Question: Close-up Pad; Coin Box

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Michael Close » 10/17/03 10:04 AM

I see that there are now over 3000 members of this forum. My questions are directed to those of you who are pros or part-time pros. Do you:

1. Use a close-up mat in your professional close-up work?

2. Use a coin box (Okito, Boston, etc.) in your close-up work?

I'm trying to get a feel for what the guys in the real world are doing. Please email me at

with your answers.

Thanks a lot for your help.

Michael Close

P.S. My own answers are No and No.
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Postby Pete Biro » 10/17/03 10:49 AM

Seldom use a mat...

Have NEVER used a coin box for laymen, but I might... :genii:
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Postby Brian W » 10/17/03 12:33 PM

Most of the close-up I perform is walk around so I don't use a mat. I don't use a coin box performing for laypersons either.

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Postby Robert Allen » 10/17/03 12:35 PM

Well, as a kid I did enough birthday parties to finance my trip to a PCAM convention so I guess that makes me a former pro :) .

That said, though I loved playing with plain Okito boxes, and did it for people on occasion, there's just something about it that's a bit too gimmicky. I used the old RNT box, but if I had it to do again I'd use a conventional style box in brass. Maybe even one of the old stamped sheet metal ones with the hole through the top and bottom. Right now I actually have a suitable box in pewter I bought at one of those new age/hippy stores. It's for pills, or other stuff, but is cast pewter and has a cast dragon with inset rhinestone on the lid. Works fine as an Okito box as it has a loose lid, and pewter seems to talk a bit less.

The problem I've always had with an Okito box is this: how do you get the heat off when you've just taken a coin and put it IN a very strange looking little box. Sure you can do the basic turnover move, but I just never found it all that strong, just to do a simple penetration. So you need to build up a routine then. So in that case you'll need multiple turnover moves, preferably a few different ones.

There was a booklet out years ago with an Okito box routine by Mohammed Bey which culiminated with the appearance of a little sponge rabbit in the box. I love gadgets and love Okito boxes...but the idea of putting a coin in a piece of apparatus to perform a very basic effect which might be better done with sleights, or a shell, is difficult for me to justify. Probably just because I'm lazy though. I think an Okito box, particularly an unusual looking one, might be used in a routine involving something that fits in the box other than a plain old coin. Maybe a color changing stone, or changing a coin to a live bug, or a transposition between the box and something else.
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Postby mike cookman » 10/18/03 08:55 AM

I enjoy practicing some of David Roth's Okito box stuff but I've never performed any of it for people, because I dont practice enough. I always use a close up pad. Maybe it's a security blanket. Maybe I just like close up pads.
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Postby Michael Close » 10/19/03 05:48 PM

I'd sure like to hear from a few more of you on this subject.


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Postby Dave Shepherd » 10/19/03 06:10 PM

Hi Michael,
I'll send you an email copy of this post as well.

I do use a pad generally in close-up work, for two basic reasons: so that cards are easy to pick up off the table (for several effects I do that depend on the spectator picking up the deck) and to insulate my cards and other props from the sometimes copious moisture that can be on a table surface. Nothing like a wet card or three to mess up my handling.

I have cast about for years trying to convince myself to do coin-box magic, but have never yet been able to do so. I have seen plenty great magic with Okito boxes and such, but I've never found deep within myself a decent premise for taking the thing out and either putting coins into it or removing them.
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Postby Guest » 10/19/03 06:32 PM

My professional close up work is limited to table hopping in (very) small restaurants. Small restaurants mean small tables - I just don't have the room to use a mat. Anyone who has done restaurant work in Japan can understand this, I'm sure.

Never used any of the coin boxes.

Fraser Gould

Postby Russell Davis » 10/19/03 09:31 PM

I don't currently use a pad or an Okito box but expect to use both soon. Both could be altered to look like somewhat normal or innocent objects.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 10/20/03 03:31 AM

P.S. The pad I use is quite small, measuring about 4 1/2 inches by about 8 1/2 inches or so. Table space is an issue, indeed, but I stick with a pad for the reasons I mentioned above.
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Postby Gerald Deutsch » 10/20/03 04:32 AM

I'm not a pro - or even a part time pro but for what it's worth I'll give my feelings.

Most of my magic is done as what appears to be impromptu - usually at a dinner table and there a close up pad would not be appropriate. And since most of my magic is done with borrowed objects, a coin bax wouldn't fit my style.

It would seem, however, that if I performed where expected (not impromptu) a close up pad might be helpful in setting a sort of "stage" where the magic happens.

