Big Friday sale

Fred Kaps' Currency by Unknown

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


The renowned Dutch conjuror Fred Kaps was considered by many to be the finest "general practitioner" (i.e., all around magician) of his time, and perhaps Johnny Thompson is the only name to rival such an attribution. More performer, routiner and technician than inventor, Mr. Kaps was equally comfortable doing his classic silent act, spoken comedy, or intimate close-up magic. One of his trademark effects was his version of the Victor 11 Card Trick done with dollar bills.

An historical note of interest is that Gene Gordon appears to have been the first to adapt the Victor card plot to dollar bills. "The Dizzy Dollar" is described in the wonderful book Gene Gordon's Magical Legacy (1980), and includes an interesting climax in which a previously noted bill vanishes and is found in a sealed envelope in the spectator's possession. Mr. Gordon opened his Buffalo magic shop in 1945 and Karl Norman, long- time friend and associate of Mr. Gordon's, informs me that he recalls that Dizzy Dollar was marketed not long after this. The shop was in operation from 1945 to 1969, and the book's author includes this routine in a list of items he marketed through the store. As well, Mr, Norman is quite sure that Mr. Gordon first created and used the routine in his professional performances, and only later came to market it. Hence the originator preceeded Mr. Kaps by at least two decades, and probably closer to three. Whether the latter was at all influenced by Mr. Gordon's marketed routine may never be known, but it is an interesting question to ponder.

The real work on Mr. Kaps' handling of this routine, which differed substantively from Mr. Gordon's, has never been widely disseminated—although a number of performers who either learned it from Mr. Kaps or reconstructed it on their own after his death have also used it effectively, including American comic magician Mike Caveney. This manuscript, along with Fred Kaps' Purse (see the review which follows), was written and illustrated by Mr. Kaps, but never previously released. During Mr. Kaps' lifetime— some of his material was commercially marketed by Ken Brooke. With Mr. Brooke's demise, the Brooke line and Fred Kaps material floundered through several commercial sets of hands. Apparently a series of four additional Kaps items were slated as additions to the Brooke catalog, but the project was never completed. Now Anthony Brahams has obtained the rights to these four items, and has typeset and lightly edited the first two for commercial release. This routine will certainly be a boon to many. It is clearly if briefly described, including all the necessary technical details complete with presentation, accompanied by large close-up photos of Mr. Kaps' hands. Also included is an alternate presentation belonging to British magician Trevor Lewis. Readers familiar with the original Victor card routine (long a signature piece of Derek Dingle and described in his Complete Works) will readily recognize the logic of performing a counting routine of this nature with paper money instead of playing cards. Here's a routine that fits in your wallet but, for the right performer, can be effective on stage in front of large audiences. The Kaps name coupled with the mileage a working professional might get of this makes this manuscript worth, far more than the asking price.

8-1/4" x 11-1/2" Perfect Bound; 24 pages; illustrated with 11 photographs by Fred Kaps; 1994; Publisher Anthony Brahams