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Topic: Need Advice: School for Scoundrels shells vs. La Maggiore shells
Message: Posted by: Avery (Apr 9, 2004 11:09AM)
I got a set of Magic Makers gold plated shells with the Sal Piacente DVD's.
I was very disappointed that you need a close up pad to work well with these shells.
So now I am looking to buy a new (street version) set that does work on hard surface.

After reading the posts here at 'The Magic Café, I've noticed that the two 'serious' shell sets that most people use are the School for Scoundrels shells and La Maggiore shells.

Considering the street shell versions of both brands:
What's the difference between the two? Is one better than the other, or is it just a matter of personal preference? Can both be used on a hard surface?
Message: Posted by: martinkey (Apr 9, 2004 11:23AM)
They both work well on a hard surface particularly with the School for Scoundrels' Perfect Pea which is supplied with both. The SFS shells are smaller and lighter in colour. Both can be altered with a bit of sanding if required and the colour can also be altered if you are very fussy. The so-called Chanin Dip is a little bit more pronounced on the SFS shells. I have both and love them equally. The advent of the Perfect Pea has made the main difference in the use of hard surfaces (in my opinion, that is).
Martin Key
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Apr 9, 2004 11:36AM)
From what I've seen the LM shells look much better.

They are larger and I hear that they work better with the shot glass piece.
Message: Posted by: Randy Sager (Apr 9, 2004 11:47AM)
The LM shells are much nicer in my opinion. The colour is darker and they are larger. They are just much nicer to use.
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Apr 9, 2004 12:54PM)
I like doing the shellgame routine on a close up mat because I know it is a clean place to do it. If your working restaurants the table can be a mess because people eat off the table. And often if you lift a glass there will be a ring of water from the condensation...

You can do this without the mat like a con man in the streets but I feel that I am a magician and the close up mat is my performing stage.

Others do it their way and that is fine because we all have our own way of doing things. And that is one of the things that makes magic so interesting.

Glenn Bishop
Message: Posted by: Paulbmx12345 (Apr 9, 2004 02:49PM)
I'd get the street shells cause they are cheaper
Message: Posted by: hkwiles (Apr 9, 2004 02:52PM)
I take it that you found the topic about shells then?


Looks like the cheapest place to get them is Hocus-pocus $42.95 as a member
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Apr 9, 2004 02:55PM)
I love the LM shells. They are styled after the larger Italian walnut shells. Even with my small hands they are very easy to handle. Even much more so than the real shells I was making. I will be honest and say I have never handled the SfS shells, but I'm very happy with the LM shells so have no need to.
Message: Posted by: hkwiles (Apr 9, 2004 03:04PM)
I have just watched Glenn Bishop using them on his video clip. They look unusually large to me. Don't specs ask what they are? Or maybe we just aren't used to seeing large walnuts in the UK.

Message: Posted by: Avery (Apr 9, 2004 03:16PM)
Paulbmx12345 wrote:
I'd get the street shells cause they are cheaper

I learned my lessons about getting the cheaper version :-)

I have the same question as posted earlier: Don't they look unnaturally big, considering how small the pea is?
Message: Posted by: hkwiles (Apr 9, 2004 03:21PM)
I don't think "cheaper" infers inferior in this case. It would appear that the Chanin "feature" is more prominent in the case of the Street Shells and I wouldn't want to start having to sand a set I'd just shelled out(pun intended!)$70 for .
Message: Posted by: Avery (Apr 9, 2004 03:55PM)
I agree with you Howard.
I meant that money will not be the deciding factor this time.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Apr 9, 2004 06:50PM)
There is no Chanin Dip in the La Maggiore shells. They are a very nice set of shells, but they are not designed to be used on a hard surface. The Chanin Dip would be very hard to sand onto the La Maggiore shells, as that would require cutting away about a fifth of the back of the shells.

The Chanin Dip should not be confused with the stem or "twig" opening at the back of the shell. The Chanin Dip requires a curved surface all along the bottom of the shell, from front to back, so that the shell appears to be lying flat, but actually will rock slightly from front to back like a rocking chair. This movement is one of the things that gives the Street Shells their smooth action, and makes working on a glass or marble surface possible.

