Friday, February 28, 2014

Sol Stone Named "2014 Magician Of The Year"

The Parent Assembly #1 of The Society of American Magicians voted New York's "Underground" magician Sol Stone their "Magician of the Year."

For more than 50 years Mr. Stone has been referred to as the "Magician's Magician." While not a professional performer, Sol Stone has been teaching and developing the secrets behind the scenes. His specialty in coin magic sets him apart from the average magician.

The presentation will be made on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at the 105th ANNUAL Salute To Magic at Queens Theater in the Park * - 14 United Nations Avenue South in Flushing Meadows , Corona Park NY.

To catch a bit of a bit of Sol Stone's coin work, skip to the 2:29 mark:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A little Magic history

Hanging ten on the internets last night I came across this beautiful piece of magic history at Potter & Potter Auctions, an auction house specializing in magic and gambling items.

It's a Coin Dropper. A motor-driven device crafted from brass that automatically drops four half dollars, one at a time, into a drinking glass. The device was designed to be concealed in a pack of cards.

A version of this effect called Robot Coins was sold by Tony Spina during his tenure at Tannen's Magic Shop in New York City. Then later his partner John Blake created a version called Descending Dollars when we ran East Coast Magic.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Coin Practice Deck

Nothing is more important to a performer than his practice time. But professional and part-timer alike, having time to practice is a precious commodity. So we need to make the most efficient use of that time. Enter the Coin Practice Deck.

The idea is simple and practical. Take an old deck of cards and a fresh Sharpie and write the name of a different coin effect you know and want to keep in practice with on the face of each card. I also add tips and key words to some of the cards. Sometimes it’s just a few words to remind me of important points in the routine. Sometimes it’s the book and page number, so I can reference the source material if I need to.

Now, shuffle the deck, turn over the top card, and get to practicing. Once I’m done practicing that effect, the card goes to the bottom of the deck and I grab the next top card. This keeps rehearsing fresh and interesting. Much better than working from a hand-written list or an Excel spreadsheet. It’s also very easy to ‘edit’ the deck by removing or adding new effect cards.

The deck is small, easy to carry around, and can be used for practicing your card effects (when your palms are bleeding from too many Mutobe palms and stack transfers).

I’ve mentioned this idea in many of my lectures and the idea always goes over well. I've been carrying around a Practice Deck like this for about 12 years. And yes, I have a Card Practice Deck, too.

But we’re not here to talk about cards.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let's talk about openers

You have a private strolling gig, or even better, a restaurant gig and you need a good opener. For my money you can do no better than The One-Coin Flurry. For the past 23 years it has been my go to opener for any kind of close-up performance.

The Flurry is a one-coin sequence of vanishes and reproductions. While David Roth was very likely not the first person to perform a sequence like this, he was the first to codify it and get it into print. His routine appeared in his 1985 Expert Coin Magic. David says his inspiration was Tony Slydini. Here is an abbreviated version of my One-Coin Flurry.

The Flurry is perfect as an opener because it modular. It’s free form, almost jazz-like. Even though you have a set ‘script’ you can vary from it adding or subtracting moves to fit the situation. This is perfect for those times when you start performing and realize that the crowd is just not into it. Or, in a restaurant, when the food arrives in the middle of your first effect. What would you do if you were only into the first coin of your 4 Coins Across routine? Probably stop, stutter, and slink away from the table. Or worse, keep going while the hungry patrons try to split their attention between your coins and passing the ketchup to each other.

With a Flurry you can end the routine at any time by jumping to big finish. In my case, it’s changing the coin into a giant 3-inch chrome coin. On the other hand if the crowd is really into the effect you can add to it to extend the magic. You control the pace of the effect.

There is nothing for the audience to sign, or hold, or remember. It is eye candy at it’s best. This allows you to further gauge your audience’s interest level and show off some skills. It establishes you as a wonder worker and, with a good script, allows the audience to get to know you.

The Flurry is also good for getting over those first-effect jitters. Since it's self-contained it allows you to perform a lot of magic without having to engage or even say too much. By the end of the effect, your audience is applauding and you have gained your foothold. Now you can relax.

Speaking of skills, the Flurry is also a wonderful way to break in new sleights. Vanishes and productions are like card controls to a coin magician, we all know a ton of them, but can never resist learning just one more. It’s easy to work that new move into the Flurry without a major re-write of the effect.

Wow! What more can you ask from an opener?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Your French Drop sucks

Don’t feel bad, mine used to suck, too. But it’s not you, really. It’s the way we were all taught. A quick search of the internets proves that we have all been taught to pimp slap this poor little move like it owes us money.

