By R. Paul Wilson
Crowded Coins (aka Scottish Fly) has attracted a great deal of interest since it first appeared
back in 1994.
It was first published in an obscure little pamphlet titled “Alias”, a set of notes intended for my
first lecture in Perth, Scotland. I later sat down and re-wrote the notes, including illustrations
and some new material. This became “Chaos Theories”, my first book. I printed 100 copies
and my wife kept 25 aside. The 75 sold quickly thanks to H&R magic books and the routine
later appeared in several sets of lecture notes for various tours and conventions.
It wasn’t until the routine appeared in Genii Magazine (as Scottish Fly) and then on my video,
Knock Em Dead, that this version of 3Fly became more widely known.
Crowded Coins has been around since the very early nineties. Other magicians have worked
on similar methods but I feel it is important to point out that I was the first to publish my
version, based on the work of Kenner, Kurtz and Townsend. Since Crowded Coins was
published, several VERY similar routines have been released with little or no credit to myself.
In most cases the people involved were developing their handlings at the same time I was
developing mine. To my knowledge no one stole anything from anyone – it was simply
several individuals following similar paths. That said, I personally believe that the credit must
go to the first to publish.
3Fly has become one of those tricks that create thousands of posts on Internet sites every
year. Every time someone creates a “new” one there is a buzz.
Having spent considerable time developing a simple handling that looks as good, or better, as
anything before it I am often amused at the direction the “new” 3Fly routines take. Many
simply complicate the effect with more moves, or start switching the coins from hand to hand
to make some esoteric palm fit the routine.
Often the result is simply cluttered and littered with bad angles. Never the less, magicians
often prefer to prove their ability (or lack of it) rather than concentrate on the effect.
Whenever I develop a routine, particularly one that I will use in almost every show, I aim for
the simplest, most direct method. Sometimes simple means easy, other times it requires very
difficult sleight of hand.
Sleights should solve problems in an effect, not create them. These days it seems to me that
many people actually think it adds to an effect when more coins are used, the coins are
signed, or the routine becomes a catalogue of poorly executed, badly conceived sleights.
Magicians want to see moves. Lay people want to see effects.
Over the years I have been reluctant to let one phase of this routine go. This phase answers a
key problem with any 3Fly routine – the effect simply doesn’t get the reaction it deserves
from a lay audience.
I have encountered similar problems with other effects. For example, Ray Kosby’s “Raise
Rise” blows magicians away yet is nowhere near as impressive as the bent card ending to a
layman (Expert Card Technique).
Back in 1992 I found a solution. In over 11 years of performances I have found this to be the
real secret to 3Fly: they need to know the difference!
Why do magicians seem to react more than laymen to this effect? The answer is simple: they
have a point of reference – they understand what’s special about 3Fly. The visual element is
You are about to read a full description of Crowded Coins, including the previously
unpublished “Sunday Morning Sequence”. I have taught this sequence to a few friends. All of
them have agreed that it adds a great deal to the routine and makes the 3Fly sequence much
The whole routine flows smoothly from the production into the new phase and continues as
previously described in my notes and on video (everything is described here). If you add this
to any version of 3Fly you will notice an immediate improvement in your audience reactions
when the first coin goes visibly.
It should also be noted that this is a complete coin routine. The coins are produced, used to
good effect then vanish at the end. Most 3Flys are merely a fingertip coins across but, as the
following description proves, I feel 3Fly is best performed in the context of a a mini coin act,
rather than a stand alone effect.
So, for the first time, here is Crowded Coins, in its entirety.
To perform this you will need four well-worn silver coins. I use silver dollars but any coin that
is comfortable when finger-palmed is fine. This routine is actually quite easy to do with a
larger coin so, if you normally use half-dollars, try dollars for size.
If you are performing this in a stand-up or cabaret show (as I often do) I recommend sewing
your breast pocket shut, leaving enough of a lip to sit a coin at the top of the pocket. For
close-up or walk-around the coins may be handed out or simply tabled during the second
This description is intended for a performer who is standing.