Sanding just a little too much in one direction would make the point of the shell stick up in the air. In order to make the right angle, without sanding off the point of the shell at the front, while leaving the shell resting flat, you need to sand off the back of the shell, and re-carve the "twig" support. It would be an expensive learning experience to replicate this on the La Maggiore Shells.

With a lot of practice, one can learn to use the La Maggiore Shells on a hard surface. It takes a light touch. This is made possible because the School for Scoundrels Perfect Pea is also used in the La Maggiore Set. They are a good set of shells as they are, and I would not risk damaging them to add a feature that you might not even need to make them work on a hard surface. Just spend a few weeks of practice working on a bar or coffee table and you should be fine.

The Street Shells and Perfect Pea were designed for the table hopper. They were meant to work on any surface, to be small enough to carry in the side coat pocket without bulging out, and are designed with features to make control of the shell and pea optimal in the fancier moves of the shells--such as the roll-flash, the turnovers, and three-in-one hand.

I prefer the street shells to anything else, however, it depends completely on your needs. If you are using a mat and have big hands, for example, the La Maggiore Shells would be the best. Everything depends on your needs and working conditions.

We think it is great that there are finally numbers of really fine sets of shells available.
Message: Posted by: martinkey (Apr 10, 2004 03:33AM)
Thanks Whit for correcting me on the Chanin Dip. I use both the LM and SFS shells on a hard surface but did find that I needed a different touch with the LM shells. Now I know why. I also found that doing the moves quickly (like Sal Piacente in his dvd) helped with the LM shells. I have not sanded my shells and, thanks to Whit, I do not intend to try.
Message: Posted by: hkwiles (Apr 10, 2004 04:49AM)
Yes thanks Whit for that.
By the way..you don't appear to have sorted the web site problem re getting in to it? I'm still having to gain entry by Proxy.

Message: Posted by: Tom G (Apr 10, 2004 05:53AM)
I don't think the shells are all that much bigger, but compared to the standard jumbo California shells you buy in the grocery, the Italian shells are bigger.
I believe I read in another post by Glenn that he actually was using Vernet shells in that video. I have a set of those somewhere, not very good.
Message: Posted by: martinkey (Apr 10, 2004 07:32AM)
Following Whit's comments I looked again at the leaflet which accompanied the LM shells. In it Andrew does say that "If you prefer a deeper dip, simply sand the shell to your required depth...If you prefer Chanin's preparation of the shells...you can easily put in the work yourself." However, I felt nervous about doing this so probably the best advice is, if you want the Chanin Dip buy the SFS shells.
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Apr 10, 2004 11:10PM)
Well, it's nice to see this in magic.

I've now heard (seen) nice things about the LM shells from Whit and I've heard Andrew say nice things about the SFS shells.

I'm impressed.

Now I need a routine. I watched Kohler's routine and I don't think it's for me. I will obviously come up with my own but what else is out there to refer to?
Does Garry Ouelett have something published?
I have his book but I don't remember seeing anything in there with shells (glancing over to the bookshelf).

