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Timothy
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Years ago, I bought "The Hundred Dollar Bill Switch" manuscript by Mike Kozlowski. Seeing David Copperfield turn a dollar into a Hundred, then back again on television sent me to the magic shop to "get it", just as many of us have for other effects. (Evidence of this can be seen as all of the Healed & Sealed posts). Interesting that the manuscript was Copywritten in 1977, but became known much better years later. It makes me wonder what other gems are out there just waiting to be discovered...hmm...

But, I digress. The main point of this post is an idea for a story/patter concept using the above mentioned method. Since I rarely have a $100 bill to practice with or borrow from someone I show the trick to, I went to the bank and got some $2 bills. (Yes, the US still makes them, just ask.) I change a $1 bill into $2, then back again.

The patter I envision involves having lunch with a financial advisor, and when I leave the tip, ask how I can "double my money", to which the financial advisor suggests the only true way to double your money is to fold it in half, which I do, and the end result being of course....doubling my money.

Any ideas/suggestions/constructive criticism on this?
Peter Marucci
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Timothy,
As well as saving $98, it's a good story line.
Smile
Alan Wheeler
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What a coincidence!

I recently had to cash in the $100 bill I have been using since I came back from China last July. I arrived at the same conclusion that using a $2 bill would be effective, but my idea was for the transformation to be between a $20 and a $2, because cash drawers have no special $2 spot and they can easily be confused.

By the way, did you just lend me a $2 or a $20?

alleycat Smile
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Lance Pierce
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As it happens, a certain Mr. Chosse and I have been discussing things behind the scenes, trying to ferret out ways to improve our magic, and one of the examples that came up was the $100 Bill Change (I much prefer to call it a change, since that's what the audience is supposed to perceive…heaven forbid that we -- or they -- see it as a "switch").

In any event, Mr. Chosse had some remarkably good thoughts on the subject and we bounced some ideas back and forth.

You see, the change itself (whether you use the Kozlowski approach or, as is my preference, the Roger Klause approach) is nearly perfect. However, any premises you care to hang on it are fraught with problems and challenges that automatically arise with the prospect of changing a bill from one denomination to another.

If you borrow a bill, for instance, and increase its value, you have to change it back before returning it (or be willing to take a hit every time you do the effect). Regardless of how you justify changing it back to the lower denomination, this is INHERENTLY disappointing to the spectator. If you borrow a bill and decrease its value, at least you have a reason to change it back, but other questions arise as to why you would do such a nutty thing in the first place…plus there's the theatrical problem of your drama taking a dip rather than a rise in effect -- you don't end higher in impact than you started…you end in the same place as you began. Not the best theater.

If you DON'T borrow a bill and change it to a higher denomination, why in the world would you change it back? But if you use a borrowed bill and change it to a lower denomination, you have the same problem as with the borrowed bill…it doesn't make sense to do this, and you end where you began at the same level of theatrical impact.

And there's the question of how dramatic should the change in denomination be? A hundred-dollar bill is much more meaningful and dramatic than a five- or ten-dollar bill. This has its limits, though. I know one magician who was changing a borrowed one to a real thousand-dollar bill, but its novelty took away from the effect rather than added to it.

So, some have avoided changing the denomination at all, and use bills like the Mismade Bill or bills where Washington's portrait turns upside down. Some of these are pretty good, but they also suffer from problems, the foremost of which is that this kind of prop can overwhelm the magician himself. Once you change a borrowed (or non-borrowed) bill to, say, a Mismade Bill, the audience is far more interested in the bill than the performer, so you have the challenge of how to get the focus back on you, who should be the most important thing in your act.

One of the ways I approached these various problems when I worked restaurants and did strolling magic was to do this:

Reach out and hold an imaginary object at your fingertips. Point it out to the audience, saying that it's green and all folded up. Just when they think you're turning nuts on them, begin to unfold this invisible object and cause the bill to materialize at your fingertips in the act of unfolding it. It's a one-dollar bill. Hand it out as you talk about the dream of being able to pull money from the air, but that it's not really enough. Take the bill back, fold it up, and change it to a hundred-dollar bill. Point out the hazards of doing this, not the least of which is the displeasure of the U.S. Government (for us limey Americans). Fold the hundred up as you talk about the government coming to investigate you, and cause the bill to simply vanish from your fingertips, leaving you empty-handed and coming full-circle -- and without any evidence for the federal prosecutors.

