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Fred Kaps' Purse by Unknown

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 2005)


This is a close-up coin routine which, as with the previously discussed manuscript, Fred Kaps described and illustrated but never released in his lifetime, and which Anthony Brahams has now typeset, lightly edited and published. In this routine, the performer produces an English penny from an empty purse frame (sans bag, a la Slydini, Goshman, Roth, et al). The coin vanishes and appears several times, after which a Chinese coin is produced from the purse frame. The penny is apparently returned to the purse frame, and then a transposition takes place: the Chinese coin appears in place of the penny, and the Chinese coin is reproduced from the purse frame. To conclude, the two coins are returned to the purse frame, vanishing in the process.

This is a pretty routine with a satisfying sense of logic, and from beginning to end a lot of magic takes place. Make no mistake, however: none of this is easy. Fred Kaps' technical abilities were substantial, and this is a technically demanding routine. As with most sleight of hand with coins, it would be one thing to plod through these sleights with a minimum of elegance, and quite another task to achieve an effortless and convincing sense of magic. As well, there are portions of the routine which will require the student's familiarity with common coin technique, such as Slydini's transposition sequence at the elbows, from his landmark One Coin Routine. That sequence is referred to in this manuscript, but while not absolutely required it is also barely described, and the mention will be of use only to those who have already mastered the sequence from other sources.

This manuscript is also interesting in that several additional sleights are described, including a "drop vanish" into the purse frame, a concealment based on the classic palm, and a palm-to-palm switch, all attributed to Mr. Kaps. The concealment strategy and the switch raise some interesting questions for students of the historical credit record. (WARNING: historical digression ahead.) The palm-to-palm coin switch is based upon a gambler's dice move (known in some circles as the "buttercup" switch) and was, to the best of my knowledge, adapted by Earl "Presto" Johnson, a locally well-known and highly regarded New York magician and coin worker. As far back as the late 1960s, Presto showed this move widely around the New York area. This was eventually credited to him in a little known entry in the now defunct Hocus Pocus magazine, although the move saw wide release in Coinmagic (Kaufman, 1981), and again in David Roth's Expert Coin Magic (Kaufman, 1985). The 1981 description was identical to Mr. Johnson's handling, but his name is only first mentioned in the 1985 description of Mr. Roth's variant technique. Mr. Johnson's sleight has become a staple of modern coin work, and he deserves lasting credit and appreciation for the move he called the "One-Hand Palm Switch." That it evolved from a distant dice technique does nothing to dilute the importance of this claim, as the technique must be entirely re-engineered for use with coins. Fred Kaps also used a version of this move, although as with Mr. Roth's variant, the exact path of the coin's movement was slightly different in the Kaps handling. In the text Mr. Kaps explains that he was inspired by a very different sleight which accomplished similar ends which he saw Doctor Sawa utilize in 1972, after which Mr. Kaps devised a technique on his own. He recounts in this manuscript that subsequently he learned of the similar move in use by Scotty York and David Roth, and we know that Mr. Johnson was the source of inspiration on this side of the Atlantic (and in fact taught the move to Mr. York during an encounter in Washington, D.C.). And so another piece of the puzzle slips neatly into place.

The concealment is also of technical and historical interest. Referred to as the "Hiding Principle" by Mr. Kaps, it is a manner of concealing a coin in deep classic palm and then, while displaying some other object at the fingertips such as another coin or a purse frame, the audience can apparently view the inside or palm side of the hand without revealing the concealed coin. Accompanied by a clear photograph, it is an interesting use of the classic palm that I do not recall having seen described elsewhere. However, some fifteen years ago or more Richard Kaufman began referring to a use of the classic palm as "The Kaps Subtlety" in which the audience viewed a portion of the inside of the fingers while a coin in deep classic palm was obscured by the back of the same hand. In the 1980s I pointed out to several people that this type of concealment should more correctly be referred to as the "Malini Subtlety," as it is clearly diagrammed in Dai Vernon's Malini and his Magic (Ganson, 1976). At the time, Mr. Kaufman saw fit to correct the public record of his error (in this magazine, in fact), however he attributed the correction to an innocent bystander other than myself. What is interesting is that while the Malini attribution has now become widely recognized for what was actually being referred to in these matters, it would appear from this manuscript that there was indeed a slightly different type of concealment in use by Mr. Kaps that might rightly be called the "Kaps Hiding Principle," but that differs from the Malini technique. Another piece of the puzzle slips, uh, untidily into place.

Historical intrigue aside, this is a good piece of coin magic for the advanced worker, if a bit pricey for a single routine. I eagerly look forward to more Fred Kaps material from Mr. Brahams.

8-1/4" x 11-1/2" Perfect Bound; 18 pages; illustrated with 12 photographs by Fred Kaps, 1994; Publisher: Anthony Brahams