Message: Posted by: Leeman (Apr 11, 2004 01:24AM)
Check out Bob Sheets' tape. It has some moves on it that fooled me very badly. He has a great out if they guess the right shell and an 'in the hand of the spectator' finish. Gary Ouellet does have his Super Shells routine somewhere in print as well as in his very best series. It's good but I think the Sheets tape has some better handling on it.
Message: Posted by: martinkey (Apr 11, 2004 03:19AM)
Some resources are:
Books and manuscripts: Super Shells (Gary Ouelett), The Three Shell Game (Tom Osborne), The Shell Game (edited by Ralph Read - I think this is the same book as the Osborne one), The Shell Game (Harrison Carrol), Diversions for the Shell and Pea Game (Dusty Johnson), Close-Up Tutorial The Shell Game (Bob King), Hello Sucker (Jack Chanin), All in a Nutshell (Frank Garcia). Videos/dvds The Three Shell Game (Sal Piacente), Bob Sheets (Absolutely Nuts), Bob Kohler (Golden Shells), Best of Gary Ouelett Vol 3 (contains his Super Shells routine), The Phil Cass Video. For a very good routine for free, look at Glenn Bishop's website http://www.mrhypnotist.org. Whit Hayden, Andrew Pinard and Glenn Bishop are all bringing out dvds on the shells later in the year. My suggestion is get the Tom Osborne book, look at Glenn Bishop's website and make up your own routine.
Message: Posted by: Leeman (Apr 11, 2004 07:50PM)
If you know the moves making up a routine is actually rather simple. when I perform I like to just go with the flow rather then have a set routine to go by. I think it is a bit more fun to start the shell game not knowing where you are going to go. obviously I know the different sequences I want to use, or know I can use, and which ones are more impressive so I can build to a good climax. but just feeding off of the audience and letting them kind of dictate where the routine will go is fun.
Message: Posted by: sleightly (Apr 12, 2004 07:27PM)
Sorry to get so late to the party. It is great to see so much interest in the shells!

Contrary to Whit's statement above, the La Maggiore shells *were* designed to work on any surface.

There are many features to consider when choosing a shell set.

I spent about five hours developing a comprehensive list of attributes to help you determine which shells will work best for you. You can peruse my "Smart Guide to Shell Shopping" at:


For those of you interested in why I consider the Chanin Dip to be a less than desirable feature (and why I *did not* incorporate it into La Maggiore) check out


For those of you who prefer to hear about a product from the people who use it, check out:


And on a final note, for those of you who would like to know what other information is available on learning the shells check out:


Thanks again!

Message: Posted by: Dave V (Apr 13, 2004 02:42AM)
Besides LM and SfS shells, what do you guys have to say about some of the novelty shells put out by School for Scoundrels? Black Fox has two sets, one Egyptian Scarab set, and a turtle shell set. Since I'm going more for a "novelty" aspect with my costume and presentation, I've opted for the turtle shells. They should arrive any day now.

Message: Posted by: Poindexter (Apr 13, 2004 07:09AM)

You'll like the Turtle Shells :)

They're about the same size as the LM shells, and they handle similarly; the ridges on the shells help me to maintain a grip in my arthritic old hands.

I've had troubles now and then with the scarabs (in the aforementioned hands,) as they're more rounded, and try to 'squirt' out of my fingers on occasion.

Black Fox is now selling a set of Ladybug Shells through Hocus Pocus; haven't worked with them yet, but I believe that a set is speeding its way toward me as I type this.
Message: Posted by: Dave V (Apr 13, 2004 11:43AM)
Thanks, I should have my set today or tomorrow (I hope!)

I just noticed a thread about Black Fox has already been started, but I hadn't seen much yet from anyone who really owns them.
Message: Posted by: Bill Fischer (Apr 13, 2004 05:43PM)

I have a set of the Black Fox Scarab Shells and like them a lot. I have never used them in a performance because they don't fit my performing style (I use the La Maggiore shells), but they handle well.

One bit of advice with the Black Fox shells is don't use the peas that come with it - get some Perfect Peas from School for Scoundrels or ThreeShellGame.com - it will make all the difference in the world.
Message: Posted by: Dave V (Apr 13, 2004 09:58PM)
I thought of that... after I sent my order. Oh well, maybe next time. At least I'll have something to get me started.

I will be performing standing with a soft platform top(either padded fabric or suede leather)so I shouldn't have much of a "hard surface" issue. I'm sure I'll be ordering more SfS things soon, so I'll add the Perfect Pea to my shopping list.
Message: Posted by: the swindler (Apr 20, 2004 07:34AM)
Hello its been a while since I have looked at any new work on the shells. I have been doing a version of Super shells and Phil Cass's routine for about 12 years and I use 3 brass nuts that are meant to cover the outlets for washing machines. These are a perfect weight and are ideal for many comic presentations (nuts are funny). I do like Glenn's routine and will certainly give it go over the next few weeks.
Message: Posted by: hkwiles (Apr 21, 2004 10:23AM)
I've been following the "shells" threads with interest and have said previously that I intend to get the S4S Street Shells. I am now deliberating on the tuition material.
If you had to get only one book or dvd or Video to teach the moves and basic routines, which would it be?

