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Dorian Rhodell
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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?

Paul's responses:

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!

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!

***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...***

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?

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

My solution owes MUCH to Ron Bauer, some to Milt Kort, and abit to Al Baker.

This may be lengthy, and will possibly come in parts, as I am trying to squeeze it in between actual work. Also, I want to detail the thinking and reasons for it's development.

For all the reasons mentioned earlier I did not want to do a denomination change. I like the switch, but the change of denominations leaves no other explanation, and requires, in some cases, a second change. Nothing could be worse technically OR theatrically. The second change is challenging (catch me if you can, I'm going to do it again...), and worse than anticlimatic, just goes nowhere.

If you choose not to do the second change, then you have to give out whatever you've changed the borrowed bill into - now THAT could get expensive!

The mismade bill, which I use, gives you something to hang a story on, but it can get expensive giving them away, and my experience is that spectators want the bill (who wouldn't?). So going FROM a regular bill TO a mismade bill creates all kinds of problems. Most importantly, it stops the action, and puts all the focus on the bill, not the performer. Just try to regain the attention of the crowd, and generate any momentum again!

So, with RB's help, and a tip from Milt Kort, here's what I do now:

I have 15-20 mismade bills in a pocket secretary (Kaps wallet, Lepaul wallet, whatever works for you...) Each is in one of those envelopes from the coin shop that is clear plastic and made specifically to hold a bill. Along with these are a few envelopes that come from another trick and were supplied by RB originally (I have since worn out the originals and had to make up new ones). The envelopes are also made the size of a bill, and are addressed to the Department of the Treasury, Numbering Division, Washington DC.
The time to do this particular trick is in a conversational setting. I usually carry this when I am going out to dinner, or am at a social event where I may be asked about magic. Here's why: I want to make the trick a PART of my "peculiar personality", not who I am. We are often identified by the fact that we "do magic". I do not care to be casually dismissed as the "magic trick guy".
So, if I AM asked I say:

"You know, I did that for a long time but I really couldn't make a living at magic alone, so I've moved on to other things."

"Oh", they say "what are you doing now?"
(By the way if they don't ask I volunteer the information on my new "career"!)

This is the moment at which I begin to lure them into the fantasy:

"I've got a great deal in the works, the ROI (that's return on investment) is huge! I really shouldn't be talking about this, but..."

I take out the wallet, look around suspiciously, shrug as if it's OK and, as I am removing the bills, say:

"Just don't spread this around.. Look at these bills - ever seen anything like them?
Here, here, take a look..."

At this point I am handing the bills out for inspection, one to everyone at the table. Invariably someone tries to take one out of it's glassine envelope, at which point I say:

"Don't touch that, I just got it from the mint, it's pristine! Besides you may not want your fingerprints on it..."

Look at the situation here:

We have introduced unusual objects, and allowed examination(creating interest), planted the thought of value and got them wondering what the heck I'm going to do with these that thier fingerprints would make a difference (a little suspense - "what's coming next?"), and got rid of lots of problems, to wit:

No borrowed bill to return, no changed bill to change back, no interest-diverting prop at in the middle or at the end of the trick - and we haven't even really gotten started as far as they are concerned!

Before I continue with the presentation I need to clarify several things. First, the "lines" I am using in this example vary from one performance to the next. RB taught me to write in phrases, not complete sentences, and to be sure the phrases covered all the essential information. The words you wrap around that information, give your presentation "color", a hint of YOUR personality. If you understand the plot points and have those points in order, then it sounds natural if you "ad-lib" the content. This is NOT true in all performance (DON'T, for instance, try to "ad-lib" Hamlets' soliloquy), but in the setting I'm describing it works.

Secondly, if you start a sentence that's pretty much self-completing, not finishing it allows the spectator to mentally participate AND draw their own conclusions, which, if you plant the right seeds, can be right down the garden path you want them to follow.

Finally there is a whole other aspect of this that includes SUBTEXT, but it is much better addressed elsewhere (just ask if you want the source material).

So, upward and onward:

You have handed out the bills, etc. and the spectators are examining them. You have just told them not to remove the bills:

"These are mistakes! See, the treasury prints and cuts these bills automatically, you know assembly line style? If the cutter gets all balled up, then they get miscut and... Here, gimme those back - lemme tell you the deal..."

AS you're collecting the bills and adding them to the ones you are still holding you say:

"The treasury is supposed to destroy these, but, I gotta buddy..."

"Anyway, I can buy as many as I want at seventy-five cents a pop, so if I pass 'em as regular bills..."

"I know, you're thinking what's twenty-five cents - it's a twenty-five percent profit, that's what! Try to get that in the market..."

