When one begins to study piano-playing there are certain exercises that must be mastered in order to gain proficiency as a performer. So it is with conjuring. No one can ever be an expert conjurer who has not learned and mastered the elementary exercises.
For tricks with coins, and many others as well, one must be able to palm, that is to conceal a coin, ball, or other article in the hand. It need not be hidden in the palm, though from the name one might infer that to be necessary. Any method by which an object is concealed in the hand is palming.
There are many ways of palming, good, bad, and indifferent, and from these we have chosen those which we believe are the best.
Many of the sleights here described are used when a performer is supposed to make a coin or other article disappear from the hand in which it was, apparently, placed but a moment before. Let us suppose that the right hand holds a coin. As that hand moves toward the left, which is open, the coin is palmed by the right. The moment the two hands meet the tips of the right hand fingers are placed in the left hand palm and that hand closes instantly. Then the right hand is drawn away, leaving the coin, supposedly, in the left hand.
Now, for the palming itself.
1. The Palm Proper.—The coin is held by the tips of the forefinger and the thumb of the right hand. The second and third fingers are brought back of the coin and the forefinger is withdrawn, the pressure of the thumb holding the coin in place, as shown in Fig. 81. Next, the thumb is raised slightly, and the second and third fingers, guiding the coin along the thumb from tip to base, bring it into the hollow of the palm, as in Fig. 82. Here the muscles of the ball of the thumb pressing against one edge of the coin force the opposite edge into the part of the palm almost directly below the third finger, where it is held firmly, as shown in Fig. 83. With a little practice it will be found that the coin may be thrown by the fingers straight to the desired spot in the palm without the aid of the thumb to guide it.
A new coin with a sharp milled edge is the best to use when practicing palming. Both hands ought to be exercised in palming, as it is often as necessary to use the left hand as the right.
2. The Finger Palm, No. 1.—The coin should lie on the second joint of the second finger, with the forefinger overlapping about a quarter of an inch. Then the forefinger is lifted a trifle and clasps the coin, as in Fig. 84, which is pushed through by the thumb between the first and second fingers to the back, where it is held.
3. The Finger Palm, No. 2.—The coin lies on the second joint of the third and the second fingers. The little finger is raised slightly and laid on top of the coin, which is held between the little finger on top and the third finger beneath the coin, as in Fig. 85. The first and the second fingers are now moved over in front of the others until they can clip the coin between them, as in Fig. 86, when they are brought back to their normal position, and hold the coin by its edges at the back of the hand, projecting between the first and second fingers as in Fig. 87.
4. Thumb Palm, No. 1.—Hold the coin between the tips of the first finger and the thumb, as shown in Fig. 88. By means of the first finger slide the coin along the thumb till it reaches the base, where it is held as shown in Fig. 89.
5. Thumb Palm, No. 2.—Lay the coin on the top joint of the second finger. Lift the first and the third fingers till they press the edges of the coin, steadying it with the second finger at its back. Move the hand toward the left and at the same moment move the thumb rapidly over the face of the coin till the first joint passes over its upper edge; then bend the thumb and between its first joint and the junction of the thumb with the hand hold the coin, as in Fig. 90. Three or four coins may be held securely in this way and not be seen as long as the back of the hand is toward the audience.
6. The French Drop.—The coin is held between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, with the palm upward, as shown in Fig. 91. The right hand now approaches the left, and the right thumb goes under the coin, while the other fingers close over it, apparently. See Fig. 92. Just at this moment, however, the coin is dropped into the left palm, where it is held. The left hand, turned slightly toward the body, must remain stationary and be held half-open. The right hand is moved away, the eyes following it, and the result will be that the audience will believe the coin is in that hand. In the meanwhile the left hand drops to the side.
7. A Deceptive Sleight.—Place a coin in the extended left palm, and let it be seen there plainly, without calling special attention to it. The open hand is raised until nearly level with the breast, and the fingers of the right hand apparently pick up the coin, but really only touch it and leave it on the left palm. The right hand is closed at once and moves away. It will appear as if it held the coin, and shortly after may be shown empty.
Other coin sleights will be described when they are necessary for the proper accomplishment of a trick. Now we shall pass to the description and explanation of some tricks in which the sleights described may be used.