Begin with all four coins finger palmed in the left hand, which is relaxed at your side.
Offer to begin with a test of your audience’s powers of observation. As you speak, raise both
hands to your waist as a natural gesture.
State you will touch your fingers together three times and the third time a coin will appear at
your fingertips. Raise the right hand to shoulder level to illustrate this.
Ask if the audience is ready, bringing your right hand down to the left for a second. The right
returns to shoulder level, the second, third and fourth fingers closed as if they might hold
Now, slowly count to three, touching your right first finger and thumb together each time. On
three, open all the fingers of the right hand so the hand is seen to be empty. At this very
moment the left thumb pushes one of the palmed coins to the left fingertips.
After counting three, raise the left hand so the first coin is noticed. The other three are
concealed in finger palm.
Say “THESE fingertips”.
Your audience should react to this little joke. As they do so, take the coin in the right hand as
if to look at it yourself for a second - then return it to the left hand. In actual fact the right hand
coin is finger-palmed and a second coin pushed to the left fingertips (Fig. 1).
It looks as if the coin is simply taken then returned to the left hand.
Reach up with the right hand, fingers curled, palm towards the audience. This is Ramsay
subtlety (Fig. 2). Pluck the palmed coin from the air by quickly pushing it to the fingertips as
you mime the moment of magic.
Now you take the second coin into the right fist for a second, then open the hand to show the
coin sitting at the base of the right third finger (finger palm position). Drop the left-hand coin
onto that one (Fig. 3) as if you were appreciating the weight of the coins.
You now perform a false transfer of these two coins into the left hand, retaining both in the
right but bringing the two palmed coins from the left hand into view.
To do this, the right hand revolves palm down onto the left hand, which turns palm up to meet
it. The right thumb holds back the two coins in the right hand as the left hand opens,
supposedly to meet them. The edge of the right coins is allowed to quickly contact the left-
hand coins, creating a natural clink (Fig. 4).
The right hand withdraws (with two coins finger-palmed) as the audience is allowed to see the
two coins in the left hand.
A third coin is now produced from the left elbow by the right hand. To do this the right thumb
simply pushes one of the palmed coins to fingertips as you pretend to remove it from your
elbow. Drop this coin onto the two in the left hand.
You now have three coins in the left hand and one finger-palmed in the right.
Take all three coins with the right hand and fan them at the fingertips (Fig. 5). An important
point about this fan – it is never held completely parallel with the floor. This would cause you
to strain your wrist.
For this part of the routine it is actually held vertically. The right thumb supports the
uppermost coin and the other two are fanned in front of this coin and DOWNWARDS. The
middle coin supported by the right first finger and the lower coin supported by the second
finger (Fig. 5).
This is the master grip for this routine and should be learned with both hands. I suggest
checking it now. This grip allows you to move the coin directly under the right thumb behind
the other two with great ease. Try sliding the coin closest to you with the thumb. If this is easy
then the first and second fingers are doing their job!
So, you are now holding a fan of coins in the right hand with one coin secretly palmed in the
You will now perform a short coins-across phase from the closed left hand. This will engage
the audience immediately and prepare them for what is to come.
In other words, you are going to teach your audience what a normal coins-across looks like
before letting them see the coins visibly jump from hand to hand.
To begin you will drop the coins, one at a time, into the left hand. Hold the left hand palm up,
raising the fingertips slightly so that the palm of the hand is just out of the audience’s sight (if
the audience is seated, raising the fingers is unnecessary). It is important that the left hand
still seems flat (level), just ensure they can’t see into the hand.
Now, the right hand approaches. The fan of coins is towards the left and held vertically above
the left hand.
When the right hand is above the left, the right dips downwards slightly, releasing the
lowermost coin by relaxing the second finger (Fig. 6).
