The Unofficial Archives of The Merlin Awards


Frequently Asked Questions

Q – Is the IMS like the IBM and the SAM?  

Tony Hassini - President of the IMSThe International Magicians Society was established in 1968 by Tony Hassini and currently has over 37,000 members making it the world’s biggest magic club according to the Guinness Book of World Records. I’m even a member!

Unlike the International Brotherhood of Magicians or the Society of American Magicians, it’s not affiliated with FISM, there are no meetings, no annual dues, no newsletters, the website is rarely updated, and you can never resign.


Q – How do you join the IMS?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS
It costs $50 which includes lifetime membership and a free DVD. 

According to the website this gives you access to their magazine (which seems to have ceased publication many years ago) and the ability to buy DVDs from the IMS.

Q – Who won the first Merlin?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS
The IMS website states: “The Merlin Award statue was commitioned to over 100 art students nationwide. The winning design was carved and created in 1968 by young New York University art student Carol Michaud.” 

The earliest record we have of anyone winning a Merlin are Tony Clark and Harry Blackstone Jr in 1996.

Q – What is the Merlin Award?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS
According the IMS FAQ page: “The Merlin Award was designed to promote the magic and the magician to the general public. A good example of this is Siegfried & Roy using their Merlin Award win on their billboards all over Las Vegas, as well as the marquee billboard on The Mirage Hotel & Casino. David Copperfield uses his Merlin Award in his live shows; before his shows begin, a large projection shows his awards and in large letters, “Magician of The Century, by the International Magicians Society“ is shown over and over again. And Criss Angel uses it quite often in his TV shows, his live show at The Luxor, and his magic set.” 

It sounds like the Merlin Award itself has certainly received a lot of great exposure as well.

Q – If they have a banquet every three years, how come awards are given out every year? 

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS The IMS website states: “Every three years, the International Magicians Society hosts a banquet dinner, where those magicians who have acheived the highest level in their craft are awarded the coveted Merlin Award.”

We have records of them holding banquet dinners in 1999, 2000 and 2003. To make it even more confusing, the 2003 banquet was billed as the “17th Banquet Dinner”.

Some say the Banquet is held every year. Tony Hassini, on the Merlin Award FAQ page, mentions it’s a “$500 per plate” Banquet.

In an email to me, Tony has explained If we choose not to have a banquet dinner every three years, due to scheduling conflicts or other reasons, then we don’t have to have it.”

The next IMS Awards Banquet is scheduled for February 2010 in Las Vegas.

Q – What is the voting procedure for the Merlin Awards?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS The IMS website states: “The voting members begin with approximately one hundred names and narrows down to a handful.” 

I don’t know any member of the IMS who has ever cast a vote. Of course, this may mean nothing as the website doesn’t say how many “voting members” there are – though the use of a plural term implies there must be more than one.

As far as starting off with “approximately one hundred names” this could be difficult in categories like: ‘Longest Running One Man Off Broadway Show’, ‘Malaysian Multi Talented Female Entertainer’, and ‘Female Illusionist of the Year’.

Some Merlin Award winners say they were nominated by colleagues and submitted videos to the voting members, some won Merlin Awards as prizes at the Amber Magic Convention in Latvia.

The IMS FAQ page states: “I’m also asked how do we consider a nominee for the Merlin Award? A magician must send to the IMS World Headquarters a videotape or DVD of his complete act for our Board of Directors to consider. (No promo DVD’s or online videos are accepted.)”

Q – What is the criteria they are looking for?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMSThe IMS website states: “The criteria that the voting members consider are talent, showmanship, originality, skills, and above all the rare ability to entertain under any conditions.” 

Yet they have presented many awards to TV Producers, magic historians, a knife thrower, and a ventriloquist.

The Merlin Award FAQ adds: “The Merlin Award is not only presented to the magicians, we presented the award to other individuals who helped create and shape magic and magicians. This includes illusion designers and builders, magic producers/directors, magic convention organizers, and performers who create a magical experience for their audience.”

The IMS Award for Criss Angel’s Magic Set ‘Winner Best Magic Kit‘ was NOT a Merlin Award, but a certificate – according to Tony Hassini.

