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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Trick coin trickery » » Good info on grading coin gaff makers. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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TWOCAN
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The differences in commercially made coin gaffs.

With so many makers of coin gaffs, new magicians often find themselves wondering "who makes the better gaff?" or "What are the differences between all these guys?". With exception to the high end custom makers such as Schoolcraft or Lassen, most coin gaffs are commercially produced using precision metalworking equipment in a mass production approach. Schoolcraft and Lassen are focused on custom work where each set of coins is treated as a unique process and even greater focus is given to the finer details. While custom makers offer the absolute best in quality, be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on your gaffs. But what about those of us that just want
an affordable gaff set to practice and learn with... do we need to give up quality fit and finish? The answer depends on which manufacturer you choose. We will highlight the most common makers of commercial coin gaffs and try to give an honest opinion of the pros and cons of each...

Johnson Precision Magic
Johnson is considered to be the best maker of commercial coin gaffs. They have been around for a very long time and have a commitment to quality that surpasses any other commercial maker. The fit and finish of their coins are so close to the custom makers that unless you are looking for special coins (antique silver dollars for example) Johnson is the way to go. I think you would have an incredibly difficult time finding any magician with something bad to say about Johnson products. The downside to Johnson is that not every magic shop carries them, and they are usually priced higher than most other makers. MagicVault is proud to be a Johnson dealer and can supply you with any of their items.

Tango
Tango is an Argentinean company that has recently gained more of a presence in the U.S. They offer a very wide selection of items. In fact, in addition to the common gaffs, they offer many unique items and gaffs that are exclusive to Tango. Many times these unique items are common gaffs tweaked in ways that the founder of Tango feels adds more value or ease of use. The quality of Tango items is very good. Not quite as good as Johnson. The fit and finish of the gaffs are of quality, but if you place them next to a Johnson, you may notice a slight difference. Sometimes the edging and milling is a little more rough, or there is a little more gap in a shell. Nothing major, but still a difference. Where Tango does fall short is the included instructions with gaffs. They are horrible. They are written in very broken English that often leaves unfamiliar magicians unclear about the use or method of handling. If you order a Tango item, either know how to use it, or know that you can work with a fellow magician to get the handling down. MagicVault does carry various Tango items we feel are of merit. We do not carry the entire line as we suggest magicians purchase Johnson when possible. Pricewise, Tango is very close to Johnson - usually about 10-20% lower.

Roy Kueppers
You occasionally find gaffs made by Kueppers. Kueppers is actually a custom maker but supplies gaffs commercially as well. These gaffs are well made. Kuepper also makes various coin utility items such as coin benders. Kueppers is on par with Tango and priced similarly. If you cannot get a Johnson or Tango, Kueppers is a decent alternative.

Sterling
You do not see Sterling too often these days. Due to the dominance of Johnson and Tango, Sterling has become a lesser known maker. Sterling offers a decent quality - but again a definite noticeable difference when compared among Johnsons. We have heard of sporadic past quality issues. They are much lower in price, and do have a narrow product line that is mostly limited to shells and nested coins. Scrutinize the coins when you get them to make sure they are ok. MagicVault does not carry Sterling. We suggest sticking with one of the better makers.

Sasco
Sasco gaffs are where you start getting into the low cost economy coins. Sasco, while inexpensive, often lacks the quality and detail fit and finish that working professionals and picky amateurs require. They are perfectly fine for beginners looking to get a few gaffs to learn and practice with, but in all honesty we suggest taking that money and putting towards one of the better made gaffs. The prices are not that much lower that it creates a huge spread. Consider Sasco a novelty level gaff maker. Not for the professional or serious amatuer.

No Name Makes
These are usually gaffs made overseas. They are made in bulk lots in a very quick and sloppy manner. They often have rough edges, gaps in milling work, sloppy fit, etc. They look gaffed and spectators will notice. Stay away from the coin gaffs that are no name brand. You will be wasting your money.

