half dollars no longer good?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Brian Marks » 08/17/02 10:38 PM

I do alot of coin tricks with half dollars but nobody knows what they are anymore. My friends say refer to them as my "magic" coins despite them being quite normal. How do I handle this? I do a couple of tricks using quarters prior to using halves. I find this helps but I find quarters hard to work with because of their size.
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Postby Guest » 08/17/02 10:43 PM

CARDS m'man...cards.
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Postby Brian Marks » 08/17/02 10:50 PM

I dont like cards. Everyone does them. Every laymen shows me some stupid trick they learned a long time ago and can't remember which isnt different from magicans who show me a trick they learned 2 seconds ago and can't remember.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/18/02 01:12 AM

Old coins -- like liberty walking halves -- seem less prone to the "magic coins" aspect. I guess because the coins are old, that seems to be their identity, whereas a "new" half dollar doesn't have that, so it just seems like a magic prop.

However having said that I do everything with quarters.
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Postby Guest » 08/18/02 08:12 AM

Then you are hanging around "bad" card guys.
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Postby Guest » 08/18/02 08:48 AM

I like to use routines that involve the spectator handling the coins. This shows the fairness of the coins as a prop, treat the coins casually and try to make people's focus the magic, not the prop.

I use Kennedy halves, but I use the 1964 silver coins. It also gives me something to talk about. I explain why I use silver - color, sound, etc.

I don't ascribe to the thought that coin magic must only be done with current everyday coins. These spectators I am sure would call any of your prop your magic props. "Those are his magic spongeballs." In reality there is nothing magic about them, it is you that creates magic with a spectator, not your prop.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 08/18/02 09:41 AM

I have started using quarters instead of half dollars. Now I understand that in larger performance situations, quarters may be too small. But in the intimate close-up situations, quarters work fine for me. Also, it allows me to do a quick routine anytime, anywhere if need be, because three or four quarters is easier to gather than half dollars. And for the spectator, it seems to me, quarters have less of a 'magic' feel to them because they are more commonplace.
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Postby mike cookman » 08/18/02 09:52 AM

I often have specatators ask if those are dollars or half dollars, but I've never had anyone say they are my "magic coins." Don't let it get you down. :)
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Postby Bill Duncan » 08/18/02 11:41 AM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
My friends say refer to them as my "magic" coins despite them being quite normal.
Well first off understand what they mean by "magic coins". Unless they're specifically telling you "those coins are hinkey" it may be the case they are simply saying "Those are the old coins Brian uses for magic." Hence, your 'magic coins'.

I've never understood the concern for borrowing coins to perform coin magic. Most every person I've ever queried on the subject thinks it's a federal crime to deface currency so the idea of gaffed coins only comes into play when performing for magicians.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/18/02 12:16 PM

"Hinkey"? What the heck is that?
My friend Jean-Jacques Sanvert was just here from Paris and I asked him how the new Euro coins are. He grimaced and took a handful out of his pocket. I don't think any of them were as big as a quarter, and most the size of pennies and dimes.
He uses "soft" Morgan silver dollars for magic--doesn't seem to have a problem with that.
The essential question to answer is: Does coin magic NEED to be done with coins that are recognizable and familar to the audience. Or, can ANY coins be used with equal effectiveness. I think a case can be made both ways. Let's hear some of your thoughts about this ...
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Postby Guest » 08/18/02 12:43 PM

I really don't think it matters much what we use. We use English pennies, Mexican 20 centavos pieces, and brass stamped fake chinese coins. The fact is that if no layperson has ever jumped up screaming those coins are fake...it is doubtful that they would suspect any less from U.S. currency. Even if it is not regonizable. The worst that would happen is that they might ask what are those and can I see them. Face it, the only gaffed coins laymen know about are wooden nickles and two headed coins. It is the guilt that we have that causes laymen to suspect anything other than what is seen. Remember the words of slydini...You must BELIEVE!
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Postby Steve Hook » 08/18/02 12:56 PM

OK, I've had a lot of caffeine this afternoon, so I'm not in the most diplomatic of moods...

