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This week’s letters (06/18/13)

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Cup, saucer coin is magician’s coin
In response to the question in Mr. Fazzari’s May 28 column from Numismatic News, I wanted to let you know that the coin you came across is part of a popular magic trick, called a “Scotch and Soda.”
The idea behind the trick is to show two coins to a spectator, make one of them disappear, and then reappear somewhere else. With the gimmick you have, it is pretty self-explanatory how to make the coin disappear. All you would need is a regular Mexican 20 centavo piece to make the coin “reappear” someplace else.
I don’t know how much value it would have on the counterfeit market, but the trick itself is priced around $20 due to the work involved in creating the gimmick. Most likely a magician mixed up the coin and accidentally spent it (an expensive mistake), after which it traveled around until it reached you.
You have the right idea about the way the coin works. I’ll share with you my routine for the trick and hopefully it will make sense.
I start with the gimmicked half dollar apart, showing the Kennedy obverse face up and the Mexican centavo side face up. (The audience assumes I have two different coins and I don’t show the backs of either one at this point.) I hold both of the coins in my hand, with the Kennedy obverse slightly overlapping the centavo. I also have a real Mexican 20 centavo coin in my pocket, hidden from the audience.
First, I draw attention to the fact that I have two coins in my hand and show them to the audience.
Next, I close my hand over the two coins. While closing my hand, the two halves should nest together easily. I squeeze them briefly to make sure that they are locked snugly.
I open my hand to reveal that one of the coins has disappeared. At this point I can show both the front and back of the “half dollar” and even hand it out to the spectator. Since the coin is locked, it will appear that there is nothing fishy about the coin. It would take a very perceptive eye to notice anything amiss.
When the spectator asks what happened to the centavo, I pull it out of my pocket. They think that I did an amazing bit of sleight-of-hand, when in reality the coin itself does all the work.
You are right that it is hard to get the two halves apart. Luckily, a magician would never need to do this during the act. There is a device called a bang ring (basically a plastic ring with two different diameter openings) that separates the halves easily. You place the half dollar (obverse up) into the ring and then bang it on a hard flat surface. Inertia will knock the centavo right back out.
Hopefully this makes more sense. I found a video of the routine on YouTube, if you would like to watch someone perform the trick. (I notice that they are actually using a version of the trick which has an English penny as the hidden coin.

I have two of these coins myself, both purchased from a wholesaler that can be found at www.themagicwarehouse.com. The company that makes this particular version is based out of Argentina and is called TangoMagic, though I am sure there are other manufacturers as well. The coins are very well made and lock very securely.
After doing a little research of my own, I found that many varieties of this trick exist with the same locking coin idea, but using different coins themselves. Some versions include different denomination euro coins, a pre-1967 English penny, and a smaller version which utilizes a U.S. dime and penny.
Nick Titus
(Amateur coin collector and magician)

Altered coin used for magic trick Scotch and Soda
I wanted to identify the altered 1993 Kennedy half dollar F. Michael Fazzari pictures in “Facts About Fakes” in the May 28 issue. The coin is indeed a magician’s coin, though different from the “win-the-coin-flip” trick. It is what’s known as a “Scotch and Soda” trick, where the magician shows the half dollar and peso separate, then presses them together in a person’s hand to make it look as though the peso has disappeared. I hope this helps!
Name withheld
Upland, Calif.

Kennedy half, Britannia penny used for trick coin
I am responding to Mr. Fazzari’s cup and saucer find. I found a 1979 “P” and or “D” Kennedy half dollar cup and saucer in a roll of Kennedy’s from my credit union about a year ago. I knew something was wrong by the thud sound it made when I dropped it on my table.
It took awhile to finally get the two halves separated. To my surprise there was a 1967 copper Britannia penny on the back side of the reverse of the Kennedy half. You can definitely make out the lathe marks inside the cup. My coin had to have been made in 1979 or later. I’m just curious if these are made by some individual or a company? For the amount of time and labor it must take to make one, is there any value?
Byron Wood
Aurora, Colo.

60 years of collecting gold coins a good investment
“Class of ’63: What did those gold coins do to me?” That was a good article. That was the year I joined the ANA, and this year I will get my 50th year medal.
I was a gold collector. I went to every pawn shop in Honolulu and bought all of their $3 gold pieces for $35-$40 each and $20 Saint-Gaudens for $50 each regardless of date or mintage.
In 1963 no one was looking at the mintage; gold was cheap. Yes, I was a young kid then. I would buy one or two coins each week. I started a little earlier than 1963, like 1950 when I was 12 years old. Three legged nickels were $2 each. In 1963 a gem BU 1880s $1 was $5 at the most.
This is what all started me in collecting gold. Especially $20s. The Liberty head $20s are the nicest gold coin.
After 60 years of collecting and trading I got 182 $20 gold slabs all from pawn shops and dealers. No high grade, all circulated from Fine to MS-61 bought between 1958 and 2003. I am happy.
This is what gold did for me!
I will be in Chicago picking up my medal. Hope to see you there too! Aloha.
Gerald Kwock
Hawaii

Few clear choices for ANA governor posts
I appreciated the thoughts in Larry Shepherd’s “Vote wisely for ANA candidates” Viewpoint on page 7 of Numismatic News for June 4, 2013. But it is difficult to take his advice. After spending about an hour with the biographies and promises of the 14 candidates for ANA Governor, I marked two as “yes” votes and one as a “no”, leaving me to choose from among 11 people for the other five open positions.
This is quite a burden and frustrating because I know voting from statements only is not much better than throwing darts at a list on the wall. Nevertheless, best wishes to the ANA to get a great board from this random selection process and to move on from the sad contention and litigation of the last few years.
I would suggest the new board of Governors look at the American Philatelic Society. Its print publications, web presence and programs of service to members are much more engaging and attention getting than the ANA, which in comparison is pretty staid and repeating the same old thing.
Nevertheless I have stayed an ANA member for 30 years or more. I believe every collector should join it to support the hobby.
R. W. Barker
Midland Mich.

Is it common for mintmark locations to vary?
I recently was going through some rolls of pennies when I found a 1984-D penny with a much lower mintmark than other 84-D pennies I have seen.
I also found two 1973-S pennies with mintmarks in different locations. One has a high “S” closer to the date, and one has a lower “S” further away from the date. Is this common?
Matt Ellis
Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Editor’s note: Before the 1990s, mintmark location varied.

Be grateful for freedoms that let us enjoy hobbies
As I sit here on this Memorial Day 2013, fat, dumb and happy, watching TV and roll searching Lincolns while waiting for the chicken to finish cooking on the grill, I can’t help but think about how thankful I am to be able to enjoy such freedoms on a daily basis. It is due to our government and armed forces’ daily fight to afford us our individual enjoyable hobbies that we all take for granted but should recognize and acknowledge every day of our lives not just one day a year.
So next time you attend a coin show or any type of event, think about how fortunate we are to be able to do so. Happy Memorial Day and God bless America, every day not just once a year,
Michael P. Schmeyer
Halsey Valley, N.Y.

 

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