I am part of a medieval re-creation group called The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and I plan many of my magic performances to take place in that group – at SCA events. That being the case, I would rather not do my coin magic using 20th century Kennedy half-dollars or even 19th century Morgan silver dollars.
Magic effectively stopped being a closed art when a book was published in 1584 called The Discoverie of Witchcraft, by Sir Reginald Scot. He was trying to show that what people thought were supernatural deeds attributable to witches were actually illusions that were frequently performed by magicians (jugglers) and were only tricks. So the book basically (even though Scot said he was sorry to have to do it) exposed many secrets of magicians.
Obviously that did not kill magic as a performing art. And many magicians look to “Discoverie” as a valuable resource and part of magic history. One of the things I like about the book is that it serves as documentation for some of the props that magicians used. In one section of the book, Scot says
“You may, with the middle or ringfinger of the right hand, conveie a testor into the palme of the same hand, & seeming to cast it awaie, keepe it still.”
A “testor” is another word used for the “testoon,” a coin used in England in the late 1500s. It is not really practical to get my hands on original Henry VIII testoons, not only because they are hard to find and expensive, but also because they are usually pretty mangled and beat up. Coin magic often requires the magician to have several coins that look th same. So I was lucky to find a reproduction of the Henry VIII testoon on eBay.
I received my first one in the mail yesterday and boy is it shiny:). That makes it perfect for coin magic. These particular reproductions are from “The Millionaire’s Collection” – 30,000 coins that were hallmarked by the London Mint. I got mine for $22 (US). So it will be a while before I get as many as I want:-P. But I can at least do single-coin routines at SCA events now without using 20th century coins.