Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Vanish by Thread behind Hand

Several different thread setups have been developed over the years to accomplish the same core function. W.H.J. Shaw described one such system in Magic Up to Date; or, Shaw's Magical Instructor, 1896, p. 71. In it, a thread was run along the back of the performer's hand, up the sleeve and down into the vest. By having coins drilled through their edges, they could run up and down the thread as needed. Adding slack to the thread allowed the stack of coins to swing around to the palm of the hand for their appearance, and the reverse for their vanish.

A much simplified version appeared without a byline in Tricks, Vol. 1 No. 1, June 1901, p. 3. A penny with a hole drilled into its edge was strung with a loop of light-colored thread that hung around the magician's thumb. To effect the vanish, the coin wasn't hung over the back of the hand—as would be later developed—but instead, the penny was allowed to fall between the first and second fingers where it would dangle undetected.

The over-the-hand approach was introduced by Frank Ducrot in Mahatma, Vol. 7 No. 7, Jan. 1904, p. 77. Drucot's gimmick was made more versatile than the permanently threaded penny by using a suction cup that would allow a ball to be attached and detached when needed. Connecting the ball to the cup allowed the performer to flip the ball over the back of the hand where it would hide from view. C. H. Tickell later changed the gimmick to a thread anchored to the performer in The Magical Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 8, Mar. 1923, p. 117. This anchored approach would be reinvented several times over the next half century.

John Cornelius's “Fickle Nickel” is the most used and best-known version of this vanish. In The Award-Winning Magic of John Cornelius by Lance Pierce, 2001, p. 146, the date of invention is given as 1972. The trick was marketed c. early 1977; see Genii, Vol. 41 No. 2, Feb. 1977, p. 76. Cornelius and Pierce mention that, after the marketing of “Fickle Nickel”, it was learned that Ronnie Gann had come up with a similar handling in 1968, “Dime on My Hands”; see The Linking Ring, Vol. 53 No. 4, Apr. 1973, p. 121. Subsequently, when Cornelius learned of Gann's work, he listed Gann as co-inventor of “Fickle Nickel”.

In his book, Cornelius mentions an even earlier handling based on the same idea. This was described by T(erje) Nordnes of Norway in Magie, Vol. 21 No. 1, Jan. 1938, p. 23. However, Nordnes publicly gave credit for the vanish to his friend Arthur Sanders, also from Norway. The vanish was published again, in the Norwegian journal Magiens Verden, Vol. 2 No. 14 (misnumbered as No. 12), Dec. 1947, p. 7, where it is titled “Sanders Mynt-Trick” (Sanders's Coin Trick).

In MAGIC, Vol. 23 No. 11, July 2014, p. 36, it is stated that Nordnes was taught this coin vanish by Swedish magician Zandor, who invented it in the 1920s. This repeats misinformation published in a Norwegian magic book in 2000, where Sanders's name is misspelled Zandor, and his nationality and year of birth are misstated. It is also reported that Nordnes published the vanish in a German journal, Der Zauberkunstler, in the early 1930s. (Cornelius and Pierce mention 1933 as the year of Nordnes's invention or publication of the trick.) This citation seems to be an error, as no such journal is known to have been published in Germany during that time. The January 1938 issue of the German magazine Magie cited above is what was probably being remembered. In any event, credit for this coin vanish using a thread goes to Arthur Sanders.