The 6 Deadly Sins of Performing The French Drop:

1 Don’t Muscle-F*ck It – Pardon my French, but this is just a little coin, not a brick. There is no need to smother the coin in a death-grip. Use a light touch to gently grasp the coin. The thumb of the grasping hand should never be shoved through the thumbhole of the holding hand, and worse, project out the other side. Over-acting may work for Jim Carrey, but you’re not Jim Carrey, and his French Drop probably sucks, too.

2 Drop the Left HandYes, I’m assuming you are doing the move right-handed, but I had to pick a side to make it clear, so I picked right. Once you’ve taken the coin, the ‘empty’ hand should drop. It’s EMPTY. Remember? Why would you hold it at your waist in that painful-looking clenched fist?

3 In the Name of All That’s Holy Don’t Point! – Even worse than NOT dropping the left hand is pointing at the right hand. What in the hell are you pointing at?! If you’ve done your job there shouldn't be anyone in the room who doesn’t think that the coin is in the right hand. By pointing you’re only fooling yourself, and just barely at that.

4 Don’t Look at the Left Hand – What is this obsession magicians have with staring at the unimportant, and totally EMPTY, left hand? Once the coin has been taken, the left hand should be completely out of your mind. Yet, I see so many magicians who can’t help but glance back at the left hand. And you know what happens when you look at it? The audience looks at it, too. Hey, if the magician is looking there something must be going to happen to it. All of your attention should be on the hand that has taken the coin. You eyes should look at the right hand, your head should tilt towards it, your body should lean towards it. With that much of your attention focused on the right hand, the audience will be breathlessly waiting to see what’s so important there. Then they, too, will forget about the left hand.

5 The Adjustment Move – Once you’ve ‘taken’ the coin, do a little adjustment move. Shift the imaginary coin around in your hand a bit, to get it into a better position. This is exactly what you do every day when you pick something up. The object rarely falls into a comfortable position on the first try. A little bounce, a shift of the fingers, or a move of the thumb, all work to convince the audience that the coin is really in there. If you were faking it, why would you be doing that adjustment?

6 Don’t Rush to the Finish – It's much more fun if we all get there at the same time. Once you’ve taken the coin, don’t immediately open your hand to show it has vanished. If you take the coin in the right hand then suddenly show it gone, it’s painfully obvious that you never really took the coin. Audiences are not as dumb as we would like to think they are. You need a little time between when you do the dirty work and when you reveal the vanish. The longer you wait, the further away that left hand gets in their memory.

To help lock these 6 Deadly Sins in your mind watch this clip from my Amazing Easy To Learn Coin Magic DVD.

You’ve got a lot of un-learning to do, but the work will be well worth it. If you have any question, concerns, comments, or just want to yell at me for not telling you all this sooner, shoot an email to BEN at

Friday, February 14, 2014

Coin 0.5 from Will Houstoun

Check out this elegant coin magic in a trailer for Will Houstoun's new 3-DVD set:

I first read this effect in his ‘Out With The New’ lecture notes when we both lectured at Magie Spectram’s Journee Magique 2012 in Montreal.

Will has a very smooth style and avoids any quick jerky movements in his magic, which makes it all the more deceptive. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the DVD set. You can get it from RSVP Magic.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Arrivederci, Aldo.

Yesterday magic lost a superstar. A big, smiling, laughing, amazing, creative, warm, and wonderful superstar. Aldo Colombini. I had the pleasure of meeting Aldo on several occasions and he always greeted you with a smile and a laugh.

Aldo was known primarily for his rope magic and his card routines. But, Aldo also had a love for the beauty of Coin Magic. So, here he is the Mamma-Mia coin man himself. Rest In Peace, Aldo.

Instant Gratification: Marion Boykin’s JumpMandu

If you’re like me, you love to learn good magic, but you hate to wait for UPS to deliver it. Fortunately for us, in the uncharted corners of the internets a group of little-known magicians have been creating some of the most incredible magic downloads you’ve ever seen. One of these unsung stars is coin magician Marion Boykin.

Marion’s JumpMandu is a Copper/Silver routine in overdrive. A copper English Penny and a silver Half Dollar are cleanly shown in two very empty hands. The hands never touch, but just a wave and the two coins have changed places. Another smooth wave and the coins jump hands again. And again! Even though he fairly shows you the two coins, they jump again just as you are getting your bearings. Finally, held at the fingertips, the two coins once again switch places without ever coming near each other.

Featuring Marion’s own Crimp Change and a few basic coin sleights, JumpMandu slaps you between the eyes from the start and never lets up. The download includes a performer’s point-of-view video teaching all the moves, then another from the spectator’s view that ties all the moves together and teaches you the flow of the routine. Additionally, you receive a pdf of the routine with more detail, alternate endings, new ideas, and crediting.