Schoolcraft or Lassen
As we mentioned at the start of this article, custom makers are the absolute best in terms of quality fit and finish. Schoolcraft and Lassen are the premier makers of custom coins. Be prepared to spend a great deal of money - however you will have a gaff set that holds its value and performs flawlessly. If you are a working professional that relies on coin work and are making a good living doing magic - these are for you. Amateurs with some extra cash and desire to have the best - take a look at them also. Anyone else - stick to Johnson. Johnson will not disappoint you.

Keeping your coins in good condition...
Keeping your coins in good working condition is critical. Shells with dinged or bent rims can be the death of an effect or at the minimum serve as a strong exposing point. Nested coins such as Scotch and Soda can become very loose and not maintain a hold or just the opposite - a small ding in the edge could result in the set not coming apart even with a bang ring. You spend a great deal of money on coin gaffs and you should allocate money towards protecting those gaffs. There are a number of style of coin wallets and cases to help accomplish this. In addition, these cases help you keep your gaffs organized and make them easy to carry. In all of the styles, we tend to favor the roll type or folding cases. These are long strips usually made of leather and a soft interior with many slots to hold your coins. It folds up nicely allowing many coins to be carried. We have seen a number of cases where coins are carried in a single pouch. We do not suggest this approach as the coins tend to hit and contact each other and could result in dents and dings - especially with your shell coins. ALWAYS keep your shells stored with the proper child coin placed in them to avoid damage
Maker of Copper /Silver coin gaffs +

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jprace
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You didn't write that, did you?
If you did, that was great.
If you didn't, it's still great.
Antares
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I'm still new here but this is a fantastic article. The "everything you always wanted to know about coin gaffs, but were too afraid to ask".

Thanks so much.
Close-up Magic Cabinet Makers.
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Rizzo
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Twocan, good job!
Ocha
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Great Post Twocan, these are the types of posts that should become Stickies.

Gerald
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Judah Vee
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I might like to say that Kreis Magic makes really good coins as well. And they will send them to you to inspect before you pay. GREAT customer service.... Check them out. Ronald Dayton AKA Kotah AKA the designer of Opium Coins uses them to make the authorized version.

http://www.kreis-magic.com/product/coin/?lang=en
I don't care how fast or slow you are.... As long as I am faster.. -J-
Detlef
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...and we should not leave Auke van Dokkum out. Also very good gaffs.
http://www.cupsandballs.nl/
Regards
Detlef
TWOCAN
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Add them to the list. Thanks Detlef and Judah
Maker of Copper /Silver coin gaffs +

https://perch-star-nbdt.squarespace.com/home

Okito box clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=100n9CnFjXw
Visit my face book page , Copper silver coins by PT
TWOCAN
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Quote:
On 2009-06-04 00:15, Rizzo wrote:
Twocan, good job!
MY PLEASURE. I know how I went thrugh lots of companies before I found what works for the price.
Maker of Copper /Silver coin gaffs +

https://perch-star-nbdt.squarespace.com/home

Okito box clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=100n9CnFjXw
Visit my face book page , Copper silver coins by PT
MickeyPainless
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Good of you to provide this Twocan!

MMc
TWOCAN
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No problem. I wish I had this knolage when I was getting into coin magic 20 years ago. Would have saved me a lot of trouble. that's why I posted it so the young magicians can get a clear look at what there up against.
Maker of Copper /Silver coin gaffs +