...but worrying about what kind of coins you use because the spectator thinks they're "magic coins" should be a non-issue. Take all these people's word for it.

Availability may be an issue, if, for example you don't have any coins with you and you would like to demonstrate "Matrix #109".

And, Brian, you were speaking with tongue in cheek about card magic, right? Wouldn't want John or Otis to lose sleep over a little sarcasm...

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Postby Bill Duncan » 08/18/02 01:07 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
"Hinkey"? What the heck is that?
Well, I think it's also the name of one of the monsters in PacMac ;) but in the way I was using it, it means "troublesome". It's an expression I picked it up from my mother who was second generation Irish.

It's slang that I believe comes from the UK. I took a peek into the OED and found "Hink" which means faltering, hesitation or misgiving and a citation from Melville. I'm guessing that's where it comes from.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/18/02 01:59 PM

What about that old song "Hinkey Dinkey Parle Vou"?
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Postby Bill Mullins » 08/18/02 02:24 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
"Hinkey"? What the heck is that?
The next time the TVLand channel runs a "Dragnet" marathon, watch a few episodes. Sgt. Friday used to refer to things as "hinkey" a lot.
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Postby EdAndres » 08/18/02 02:53 PM

There is always poker chips, casino chips, casino coins and don't forget river stones and sea shells?
me, I love my Batman "challenge" coin! (the kids love it too!)
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Postby Guest » 08/18/02 03:37 PM

I agree that it doesn't much matter that half dollars aren't in common use. Sponge balls aren't in common use either. If a spectator looks at them askance, find a reason to let him handle them.

Still, I was taken aback a few years ago when I went to a bank in Manhattan and tried to buy some half dollars. The teller had no idea what I was talking about. Never heard of a "half dollar." After I described half dollars at extraordinary length, something finally clicked. "Oh," she said looking at me with a condescending smirk, "you mean 'fifty-cent pieces.'"
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Postby Pete Biro » 08/18/02 03:39 PM

MAGIC COINS... HMMMM

A while back a laymen friend of mine came to me in a Las Vegas hotel (we were there covering a desert truck race) and said, "Hey, look at the trick I bought at the magic shop."

He did the coin trick with the gimmicked coins.

Might have been Scotch and Soda I don't recall.

"Nice trick, eh?" he said... handing me the coin or coins...

I proceeded to switch using sleight of hand and sleeving and fooled the wee wee out of him.

He was blown away cuz he had no ide what I did and it was totally different than the gaffed coin was made for.

My point?

None, except, if the audience thinks about the coins being "trick" or any prop being gimmicked... YOU LOSE... you should be entertaining them to the point they don't give a rat's elbow about the modus operandi.

And.. IMHO the "Too Perfect Thoery" is a waste of bandwidth, paper and thought. :rolleyes: :eek: :rolleyes:
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Postby Guest » 08/18/02 03:49 PM

What, no more half dollars!!! I wish you guys would make up your mind for I just finished glueing my walkers together so that I can palm 'em. Do I have to start over again with something else?
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Postby Guest » 08/18/02 04:22 PM

Borrow a coin of the spectators...then turn it into your Half Dollar(50 cent piece) and onto your tricks. At the end...give them the half dollar to take home. Problem solved.
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Postby Pete Biro » 08/18/02 04:58 PM

One show I was watching with Charlie Miller doing the miser's dream, with real half dollars... and a kid said, "Can I have the coin?"

Charlie gave it to him, then as each coin was produced a kid asked for it!!!

Charlie wound up giving the all away.

I hope he broke even on the show fee. :D :D :D
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Postby Brian Marks » 08/18/02 07:24 PM

I think using coins that are not commonplace is something we should be worrying about. Magic should seem like magic! If tricks can be attributed to magic coins, it defeats the purpose.
I suspect not every spectator voices these suspicions. I guess a little less than half of my audience might suspect the coins. Most do not think this but I am looking to fool the most perceptive prsn in my audience. All you need is one person to say he thinks the coins are fake for the magic to diappear.

