By David Stone
The First Approach: Is coin magic more difficult?
Who said coin magic was more difficult? It isn’t more difficult than card magic, perhaps it is more frustrating because you don’t get convincing results immediately. There are self-working card tricks, they are more stimulating for a beginner as he discovers and learns card magic in a user-friendly way, i.e. in a gratifying, progressive way, and not through a difficult move like the pass.
Unfortunately there are very few self-working coin tricks that allow this kind of learning process. YOU have to find your motivation by thinking about what you will be able to do once you master a technique. I often compare coins and cards magic to the English and German languages: it is easy (at least from a Frenchman’s point of view!) to learn the basics of the English language, then it becomes more complicated as you study its subtleties…just like cards. On the other hand, the basics of the German language are quite difficult to learn, then it gets easier when you master the fundamental rules.
The later is also true of coin magic: the indispensable techniques take some time to master, and only later will you be able to benefit from them. Moreover, you’ll be able to perform hundreds of coin routines with the same basic set of techniques.
The Aptitude: I have small hands
Bullsh##! Don’t tell me there aren’t many coins with different sizes, thickness, colours or textures. We don’t have that much choice for cards! Only two sizes, poker or bridge, and a few brands only or we just looks like fools at the local club meeting…
But everyone is doing card magic, regardless of their sizes, weights, religions or sexual orientation…
Size (at least of your hands) doesn’t matter. Muscles (cf. Exercises) and movement (fluidity, smoothness) do.
The Ability: I can’t palm a coin
The size of your hand isn’t a problem. The muscle in it is. The hypothenar (muscle located under your little finger) is the key to a good classic palm (the most commonly used palm). Depending on your profession or hobbies, this muscle is more or less developed. If it is not developed enough, you won’t be able to classic palm correctly and must therefore exercise this muscle, just like a body-builder would isolate and train a specific muscle:
Take a bunch of keys (on a keyring) and place them on your little finger, and lift the keys with your little finger only, twenty times in a row. At first don’t do more than 2 or 3 sets of 20 lifts, then progressively add more keys. Don’t use more than 10 keys however. You can also use an empty beer bottle – put your little finger in the bottle neck and do the same exercise.
Remember- when palming a coin, don’t squeeze it too much and keep your hand in a flat, relaxed position and in a natural state of rest. A single tap on your hand should be enough to let the coin drop from the classic palm position.
Another good exercise is to move your finger in every directions, as fast as possible, for 60 seconds (use a timer- you’ll see, it is a pretty long time!) while keeping a coin in classic palm position. This exercise allows you to keep your hand in a natural position.
Practising: I have no time to practice
More Bulls##t! Luckily a coin is small enough to be carried everywhere. You can also practice coin magic while doing something else. When I started coin magic, I always had a coin in my hands… Compared to card magic, it was much more practical to practice a coin move during maths lessons…except when I let the coin fall on the floor !
I could practice on most occasions and in most circumstances: in the subway, walking the street with my hands in my pockets, etc. Notice how often your hands stay inactive during the day and you’ll realize how often you’ll be able to keep a coin in classic palm position, whatever your job is. You want to develop dexterity, muscle tone and sensitivity in your hands, so keeping a coin in classic palm position as often and as long as possible will allow you to acquire the necessary naturalness and smoothness.
Lots of magicians start working on a coin routine without having first mastered a basic technique or move (false transfer, Han Ping Chen or French Drop). Don’t forget that knowing a move (being aware of it) and knowing how do this move (mastering it) are two very different concepts. Just try to imagine some joker that can’t do a convincing double lift performing an “Ambitious Card” routine…
These basic techniques may sometimes look easy but are quite hard to do convincingly and naturally. Pick a move, any move, and concentrate on it until you can do it to perfection. Don’t study another move before mastering the first one. I know it is a pain in the neck, but think of it like riding a bicycle…once you know how to ride it…
Of course things will go much faster afterwards- you will discover that you can do hundreds of different routines with only a few basic moves and principles that can combined in different ways. Often you’ll just have to change the order of the moves in a routine to discover a new effect and start designing a personal routine.
If later you come across a brand new technique, see if you can replace it with one of your older techniques. This new technique fits its inventor perfectly, but it may not work for you. A technique is like a shirt: there is little chance my shirts fit you perfectly.
