I learn via the L.A. Times that we’re getting a new penny. The portrait will remain the same, but the reverse will bear four new images introduced throughout 2009. The Times argues for getting rid of the penny altogether, while coin collectors delight at all the new designs appearing on American coinage. Yet whenever the Mint or the Treasury contemplates changes to our money, there’s one group whose voice is never heard: magicians.
Perhaps that’s because we’re a secretive lot, but the truth is that these new designs can be a real pain for us magic guys. We’re sometimes inclined to use — you didn’t hear this from me, mind you — coins that have been altered and gaffed to fit our nefarious ends. To do this it helps to know what the coins in our audience’s pockets are going to look like. This used to be easy; they all looked the same. Now we’ve got 52 different possible quarters, 3 nickels, and 5 pennies that could show up. Paper currency could be old style or new. The Kennedy half-dollar has remained mercifully unchanged and is the size most suitable for sleight of hand manipulation, but no one carries it anymore. The dime alone remains reliable. Thanks, government, for giving us only the tiniest of American coins to work with.
We magicians are a tricksy bunch and we do find our way around such obstacles. But still, life would be a lot easier if we had a powerful magic lobby standing athwart the US Mint yelling, “Stop!”