Music & Entertainment

Magic 101: What Is Coin Magic? 14 Types of Coin Tricks

Written by MasterClass

May 20, 2019 • 3 min read

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The fundamental discipline of magic is sleight of hand. Making an object vanish is the quintessential magic trick. Once you learn sleight of hand, there is an almost unlimited number of things you can do. With small objects like balls or coins, the most common method used to effect a vanish is referred to as a false transfer. A false transfer is when you pretend to move an object (such as a small ball) from one hand into the other, but secretly retain it in the original hand. And the French drop coin trick is usually the first false transfer a magician learns.

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What Are Coin Tricks in Magic?

Coin magic is when magicians manipulate coins using misdirection and sleight of hand, to entertain audiences.

  • Magicians typically use coin tricks in close-up magic, table magic, and street magic—intimate settings where the audience can clearly see the coins and the coin magic effects.
  • Magicians use coins in a variety of effects, including productions (making something appear); vanishes (making something disappear); transformations (changing an object’s form); transpositions (moving multiple objects); teleportations (moving an object from one place to another); penetrations (making a solid object appear to pass through another); restorations (destroying an object before making it whole again); levitations (making something or someone appear to defy gravity); and mental magic (predicting outcomes). Magicians often perform these effects in combination.
  • Coins work excellently in magic for a variety of reasons. They are shiny and have inherent value, which catches the eyes and keeps interested, allowing magicians to easily direct attention with them. As a result of their solidity, they can also make noise, an added sensory input that can help misdirect or sell an effect, such as penetration through a table.

How Do Coin Tricks Work?

More advanced than card tricks, coin tricks require a lot of practice and dexterity to perform convincingly. Note that, while companies sell modified or trick coins, store-bought items do not typically impress audiences as much as skillful misdirection and sleight of hand do. These coin sleights are perfect for vanishing, producing, transposing, and transforming.

  • Palming. The magician conceals the coin in their palm so their hand appears to be empty.
  • Sleeving. The magician conceals the coin by stashing it up their sleeve.
  • Lapping. The magician hides the coin by stealthily dropping or placing it into their lap.
  • The French Drop. The magician fake transfers a coin from one hand to the other, secretly retaining it in the original hand, to set up a vanishing, transformation, transportation, or other effects. Learn how to do the French drop coin trick here.
  • The Muscle Pass. The magician shoots a coin from one hand to the other to give the appearance that the coin is defying gravity.

14 Different Coin Tricks To Try At Home

There are countless coin magic tricks that magicians perform. Due to the commonality and small size of coins, these magic coin tricks can be performed spontaneously and in most places.

  1. The Miser’s Dream. T. Nelson Downs popularized this trick, where the magician grabs multiple coins from thin air.
  2. Coins Across. The magician transfers multiple coins from one hand to another.
  3. Coins to Glass. Pushing the concept of Coins Across, the magician transfers multiple coins from one hand to a glass.
  4. Matrix. Covering coins with playing cards, the magician miraculously moves four coins.
  5. Chink-a-chin. As in the Matrix, the magician moves four coins, only instead of covering them with cards they use their bare hands.
  6. Coins Through Table. The magician makes a coin appear to penetrate through the surface of the table.
  7. The Disappearing Glass. As a twist on Coins Through Table, the magician incorporates a glass over the coins and “accidentally” makes the glass vanish instead.
  8. Coin Bite. In this restoration effect, the magician appears to take a bite out of a coin before seemingly restoring it.
  9. Spellbound. While showing a single coin at all times, the magician transforms one coin into another.
  10. Tenkai Pennies. In this two-coin routine, the magician makes one coin travel from one hand to the other.
  11. Coin to Bottle. The magician creates the illusion that they’ve slammed a coin into a sealed bottle.
  12. Disappearing elbow. In this intentionally misleading trick, the magician says they can make a coin change color by rubbing it on their elbow, but instead, they vanish and produce it.
  13. Empty Cloth. Using adhesive to hold the coin, the magician makes a coin “disappear” from within a folded cloth.
  14. Psychic Coin. In this mental magic trick, the magician predicts the outcome of a coin flip while secretly manipulating the coin to land on the side they want.

Learn more magic tips and tricks in Penn & Teller’s MasterClass.