Message: Posted by: Dave V (Apr 21, 2004 11:44AM)
If you want to entertain rather than scam money from patrons, I'd suggest Bob Kohler's "Golden Shells" routine. It's rather easy, entertaining, doesn't challenge the spectators too much (in other words, not as many chances to get caught) and builds to a nice climax.

It's available from http://www.schoolforscoundrels.com
Message: Posted by: hkwiles (Apr 21, 2004 11:50AM)
Thanks Dave,
My "mentor" Vinny suggests that, along with Phil Cass and Frank Garcia.I really just need one to start me off.

Message: Posted by: Poindexter (Apr 21, 2004 06:05PM)

I agree with Dave, if it's a routine with which to entertain people that you seek, Kohler's "Golden Shells" video is the place to start.

If it's simply moves from which to build a routine, check Tom Osborne's "The Three Shell Game" booklet from the 1930's. There is much material in there for those with the patience to decipher it....it is confusing in the way it is laid out at first glance. Haven't checked current prices on this baby, but it'll probably cost you something like ten bucks, also available from the School for Scoundrels, and, probably, your local magic shop.

Or, if you're not in a huge hurry, the Scoundrels' material on the Shell Game will be released sometime; you'll simply need to wait patiently with the rest of us :-)
Message: Posted by: sleightly (Apr 21, 2004 07:29PM)
I'm somewhat reticent about this approach, but to bring the topic back to the original question...

For those of you who want to see a side-by-side comparison of an SfS Street Shell and a La Maggiore shell check out:


See for yourself the differences...

For a more in-depth analysis of why La Maggiore shells are superior in design and construction, see my Smart Shopping Guide for Shells at:



BTW: The Tom Osbourne book is available from threeshellgame.com at its always low price of $5.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Apr 24, 2004 04:13PM)
Thanks, Andrew. Nice comparison. I felt it might be a little biased...


Here is a picture of a real half walnut shell beside a Street Shell:
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Apr 24, 2004 04:15PM)
And another one. In both pics the real walnut shell is on the left.
Message: Posted by: Riley (Apr 24, 2004 05:59PM)
Well folks, Ive had the LM shells for a while and they're wonderful - Whit's Perfect Peas are PERFECT, a few days back the Bob Sheets tape arrived from School for Scoundrels - WOW!!! Soooo .. . . I'm not taking any chances, I'm going to order a set of SfS Street Shells and enjoy both types!! :)

Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (May 4, 2004 05:44PM)
On 2004-04-09 16:16, Avery wrote:
Paulbmx12345 wrote:
I'd get the street shells cause they are cheaper

I learned my lessons about getting the cheaper version :)

I have the same question as posted earlier: Don't they look unnaturally big, considering how small the pea is?
No. They don't. They are from an actual walnut so they look completely natural and very real looking.
Message: Posted by: fccfp (May 6, 2004 10:09AM)
On 2004-05-04 18:44, Frank Starsini wrote:
On 2004-04-09 16:16, Avery wrote:
Paulbmx12345 wrote:
I'd get the street shells cause they are cheaper

I learned my lessons about getting the cheaper version :)

I have the same question as posted earlier: Don't they look unnaturally big, considering how small the pea is?
No. They don't. They are from an actual walnut so they look completely natural and very real looking.

I don't think "Size matters" that much in terms of the audiance perception. Just about everyone knows about the shell game. Most have never seen it. I have yet to have someone question the construction of the shells. Even my "chop shell" gets no interest.

Sorry guys, tried to add a quote to my post and it did not work right.

I have never had anyone question the size of the shells I used. Most people have heard of the shell game, very few have actually seen it, in any form.

My audiance seems to respond to the "illicit" nature of the shell game and seeing something that they have heard of but never saw.
Message: Posted by: Randy Sager (May 9, 2004 01:27PM)
Of course it is just a matter of taste. I would choose the LM shells over the SFS shells any day of the week.