As to the coin box - if I had a routine with it that too could be used in a non impromptu setting.
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Postby Adrian Kuiper » 10/20/03 07:00 AM

I'm not a pro, nor even a semi-pro, but I'll pass an answer along anyhow.

I do use a close-up mat. Just gives me a better performance area and generally I'll comment on that. As for coin boxes, I do a Ken Brook routine that was published in The Art of Close-up Magic. It uses (shudder) a Boston box. Great routine....great audience response so I'll probably continue to do it. In most cases I'll do a little bit with a normal box, then a couple other effects, and THEN the Ken Brooke routine. (It's called Tea for Two and is in Volume 1 of the book.

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Postby Carl Mercurio » 10/20/03 02:16 PM

Have never done an Okito box routine for a lay audience. But love Roth's four out routine.

Always use a close-up pad (from Dean Dill) for my formal close-up show and a smaller pad for bar magic (like Fechter, mostly to keep stuff dry).

Never use a close-up pad for walkaround or table hopping.

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Postby Paul Green » 10/20/03 09:10 PM

Hi Michael,

As for Close-Up Pads: Every Trade Show I have done has been done on a podium with a Dean Dill Pad.

I utilize what is called a "Strolling Table" for some of my Hospitaltiy/larger cocktail party work. This table has a Dean Dill Pad on it.

However, in most cases, I do not use a pad (Dean's or anyone else's).

The Coin box is not part of my working repertoire, although I have presented the Ken Brooke and Milt Kort routines before regular people. It was very well received. But I found it a little too long for my style.


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Postby Steve Brooks » 10/21/03 12:28 AM

I almost always use a close-up mat (unless doing strolling work), a standard size one at group gatherings and such. A smaller one I made specifically for use on tables at restaurants.
In addition, I normally use black or green, green giving that gambling feeling and black providing a nice contrast for cards and coins.

Regarding Okito type boxes, (I have a set made from Stainless Steel) I have at least two routines in use, though I am still working on some of Roth's material. From my experience, the boxes play well with laypersons if presented correctly. The sheer strangeness of their appearance invite audience interest, which takes most the heat off the real work. ;)
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Postby Guest » 10/21/03 02:25 AM

Robert Allen writes: ". . . the idea of putting a coin in a piece of apparatus to perform a very basic effect which might be better done with sleights, or a shell, is difficult for me to justify . . . "

That's the whole point! It has to be justified!

In my Showtime column in the Linking Ring magazine of January, '02, I present the routine "Robin 'n the Hood", which is essentially a coins across and a transposition using an Okito box.
However, the whole thing is done as a comedy routine with Robin Hood robbing from the rich and giving to the poor; the Okito box is a strongbox in which those with the money keep their riches.

So the Okito box has a reason for being there; otherwise, Robert Allen is right.

As for closeup pads, I never use them except when practicing.
To put down a pad when table hopping is the ultimate rudeness because it invades the customer's space -- and that's a "no-no".
There are a whole bunch of other reasons, but that's the main one.
Peter Marucci

Postby mago » 10/21/03 01:27 PM

I always have and always will use a close-up pad.

I feel that it adds mystery and class to your act, in fact, telling the audience that they are going to see something special.

Of course, I mean using a clean pad and not a worn out one. :)

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Postby Guest » 10/21/03 01:34 PM

I use a close up pad at EVERY trade show (Dill pad, of course, either black or green).

Strolling, I assess the venue and decide accordingly. I use one when feasible, don't when not.

As to coin boxes - I occasionally use a mag Boston Box, but it's not in my regular rep.

Hope this helps!

Lee Darrow, C.Ht.
P.S. I'll be at the Society of Actuaries' convention in Orlando, starting this Sunday, through Tuesday at Disney Dolphin Hotel. If you're in the neighborhood, let me know! - LD

Postby Marty » 10/22/03 03:03 PM

obviously common sense dictates the use of a close up pad....

but Bob Bengel's routine with a slot box and its sensational ending is worth the trouble of pad and box when the situation fits...
i use it as a killer among sceptics.

Marty Shapiro
Greenville SC

Bob as you know is in Atlanta up from Tampa... the southeast has its influencers too you know...
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Postby Geno Munari » 10/22/03 05:10 PM

I like this question,

Jimmy Grippo would never dream of using a mat, sense he felt that magic should be performed on the spot, without any obvious preparation. I agree with him and Michael, however there are some considerations to ponder.