This seemed to work well, but what's really interesting to me in this discussion is not methodology or presentations of the bill routines themselves, but what principles and ways of thinking we can extract from them that we can apply to all our magic? How do we identify potential theatrical problems, and how do we go about addressing them? How do we make sure that we, as the performers, stay up front and the focus of attention so that we're remembered above the magic itself? (As Jerry Seinfeld once said, "You know, I saw a guy catch a bullet in his teeth once. You'd think that if I saw a guy catch a bullet in his teeth that I could remember his name…") In thinking about applying the mechanics of the Bill Change, why change it to a hundred or a two-dollar bill? Why change it at all?

In Roger Klause's book, In Concert, there was a routine called "Cheque," in which you took a written check and cashed it by causing it to visibly turn to money at your fingertips. This is an example of trying to answer some of these questions, probing motivations, and trying to eke out some sound theatrics. "The Chimerical Bill" in the same book is another example of this.

It's all about thinking, thinking, thinking, rethinking, and thinking again…Where is the focus? What is the result? Who gets what? What kind of impression and impact do we leave?

And so on…and so forth…



Lance
Jeff
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Timothy,
How about changing the one into a two, tearing the two into two ones and handing one back to the spectator. Using Ammar's Two dollar bill tear would accomplish this.

Jeff

Hi Lance,
It's nice to talk with a name sake. I like your idea's on the bill change and am looking forward to the book that is coming out on this subject.

It all makes for interesting reading but does it really matter? What I mean is, in my field of video production and TV producing you produce for the lowest common denominator. It must be produced to be understandable on an 8-10 year old level.

So my question to you would be, do spectators really wonder why you do something rather than how did you do it?

Just a thought.

Jeff Pierce (a brother in magic)
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Paul Chosse
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As Lance mentioned earlier, we have indeed been discussing the theatrics of this particular move. Move, you say Chosse? Yes, move!

The "Hundred Dollar Bill whatever" is really just a billet switch. It has been detailed in many texts, most of them written long before Mike Koslowski was born. Consider Al Baker for instance. What is amazing is that we consider the idea of performing a hidden sleight in the open, exposing it for all to see, as magic at all. Or that we credit ANYONE with any great creativity when it comes to the switch itself. That said, let's work with what we've got...

Cause and effect relationships do not make for good magic theater. Huh? Well, if I have a one and I fold it and unfold it and now it's a hundred, it stands to reason that hidden somewhere in the folding process is the place where I "switched" the BILLS. The fact that you can't see me switch it doesn't change for a minute your belief, no, CERTAINTY, that I did switch it. Don't believe me? Do the trick and ask afterwards for a truthful answer to what "they" think you did! Wait, don't run out the door with tip on hand, I can save you the time, I have already done the research - they think you're really clever at "switching" things.
That's because you didn't give them any other recourse. This is a "show and tell" trick - I fold the bill, I open the bill, it changes - I fold the bill, I open the bill, it changes back. No garden paths, no drama, no conflict, no resolution, NO OTHER CONCLUSION FOR THEM TO DRAW!

How about all the problems Lance mentioned? Borrowing is difficult and slows the trick, changing the bill means stopping to let them examine the new bill, slowing the trick again, changing it back says try and catch me if you can. The climax is anticlimatic.

Even if you go to a mismade bill the trick stops because all attention is on the unusual bill, not the performer - How do you regain momentum, Focus attention on yourself, remove the challenge aspect?

With the help of Ron Bauer and Milt Kort these questions have at least one solution - I'll give it in the next post, maybe it will inspire some other solutions? Here's a hint, this from Kort to Bauer, to me - think backwards!

Best, PSC
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Lance Pierce
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Hi, Jeff!

I, too, am looking forward to the Bill Change book. I have no idea what's going to be in it, but it should be interesting.

As for appealing to the lowest common denominator, I suppose it all depends on what you want to achieve with whatever you're doing. For some people, appealing to the widest possible audience is a very good thing, particularly when commercial interests are responsible for their paycheck. For others, though, appealing to the lowest common denominator is not only NOT appealing, but downright repugnant. I'm somewhere between the two, but closer to the "repugnant" side.

Cheers!