These are not studio-shot videos in front of group of over-actors and that’s a good thing. They are shot with good lighting, excellent detail, and Marion’s relaxed, but thorough, teaching style. Watching these videos makes you feel like you’re having a jam session with a good friend.

There are so few routines that are true ‘workers’. By this I mean routines that have been tested in front of real audiences of lay people, require no crazy set-up, use no exotic gaffs or sleights, and can be done anywhere at anytime. And when you DO find ‘workers’ there are usually priced in the $35-$40 range.

Marion’s JumpMandu is available as an instant download from for just $15! Which means that with a few bucks and a couple mouse clicks you can dig in right and start learning a routine that I know will quickly find a permanent place in your pocket. Can you say ‘instant gratification’?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What ANNIE can teach us about Coin Magic

The curtain is about to go up on a performance of the Broadway show ANNIE. As I sit here in the audience I started to think about theater and Coin Magic.

Look at all the work that goes into a theater show:

- finding a good script
- hiring the right actors
- dress rehearsal
- showtime!
- after-show reviews
- tweaking

Meanwhile, I see so many magicians at lectures, conventions, and especially on YouTube, who string a few mumbled words together and muscle-hump their way through an effect they just learned a few minutes ago. “Sad” does not even come close to describing it. “Pathetic” is more like it.

These same magicians wonder why a play has hundreds of people in the audience who have paid to see the show while they have to force a performance on anyone who comes close enough to grab.

What if we applied these steps to Coin magic...

Find a Good Script: You’re not David Blaine (and THAT was a character he was portraying BTW. David is very well spoken in real-life). Write down what you want to convey. Is it a cute story or a simple narration? Then write it down. Edit it so it’s concise and strengthens every move. Then memorize it. Now you can say good-bye to all those illusion-destroying ‘uhs’ and ‘OKs’.

Find the Right Actors: Maybe those silver Walkers aren’t the best coins for this job. Is there another coin that might lend to the story line you’re creating? If you’re doing an effect about 'acrobatic coins', maybe use 3 Italian coins, or 3 Chinese coins to represent the characters.

Dress Rehearsal: There’s practice, where you learn the moves. Then there’s rehearsal where you put it all together. When you rehearse you should stand or sit the way you will when you perform. Say, out loud, the presentation you have memorized, pausing for the appropriate times when there would be audience interaction. Wear the clothes you’ll wear when you perform. This will help you to block out any pocket management issues. The only difference between this and an actual performance should be the lack of an audience.

Showtime: Put what you’ve learned into practice. Treat every performance, no matter how casual, as if you were auditioning for your own TV show. Leave it all out there on the stage.

After-Show Review: Theater groups have critics to tell them how well they did. As magicians, we should seek out critiques from our friends and audiences as well. But only after they have seen the finished product. Ask them to be brutally honest. Sugar-coated reviews will do more harm than good. And here’s the most difficult and important part; LISTEN TO THEM.

Tweaking: You should constantly be reviewing your performances and making changes. Last night I performed an effect that I have done for almost 20 years, and I found a better way to do a part of it. Just a tiny change, but it makes the routine that much better. To paraphrase Paul ValĂ©ry; ‘ an effect is never finished, only abandoned.

I challenge you to apply these ideas to just ONE effect in your repertoire; you will quickly see just how powerful your magic can be. And it may put you one step closer to your first sold-out theater!

Living a Coin Magic-filled life

From the "It's Not Magic, But..." department: A bathroom floor tiled in coins! This would definitely make you feel like the Coin God that you are while walking upon the backs of your loyal subjects. LOL!

Check out the rest of the page for some great-looking chairs and a dress for your lovely assistant to wear when you accept your Coin Magician of the Year award from the Magic Castle.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Astounding Pencil Through Coin in Michael Ammar's new lecture

Last night I sat in on the $1 Michael Ammar Lecture at VanishingIncMagic.

It was a brand new lecture, full of great material including a broken & restored phone, a jam session on his Crazy Man’s Handcuffs, and a “Hardcore Card Jam”. But of particular interest to Coin Magicians was his new handling for his classic Pencil Through Coin.

The effect looked INCREDIBLE. A pencil is s-l-o-w-l-y pushed through a borrowed coin, starting with the lead tip! First you see the lead tip poke through from the front AND the back. Then the entire pencil slowly glides into the coin. The coin seems to stretch open to allow the pencil to pass through. Both sides are clearly shown with the pencil embedded in the coin. No flaps, no Pressley Guitar-inspired gimmicks.