As soon as the coin has been dropped, the right hand raises up again in a natural breathing
action before descending back towards the left hand to release the second coin. Basically
you’re tossing the coins downward into the left hand.
The second coin is released by the first finger as soon as the hand begins it’s descent. The
coin will appear to fall into the left hand but actually falls backwards into the right finger palm,
striking the coin already palmed (Fig. 7).
If I could maybe take you aside for a moment. Stop and try the above click pass a few times
until you find the action that looks as if you’re dropping a coin into the left hand while actually
letting it fall into the right finger palm. Note how the downward motion aids in this move. Do it
a few times until you get the idea. Now check it in a mirror. Get the real drop to look like the
fake one. Check the position of the hands with the illustration and, if all looks and feels
natural, we’ll move on.
This click pass makes use of the extra coin to fool the ear. Note that the extra coin is not used
as an actual coin (?) until the third coin apparently travels.
So, to continue, you have dropped one coin into the left hand and apparently dropped a
The third coin is now fairly dropped onto the first and the left hand closed around them.
You now have two coins in each hand (two finger palmed in the right).
Raise the left hand and produce one of the two palmed coins from your left elbow with the
right hand. Show this coin and open the left hand to show two coins remaining.
Care must be taken not to make noise as you produce the coin from the right hand. Also,
always show the coin before opening the left hand.
The right hand coin may now be handed out for examination, tabled or placed on the ledge at
the top of your breast pocket (if you have sewn this shut as described earlier).
Take the two remaining coins at the fingertips of the right hand, fanned as before. Repeat the
Sunday Morning click pass. This time there will be no third coin so simply close the left hand
as it apparently receives the second coin, which actually falls into the right finger-palm.
Note that it is important to mime the actions of dropping and receiving the coin well. The
illusion created by the sleight and the audible clink will be perfect.
To produce the second coin I mime the action of a coin travelling up my arm then I raise my
left knee and produce the coin from there (“this one almost got away”).
Table the second coin or place it at the top of your breast pocket as your left hand shows the
Take the last coin at the right fingertips. You will now drop it into the left hand, directly into left
finger palm position.
As soon as the coin is finger palmed, the left hand comes up and opens, keeping the coin
concealed in finger-palm, with the palm of the hand towards the audience (Fig. 8, exposed
Raise the hand to your lips and blow between the thumb and forefinger. The left hand now
lowers to a relaxed position as you look downwards.
At this point you may produce the third coin from your tie, your right knee or even someone’s
ear (very popular). I like to produce it from my crotch. Cheap gag - big laugh, your choice!
Take all three coins in the right hand, retrieving the first two from the table or wherever you
Perform a utility switch as you toss the coins into the left hand, retaining one coin in the right
(this is a standard coin move).
Using the right hand, place these three coins at the left fingertips fanned and ready for the
thumb slide. This means: front coin to the right, rear coin to the left - the left thumb is on the
back of the rear coin and the left first and second fingers touching the front two coins (exactly
as shown in Fig 5. but for the left hand).
The RH has one coin secretly finger-palmed.
Pause a beat to allow the situation to register. Three coins displayed at the tips of the left
hand, nothing in the right. You may use Ramsay subtlety briefly to show the right hand empty.
Reach forward with the right hand and produce its coin at fingertips. As you do this you look
from the left fan of coins to the right hand producing its coin. The audience will look there too
thanks to the powerful misdirection at work here.
Simultaneously, under the misdirection created by the RH, the left thumb slides its rearmost
coin to the right, behind the other two (Fig. 9). It will appear as if one coin has travelled from
the left hand to the right.
Replace the RH coin in front of and to the right of the LH coins as you explain that the coins
are to travel from one hand to the other visibly.
Offer to do it again.
Apparently retake the first coin from the fan but take the two coins furthest to the right (Fig.