https://perch-star-nbdt.squarespace.com/home

Okito box clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=100n9CnFjXw
Visit my face book page , Copper silver coins by PT
rklew64
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I have a idea to store coin gaffs. Perhaps use the cases with the foam that keeps camera or telescope lens. Many square plastic hinged cases can hold half dollars. If it can hold and store a $60 and up lens, it surely could do the job for gaff coins. Go and see if it works, plus you can then label them and stack them.
kcquinn50
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Great guidance. Thanks. I've always wondered where Sterling and Sasco were in quality. I have china change from Sterling and locking $1.35 from Sasco. Both are acceptable quality. I have penney and dime from E-Z magic. It's not bad.
There is also Adams and Royal Magic, which have limited gaffs.
Kelvin
giobbi1
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I agree ALMOST completely. The only caveat I have is that I have and use both a Johnson and a Sasco Scotch and Soda and the quality of the Sasco is every bit as good as the Johnson. Side by side, I don't know if I could tell you the difference. Granted, I acquired the Sasco a long time ago so I cannot speak for the quality today. Just thought it would be fair to point out.
mmreed
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Hey guys - actually I wrote this. It is a post on my blog on MagicVault.

I appreciate TwoCan sharing this with everyone. I know its been posted on the Café a few times for discussion.

I plan on adding a few more comments to it - regarding Tango and a few other international makers.
Mark Reed
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rutabaga
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Quote:
On 2009-06-04 18:00, TWOCAN wrote:
Quote:
On 2009-06-04 00:15, Rizzo wrote:
Twocan, good job!
MY PLEASURE. I know how I went thrugh lots of companies before I found what works for the price.


Would've been nice if Twocan had mentioned the source of this info, I think.
Lawrence O
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Thank you TWOCAN for this interesting review which is missing at least some important suppliers to our art and seems to me to be unwillingly misleading on a small point.

Bob Swadling and JB Magic in England are producing very good quality gaffs from sterling silver coins and rare -or scarce- copper or bronze coins (and a few circulating coins). They have an especially good experience in magnetic coins and their use, but are not restricted to such a specialty.

Auke Van Dokkum in Holland is supplying upper quality gaffs which could be situated in the higher end of the Roy Kueppers products. Now if we ask either Todd Lassen or Jamie Schoolcraft to do special orders, they simply don't have the time available unless it is for a commercial series supported by routines properly marketed by a great name (special orders is where your description seemed to me to be misleading: they could do it but generally don't). Thus for special orders, we stand a better chance by going to Auke or Xavier Belmont.

Xavier Belmont in France started to hand make French coin gaffs of the same quality as the best American craftsmen. He now does coins of any nationality as he is interested in working mainly on special orders. I ordered from him gaffed Japanese coins and I know that he also made some other nationalities coins on demand. He is not very fast but the quality is simply top and, sofar without the mishaps that the best American craftsmen have occasionally had (but he is more recent in the craft...)

Henry Mayol, a well known French magician, has started a shop in Paris and he has a coin gaff maker who does American and French coins for him. I've seen some which were fine and placed a special order to check the quality of high end coin gaffs.

Apart from the quality of the craftsmanship, it should be underlined that the Jamie Schoolcraft, Todd Lassen, Auke Van Dokkum, Roy Kueppers, JB Magic, Xavier Belmont are making gaffs with coins that are initially considered collectors' items (sterling silver coins and rare -or scarce- copper or brass coins) and this contributes to the quality of their image.

The Johnson, Tango, Sasco, Sterling are more oriented towards coins still in circulation (or supposed ot be like their brass Chinese coins) and lower prices because we loose (and sometimes erroneously spend) some of their gaffs which get mixed with coins in circulation. For some routines where we want to borrow a coin (and switch it as for the coin in bottle or pen through coin), it doesn't make a great sense to perform with gaffs done from ancient collectors' coins.

The same way Todd Lassen does special coins for Troy Hooser or David Neighbors routines, or Jamie Schoolcraft does gaffs for Dean Dill routines, Roy Kueppers is making the excellent Black Out gaff for Brian Platt.

As a last comment, we could consider also the customers of such gaffed coins.
Some of us are collectors and want absolute collectors items with the most detailed subtleties in craftsmanship and rarely use their precious gaff in their sometimes rare performances

Some are pure performers and know that we can do miracles with Johnson products or Tango coins which only 20 years ago would have been considered as fabulous and appeared in the techniques described by star magicians like David Roth, Geoff Latta, Sol Stone, Lou gallo...

