There are very few coins that you see used in magic when it comes to coin handling and coinistry. This is because there are two common styles that are most prominently found in the pockets of a coin magician in North America.
The two coins you will find the ideal for getting started with are the US 50c (usually called the Kennedy Half Dollar) or the US 1$ (most commonly the Eisenhower Dollar). They each have their own advantages and uses when it comes to particular tricks and also for your own personal fit.
You can see in the images below what these look like in the hand. The size of each coin will simply be matter of getting used to. Either make great coins for a simple French drop, a JW vanish, classic palm, and many more foundational moves.
You can see the sizing relative to each other and this is important when you think of how it will fit with your own hands depending on what types to coinistry and tricks you are aiming for.
The Kennedy Half Dollar – Light and Versatile
One of the reasons we love using the Kennedy Half Dollar is the simple ease of fitting it into the hand in a variety of methods. Because the half dollar is nice and light it also makes a great candidate for a smooth muscle pass and palming is super easy because it’s nice and light.
Using a half dollar for a classic palm is the first place most newcomers to coin and close-up magic begin because it’s a foundational move that will be part of many tricks you will add to your arsenal.
Palming the half dollar takes a bit of practice for the new coin magician. You’ll probably find that if you have larger hands it’s a little easier to tuck it into place and for the BMAS magician in the picture above it takes a bit of practice to keep it neatly tucked without much folding of the hand.
What you will enjoy about the half dollar is that it also works smoothly for vanishes, hand washing, and when you want to do something like the JW vanish, you can position it in one part of the knuckle fold as you see below or in a more compressed hold across a larger part of the finger depending on what leads up to the JW.
Be careful when you carry your half dollar coins around with you as they sometimes look a little too much like a quarter and you may find yourself accidentally handing your carefully acquired magic coin to a cashier somewhere.
The Eisenhower Dollar – Bigger can Be Better
Who says size matters? The jump from the half dollar to the full dollar is noticeable for both the circumference and the weight. It will still be quite easy to make use of the dollar for a classic palm as you can see below. It’s just a matter of your muscle memory and positioning of the coin based on the fit of your palm and how much you need to adjust for the hold.
Using the larger coin really plays into the trick and a bonus with the full dollar coin is that they are heavier and make a very obvious audible sound when dropped in together. This is great for adding sound as part of the misdirection in your illusion.
Manipulating the dollar coin will also feel quite different than the smaller half dollar. This is something you will get used to and you can also quite easily palm (see above) and from there it’s a simple move to a muscle pass, or transition to a JW vanish like you see here:
It sure looks like you couldn’t hide a coin this huge. That’s why they call it magic! You’ll be surprised how easily you can play the angles as you get used to handling the coin. Other moves like hand washing may feel a little harder with the dollar coin because of its size and the need to cover it with more of your fingers. It all just takes practice to build up the muscle memory of where it sits and how it fits.
Where do I get 50c and 1$ US coins?
Getting a 50c coin is not as easy as it used to be when they were in common production. The best place to get them is from the US Mint or from a casino. The reason they are popular in casinos is because they don’t have a 50c poker chip. These can be used for splitting a pot when it’s an odd dollar amount.
The dollar coins are also a challenge to get outside of ordering from the mint or finding one inside a casino. There’s a reason that many magicians make a trip to Vegas for both the shows and to stock up on coin supplies!
Banks may carry rolls of coins but your mileage may vary from bank to bank and from branch to branch. These are not commonly used in retail so there are less in circulation which means less need to have them in rolls everywhere you go.
You can also locate them on Amazon and eBay but the catch there (and even when ordering from the US mint) is that you have to pay more than a dollar for the dollar coin. The 50c coin is also similarly overpriced because sellers know that they are used for magic, collecting, and even for just straight up fun it is not worth them eating free shipping on the coin to send to you.
Hopefully this is helpful as you make your foray into coin magic and these coins are handy to have as we share more hands-on trick guides and link to other ways you can learn to add coin magic and coinistry to your trick toolkit.
What about Coinistry?
Great question! Both the half dollar and dollar coins are great for coinistry. The variation in size gives you a chance to use them in any move or flourish that you can fit them. You will find they behave differently because of the size and weight.
There is a noticeable difference in the size and weight of the Eisenhower dollar and as you try out coinistry and coin magic you will inevitably hear a lot of the sound of coins being dropped. Don’t worry, it gets easier!
Keep a blank or pillow under where you’re practicing and be prepared to work your way through a lot of slow maneuvers at first before you will get the hang of it.
What you may find you enjoy is the sheer size of the full dollar because it really wows the audience as you vanish and produce it. The visual effect is enhanced by the size of it. For flourishes and coinistry handling you can enjoy both the half dollar and dollar coins. Again, you hand size may be the main reason you choose one over the other.