Credit checkers and armchair historians agree that the roots of "Wild Card" started with Brother John Hamman's "The Mystic Nine" published in THE CARD MAGIC OF BRO. JOHN HAMMAN S.M. (1958). The seed was sowed.
To put a finer point on it, the Hamman trick goes like this: Nine cards are shown face down. A tenth RED card is turned face up to the table, then the nine cards are turned face up and shown to be BLACK. This BLACK-packet is cut (face up) a few times and then turned face down. After a short sequence of COLOR transformations, the magician ends with nine RED cards and only one BLACK card. Finally, the cards are changed to five REDS and five BLACKS.
This routine with ten ungaffed cards introduced the Hamman Count to the magic fraternity, and caught Peter Kane's discerning eye. Kane liked the notion of changing an ENTIRE packet of cards. However, he wanted a more efficient procedure - something quick and startling, something to befit his "quiet, almost reluctant manner." Study Kane's tricks and you'll find economical action and measured directness.
He found part of "The Mystic Nine" to his liking, but here's how he changed the presentation, and it is a SIGNIFICANT CHANGE.
Nine cards are shown. Eight consist of mixed values and suits, and one is a designated "odd" card (an Ace). Four are placed face up and four, face down. The odd Ace is placed face down in the center of these two packets. The audience is asked to watch the Ace. Suddenly, ALL the cards magically change to Aces!
Kane's "Watch The Ace!" was published in HUGARD'S MAGIC MONTHLY (Volume XIX, Number 8: April, 1962). This approach and handling was devised sometime between 1958 and 1962. Eventually it was given to Gus Southall, who transcribed it for Jean Hugard.Kane used the Hamman Count, added double-face cards, and introduced the Wild Card motif. (By the way, Kane worked from a FULL DECK and gets away from the "taint of suspicion" associated with intact packet tricks.) When a small number of cards are removed from a "special" wallet, the public smells trickery. If they look strange (blank-faced) or consist of duplicates, their peculiarity is more conspicuous. Kane removed a few, normal-looking cards from a deck and arouses no suspicion.
He focuses on the main event - the transformations. The changes are immediate and surprising. Each X card changes to an Ace of Spades, and from a magical standpoint, changing eight indifferent cards to DUPLICATES is perceived differently from changing one set of duplicates to ANOTHER set of duplicates.
CUT TO:New York City, 1962.
Bill Simon showed Kane's effect to Frank Garcia, who immediately saw its applicability to his own professional work.
There is, however, some confusion about how the basic Wild Card was developed. In SUPER SUBTLE CARD MIRACLES (1973), Garcia wrote:
"The concept of using the `glide' and of changing eight cards of equal value to those of another was my own. I had this made for a TV date originally."
In WILD CARD MIRACLES (1977), Garcia wrote:
"The concept of using the `glide' came from Bob McAllister and the changing of eight cards of equal value to that of another was my own along with quite a few more ramifications pertaining to the presentation."
Garcia alluded to a gambling expose he was developing in the early 60s, and he apparently performed Wild Card during this act and used an opaque projector to magnify his hands.
Shortly thereafter, Garcia gave his handling to Lou Tannen, who marketed under Garcia's name. It became a best-seller and was awarded a plaque of merit by the Magic Dealer's Association (MDA) in 1963. (I suspect that changing the effect to having eight DUPLICATES changing to eight different DUPLICATES was a matter of practicality. The dealer-producer then had to manufacture only one set of gaffs.)
During the forty ensuing years, Wild Card achieved cult-status and hundreds of versions were published and sold.
A few years ago I gave a mss. to L & L and called it the WILD CARD KIT. Besides the book and a set of the cards, the text provided knowledge for the reader to create your own ROUTINES. In other words, it was modular, consisting of separate components and functional parts. Each part was self-contained and could be used to assemble various handling procedures and presentations.
The WILD CARD KIT focused on CONCEPTS and SCHEMES, and eliminated diffusion, cognitive clutter, and superfluous exposition. At least, that was its claim.
As far as I know, the book is out of print.
So it goes...
...as most of us move onward...