I do use liberty half dollars and I dont do sponge ball routines with sponge balls.
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Postby Pete Biro » 08/18/02 09:25 PM

Pat Page lectured in Italy and did a group of tricks using coins...

Later in the year one of the Italian guys came to London and I think the Magic Circle.

He saw Pat and came over and told him, in his broken English... "I do your tricks you taught us with FISH."

Pat said, "Fish? I didn't teach you anything with fish."

Then the guy realized he had the wrong word.

He meant "Chips" (fish and chips anyone?)

:D :o :D
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Postby Pete Biro » 08/18/02 09:27 PM

OH, those of you that feel half dollar coins are no good anymore, ship them to:

Pete Biro
428 N. Las Palmas
Los Angeles, CA 90004 USA

Thanks... :D :D :D ;)
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/18/02 11:59 PM

It doesn't matter whether your audience is familiar with the coins you're using or not. What matters is the reaction the audience has to them.

If you display a well-worn half dollar, you can talk about a long-gone simpler time, or a precious collectable, or your granddad's lucky coin, or the quality of pure silver, or how even something so well worn is still worth every cent it was when it was new. That's a pretty rich prop.

If you reach into your pocket and put a 1994 Kennedy half dollar, your options are much more limited.

Similarly a well-worn roughly made fake chinese coin can be made to seem exotic. A shiny new Johnson Products chinese coin will not seem like much of anything.

Poker chips have their own possibilities and built-in associations.

A borrowed quarter has much less inherent meaning, but doing the trick with the spectator's own quarter produces different but still very powerful -- maybe even more powerful -- feelings.

What are you trying to make the audience feel? If you ask yourself this question, you won't have to ask anyone what coins to use. If you haven't asked yourself this question, it doesn't matter what coins you use.
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Postby Guest » 08/19/02 12:24 AM

Another possible substitute for half dollars are the new "gold" Sacagawea coins. They're slightly larger than quarters, but smaller than 50 cent pieces. Most laymen know about the coins will be unlikely to suspect that they are gaffed in any way.

And if you allow the spectators to inspect the coins ahead of time (assuming they truly are un-gaffed) 90% of them will be satisfied, no matter what kind of coin they are. (Except plastic!)

The way I see it, ANY trick that requires a gaffed coin should be routined to include some sort of switch to allow for inspection by the spectator -- early on and/or at the climax. If at the end of your routine someone asks to inspect the coins and your only response is to ad-lib some lame joke/excuse while quickly shoving them into your pocket -- you might as well just do Scotch & Soda!
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Postby mike cookman » 08/19/02 07:24 AM

I have fun doing David Roth's Shell Coins Across. After giving a spectator the coins and vanishing the shell, others usually ask that spectator, "did you feel anything?" I don't believe I have ever heard anyone ask, "are those real half dollars or trick coins you buy at a magic shop?" Not that I'm anything great as a magician, I'm a hack. But I follow the instructions that are expertly written by Richard Kaufman and it's a fun trick to do.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/19/02 03:33 PM

Doc Eason lectured in Burbank a little while back, and he did his version of Copper Silver Brass. Someone asked him what he does at the end, to clean up, and he said something to the effect of he puts the coins in his pockets and goes on to his next trick.

A follow-up question was asked: What do you do if someone asks to see the coins? Doc's answer: he does a click pass and moves to hand the coins over, only to show that they are vanished. Then he goes on to his next trick.

The most important thing about this is Doc's attitude. Who cares about the coins? A magic performance is about people: the magician doing the tricks and the spectator(s) watching. The coins are irrelevant to that greater point.

It is exactly this kind of attitude that keeps people from asking to see Doc Eason's coins. They just want to see him.
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Postby Jon Allen » 08/19/02 04:53 PM

This topic was discussed recently here in England; the question being "why do English magicians use foreign coins (half dollars)?" Some could not see any rationale for using coins that were not from here.