Q – What are the categories?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS
They seem to change all the time. In some years different people have won the same award, other times very similar awards. Every year brings new and exciting categories like ‘Best Magical Mentor of the Year’ or ‘Best Charismatic Magician’. 

Sometimes major awards like ‘Close Up Magician of the Year’ are not even presented. In 2005 nobody got ‘Magician of the Year’.

The IMS FAQ page states: “I’m also asked how many Merlin Awards do we present per year. Since we are an international organization and have IMS Presidents in different countries, we try to consider as many countries and their magicians.

There are over 200 countries in the world. It will be humanly impossible to present 200 awards a year. Therefore, we try to narrow it down to approximately 30 countries and their magicians per year. Sometimes, there might be two or three magicians from each country.

We also presented duplicate categories in different countries. For example, there might be a Best Close-Up Magician In India, Best Close-Up Magician In China, and Best Close-Up Magician In Thailand. However, there is only one Magician of The Year, Illusionist of The Year, Mentalist of The Year, and Most Original Magician of The Year within any given year throughout the world.”

Q – Are the Merlins really “the Oscars of magic”?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS
They look like an Oscar. 

Perhaps, if the Oscars were not televised, were decided on by one man, were randomly given out throughout the year for promotional purposes only – you could then say the Merlin Awards were the Oscars of magic.

Q – Did David Copperfield really get a Merlin?  

Tony Hassini - President of the IMS David was awarded ‘Magician of the Century’. Siegfried & Roy received ‘Magicians of the Century’ in 2000. No idea when Copperfield got it…

“The Merlin Award was designed to promote the magic and the magician to the general public. A good example of this is Siegfried & Roy using their Merlin Award win on their billboards all over Las Vegas, as well as the marquee billboard on The Mirage Hotel & Casino. David Copperfield uses his Merlin Award in his live shows; before his shows begin, a large projection shows his awards and in large letters, “Magician of The Century, by the International Magicians Society“ is shown over and over again. And Criss Angel uses it quite often in his TV shows, his live show at The Luxor, and his magic set.”

Q – Are magicians proud of their Merlin Awards?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMSDavid Copperfield doesn’t have his listed on his website. Brett Daniels (Magician of the Year) and Jason Byrne (Best Cabaret Magician) don’t list them on their sites under awards either. 

Most people in the industry realise they are not actually “peer recognition awards” at all, but marketing tools to gain attention.

Murray Sawchuck said: “I have a Merlin Award… It was given to me at the Flamingo when I was performing there… it’s a publicity stunt! But the Merlin award is probably one of the best designed and sharpest looking awards in magic. FISM should adopt the same look… it looks like an oscar… Bottom line… if you can get PRESS from something do it… it’s part of the bizzzzzzzz….”

Jim Callahan said: “Inside industry awards will allways be a tribute of excellence to those in that industry. However I think the merlin award has set itself up to be something else. That being a promotional tool.”

However many in the magic industry are against the Merlin Award saying it really belittles the “real” awards like FISM or the AMA awards where the winners are voted on by peers or a qualified jury.

Someone added on Antonio Casanova’s Wikipedia entry: “In 2008 he was awarded the Merlin Award, presented by Tony Hassine, founder of the International Society Magician, “which, unlike what has been said during the TV program Striscia la notizia , has no relevance in the world of magic (as assigned by a private company and not by an international organization such as, for example, the FISM).”

Q – Do people really just “buy” a Merlin Award?  

Tony Hassini - President of the IMSAccording to our sources, not at first. They began as a legitimate way of recognising outstanding achievements in our industry. Many were given to the “big names” in magic, to ensure the award’s credibility. However, this has backfired in some recent cases with Merlin winners like Jan Rouven saying his 2004 ‘Magician of the Year’ Merlin means he is “directly succeeding David Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy.”

NOTE: We are not saying everyone “pays” for their Merlin Award. Many of the recipients as late as 2010 were genuinely given the awards with no fees to pay.

High profile people who are able to help publicise the Merlin Award or enhance the prestige and credibility of the Award have received them, but in recent years almost anyone who has applied has been able to “win” a Merlin Award… as long as they can afford the “administration fee” – (Refer to the genuine email exchange below).


Dear XXXX,

I am Max Toth, the International Magicians Society’s Chairman of the Merlin Award Committee.