Naturally some privileged magicians do perform (and enjoy doing it, I know for being one them) with top quality gaffs but when their performance is outstanding, it is not the quality of the gaffs that makes that difference, its the quality of the performance, the quality of the script, the acting capacity... which is only supported by the preciousness of the props (not the gaffs since the audience is not aware of the possibility of "damaging" ancient collectors' coins).
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
Magnus Eisengrim
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The article also appears here: http://magicvault.net/blog/?p=72

I don't know where it originates.



The blog also contains the following comment:

Todd Lassen // Feb 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm
Each time I see Schoolcraft and myself grouped into the same category I about lose it. I hope I am making a noticeably hundred times better product than he.



John
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
rutabaga
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It looks like the post was written by Mark Reed. He comments in response to Todd's comment:

2.
Mark Reed // Feb 9, 2009 at 1:35 am

Todd, you do make an awesome gaff my friend! I don’t want to knock Jamie - his gaffs are decent too. I have respect for both you guys and love your work. I will say that I like Lassen products better personally Smile
Lawrence O
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Rutabaga,
Let's not go into this again.
Since I know you for being a very honest person: in a blind test, none of us would be able to differentiate a set of four coins with shell from most of the five top craftsmen. I'm prepared to finance the test on the products by the five major craftsmen and let some idependant entity form the jury for the blind test. I'm sure there will be a lot of surprising decisions (including the refusal of some craftsmen to participate directly).
On copper silver, the only way to tell is to know what copper coins, each one is using (Todd has a rarer selection of copper coins) but on similar copper coin, the same blind test would show no noticeable craftsmanship differences (because the work is not essentially different).
On Flippers, Jamie would probably be ahead as his Flippers are slightly better (according to many testimony from magicians from all over the world)
On Copper Silver Brass, Todd Lassen would win for his better coion selection and immaculate craftsmanship.
On stacks, Todd is making his unique magnetic stacks.

Now this type of comparison, by excluding other craftsmen from it, keeps on focusing on two of them which is unfair to the other craftsmen. The competition objectively exceeds these two and they are both over worked with a huge order book (according to their own claims) so we should look at others as well.

From coin specialists like Curtis Kam or Eric Jones, there are other craftsmen doing products of the same quality and comparaisons should not keep on being only between these two. Furthermore owing to the fact that each of the gaffs produced are unique, the are no quality standards (by definition). Some of them episodically have defects.
I had PMs relating defects with supporting photos from almost each craftsman (except for Xavier Belmont who has not been around for so long but claims that when he has a miss -and he admits having had some-, doesn't ship the product).

Then there are two questions which are, in my opinion, linked: the price and the customer support.
1) the price: if a craftsman charges a price substantially higher, defects are not supposed to reach the customer: they may happen but should stay with the craftsman who, because these are done by hand, should destroy them.
2) customer support: if however a defect reaches a customer, the higher the price the better the customer support should be expectable. From what I hear, there are huge differences there (whether in terms of delays, consideration for the customers, after sale service...)

Thus instead of reacting to personal bashing and siding one or the other craftsman, we should (it seems to me) remain focused on the ratio between the quality of the product, their price and the quality of the service. Quality differences are not as substantial as certain craftsman claim but service and price differences are fairly substantial.

Thus preferences expressed here are generally more personal than objective. All in all let's remain less subjective and more topical as this thread attempted to be. It is obvious that most of us are rationalizing their purchases in being convinced that whoever they purchased their gaffs from is the best. Having many products (but not each of the products) from all of the major craftsmen, I have no prejudice about the products I own even when their author may have some prejudice against me (which doesn't keep me awake) for not getting into a submissive mold obviously required.

As clearly expressed in the thread, the game is no longer between just Todd Lassen and Jamie Schoolcraft whatever merits they respectively have or had: it's between the gaffs we get from a market that became international and the terms and conditions for getting them.
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
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