I am quite happy to use American half dollars and build it into my patter. Handing out three half dollars, I say that I used to use English coins but that was as far as I got! I then go on to explain that the coins are valued at 753. It sounds like a lot but it's 1 each but the flight over to America to get them cost 750.

I have never had anyone ask to see the coins afterwards. Coins across is so powerful, trick coins wouldn't begin to explain how it is possible.
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Postby EdAndres » 08/19/02 10:50 PM

O.K. Here is a real radical idea! Use NEW 2002 half dollars. That's right folkerinos they still make 'em. Go buy a big fat roll and use them to buy stuff..... Start USING them... for everyday stuff. You could be real cutting edge and say "Hey LOOK did you know they still made these coins?" you could even give one or more away... stop being cheap bas.... guys. They are REAL friggin coins... why run and hide under the bed? Stand up and say "why yes (among other things) That is a roll of half dollars...5o cent pieces in my pocket!"..."look they have an eagle on the back...so they can flyyyyyyyyyyyy!"

Ed :) :( :o :D ;) :eek: :cool: :confused:
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Postby Andru Luvisi » 08/20/02 08:50 AM

People frequently ask to see my half dollar, just because it is something they haven't seen very often. I know they are not wondering if it is a gaffed or "magic" coin since I usually haven't done any tricks with it!

Sometimes I do a coin roll when I'm bored or feel like having somebody ask if I'm a magician and usually they start out by asking "Is that a silver dollar?". I tell them it's a half dollar, and they want to see it. After they give it back, sometimes I just put it away (if I don't feel like performing). Sometimes I take out an english penny with a "if you think that's funny, you should see this" kind of attitude. Sometimes I joke about it being two headed (there are people on both sides of an english penny). This makes them look at it really close. Again, sometimes I just put my coins away having shown them around as a novelty.

If I do decide to do a coin trick I typically do a one coin across (from Henry Hay's "Learn Magic") where I put a coin in my left hand and one in my right, and the one jumps from my left to my right. Then I put away the english penny and do the "Knee-see" vanish from Bobo, which ends with the coin vanishing completely. Then I take out a deck of cards. :D

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Postby Guest » 08/20/02 10:00 AM

Originally posted by Andru Luvisi:
Then I take out a deck of cards. :D
How sad. A perfectly good chance for a bunch of great coin magic, and you have to ruin it by bringing out a deck of cards. :D
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Postby Brian Morton » 08/20/02 12:49 PM

Brian Marks originally wrote:
I do a lot of coin tricks with half dollars but nobody knows what they are anymore.
I've had that experience, even at the bank, where I've asked for a roll of halves, and they tell me they don't have any. Then I persist (had to go to the bank manager one time) and it turns out they have 'em, just none of the young people working there know what they are anymore... (and I'm only 40!)

I do a walk-around Miser's Dream at the renaissance festival where I perform, and I use half-dollars. Only a rare few mention that they are halves, and fewer than that make a big deal out of it. Most are entranced by the story line -- it's about the magic, not about the props.

And only very rarely do I have to respond to someone who says, "How come you have Kennedy Half Dollars when this is supposed to be the Renaissance?" with, "Well, you didn't pay with sheep and goats to get in here, did you?"

that other brian :cool:
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Postby EdAndres » 08/20/02 05:13 PM

How sad. A perfectly good chance for a bunch of great coin magic, and you have to ruin it by bringing out a deck of cards.
Or vice/versa! ;) ;)
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Postby Brian Marks » 08/20/02 08:47 PM

The reason I brought this topic up is that audiences obviously aren't stupid. If you are using a prop that is not commonplace, you are automtically putting yourself at a disadvantage. Selling a trick becomes that much more difficult. I have used various explainations for such extaordinary props which seem to suffice. Audiences have heard about palming, sleeving and stacked decks. Some have dealt with some trick card decks or even a trick coin set like scotch and soda. They assume certain methods which may not be true but will work for them.