Lance

Paul's right: A problem with the move that I failed to mention may be that it's "too perfect," in that it lends itself to only one possible -- or at least reasonable -- explanation of how it's done... and unfortunately, it's the right one.

Now, perhaps the effect can be handled in such a way that even a switch wouldn't explain what the spectators are seeing. Do we approach this with technique or theater... or both? Or something else altogether? Let's gnaw on this a bit...


L-
Paul Chosse
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***Do we approach this with technique***

The technique is already perfect, right? Besides, in ANY trick the technique should be as perfect as possible, that's a given - if they even suspect, let alone detect, any technique, the fantasy is destroyed. Consider the '57 ford that shows up in a 40's era movie - it is so jarringly out of place that your suspension of disbelief, something you willingly give as long as the players can sustain it, is interrupted. The story no longer grabs you. You are more attentive to the "technique" than the story. Who hasn't seen a bad movie and had this happen to them?

***or theater...***

What else? The technique we keep talking about is not supposed to be recognized at all! Assuming we all accept that premise, the ONLY thing we can fall back on is to carry this trick, and make it magical, IS theater.

or both? Or something else altogether?

***Let's gnaw on this a bit...***

Still gnawing, more later...

Best, PSC
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Lance Pierce
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I think Timothy may be of the mind that we're getting way beyond the parameters of his original question, and yet, we are working to answer it, aren't we?

Yes, the technique is very, very good the way it is (and there are some handlings that are very good that don't use a tip as well), but anything can be improved, if not by altering the method than by changing the moment (or some other way). Then there's the value of theater, which we both seem to agree on, and then there's the value of psychology, which we haven't touched on yet.

I'm going to give the entire issue another little spin and suggest that technique, presentation, theater, psychology, and any other elements we care to name are not as distinguishably separate as we might assume. I honestly don't know where the line lies that divides technique from theater, for instance, and I don't know that there even is one. Same with technique and psychology, theater and psychology, technique and premise...you get the point.

Paul mentions suspension of disbelief. This is the willingness of an audience to temporarily put aside the things they know to be true and for a moment believe the context provided by the entertainer. Suspension of disbelief is often talked about in theater, drama, film, etc. But is it necessary for magic?

I ask this because I'm wondering if we want to provide a different context than the spectator is accustomed to (and therefore one that they would have to willingly enter) or if we want to apparently act well within the parameters of what the audience already knows and assumes -- and THEN create a contradictory event. Perhaps it depends on the routine, the act, the performer, the conditions, etc.

With the Bill Change, do we want to present it under our own parameters...or do we want to work within the spectators' world? The latter wouldn't require them to suspend their disbelief during the presentation...the question is, does it require them to suspend their disbelief to enjoy the effect?

I think Timothy's idea of changing a one to a two can be strengthened quite a bit -- an increase of just one dollar doesn't seem to hold a lot of inherent dramatic interest. How, then to increase that dramatic interest? Purely through theater? Partly through using different bills -- or different props altogether? Regardless of how he approaches the manual method, how does he maximize the experience for his audience?

Timothy? Any comment?


Lance
Timothy
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Wow! What a fantastic turn of posts. I had hoped to inspire such fantastic input from all, and I am not disappointed.

My original thought for the effect was structured around a patter idea, but wondered if anything would be taken away. I had also not considered the psychology of it all. In addition to (what I consider) a well documented method, Kozloski addresses *some* of the psychology in his manuscript under a section called "Presentation and ..."

To paraphrase some, Kozloski considers that while changing the $100 back again could have a valid explanation (not safe to carry large bills around), that only a fool would do it! I think this makes some sense.

And so, the thought of "doubling" my money popped into my head as a way of doing the effect. But, this of course makes one wonder: "Is it less amazing"? The change occurs right in front of the spectators. Does the wow factor decrease in the same factor of the bill denomination?

Just gnawing on it, and tossing thoughts here. Great & wonderful input, everyone!
Lance Pierce
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Okay, the questions have been raised:

How to ensure that the effects themselves are internally logical (consistent with each other and follow some sort of rational plan)?

How to heighten and maintain interest?

How to not only get the audience to suspend their disbelief, but make sure that their doing so has a payoff?

How to evoke not just a reaction, but emotion?

How to keep the focus on the performer and not the trick?

Paul hinted that he may post his solution to some of these questions. I suspect that if he does, we will not be disappointed, and we may learn from it by example...