"Here's whatcha do..."

"I've got one right here that I already handled, guess the prints won't matter much right now - here..."

Remove the one mismade bill you've got on the bottom of your stack (if there are any left), or that you've held onto if you had to give all the rest out (Forgot to tell you - it's pre-creased for the folding...)

You are removing the pre-creased bill from it's envelope as you expain that:

"If I fold it in half, and then in half again, see..."

You are doing the first two folds.

"It looks like a regular bill... might want to tighten it up a little..."

Here you are doing the last two folds.

"Then you just ask for change, you know 4 quarters, or phone change. You throw the bill on the counter, grab the change, and go. You've made your profits..."

As you say the above you gesture as if tossing the bill with your right hand, and act out grabbing change from the counter with your left.

"You could have a problem if they get the bill open before you leave..."

Start to open the bill.

"Well, maybe not - that looks pretty good..."

Finish opening the bill and looking at it.
(This folding and switching is described in detail in Ron Bauers' Private Studies, and is the best explanation ever of a bill switch!)

"See, even if you don't get the change you still make the money!"


This is the point at which thinking people begin to think - "How did he do tha... Oh, I get it, he switched it!" So how do you get them off track and finish the fantasy? Read on...

You change direction by posing another problem for them:

"You gotta be careful though, there's still a problem. Look, no serial numbers! That's the last step in the process at the mint - if the bills are screwed up they don't even bother..."

Remember those white envelopes that are addressed to the treasury? Guess what they are for!

You have just pointed out the fact that the rearranged bill has no serial numbers.

Leave the bill on the table and reach into the wallet, (leaving something if you want, know what I mean?), removing one of the envelopes. You display it and put the bill in as you say:

"...But I got that covered too! All I have to do is mail this back to the Numbering Division of the Treasury, and for 50 cents they'll put the serial number on and send it back, ready to spend! I'm gonna make a real killing on this - don't say anything, OK? Keep it to yourself..."

You put the props away and move on to other conversation. Trust me, someone is going to tell you that you are spending 75 cents plus 50 cents, plus the postage, way more than a dollar, for your "perfectly good $1.00 dollar bill"! (If they don't bring it up you do, by saying " I know, I know, your doing the math and doesn't add up right? Don't worry I'm gonna make it up in volume!")

Assuming they do bring it up you say:

"I know, I know, but it's OK, I'll make it up in volume!"


"I know what you're up to, I appreciate the offer, but this is too good to share - I don't need a partner!"

If this doesn't leave them with the view that you are indeed a peculiar guy, nothing will. Obviously they will realize you're doing a bit of leg pulling at this point. That's OK, if you've done your job, and given them a "moment", they'll remember you and your personality, NOT that you're "that guy who does the tricks", which was, of course, the whole point of this thread.

I did this for years without bothering about the serial numbers on the mismades - no one really pays attention to that in the beginning, and by the end all the mismades are out of sight - they honestly don't remember, and just accept that there weren't any - however, if you find yourself with enough ink erasers and time on your hands...

I CAN tell you that the idea of making a lot of money on this "deal", and having an "inside" guy at the mint to provide me with the bills, is more credible if I have a LOT of them!

If the cost of mismade bills concerns you, you can buy a sheet of 36 (I think) from the mint in DC for 48.00. Buy the time you cut them up you get 22 bills. A little more than $2.00 apiece, and you can print the envelopes yourself if you have a computer - the most expensive PROP in this whole thing is the wallet you carry everything in - what a deal!

Remember, in the effect itself there is some subtext and acting that comes with the MOMENT of the change. They (the audience) are not dumb, so they understand that if the clerk you're getting change from opens the bill before you make your "escape", he will catch you in your attempt to profit. You IMPLY, by your attitude, that even if that happens you know there won't be a problem, and by being slightly cocky about the bill being OK when you open it. With the right attitude you harken back to the moment when you denied doing magic anymore!

You continue, however, to let them know that even the magic can't get you completely off the hook, there are additional problems (the serial number) but with your superior intellect you have that figured out too!

This is all about the Theatre solution we have been discussing and requires some training and an understanding of acting techniques that are much better detailed elsewhere. I can recommend no better source than the Ron Bauer Private Studies for info on things like subtext, character development, the "En Route" principle, hiding secrets in the open, etc. I have not even begun to touch on these parts of this performance piece.

Best, PSC
Danny Alan 2
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This sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing this!
Harry Murphy
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Let me say (over 5 years later) that I've used Paul's outline here and this routine works great and is a bit of hidden gold here on the Café'.
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
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