You were recommended and sponsored by a Merlin Award winner, Mr. XXXXX from XXXXX, to receive the coveted Merlin Award for your incredible work in magic.

Since 1968, the Merlin Award has been presented by the International Magicians Society as a recognition award.

The International Magicians Society is listed in the Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Magic Organization with over 37,000 members world wide.

The Merlin Award to magic is what the Oscar is to the movies.  It is the most prestigious award given in the world of magic.

Some of the world’s greatest magicians have received the Merlin Award, including Great Blackstone, Doug Henning, Channing Pollock, David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, Penn & Teller, Criss Angel, Sylvan, Tabary, Paul Daniels, Peter Marvey, Jeff McBride, Jason Byrne, Brett Daniels, Juliana Chen, Shimada, Mahka Tendo, Sorcar, etc.  For the complete list, go to and click on “Merlin Award Recipients.”

If you want to be considered for the Merlin Award, please send me a DVD or video of your work, so that I can present it to our voting members and Board of Directors.  Please send it to my attention at:

Attn: Max Toth



Your DVD with your wonderful performance arrived and we all enjoyed it.  Certainly you qualify as a contender for XXXXX Magician of The Year.

I’ll present the DVD to the Board of Directors and ask them to vote on it.

Normally, there is a $2500 administration fee, which covers the cost of the Merlin Award statue, Mr. Hassini’s travel expenses, and his time away from the office.  However, we’ll waive this fee, if the winning magician picks up the airline and hotel for Mr. Hassini, as well as provide us with approximately 5-10 minutes of footage that we can use with the rest of the Merlin Award recipients’ project.

Please let me know how you feel about this.

Fraternally yours,

Max Toth

IMS Merlin Award Committee Chairman


The IMS FAQ page says: “The other question I am asked is “Are there any costs to receive the Merlin Award?” First, I must say that the Merlin Award is not for sale at any cost.

Regarding the actual out-of-pocket cost, this varies from situation to situation.

There are three ways a magician can receive the Merlin Award. One is to attend our Merlin Award banquet dinner; this is by invitation only, after the recipient was voted to receive the Merlin Award. Two is to participate and win a Merlin Award competition in different countries, which is organized by IMS. And three is for us to travel to the magician’s country and present the Merlin Award to them in their own country.

So let’s look at the cost of the first scenario, which is where the magician must obtain a visa from the American embassy to travel to the USA. He must purchase airline tickets, other travel related costs and fees, hotels, meals, and $500 US dollars per plate at the Merlin Award banquet dinner.

In the second scenario, again the magician must travel to the event where the Merlin Award competition is taking place. He pays all of the same travel expenses as mentioned in the first scenario and pay for the entrance fee to the convention or to the competition, whichever applies.

In the third scenario, where we have to travel from the USA to the magician’s country, either the magician or the magician’s producer pays for all of the travel expenses, hotels, meals, airlines, and other related expenses.

Within any of these three scenarios, it’s always a trade when it comes to the cost.”

Q – Why has Criss Angel won so many Merlin Awards and David Copperfield only has one?

Tony Hassini - President of the IMSThat is truly one of the great mysteries of all time… 

Criss Angel with 5 of his Merlin Awards


4 responses

  1. David Sandy

    I agree that the IMS, the awards it “presents”, and Mr. Hassini himself are all frauds. I really wish you the best in exposing this insult to the magic community. These “awards” are an embarrassment to our industry… period.

    March 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm

  2. Jaku

    Just cheek tje profile of some of the Arabian and Indian Magicians they are rather a shame for magic ,,,and Mr Tony visit the country
    and deliver the Award…its all paid think if he has guts please put profile of all fake great magicians on net its a shame

    October 4, 2015 at 1:49 pm

  3. Raghu Anand

    Tonys best market India moving around and selling……..its shame on magic community real insult of real magician hpw got this award

    May 1, 2016 at 9:30 am

  4. John Smith

    Recently,,in May Tony again Visited India to sell Award …and provided a Merlin with out award a flower bucket and a paper
    so called certificate to a lady magician Achal… now for low payers he save the amount cost of Award…the day is not far when every magician of India will be a Merlin Award winner….embarrassmen to real winners


    May 8, 2016 at 11:33 am

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