The discovery of this secret method for counting a small number of cards is frequently attributed to Dai Vernon, who recalled having come up with the procedure after reading that J. N. Hofzinser had a method for this task. (See Stephen Minch's The Vernon Chronicles, Vol. 2, 1988, p. 23.)
However, the procedure is one easily invented independently by others. The first published instance of the technique as it is used today seems to be the clear description of Olindo Galluccio's “Little Finger Count” in Genii, Vol. 21, No. 1, September 1956, p. 15. In this article, Mr. Galluccio is said to have developed the sleight roughly fourteen years earlier.
In 1945, Marlo had published a similar count from the top, using the second finger rather than the fourth, in Off the Top, p. 7. Later, in Seconds, Centers, Bottoms, 1960, p. 88, he expanded: “it was obvious that other fingers instead of the second finger could be used in the One Hand Count. When the One Hand Side Count appeared in 1945 several card men, independent of each other, changed the count technique to that of the left 4th finger. Among these were Russell Barnhardt, Olindo Galluccio, Charles Aste Jr. and several others.”
Galluccio, though, claimed to have developed the sleight around 1942, three years before Off the Top was published, and his contribution of the sleight to Genii appeared three years before Seconds, Centers, Bottoms. This timing and the fact that Galluccio resided in Rhode Island, distancing him from the Chicago magic scene, suggest independent invention.
An earlier description still of the Pinky Count surfaced when Jeff Busby published Volume Two of The Fred Braue Notebooks in 1985. On page 6 is an entry titled “FB Top Count-down”, which is a detailed description of the Pinky Count. This entry was dated Feb. 27, 1937, by Braue, which places it years before any of the published descriptions listed above.