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Topic: Stuck at Home, Tried Some non-Traditional Cups for Cups and Balls
Message: Posted by: thegreatscungilli (Apr 11, 2020 09:46PM)
Stuck at home with some time on my hands I started to try out some non-traditional cups that I have been meaning to experiment with. Something other than paper or Styrofoam cups.

I have few different professional sets in my small collection but just for fun I thought about trying something that looked different to an audience than the ones normally used by magicians so over the last few years I started collecting possible candidates from thrift shops etc.

I came up with two types that work pretty well and might appeal to folks on a budget that want to try something other then aluminum cups.

If you hunt the thrift shops you can find some Jefferson Cups. There are some posts about these here on the Café but they go back to 2014 and prior so I thought it might be worth re-visiting them.

Made of pewter and usually hallmarked sometimes you will find sets and sometimes just a single. The singles may have engraving on them since apparently they are used as "testimonials".

They were made by some of the finer pewter makers so the quality can be pretty nice and the shape and size seem to work reasonably well..AND you can get them for a couple of bucks each which is nice if you are on a budget.

The size and weight are pretty good but if you buy singles you may have to mix and match a few before you get a set that handles and balances consistently. They are supposed to be based on a design by Thomas Jefferson but I find they can vary in weight and size unless you get a matched set.

Years ago John Bannon published a routine(s) that used these types of cups.

If you do a kids show with a Pirate theme these would fit the theme nicely maybe using some large white or black fake pearls for balls.


If you are not in a hurry you can find matched sets for as low as $10-15 and if you are lucky some singles that will match up for a couple of dollars each. Any you don't use you can donate back..

The size, weight and balance are decent. Not perfect but I find they can work.

They don't look like the typical magicians cups which sometimes can work to your advantage

They are pewter so they will likely stand up to harder use than the cheaper aluminum cups...You can't drop them on a hard surface like you could with a $500 set of stainless CNC cups but with a little care they would probably stand up reasonably well.

Depending on who makes them the saddles can be pretty good, but look carefully at this since I find that some are much smaller than others.

Again depending on the set they will handle 3/8. 7/8 and 1" balls.. and can hold a reasonable final load.

They are good for a beginner or someone on a budget and look a bit more elegant than aluminum


They are not beaded and some say this could cause a problem with them sticking when stacked but I have spent a fair
number of hours playing with them and, provided you find or make-up a good set, I have not had any problem with this.

There are a couple of moves that require a bit more practice.

The pewter may flash on certain moves like the Fako.

They are not a specially made 'Professional" set

The second type I fond that work reasonably well are Japanese or Chinese tea cups. You may have to use a smaller ball with these depending on the size but the smaller ones work nicely as a pocket set.

You can find these really cheap 50 cents apiece if you hunt around and they usually have some nice designs painted on the cups..

Size, balance and weight are pretty good.


VERY inexpensive and a nicer set can look quite elegant

If your routine has a tie in to the use of cups and balls in China where it is sometimes called the "Immortal Sowing Beans" or to Japan where it was called Owan To Tota, the "Turning of the Bowls" using these types of cups ties in nicely with the theme

Balance is ok the weight is a little better than the Jefferson Cup

No worry about flashing a reflection on moves like Fako


They are not beaded,this could cause a problem with them sticking when stacked but as with the Jefferson Cups I have spent a fair number of hours playing with them and, provided you find a good set, I have not had any problem with this.

There are a couple of moves that require a bit more practice.

Ball size and final load is smaller depending on the size of the set

They are ceramic so will not stand up as well as metal and you can't really use any moves where you bang them together with any force

Some will have recessed saddles, some will be flat and some will have a little ridge around the bottom of the cup.
Message: Posted by: dfolson (Jun 3, 2020 09:11AM)
There are two sizes of the Jefferson cups. I know the larger ones have been discussed, but has anyone tried using the smaller ones that are about 2 oz? P-33 I think is the model as apposed to the larger p-50.
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 3, 2020 10:41AM)
A little over 40 years ago I bought a set of six "Jefferson" style, pewter, cups while visiting Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. They sat on a shelf in a China Cabinet with some other pewter ware. At one point I took three of them out and started doing a Irv Winer "no stack" cups and balls routine. The cups handled well for that specific routine. it was something I would perform "impromptu" at home for visiting friends. The cups were never used outside the home. Later all the pewter ware was sold due to moving. I actually wrote up the routine and sold the cups as two sets to fellow magicians that were interested in performing period magic. '