1) A close up mat sets up the situation akin to having a theater to perform in; i.e., the theater tells the spectator that he has a good reason to believe that there will be a live show. The close-up mat sets the point that there will be a formal close-up show. Maybe, maybe not. This point is not consistent with some of my following points.

2) What is wrong with using a close-up mat? How can you do great gambling routines without one, especially if you are doing riffle shuffle work?
A casino uses a big green close-up mat called a layout.

3) Card work can be performed with or without a close-up mat, yet the spectator could care less if you have one or not. Do you think the spec. will go home and tell about the great show he saw with "Franco Zamporilli" the great close-up worker, and yes he used a close-up mat? The mat is oblivious to the spectator.

4) My summation: Do what ever is comfortable and necessary with your presentation.

As far as using a coin box, I think there are so many great coin effects that don't require a box, that props are'nt necessary at all.

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Postby Mr. Stickley » 10/22/03 06:24 PM

Howdy Michael.

Greetings from the west side of town!

Close up pad? No. Coin Box? DEFINITELY!

In Stephen Minchs great book, The Magic of Milt Kort (p. 209), Ron Bauer describes in detail, line for line what is arguably the best coin box routine ever devised. There is justification for having a box to contain your prized coin collection (a strong box type concept, complete with psuedo combination lock). The basics of the routine were detailed in New Modern Coin Magic (Bobo, 1966), but not fully described in print until Minchs book on Kort in 1999. I have used it quite regularly for some time. I believe it is a staple of the Grate Tom Gadis (one talented cookie). Plays GREAT for laymen, and blows most magicians out of the water (Bauer fooled Marlo with it on multiple occasions).

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Postby David Neighbors » 10/22/03 09:21 PM

Hi Gang,
It Depends on the Gig! For Formal Close-up
Shows I all Ways Use A Big Pad, It's My stage!
For Restaurants and Bars I sometimes use A small
Or med. Close-up Pad! If there is room for one without moveing stuff around on the table, I would
not do that!

I have used A coin box ( Mostly A Boston Box Without A coin Stuck to the Botton) In My Poffessional work! And got Great reaction from it!In Fact I have A new soft bound book comeing
out called " The Poffessional coin box magic of David Neighbors" I called it that oddly Enough
Becase I Do it In my Poffessional work! :) !
But I don't think I have to use it For A Payed GIG
To call it that that! Poffessional could Mean That it's Poffessional " Looking" stuff! Besides the stuff useing 4 halfs I also Have some International stuff! I have not used it that much
for Laymen, ( Mostly Magicions) But I have Used it in my Poffessional work at magic Cons. Like the
COINvention ( Hay I got payed for It :) !)There is also some 3-3 Silver-brass stuff in there that I have done for Layman And it went over well!
Also As to what it is! I also have A page it the Book Called " What is It"That try's To gave An Justification for the box! Does it do It? Well Each person Will have to make up there own mind About That!
Okito got the Ideal for A coin Box From A Pill box! So that is what I use! I Say " I got it from my Great Granpa"! I bring it out and it has A wad Of Cotton in it ( All the pills Have been Taken!)
I say "Great Granpa Was A Magicion And When he Place the Cotton Away 4 coins Would apear in the box!"
When The Coins are in the Box (where I Can't touch
them) It Slight of hand prof's the coins becase I can not touch them! Ie. thay are locked in the box,where I can not get to them without someone seeing Me! So maybe that makes it more Impossable!
I also have 1 or 2 Stand-up Routines ( Not in print Yet) For walk around work!I Know David Roth
And Bob Bangle both Use coin box Work In there Poffessional work !Ok so that My 2 Cents! Thanks!

Best David Neighbors
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Postby Pete Biro » 10/22/03 09:43 PM

I just thought of a nutty idea for a coin box. Take a DIAL from a combination lock and stick it onto the lid of a coin box.

You keep your valuable coins in it and keep 'em locked up.

This is a switch on a gag Don Alan gave me (I still have it) where he had a lock dial on a wallet.

:genii: :D :genii:
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Postby Pete Biro » 10/22/03 09:44 PM

Oh, yah, Neighbors... don't be such a stranger around here... you have much to share. :genii:
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Postby David Neighbors » 10/22/03 10:49 PM

Sorry Pete,
I toss it Off My List When I herd It was shunting down! then When It did Not I just Never Got around To Comeing Back!I will try to make It here More offen Now! Thanks Man!
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Postby Mr. Stickley » 10/23/03 06:05 PM

Hey Pete,

Neat ideas, but I think you're trying to re-invent the wheel here. Read the KORT routine. I think you will be presently surprised.