Quarters are something I have been working with. I always try to start with borrowed objects prior to getting into other tricks. It doesnt always work out as trics with quarters arent necessarily practical but if I can do tricks with quarters, the half dollars no longer become a concern. If necessary I have said I use halves because the size makes them easier to see.
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Postby Guest » 08/20/02 09:46 PM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
If you are using a prop that is not commonplace, you are automtically putting yourself at a disadvantage.
I am just curious, do you limit all of your magic to ONLY common every day objects? One could argue a deck of cards is not a common every day object. Not many people walk around everyday life carrying a pack.

It is a great tool to be able to do magic with ONLY things found around you at any particular moment, but surely there is room for you to use your own props that people don't usually carry with them....

Sponge Balls, a deck of cards, rubberbands, different types of coinage, etc.
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Postby mike cookman » 08/21/02 07:35 AM

Since you like to use quarters, Jay Sankey has a great trick in his lecture notes "Amazing Tricks" where two initialed quarters change places in your hand and a spectators hand, and then the initials both end up on one quarter. I think those lecture notes are available on his website.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/21/02 12:25 PM

Common, everyday objects like a deck of cards (just because people don't carry them around doesn't mean they aren't common everyday objects) can make magic seem more real because of the implication that you can do this magic with any ordinary object.

Unusual coins (or any other object) can make magic more interesting and exotic because their unusual nature makes it seem more possible that they do contain magic.

You can do a trick with a 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar and make it seem like either commonplace or unusual with your presentation:
Commonplace: "I got this half dollar in my change last week. You don't see them too much anymore."
Exotic: "1964 was the very last year they made half dollars out of all silver, and this is the very last coin minted that year. So this is the last all silver coin every created in the United States."

David Regal has a great essay in CloseUp and Personal called "The Oddity" which I highly recommend for Brian and anyone else interested in this subject.
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Postby Thomas Van Aken » 08/22/02 04:25 AM

He (J.J. Sanvert) uses "soft" Morgan silver dollars for magic--doesn't seem to have a problem with that.
Hi there,
The problem you seem to experiment with halves dollars in the States is something we experiment for years in Europe with playing cards: Almost all European card magicians use USPCC brands, cards that few peoples have seen (in Europe, bridge size is standard and cards have generally four index, the design is also different).
If we choose to use the best tools available we have to accept the fact the we use tools that peoples recognise (cards, coins) but who look a little different that the one they carry with them or use in their everyday life.
During my stay in Holland as exchange student, somebody tell my that Fred Kaps used old Dutch Gulden because they had the perfect size but that only old peoples remembered.
It is a choice you have to make for yourself, in my case, I think that the handling of (slightly) strange props is part of the image of the magician. Of course some peoples mentions trick cards but I don't think I will receive less remarks if I choose to use standard Belgian cards.
We have also the take account of the fact that coins and coinmagic has lost a lot of his symbolic during the 20th century: today, when you talk about money, few peoples think about coins, most think about bill, credit cards, stock options (sorry, I take that back). The miser dream still a wonderful piece of magic (choreography, sound) but has lost most of his emotional impact.
BTW: I remember reading a comment of K. Fulves (in Epilogue or Chronicles) about the fact that coin magic cannot be qualified as impromptu or using everyday objects since nobody except magician carry four halves dollars in his pocket. And it was written 25 years ago :) .
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Postby Guest » 08/25/02 05:13 PM

I just call quarters and 50 cent pieces..."Silver Coin or Coins", depending on the quantity.

Centavos and English Pennies, I just call "Copper Coins".

I learned that from watching the Michael Skinner series of tapes.

What about Hopping Halves? Just silver coins that are hopping.....not 50 cent pieces.

So, I have never had a problem with this while keeping my thoughts in the copper/silver order.

The denomination isn't always the most important aspect.

That is my two small copper coins worth! ;)

Happy Magic,

Bill Hartley
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