It was the first time I had read the word paradigm. And though Jon Racherbaumer would give a brief definition of the word in his foreword to Richard Kaufman's CoinMagic (Kaufman and Greenberg, 1981), I still wanted to look it up for myself (in case you haven't noticed, I love words). Over two decades later, and having been bandied about by executives and salespeople with reckless abandon, the word is now as empty as the "suits" that abuse it. But in 1981, it had teeth and in this case it was used properly. Racherbaumer was describing Bobo's Modern Coin Magic (J.B. Bobo; Carl W. Jones, 1952), truly the "paradigmatic text" on coin magic."The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it."
Prior to its publication in late 1981 no major text on sleight-of-hand coin magic had been released since Bobo. The trend in coin magic in those days seemed to be going in the direction of gaffed coin effects, with coins and sets of coins of a near self-working nature providing miracles. Some small treatises found their way to magic shop bookshelves, and Al Schneider on Coins was published (self-published in 1975, and to this day remains one of my favorite books in all of magic), but these were individual works, focused on certain effects and/or moves or, as in Schneider's case, the author's work; not collections from multiple sources with ideas and techniques used by contemporary practitioners of numismatic magic. Kaufman's CoinMagic was the beginning of a paradigm shift away from the "old modern" (Bobo) to the new, and a reminder that sleight-of-hand with coins could be as magical looking as anything possible with any locking/magnetic/shell gaff set. This is not to say that gaffs have no part in CoinMagic; they do, but sleight-of-hand is the focus of the book, even where gaffs are present.
CoinMagic also represented the first major release of material from a man that would become the most important coin worker since T. Nelson Downs. David Roth's material set the new standard, especially in the area of close-up coin magic. In his introduction to the book Kaufman said of him, "Roth is to coin magic what Hofzinser was to card magic." No truer words could be conveyed, and nearly 25% of CoinMagic is devoted to his material which, as we would later find out with the release of his monumental David Roth's Expert Coin Magic (Richard Kaufman; Kaufman and Greenberg, 1985), was a mere drop in the bucket.
Other individuals who have sections devoted to them are: Sol Stone, Geoffrey Latta, Edward Marlo, and Slydini. Among the many other contributors are Wesley James, Tom Gagnon, Herb Zarrow, Ken Krenzel, Derek Dingle, Danny Korem and John Cornelius. In all, there are over 260 large format pages with clear descriptions and exceptional illustrations covering over 150 sleights, effects, and sleights within effects.
The book does not necessarily stand on its own. It is assumed that the reader has Bobo at least which to refer. CoinMagic never tries to replace the foundation, only build upon it. However, there is a short section devoted to some basic technique unique to the works presented later in the book. And any technique outside the realm of Bobo – and there is a wealth of such technique – is included and completely and clearly explained. CoinMagic is not meant for the beginner, and even advanced magicians will be challenged by some of the material. But, in my opinion, the crowning achievement of this work is its ability to take the intermediate coin magician and set him/her on a course toward the lofty atmosphere of advanced coin magic almost painlessly. For the most part, if the reader doesn't "get it," it is not due to a lack of clarity of the text or illustrations. By the time Kaufman wrote this book, his individual style (originally influenced by Harry Lorayne) was all but fully developed. Describing magic tricks in print is a difficult and tedious job to do well. CoinMagic is well written, and the accompanying illustrations come to life before your eyes – another Kaufman hallmark. There are sequential illustrations throughout that have an animated quality about them, making the written descriptions that much easier to follow.
The material itself remains as exciting today as it did in 1981. Roth's "Hanging Coins Plus" is a must learn effect if only (as in my case) for the self-pleasure of doing it, while, for some time, Geoffrey Latta's "CopSilBrass" was a part of my repertoire. The effects in CoinMagic range from the very commercial to "for magicians only" effects (which is always pointed out in those effects' opening remarks). While much of the material is suitable only for the table, there is quite a bit that is for stand-up situations. And there are instances where the table material is adaptable for stand-up, and those adaptations are provided in the text.
CoinMagic was not ahead of its time; it was a book for its time. The magic world was ready for, and in desperate need of, this book. It rejuvenated a type of magic that seemed to be becoming relegated to the world of gaffs and gimmicks alone. CoinMagic breathed life into the art of sleight-of-hand with coins and it continues to steamroll on today, with the likes of Reed McClintock, Shoot Ogawa and several others coming to the forefront with stunning coin work of their own. They stand on the foundation provided by Bobo, but CoinMagic gave them – gave us all – a further leg up.
Enjoy revisiting it and joining in the conversation.