P.S. I should have clarified my statement. Bauer smoked Marlo TWICE in a row on one occasion, not multiple occasions as i stated at first.
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Postby Pete Biro » 10/23/03 08:11 PM

Where do I 'read the Kort routine' ???
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Postby Guest » 10/24/03 09:54 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Where do I 'read the Kort routine' ???
Maestro Biro, as Mr. Stickley noted:

"In Stephen Minchs great book, The Magic of Milt Kort (p. 209), Ron Bauer describes in detail, line for line what is arguably the best coin box routine ever devised. There is justification for having a box to contain your prized coin collection (a strong box type concept, complete with psuedo combination lock)."

I just looked it over and it is well worth the perusal.

Hope this helps,

Lee Darrow, C.Ht.

Postby Pete Biro » 10/24/03 11:10 AM

Many thanks for the information.... Don (Alan) gave me a LePaul wallet years ago with a combo lock dial on it... wonder if he got it from Kort or Kort from Don?

Anyway, thanks :cool:
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Postby Guest » 10/24/03 04:54 PM

When I was working at Malone's, I used a pad. We all did, almost everything I performed with a pad can be done without. It takes practice to do the shuffles and card work, but it can be done. As far as coin boxes as concerned. I will never forget what Ricky Jay said at the Chicago Round table decades ago when someone wanted to show him a coin box routine. He said " I don't watch coin box routines". This influenced my opinion of coin box effects.

Postby Pete Biro » 10/24/03 07:06 PM

So, you do 'em when Ricky's not there? :D
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Postby Guest » 10/24/03 07:41 PM

All the time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Postby Brian Marks » 10/31/03 08:58 PM

I still am not convinced a coin box routine should be used in professional work. I dont like the "pill box" justification or a box for protecting a coin collection. The box is just too odd a prop. So much convincing coin magic can be done without it.

I am sure a short routine will do fine with laypeople. I just am uneasy with it.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 11/01/03 01:09 AM

I am not any kind of professional magician, but as a professional scriptwriter the selection of props is within my purview. And so, through the thinnest of cracks I insinuate myself into this excellent thread.

In my experience an audience will more readily accept a prop that has no clear purpose if it's an antique. We're all used to seeing antiques whose purpose is not apparent. And antique decorative boxes come in all shapes and sizes. If your coin box is sufficiently antique and decorative, it's unusualness will enrich the presentation.

If it's cheap or ugly, all bets are off.

From a magical perspective, props are less likely to be suspected if the audience thinks they were chosen to support a presentation. If you present a metal box, and the coins appear and disappear inside of it, then of course the audience will think the box's purpose is to make the coins appear and disappear.

But if you are telling a story about your grandfather -- who use to work at the mint -- and how he used to keep the unusable coins in this box, then the audience already has an identity for the box. They stop thinking about why you're using it. They stop questioning it.

Such an unusual container requires equally unusual contents. So you can't use kennedy half dollars, for example. If you can't afford genuinely antique coins, you can always take junk-quality old coins and give them a backstory. (If you're familiar with the musical The Rothschilds, or the movie Throw Momma From the Train, you know what I mean.) This backstory will naturally include the specific provenance of the box, tying the objects together. So each one justifies the other.

It will also limit the effects you can present, or at least, those you can present without violating your backstory. But the end result can be very effective.

Of course, you have to be a very specific type of theatrical performer. It's not for everyone.

I can easily imagine Eugene Burger performing a coin box routine in this style with great success. But at the same time I'm not surprised Michael Close does not. The mark of a true professional is to pick effects that work for your character.
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Postby Mike Rubinstein » 11/01/03 08:36 AM

Hi Mike, I have a couple of coin box routines, but for the most part don't do them. One of them uses the box not as a holder of coins, but as a mini model of a trunk for a close up sub trunk mystery! I use close up pads when I work on a table, and for those that know me I use two pads for my matting work - one is larger and acts as the stage, and the smaller one focuses the magic to the center. I have used it in restaurants, for street magic, and for shows. I think that there's a place for everything, and I'll use that when the oportunity affords it, but I can also do stand up walk around magic that doesn't need a table. My feeling is that a magician should be able to take advantage of any situation - if you have sleeves, use them, if you sit, use your lap, if you have a jacket, use a topit, and if you use a mat, use matting!
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Postby Mr. Stickley » 11/02/03 01:58 AM