Whit's are good but Andrew's are 100 times better. Better by size color texture etc... yes the price is more but very worth it.
Message: Posted by: Riley (May 9, 2004 01:42PM)
I have both, the most recent being Whit's mag. set of Street Shells arrived a few days back. I think both types are GREAT and that Bob Sheets tape is absolutely BRILLIANT !!! That "move" of Bob's has rekindled my interest in the 3 shell game after several years of other stuff :)
Message: Posted by: Dave V (May 9, 2004 01:53PM)
I liked the Bob Sheets vid as well, but I was a bit disappointed that it was only 15-20 minutes long. His "move" is great, but when I thought he'd start going into detail of his routine, all he did was tell us to rewind the tape. I guess that's all that's really needed, but I still felt a tape of this cost should have included at least [i]some[/i] filler.
Message: Posted by: Riley (May 9, 2004 02:10PM)
I know what you mean, Dave. I could have watched Bob for longer - he has style.
But I guess the inspiration is his, the perspiration is ours . . now where are those shells and pea? :)
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (May 9, 2004 04:13PM)
I just got a set of copper shells from the school of S and they are fantastic. The best thing about them is that I like the weight. They move well and I find it easy to do my shellgame routine with them.

In fact these are the best shells that I own and have owned for the shellgame effect.
Message: Posted by: Police Magician (May 10, 2004 10:21AM)
Interesting posts on the various shells available. Has anyone considered using bottle caps as the con artists do on the streets? I have a set that I confiscated as evidence once. It uses three bottle caps and a foam pea. The "mat" was nothing more than a piece of newspaper on top of a box. Appearance wise, the caps would not be as attracted, but down here, this seems to be the choice of the street hustlers who scam people.
Message: Posted by: Poindexter (May 10, 2004 06:43PM)

I made up a couple of sets last year from bottle caps from Coca Cola products; they were running a contest, and the top of each cap reads "1 in 4 wins!".

That about sums it up.

(The inside of each reads "Try Again"). :-)
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (May 10, 2004 06:58PM)
Sal Picante's DVD is worth a look.
I'm not sure how you spell it but it was popped in at the magic store when I was there. I liked watching it.

I guess another way to put it was that it made me want to do 'The Shells'.

The other 3 videos I watched so far didn't leave me with that "gotta do the shells" feeling. Kohlers, Sheets, Page.

This has nothing to do with the routines or the content really, just a gut feel.

Message: Posted by: Police Magician (May 10, 2004 07:08PM)
Poindexter, I love the message on the outside and inside of the bottle caps. That should get them to try and try again. Did you find it easier to use than the shells? Glenn
Message: Posted by: Poindexter (May 10, 2004 08:01PM)

Easier than the shells? _Absolutely Not_ (At least for me). As I get older, my fingers fight with me more and more, and the Scoundrels' Coppers are my favorites for ease of use.

The small caps are topheavy and like to go mouth up unless handled carefully.

In my hands, Perfect Peas are out of the question with bottle caps, though...Too large, and I can't seem to compensate with the handling to my satisfaction.(at least the smaller caps, I've done alright with the larger caps if the surface is right).

I have used Black Fox's peas under caps with some success, as they're a little smaller, but sponge seems to work best for me with the caps.

And I hate working with sponge after having worked with peas, but there are some things you can do with caps that you can't accomplish with shells....such as making that "tsssssssssss" bottle-opening sound effect as you rotate the cap counter-clockwise before lifting it---great fun, and great misdirection.

