Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Coins Across

Methods for making one coin travel from hand to hand are given by Reginald Scot in The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, Booke XIII, Chapter XXIV. The trick is almost certainly far older. Scot also records the idea of having one coin pass magically from one hand to join another coin held in the opposite hand. This is the groundwork for Coins Across, also called The Flying Coins and The Flying Eagles.

The trick was expanded and refined over the centuries. In Laroussse's Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Sièle, 1864, Robert-Houdin reports a fine version of it from the repertoire of Conus (?–1836), in which as many as four coins flew from hand to hand as well as through a tabletop and into a cup held beneath it. (For an English translation of this entry, see Christian Fechner's Magic of Robert-Houdin, Vol. 2, 2003, p. 418.) Note that Robert-Houdin says that this was “one of [Conus's] favorite tricks”, but he does not specifically say it was Conus's invention, although it may have been. Robert-Houdin describes the working of what may be presumed the Conus routine (as it matches in every detail the effect Robert-Houdin gives in the Grand Dictionnaire) in Les Secrets de la Prestigitation et de la Magie, 1868; English-language translation: Secrets of Conjuring and Magic, 1878, “The Flying Coins”, p. 93 (first edition).

Walter B. Gibson published a more streamlined presentation and method for the effect in the September 1920 issue of Pierce's Magic World (Vol. 4 No. 6, “New Passe Passe Coins”, p. 69). His method uses one shell coin, and the coins fly from hand to hand, distinguishing his trick from an older mechanical method known as “Passe Passe Coins”, which uses two cylindrical caps to cover two stacks of coins resting on the table (e.g., Oaks Latest Tricks catalog, 1913, Item 98).