In response to Mr. McCabe's (not just him specifically others in this post as well) post about not using an item (coin box) if it doesn't look unusual, and other people making the old "I wouldn't use or carry such an unusual object because it is just not normal" argument... I would like to take a poll of how many of you do card tricks, carrying around a deck of cards. I have yet (though I am young. Well, not too young!) to come across a person carrying a deck of cards with them. What is your justification to carry a deck of cards in an out of place environment? You are a magician? Well, using that logic, why wouldn't you have some mysterious thing that you keep coins in? Regular people would not carry around such an item of course... but if you are a magician, (or playing the part) why would you NOT have some odd item such as a coin box to carry your coins? If you are a magician and can DO strange "un-normal" things, why wouldn't you HAVE un-normal things?
For those interested, Ron Bauer addresses this issue in his latest private studies series the "Siamese Goose Egg Bag". Talk about an education! Agree or disagree, the info on this subject is MORE than worth the price of admission.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 11/02/03 04:27 PM

I used to do David Roth's Stars of Magic coin box routine. As to what the coin box was supposed to be, I solved the problem this way. I had the top engraved with the word, "CHUBB.

Then, rather than simply opening the box, I would twist the top this way and that, as if working through a combination. I explained that this was a miniature wall safe used by safecrackers to practice.

Also in my performing past, is the egg bag routine from "My Best." I never called it a bag -- rather it was the pocket from a tuxedo owned by a famous magician. He had been blown up trying to make an elephant vanish and this was all they found that was left.

You can ALWAYS come up with a perfectly entertaining and plausible description for any prop, no matter how bizarre ("and this was in a game my kids got for Christmas ..."
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Postby Guest » 11/02/03 04:57 PM

I hate close up mats. I even shudder when I look at one. I think they are the mark of the amateur.They remind me of magic shop and magic club magicians.

I know I am wrong since some of the world's greatest close up workers have used them.Still, I don't care. They look bloody stupid. I don't like them and I never will. It is an irrational hatred based on no reason whatever. I was probably traumatised by a close up mat as a child.

I think it goes back to the fact that I am basically an impromptu worker by nature. Who the hell carries a close up mat around with them? You should be able to perform close up magic everywhere and anywhere.

Another thing is that laymen are believe it or not suspicious of the mat. They think it has something to do with the trick.

The counter argument of course is that the mat is your stage. It focuses attention on your area and has a theatrical formality to it. I don't give a stuff, though. I hate the bloody things.

I will agree that it may be more appropriate in a professional paid situation than in an informal demonstration. However if you are performing impromptu it does look bloody stupid to bring out one of those awful anachronisms. It looks so amateurish and set up.

Of course I don't practice one word of what I preach. There are some tricks that really need a mat such as the three shell game etc;
And the damn svengali deck! My spreads and turnovers with all the fancy moves cannot be done without some kind of working surface. Sadly I have to use some kind of mat. Out of sheer protest though I refuse to use one of those awful things that you buy at magic shops. I much prefer to use some kind of scruffy cloth or quite often a carpet sample. I don't care if it looks rough and ready. It is all my public deserves.

Just lately I have been using close up mats at trade shows because I use the svengali decks there. I cannot use the carpet samples because I am supposed to be a high falutin' company representative.

I wish to God some carpet manufacturer would hire me at a trade show so I could use the carpet sample.

I hate using close up mats at trade shows. I always have to take to my bed for a week after the show because of the trauma. Still the money helps me recover from the distress and at least I can afford good therapy.

Coin boxes? I have never used one but have always thought that I should.

Still, I think they may give me a complex so I won't bother.

Postby Robert Allen » 11/02/03 05:14 PM

Bob, I am in awe of your "explanation" for what the egg bag is. Whenever I read such an elegant plot, I feel shame for not having (yet) thought of something so simple and charming.

The Chubb thing on the other hand... Well just don't do it for the David Blaine crowd, unless you want to have them joke about having a Chubb on :) [yes, I know Chubb is a lock manufacturer] Did you use a watch winder while "unlocking" the coin box?
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Postby Pete McCabe » 11/03/03 02:15 AM

Mr. Stickley:

I think we agree, generally. Maybe the difference is, I don't think a regular coin box is mysterious.

If the audience recognize a prop's purpose, that purpose becomes the prop's identity. If it's part of the story, that becomes its identity. If it's neither, the only identity left is "magic prop." This is almost never my desired result.

Bob Farmer:

Great gag with the egg bag.

By the way, I got my 312. It's great fun.
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