Fortune Teller Miracle Fish

Posted by Remo Giuffré on


Some things are really quite wonderful, but you can't always explain why.

This pleasingly exotic graphic adorns a sleeve that contains a small red cellophane fish. It has long been a design staple for the REMO General Store, and has found itself manifest on all manner of merchandise items over the years from T Shirts to Greeting Cards and even Beach Towels.

Browse the image gallery. It includes one of US film maker John Waters sporting a Miracle Fish T Shirt at REMO in 1989.

The fish themselves were originally made in Japan with the sleeve constructed from a delicate tissue paper. The more recent versions are made in Taiwan and the enclosure is made of plastic. Not as nice.

You're meant to place that fish on an outstretched palm. If it curls up ... that rates a "passionate"; lies still ... "cold"; flips over ... "duplicitous"; and so on ...

These days the fish is made of the same chemical used in disposable diapers: sodium polyacrylate. This special salt will grab onto any water molecules that it touches, changing the shape of the molecule. As the molecules change shape, so does the shape of the fish.

The original fish was made using cellophane, which is a thin sheet of transparent cellulose.

They have been used as sales and pitch items by magicians since at least the early 1800's, with specific mention by magicians as in the 1936 book “Money From Magic” by Herman Weber.

And here’s a listing from Johnson Smith's US catalog #123 from 1926:

“The Fortune Telling Fish Is said to give a truthful account of everybody's character and disposition. It will tell you whether you are brave or diligent, modest, jealous, short tempered, whether you are in love, fickle, and so on. It tells you just what you should know about yourself, so that you can take steps to remedy your failings. Astonish your friends by telling them things about themselves, besides giving you any amount of fun and entertainment.”


Reference: Genii Magazine Forum, 2014 to 2019


1. Fortune Teller Miracle Fish front
2. Back
3. Group
4.  Johnson Smith Catalogue, 1926. Source: Internet Archive
5. John Waters at REMO, 1989
6.  REMO General Store. Miracle Fish Beach Towels on display in 1993
7. Miracle Fish Merchandise at REMO HERE
8. REMO, Bondi Road Corner, 2009

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