Ball® has been a part of our popular culture. Famous advice seekers have included Bart Simpson, Woody from the movie Toy Story and Ross Geller, David Schwimmer’s character in “Friends.” From the book, “Inside the Magic 8 Ball® The Complete Users Guide," author Miriam Zellnick wrote that President Eisenhower kept a Magic 8 Ball® on his desk, although it is unknown if he preferred the toy’s paperweight-like qualities or fortune-telling abilities.

In honor of the anniversary, the Magic 8 Ball® is available in special packaging at major retailers nationwide through the end of the year at a suggested retail price of $6.99.

History of The Original Magic 8 Ball®

Developed by Al Carter and Abe Bookman of Alabe Crafts in Cincinnati, the first iteration of the Magic 8 Ball®, the Syco-Seer, consisted of a paper cube with laminated answers suspended in molasses in a glass jar. Shortly thereafter, the company began marketing the novelty item as the Syco-Slate; although the design remained relatively unchanged, the molasses was replaced with a form of generic anti-freeze and the laminated paper cube was replaced with a 20-sided die, or an icosahedron.

Within two years, Alabe Crafts had changed the design from a cylinder to the oversized billiards-type ball associated with the Magic 8 Ball® today. Over the years, the liquid filler of the product has been changed to meet safety standards, and Mattel closely guards the secret formula of today’s liquid.

Asking Techniques and Answers

Ask-and-answer techniques depend widely on the individual, and may, in some cases, be superstitious. From a mild shake and turn or a quick flip of the Magic 8 Ball®, to a roll across the floor or the assistance of a friend, the methods for using the Magic 8 Ball® are as varied as the users themselves.

The answers that first appeared on the 20-sided die in the 1940s are the same answers that appear in the Original Magic 8 Ball® today. The 10 positive answers, such as “All Signs Point to Yes;” five ambiguous answers like, “Ask Again Later;” and five negative answers, including “Don’t Count on It,” appear in the plastic face of the Magic 8 Ball® in response to a question. According to popular legend, if an answer doesn’t appear in the window of the Magic 8 Ball® within 30 seconds, the fortune-telling abilities of the Magic 8 Ball® are temporarily unavailable, and the fortune seeker should repeat the question.

Other Versions – Same Abilities

Since adopting the current spherical shape, the prophetic orb has not undergone any significant change in appearance and continues to maintain its predictive powers. The miniature key chain version, for example, possesses the same visionary abilities as the full-size version. Other versions – the Magic Date Ball™, in pink, and Magic Love Ball™ – offer sage wisdom to those seeking answers about love and romance.

Through the years, favorite characters from the big and small screen have adorned their own versions of the Magic 8 Ball®. The Talking Simpsons™ Magic 8 Ball® and Talking Family Guy™ Magic 8 Ball® speak Homerisms or Griffin family phrases back to the user. Customized versions of the Magic 8 Ball® based on “Superman” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” each feature unique color schemes and decoration as well as 20 customized answers – The SpongeBob SquarePants™ Magic 8 Ball® might respond to a question with “Aye, aye, captain.”
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