Find a Dropped Coin

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How To #2: Find a Dropped Coin

Dai Vernon said, “Coins don’t like to be dropped.” Some coins may be more “emotional” than others, but in general, these little guys and gals will often punish their performer for letting them go to the ground. When dropped, coins roll, hide, and get lost. Not to mention soft metal currency, like our beloved silvers and coppers, get nasty scars and dents that could create added noise and unwanted friction during performance.

It would be great to completely bypass the drops while learning to manipulate with coins, but let’s face it, it’s part of the process.

I’ve dropped coins in the dirt, grass, and mud. I’ve dropped them to the car floor board, in shag carpet, and even in the shower. My coins have landed in food, in snow, and even in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of these events lead to organizing a search party! If you’re practicing coins, you’re gonna drop them. But here are some tips to help you find that coin:

1. Practice over a safe surface. A table, a mattress, a clearly defined space that is close to your hands and soft will prevent the coin from rolling.

One of my favorite practice times for muscle memory is while I’m watching TV. I can enjoy a show and get in tons of reps. I always put a towel over my lap so when the coin falls it stays in my lap, rather than fall into the cushions or on under the chair. Two favorite coin hiding places! Maybe that’s why many of the older coin guys have learned to work over tables.

2. Practice over a surface with a solid pattern. Silver coins like to reflect their environment and blend in like a chameleon. This natural camouflage effect can make finding coins difficult on a "busy" floor pattern. If the floor has a crazy pattern, you'll need to get down parallel to the floor and look for the edge of the coin that doesn't reflect light. Find the coin by it's silhouette. (Update: Several readers commented that a flashlight can help!)

3. Don’t rely on your eyes alone. Have you ever noticed that a coin is usually not found where you visually thought it went? Here’s my theory: If a coin falls and bounces off your pants, shoe, or something on the ground, it’s most likely you will catch a retention of light, but not see the actual coin. You are just seeing where the coin was, not where it is going.

Our eyes are wide ovals designed to quickly scan left and right, not up and down. Try this: Focus on an item directly to your left and then one to your right. You’ll find it’s quick to scan and refocus. Now, see something high in front of you and then look down and focus on your feet. The latter takes much more time to focus. This is exactly why texting and driving can be so dangerous! Phones are usually down while the driver should be looking up.

So, when you drop a coin, you need to quickly look down and focus, but by the time your vision catches up to the glint of light where you last saw the coin, it’s already gone! The coin is actually performing a retention vanish on you! Sneaky little coin.

4. Listen for the drop. The second the coin breaks free from your finger tips the tendency of the inexperienced practitioner is to panic! “Oh Cheese and Biscuits! It’s gone.” Can you relate? Panic only distracts you from where your "little friend" is going to roll and hide. Stay calm and listen. The initial sound of impact is hard to locate and distinguish. (Just as it is near impossible to pinpoint a shooter based on one single gunshot.) You want to stay calm in order to hear the drop and the rolling. You need to catch all the sound you can. The trail of sounds will lead you to the coin’s final position.

5. Coins don’t usually roll away up hill. Coins are typically going to follow the path of least resistance when they race away. You just have to consider that path may be behind you or illogical from your standing point of view.

6. They will always roll farther than you think. Nice and clean, little circles can really get moving. Don’t underestimate good old Physics: momentum and inertia.

7. Size, weight, material, textures, and attributes play factors in where a coin may run off and hide when dropped. Know your tools. Different coins will act differently when dropped. As well, all landing surfaces contribute to where a coin may be found. As I always remind you, never practice over tile or concrete.

8. Feel for the drop.  Often times coin will bounce off your feet. I once lost a toe nail to an Eisenhower Dollar. It took about a year to grow back. True story. I always wear shoes now when practicing. Even through your shoes, you can use your feet to feel where a coin lands and potentially predict where the coin may end up.

9. Remember Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Get creative in your search.

10. Finally, get experience. When you are practicing the same things with the same coins, the coin locations can become predictable. And more importantly, with practice, the drops will begin to stop! The subject of our next post!

Where have you dropped coins? Comment Below.

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  • Jeff

    Thanks guys, I can add the detail about the flashlight in point #2. I agree that is another useful tool, if the coin lands somewhere visible.

  • Ben

    Lay a flashlight flat on the ground and look for a stretched coin shadow.

  • Jim McGowan

    I always keep a flashlight handy. A small but powerful LED light. Just shine it across the floor and your coin will become visible.

  • Dr. Joaquin M. Ayala de Cedoz

    Some years ago I was leading a SCUBA trip to St. Kitts & Nevis and ended up performing for a wedding party whilst there.

    The evening after the wedding I was out and about and one of the guests stopped me to say how much he enjoyed the show. I figured, do something for him. So I started using my Walking Liberty to do Coin Over the Head, combined with the Apollo Robbins G.O.D.H.A.N.D. I had been doing that for years and never missed the catch behind their back.

    Well, third time around, I reached and…nada. He was so blown away but believe you me, I was just as astounded as he was!

    Fast forward to 40 minutes later I was on the outdoor roof patio of the restaurant eating dinner. Half way through the meal I looked down over the edge to where I was performing the effect and on the leaf of a palm tree, I spotted my missing Walking Liberty!

    Whew! I could not do that again if I had to!

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