Then the pencil is slowly and visibly removed from the coin and the coin is handed back to the spectator. It’s about as magical as you can get. Ammar plans to market the effect soon, once a couple production issues are resolved.

Ammar also teaches a few new bits of finesse for his classic Pencil Through Coin from his book "The Magic of Michael Ammar". It features a very deceptive new way to do Bob Elliott's FlipSwitch.

The lecture is very good. 2 hours of good advice, TV clips, and strong, practical magic. And all for $1! The Pencil Through Coin happens at the 34:50 mark, and is something you really have to see. Do yourself a favor and zip over to VanishIncMagic and pick this up. Did I mention it’s only $1?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

To Coin Purse or not to Coin Purse? Part 2

I am a big proponent of using a coin purse (or coin holder, if you prefer) to carry your coins. Here are several practical and presentational reasons why I think all serious coin workers should, too. First, the practical reasons:

A coin purse keeps your performing coins separate from any change in your pocket. It helps to keep the coins together as a group. No more picking through pocket lint and candy wrappers to find your coins. And it makes it easy to switch from one outfit to another.

A coin purse will protect your investment. Lassen and Schoolcraft coins are not cheap. The last thing you want is to have your Lassen expanded Morgan squashed and dented between your car keys and your iPhone.

A coin purse can define you as an expert and build interest in your magic even before the first coin has vanished:

The coins we use like Kennedys, Morgans, English Pennies, and West African Dimes, are pretty common to us finger-flingers. But, when is the last time the average layperson saw an 1888 Morgan Silver Dollar? These are rare and interesting items. They attract attention and are definite conversation starters. So it only makes sense to carry them with some reverence. A coin purse is perfect for that.

I make a show of removing the coins from the purse, mentioning how rare and interesting they are. I then let every one take a look at them so they can have a chance to ‘touch a bit of history.’ I ask them just to imagine whose hands these coins may has passed through. ‘…Eliott Ness, Jesse James, or maybe an American president.’ In a smooth and subtle way I have generated interest, AND let everyone see that the coins are regular coins, without having ever to say, “Inspect the coins, make sure they’re real” (blech)

Carrying your coins in a special holder adds to your professionalism and subtly tells the audience that you are no mere dabbler. It shows that you are serious about your art, like a Pool Shark that carries his cue in a custom engraved case.

With the wide variety of holders available, you can choose one that fits your personality and goes with your style of performing and clothing.

Here are a few links to some great looking coin purses:

The Dmann Coin Wallet

The Jerry O’Connell Coin Tidy

A unique design from Roy Kueppers

A zippered coin holder

Another very unique design

My personal favorite from Ton Onosaka

A Memory Card holder with a belt loop

Monday, February 3, 2014

To Coin Purse or not to Coin Purse? Part 1

Do you Coin Purse or do you go commando? Do you carry your coins in a small leather pouch that you call a coin HOLDER (when we all know it’s really just a purse)? Or do you just let it all hang out and stroll along with a pocket full of loose, jingling coins?

If you’re a guy and you’re just starting in coin magic, you tend to shy away from carrying anything called a purse. I mean seriously, how you can impress a girl with your French Drop if you have to pull the coin out a little leather purse? Well, being a guy, and being a coin magician, I can tell you that’s exactly how I felt, until…

I was a young Air Force recruit at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. It was payday and, of course, I was broke. I had spent my last $30 on a set of Gin & Tonic coins from Gordon at Zucchini’s Tricks & Things on Cannery Row. Food you can get anywhere, but these coins were my step into the big league of magic. As I dressed that morning I stuffed the nested Gin & Tonic in my left pocket and the centavo in my right pocket. Hungry, but ready to amaze.

On a break between classes I spied a quarter on the ground and stuffed it into my left pocket where it hit something. I reached inside and found another quarter! The Caffeine Gods were smiling on me. As quick as I could I popped those 2 quarters into the Coke machine on the top floor of Munakata Hall and took a huge swig of that ice-cold elixir. Life was good.

Near the end of the morning, I decided to show off my new coin effect to my friends. I reached into my pockets and found just the centavo in the right pocket. A brief moment of confusion, a niggling fear, a twitch, then the heart-dropping realization that I had just bought a THIRTY DOLLAR and twenty five cent Coke and lost my killer new coin trick in the process.

By the next weekend, I had bought the first of many black leather coin purses that would become my lifetime hip-pocket companions. To help overcome the crushing loss of machismo (hey, it was the 80s) I quickly came up with the premise that these polished half dollars could do amazing things, so I kept them protected in a special coin “holder”. Instead of looking silly, the coin purse was now a conversation piece and slowly revealing the coins inside became the first step in building the mystery.

My name is Ben, and I carry a coin purse.

Sunday, February 2, 2014