The Three Levels of Coin Magic
I believe there are three levels of coin magic.
Level One: Just doing gaffed stuff where the gaffs do all of the work. There is no — or at most very little — sleight of hand work. This seems to be what everyone starts with. Really, though, they should start with:
Level Two: Sleight of hand with regular coins. This should be learned first for two reasons. First, so that when you handle a gaff it will looked natural and not like you’re “doing something.” Second, having some skill with sleight of hand will help you get out of trouble should you need to; for instance when a gaff isn’t available or doesn’t work properly.
Level Three: Using what WORKS and what LOOKS LIKE MAGIC. This is where we get into the combination of gaffs and sleights. To do this, you have to know not only HOW to do it, but almost more importantly WHEN to do it. You have to know when to switch in a gaff and when to switch it out. You have to know when you can get away with doing a coin routine where there are gaffs on the table ALL of the time — what I call “walk on water” stuff where the spectators already know you are good. When they already know you can “walk on water” gaffs won’t be suspected. But the WHEN takes a lot more work than the HOW and it’s best learned from the School of Hard Knocks. You just have to get out there and put in your TIME. And no, it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.
I would say I am best known among magicians for my work combining sleight of hand (even hardcore sleight of hand) with a gaff. The best of both worlds. Spectators will think something can’t be a gaff because of this or that, but it also can’t be sleight of hand because of such and such; leaving no answer but the impossible.
To learn when to ring in a gaff and when not to, when to ring OUT a gaff and when not to, and even when to do a particular trick and when not to, all takes real world work with real laymen. They are often harder to fool than magicians.