There was a guy on the allmagic.com site a year or more ago that had put up a shell game article that was accompanied by a short video clip of a 'snap' load with bottle caps, that consisted, basically, of a finger snap that turned a cap mouth down and loaded the pea simultaneously. Alas, it seems to have vanished without a trace. I do not remember his name. I was hoping to see it published somewhere eventually, but I haven't as yet.
Message: Posted by: Police Magician (May 11, 2004 08:29AM)
Appeciate your reply. I don't care for using the caps either, but I do use them when demonstrating the street scam. I have collected several shell and pea props over the years just to experiment with them. I have found that the old classic shells with the foam pea works well for me. Not only is it easier to handle, but I feel comfortable using it. I remember hearing about that article you mentioned, but cannot remember the name of the person either. If I come across it, I will notify you. Thanks for the input.
Message: Posted by: Neil (May 13, 2004 09:35AM)
The SFS street shells are really good. They do work on any surface but for a really smooth routine you'd be wise to put down a bit of cloth anyway. This can be used to wrap them up in so it need not take up any room. The perfect peas are good in that they grip and steal nicely on smooth surfaces but using a cloth gets around that anyway. They do take a bit of practice to do a back pinch holdout out as they are quite hard. The best thing about them is the matching solid plastic pea that comes with them. Throw that out at the end and no-one will come close to the secret, in fact they will take a bit step backwards. Foam peas are easier to steal and hold out IMO but you can't allow the spec to try or they'll immediately guess - not always relevant.

If you're working out a routine, I'd suggest you try the usual format: First do a few slides but steal and load the same one so they guess right. 2nd time do a straight secret S/L so they get it wrong, 3rd time throw them a bone with a sucker S/L, 4th time introduce a different move like a side steal or whatever, for your last time around do something big like using a glass or whatever. That way you can keep the routine as a challenge but by staying one ahead you pretty much remove the change of a lucky guess entirely. It's a good idea to throw in a few back-pinches turnovers that implicitly remove the possibility of you holding out.

I think you DO need to keep the challenge element to this routine. That is what it is all about. It's a con game. You are supposed to be conning them and they like it. With a simple pre-planned move to deal with a correct guess. You can always win. The street pros do, so why not a magician?

That's my take on it.
Message: Posted by: Riley (May 15, 2004 09:23AM)
Does anyone else bother to do what I did with the hard pea? As it has a slightly glossy finish compared to the "working" pea, I rubbed the hard pea with some very fine 0000 grade steel wool. Takes off the shine and makes all the difference!

Message: Posted by: ursusminor (May 15, 2004 09:50AM)
I too noticed that the hard pea was more glossy than the soft one. But I hardly think the audience will ever notice the difference! They never see them side by side anyway.
But if it gives you peace of mind...
Message: Posted by: Riley (May 15, 2004 10:19AM)
It was recently noticed and commented on (after my performance) by a spectator who was a professional painter and decorator - he said he spotted the difference because he worked with matt and gloss paints etc.
I think maybe spectators sometimes notice more than we think but don't always say anything!
It seems only a small point - but the "work" takes just a few seconds. Easier than: ".. before I begin, are any of you painters and decorators? . . " :rotf:
Message: Posted by: ursusminor (May 15, 2004 10:24AM)
You may be right!
I'll find some steelwool and be right back!
Message: Posted by: Riley (May 15, 2004 10:28AM)
Make sure it's the 000 or 0000 grade, unless you want a pea for the bottle caps, of course! :)
Guess I should get back on topic before someone accuses me of wandering . . :)
LM shells or SFS shells . . If you have only the one set (whichever) and then buy the other, you'll probably wish you'd got the last set sooner. (work that one out!!). Both these shells sets are superb -why have only half the fun?

Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (May 17, 2004 07:59PM)
I think the real differences are these:

The SFS shells are easier to use on a hard surface for a beginner.

The LM shells are larger.
The SFS shells are smaller.
The LM shells look more realistic in color and texture.

Of course if you like the golden or copper ones, then looking realistic is not much of a concern.

I've used both. They're both perfect. They both
use the perfect peas. And the price is right
for both. Don't be mistaken and get the
Magic Makers set thinking that they're close enough.
They're not.

Personally I chose the LM shells because I just love the look of them.

I suggest getting a tiny pill box from the drug store to store the peas in.

Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (May 20, 2004 03:54PM)
On 2004-05-10 19:43, Poindexter wrote:

I made up a couple of sets last year from bottle caps from Coca Cola products; they were running a contest, and the top of each cap reads "1 in 4 wins!".

That about sums it up.

(The inside of each reads "Try Again"). :)


What a cool idea.