Last, remember: When you’re working on a move, tell yourself that the next try will the good one (credits to Harry Lorayne).
The illusion: I’m afraid to get caught!
Coin magic requires naturalness in your moves. Only this smoothness and fluidity can make a coin vanish look convincing (just watch – and read – Albert Goshman). A lack of ease and naturalness makes you look guilty in front of your spectators…who feel you’re not as “clean” as you pretend to be. From a technical point of view, no video or book can make you understand this concept.
You have to discover your own style in coin magic, your own handling that will fool your spectators. There is only one way to achieve this, as Juan Tamariz would say: practice, practice…and practice again.
Here’s how I personally study a technique: I first practice the real move, that is, the one you’re doing without “cheating” (such as an actual coin transfer), the one that should be the starting point for the technique itself. I study this “normal” move until I understand it perfectly. Then and only then do I study the “magic” move, such as a false transfer, trying to make it as similar as possible to the real move (from visual and rhythmic points of view).
Then I try to make that move look as pure as possible, trying not to add “interference” gestures that will make the move look suspicious, by alternating the real move with the magic move.
Often in a coin routine you have to start or end not so “clean”, meaning that you start or end a trick with a palmed or sleeved coin. If you lack the necessary comfort and naturalness during these moments, your spectators will perceive it and the charm will be broken.
Therefore YOU have to work to make theses moves look natural and undetectable. The point is not to act as if the coin classic palmed in your right hand doesn’t exist, the point is to convince yourself that this coin actually is a part of your body. The coin is just an extension of your hand, it is a part of yourself.
Practice your classic palm whenever you can, in front of your TV set, typing on your computer, walking in the street. If you want to feel comfortable with coin magic, you NEED to carry a coin with you (preferably in classic palm position), wherever you go. I’ll never stop repeating this!
Palming must become a second nature for your working hand. And if you don’t want to waste your time, practice with both hands at the same time, which is much easier when you start coin magic. It will be very useful later, when you’ll have to combine various moves or palm transfers to develop a routine. Sooner or later, you’ll have to master most of your techniques with both hands, so the sooner you start working with “both sides”, the easier it will be and the larger your capacities will be. I wish I had been aware of that when I started studying coin magic. Trust me…
Lastly, when performing in front of an audience, be sure to ONLY perform effects you’re familiar and confident with. This may sound obvious, but this is important. People hate to be treated like fools, and sooner or later they will tell you that “you kept the coin in the other hand” if this very hand looks arthritic. This is bad not only because they will “catch” you, but also because it will make you lose your confidence in future performances.
Here is a good way to perform coin magic in front of a live audiences: start with short, entertaining effects involving coins. For example, perform one of your killer routines, like that rope routine you’ve been performing for 20 years…
Get confident with your audience and only after perform a short coin interlude, like an appearance and a vanish. Nothing more. Then follow with another killer effects you feel comfortable with. By proceeding like this, in a progressive manner, you’ll gain the necessary confidence (as well as boldness) that will help you in your magic!
Now…Go to work and…See you stone!
Published in la Revue de la Prestidigitation N° 502 and l’Illusionniste n°326.
Translation and proof-reading : Sebastien Clergue, Devon Elliott, Tim Greene Jr.
David Stone, October – December 1997
From Mietek© David Stone 1999
Expert Coin Magic Made Easy Vols 1 to 20 (!) – David Roth – A1 Multimedia
Live in Sacramento – David Roth
Easy To Master Money Miracles Vol 1-3 – Michael Ammar (L&L Publishing)
Palms of Steel – Curtis Kam
Up In Smoke – Paul Cummins – FASDIU Prods.
Three Pieces of Silver – Rune Klan
Numismagie – Daniel Rhod
– Basic Coin Magic /D. Stone ( Stéphane Jardonnet Productions ).
– Coin Magic Vol.2 / D. Stone ( David Stone / Stéphane Jardonnet Productions ).
Modern Coin Magic – J.B. Bobo – (Dover)
The Magic Book – Harry Lorayne – (L&L publishing)
Expert Coin Magic – David Roth – (Kaufman&Greenberg)
Coinmagic – Richard Kaufman- (Kaufman&Greenberg)
Unexplainable Acts – Gary Kurtz- (Kaufman&Greenberg)
Relentless – Gary Kurtz
Stand-Up Coin Power – Eivind Løwig