Jeff Pierce suggested changing the one to a two and then tearing the two into two ones. This is actually very interesting...possibly a very good approach. If we use that as a framework, what can we hang on it? What premise? What theme? What character? What theater?

Jeff? Jeff? Are you out there?


Lance
Jeff
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Lance
I am here, reading this thread with interest.

I for one use a modified version of Paul's; Bar Bill Stunt, from the Bauer Private Studies Series. I like the framework of the Origami Bill and the premise that one slight misfold causes the bill to turn inside out.

Quote:

Jeff Pierce suggested changing the one to a two and then tearing the two into two ones. This is actually very interesting... possibly a very good approach. If we use that as a framework, what can we hang on it? What premise? What theme? What character? What theater?


I believe that changing a $1.00 into a $100. starts a dangerous precident. Why do card tricks when you can sit all day long and change $1's into $100's.

I have an effect called "Money From Nothing" which begins with you telling your spectators, "As a magician I am constantly asked "hey, if you are a magician how come you don't make a million dollars?." now, I could do this with ease except I am bound by the Magicians Code which states, "Magic performed with money may only increase in profit a maximum of 20%."

Holding the bill open between your fingertips, ask the spectator to place their hands palm up. You proceed to snap the bill over their hands and a dime falls into their hands. Snap again and another dime falls into their hands.

Snap a third time and when nothing happens say "that's my 20% for the night, if you come back tommorrow we can work on another 20%."

Just an idea

Jeff
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Lance Pierce
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Hello, Brother Pierce,

That's not too bad. I like it and the possibilities it holds.

Regarding the danger of setting the precedent, perhaps something can be borrowed from a mentalist friend of mine. He says early on in the show, "People often ask me...if I can read minds and predict the future, why aren't I playing the stock market? Why aren't I playing the tables in Vegas? Why aren't I winning on the horses in every race?" Then he nails the audience with a dramatic look and says, "And the answer is...I do."

My question is, if you could turn $1 bills into hundreds, why WOULDN'T you be sitting around doing card tricks all day...or anything else you enjoy?


Lance
Paul Chosse
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If an audience member is asking you the "if you can do that why aren't you rich?" question or some form of it, it could mean several things:

1.) They BELIEVE you can do magic, and the question is sincere - meaning you've succeeded!

2.) They DO NOT BELIEVE you can do magic, they know it's a trick - meaning they are letting you know they know. In this case I believe that most people are responding naturally and, by being "wiseguys",are attempting to join in the fun. Your response here is VERY important - this is the moment when you can win them over or alienate them completely - be careful!

More questions:

1.) How do you know which thing is true in each case?

2.) How do you respond in each instance?

3.) Is there a single response that works for both cases?

4.) Are there other possible spectator scenarios/intentions that I haven't mentioned?

Just wondering...

Best,PSC

P.S. I promise to get back to the Bill Trick in the next post...
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Burt Yaroch
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I'm not sure I believe there are people out there who see this effect and believe it's real magic. It is so easily rationalized as a switch that they don't need to go there.

I think this is also a definite reason to use one of the alternate methods presented here. Changing the denomination just isn't magical.
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Paul Chosse
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Burt - I agree with your view - although I would substitute the word recognized for rationalized.

I wish there were a "tongue-in-cheek" sign I could attach to my posts, or someway to let you "hear" my sarcasm, unfortunately...

So, though I think it POSSIBLE that option #1 exist, I find it highly unlikely.

Thanks for the feedback - What would you do to address some of the problems we have been discussing?

Looking forward to your continued posts here.

Best, PSC
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Lance Pierce
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Burt,

Hi, there! Good to see you again.

Yes, simply changing the denomination isn't magical in and of itself, but I see very few effects as magical "in and of themselves." There must be something lent to them of the performer; some theater; some tone, mood, or attitude that takes what might only be a startling event and turns it into a mystery.

Paul may disagree with me on this, but I'm of the mind that it's possible to do a bill change (with or without the tip) so well that even if the idea of a switch occurs to the spectator, it may not explain what happened, so it's sometimes discarded as a possibility. How did I arrive at this? Well, by asking my spectators. Time and time again. A switch, of course, is the only possible, the only reasonable explanation, and yet, it's wholly unsatisfying, and doesn't explain anything.