10). The first coin is hidden by the right fingers and the second is seen at the fingertips (from
As this is done the left thumb moves its hidden coin to the left so that the two coins are
fanned correctly after the others are removed.
Now produce the RH second coin by moving it into sight as you reach forward slightly. To do
this, the right second fingertip drops back to contact the face of the hidden coin (Fig. 11) then
pushes it up beside the other coin, fanned to the left.
The timing on the above move is: after you take the coin back into the right hand, you look to
the left hand to see two coins and then to the right to see one. Now look back to the left and
then to the right. As you look to the right the second time you produce the coin. This timing is
As the second coin is produced by the right hand, the left second finger relaxes it’s hold on
the front-most (fanned to the right) coin and allows it to fall into left finger palm, leaving only
one coin at the left finger tips (Fig. 12).
Once the effect of the second coin has registered lower both hands to just above waist level.
This brings the coins edge on to the audience.
Say that some people claim they even see the third coin go. As this is said, the coin at the left
fingertips is added to the right hand fan, so it will be the furthest forward and furthest left when
you raise your hands again (Fig. 13). The right fan is now ready for a thumb slide.
This is done in a joking way as if you aren’t really trying to fool them - you all know it’s just a
As soon as the coin is in the right hand, the left thumb moves to the coin palmed in left finger
palm (Fig. 13). Both hands raise up to display position once again, the right thumb sliding the
rear coin behind the other two as the left hand pushes its palmed coin to fingertips – the coin
has apparently jumped back.
The timing given above has taken years to perfect. By lowering the coins they never really
see the left coin in the right hand, they only see you pass it over. When it apparently jumps
back, the natural assumption is that you never really put it there. This is extremely important.
If this looked too good the only possible explanation would be an extra coin. By doing things
this way the audience grabs the wrong solution and then gets seriously beaten up by the last
While many magicians say they dislike this approach to the third coin (making it jump back),
trust me when I tell you this is one of the strongest points in the routine.
Manoeuvre the left coin into French Drop position.
Now explain exactly what will happen. As you do this you must look from the left to the right,
training the audience as you do so.
This is what’s going to happen. This coin look at the left hand is going to vanish from here
raise the left hand slightly and reappear here look from the left hand to the right raising
the right slightly to illustrate.
Remember it vanishes from here look back to the left hand and will reappear over here
look over to the right and thumb-slide the hidden coin to the right creating a fan of three
At exactly the same time the left thumb relaxes slightly allowing the coin to fall into finger palm
(Fig. 14). This is basically a French Drop but with the audience looking away rather than you
pretending to take the coin.
It is VERY important that your left hand remains motionless. When the audience looks back to
the left hand they will see the coin gone. The fingers and thumb have not moved (Fig 14.)
This simple vanish receives the strongest response of any I have tried. If you like you can
move the coin into Curl Palm or use Ramsay Subtlety after the audience notice the vanish.
Frankly, you’re working too hard if you think this is necessary.
Place the right hand’s coins in the left hand at French Drop position, ready to vanish, pull up
the left sleeve with the right hand then pretend to take the coins from the left hand, executing
the standard French Drop.
When the coins fall into the left finger palm they will strike the coin already palmed there
creating a better sound illusion.
The left hand pulls up the right sleeve then retires to your side as the right raises to shoulder
Blow on the right hand and the coins are gone.
So ends the routine.
This is my own routine but, to be frank, I have yet to find a more practical approach since I
came up with this one. Many people who have played with my routine have merely changed
the moments or complicated it to some degree.
If you already have a satisfactory handling for 3Fly, the Sunday Morning Sequence can easily
be added to what you already do.
I have used this for many years. I have also been using Bob Kohler’s 3Fly in certain
circumstances. I was fortunate enough to receive the Kohler routine years before it was
released. You will find that the gaff in Bob’s routine may be used in my handling. I’ll leave you
to work that out for yourself.
Many thanks for purchasing this routine. I hope you found it to be valuable.