I don't remember two sizes. I had the larger cups. I seem to remember the set of six costing $40.00 back in the day.
Message: Posted by: karnak (Jun 3, 2020 12:34PM)
Might silver mint julep cups work well along these same lines, too?
Message: Posted by: dfolson (Jun 3, 2020 02:02PM)
Looking online I see that it is easy to find sets of 3-6 cups of either size for about $20 shipped. I also saw a set of 5 small sterling ones that just sold for $225. There are several different manufacturers out there and some have a flat bottom and others have a nice dimple to hold the ball on top. What size balls did you use on your routine?
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 3, 2020 08:20PM)
The balls I used were 1 1/8 " more or less. They belonged to an old Morresy set and got drafted into use. I've seen 4, 6, and 8 cup sets sold on eBay for under $40.00 post paid.

Karnak, Silver Mint Julep cups would most likely work as well.

Any three cups can be used for a cups and balls routine depending on the routine you design or want to use. Mike Rogers' Coffee cup routine is tight, magical and requires no stacking or nesting. John Carney's Caffeninated Cups and Balls likewise use coffee cups and is a superior routine.

Irv Winer taught me his routine. He was using those late 50s colored aluminum drinking tumblers.

Honestly there is no reason to be limited to the cups sold as magic props.
Message: Posted by: thegreatscungilli (Jun 4, 2020 05:35PM)
I tried 3/8", 7/8", and 1" balls with the Jefferson Cups I didn't have any larger sizes but 1 1/8" would work as well.

Am sure the Julep Cups would work as well...depending on what kind of routine you do and what moves you use.
Message: Posted by: dfolson (Jun 4, 2020 07:52PM)
I just bought a set of 4 Jefferson cups on eBay for $18. I have a variety of ball sizes to play with. As for the mint julep cups, I don't see why not. I also spied some jigger cups that might work if they are not too small. The other thing I saw was Washington cups - like the Jeffersons but not sure because it looks like a flat bottom.
Message: Posted by: thegreatscungilli (Jun 7, 2020 10:20AM)
Now that you bought some let me know what you think..the more I play with them the more I like them as an alternative to the "professional" style and you sure can't beat the price. Still have not had any problems with them sticking when stacked.
Message: Posted by: dfolson (Jun 11, 2020 02:05PM)
Well my cups are a bit out of round. Without a bead on the rim, the softer metal has allowed them to warp a bit and they do not stack well. Two of them tend to stick together and 2 won't seat. I still need to get a copy of Impossibilia to read though that routine, but I think a non stacking routine would be better. The size is good but I don't like the grip without a bump. I am probably just too used to my Paul Fox cups. I seem to be gripping the pewter cups tighter so it doesn't feel like they will slip from my hand and my fingers are getting tired quickly. I would like to find some julep cups to try as a different alternate.
Message: Posted by: thegreatscungilli (Jun 11, 2020 06:39PM)
I didn't get a matched set I just picked up singles over time and mixed and matched them until I got three that I liked so maybe that is why I have not had any problems with them sticking...
Message: Posted by: thegreatscungilli (Jan 12, 2021 11:39AM)
I had a number of mismatched Jefferson cups that I had acquired over time so I decided to see if I could make a chop cup out of one...Worked like a charm but it does take a little crafting
Message: Posted by: ringmaster (Jan 21, 2021 01:45PM)
The Vernon non-stacking Cups & Balls routine in Stars of Magic, that no one seems to do, works well with these kind of cups. Disregard the news paper wrapped tumblers in the picture, this routine works with all kind of cups, and very few are doing it.
Message: Posted by: Alan Munro (Jan 31, 2021 02:38AM)
I've found that stadium cups, of various sizes, work well for cups and balls. I've seen a wide variety of them at Dollar Tree, along with pom-poms in the craft section for balls.