But before this can be achieved, not only must a thorough understanding of the mechanics and method be involved, but of what's also happening in the spectators' minds as you present yourself and the effect. What do they think when you take a one and change it to a two? What do they think if you change it to a hundred? What do they think if you split one bill into two? Or if you produce a bill from midair, change it to another, and then make it vanish altogether?

What do they think if you cleanly show both hands otherwise empty both before and after the change? What do they think when you let them hold the bill? What do they think in Bruce Cervon's approach where you punch your hands through two holes in a newspaper and also have two spectators hold your wrists before you do the change?

If you rationally eliminate sleeving, pulls, extra bills, and gaffed money, do they still think it's a switch, even though they're convinced you had no other objects in your hand and even though it doesn't explain anything? Does an explanation, even the most reasonable one, that goes nowhere still suffice?

I've had spectators more willing to believe that it was some sort of heat-activated chemical in the bills that caused it to change rather than a simple, albeit deceptive, switch. Are they idiots? Or is it just that the effect is really that good?

Let's keep hammering on this...

Cheers!



Lance
JimMaloney
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Veeeeeery interesting thread.

Though I've never done the Bill Switch/Change routine, I have thought about it a bit and pondered a lot of the questions posed here. One thought I had would be to have some definining characteristic that can be seen on both the original bill and the changed bill. This could be a signature, a drawing, maybe even a little smudge of dirt.

Of course, in order to get them both to match perfectly, you'd need to put the marks on there yourself. However, if you obtain a sheet of uncut bills, and sign your name across the middle of all the bills and then cut them in mismade form, you'll have bits of a signature in each corner. Now, if you borrow a bill and have a person sign it you can do the change to the mismade bill, but still have "their" signature on the bill.

Of course, it won't match up perfectly, but then, it's not that easy to mentally put together a signature that's been split up like that unless you cut the bill and rearrange it. If you don't let them study it, you should be fine.

BTW, I don't think there's necessarily a problem with changing a large denomination bill into a smaller one if you handle it correctly. There can be a lot of humor as a result. It would need to be handled carefully, so that you don't upset the person you borrowed the bill from, but it can be done.

-Jim
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Burt Yaroch
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I prefer to solve the demonination change and all it's apparent failings with a bit Jay Sankey passed on.

That is, to keep the same demonination but mark it somehow. Fold a corner, draw a dot in the corner with a sharpie, tear a part of the bill. Now you are moving the dot or tear, multiplying them, rubbing them off..whatever...instead of changing the bill.

The thought of a switch may still come to mind for them but you are no longer leading them down that path by overemphasizing a switch.

Lets face it folks, if you could change a $1 to a $100 you may very well still be performing magic, but it would be on some tropical isle you purchased back in 1987 and you would hand out that $100 every single time. Anything less, regardless of presentation, isn't fooling anyone in my opinion.
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Lance Pierce
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That's a pretty strong statement, but you may very well be right. On the other hand, there are guys who are saying that while this sounds good in theory, actual experience is telling them something else. Over in the Close-up forum on coins and money, one labeled the Bill Change as a signature effect for him.

Okay, so perhaps the change of a $1 bill to a $100 bill isn't credible, much in the same way that floating across the Grand Canyon isn't credible. Everyone intuits the principle of its workings, and the effect is too clean to be "real." Am I summing up your objection clearly?

Does moving a dot or a tear actually solve this problem?

Paul's solution lies in theater, not in technique or methodological approach. He keeps teasing us with it, so hopefully he'll post it soon. After one or more teases, of course, and hopefully before some of us die of old age. Smile

I thought that the idea of producing the bill, changing it, and then making it disappear addressed most of the problems. The increase in denomination, then, seems to be no more than a fantasy, not something that actually happened. There's no evidence at the end. There's only the performer and his relationship with the audience. It wasn't here, then it was, then it changed, then it wasn't here again. The question of how the one changed to a hundred is absorbed into the mystery of the entire piece: Where did it come from...how did it change...where did it go? Did it really happen?

Is the Bill Change self-defeating? I think it can be...unless the performer thinks things through and takes that into account. Aren't many magic tricks, when examined in their bare bones state, self-defeating? Without the presentation, theater, character, and psychology, how many effects can pass muster? Isn't this why "self-working" effects are often the most difficult to perform?

Theory and practice...focus and design...

Cheers,


Lance
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