The Differences in Commercially Made Coin Gaffs:
Updated and revised for 2010
By Mark Reed aka Marc Mayhem of MagicVault
With so many makers of coin gaffs, new magicians often find themselves wondering “who makes the better gaff?” or “What are the differences between all these guys?”.
With exception to the high end custom makers such as Schoolcraft or Lassen, most coin gaffs are commercially produced using precision metalworking equipment in a mass production approach. Schoolcraft and Lassen are focused on custom work where each set of coins is treated as a unique process and even greater focus is given to the finer details.
While custom makers offer the absolute best in quality, be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on your gaffs. But what about those of us that just want an affordable gaff set to practice and learn with… do we need to give up quality fit and finish? The answer depends on what manufacturer you choose. We will highlight the most common makers of commercial coin gaffs and try to give an honest opinion of the pros and cons of each…
Johnson Precision Magic Coin Gaffs
Johnson has long been considered to be the best maker of commercial coin gaffs. They have been around for a very long time and have a commitment to quality that surpasses any other commercial maker.
The fit and finish of their coins are so close to the custom makers that unless you are looking for special coins (antique silver dollars for example) Johnson is the way to go. I think you would have an incredibly difficult time finding any magician with something bad to say about Johnson products.
The downside to Johnson is that not every magic shop carries them, and they are usually priced higher than most other commercial makers. Additionally, the flipper coins by Johnson seem to be subpar when compared to others such as Tango. MagicVault is proud to be a Johnson dealer and can supply you with any of their items. (Editors note: Find Johnson Coins on MagicVault )
Tango Coin Gaffs
Tango is an Argentinean company that has recently gained more of a presence in the U.S. They offer a very wide selection of items. In fact, in addition to the common gaffs, they offer many unique items and gaffs that are exclusive to Tango. Many times these unique items are common gaffs tweaked in ways that the founder of Tango feels adds more value or ease of use. The quality of Tango items is very good. Not quite as good as Johnson.
The fit and finish of the gaffs are of quality, but if you place them next to a Johnson, you will notice a difference. Sometimes the edging and milling is a little rougher, or there is a little more gap in a shell. Nothing major, but still a difference. Where Tango does fall short is the included instructions with gaffs. They are horrible. They are written in very broken English that often leaves unfamiliar magician unclear about the use or method of handling. If you order a Tango item, either know how to use it, or know that you can work with a fellow magician to get the handling down. When I last spoke with Mr. Tango, I have been told they are working with English translators to improve the instructions for the English market.
I have seen several items since then and they have indeed made vast improvements. The Tango Ultimate Coin is a great example of Tango at its finest. MagicVault does carry various Tango items we feel are of merit. We do not carry the entire line as we suggest magicians purchase Johnson where we see a quality difference. Pricewise, Tango is very close to Johnson – usually about 10-20% lower. I think as Tango becomes more aggressive, you will see them surpass Johnson.
Roy Kueppers Coin Gaffs
You occasionally find gaffs made by Kueppers. Kueppers is actually a custom maker but supplied gaffs commercially. These gaffs are well made. Kuepper also makes various coin utility items such as coin benders. Kueppers is on par with Tango and priced similarly. If you cannot get a Johnson or Tango, Kueppers is a decent alternative. Be careful as some dealers tend to sell Kueppers at a high price comparable to Johnson.
Where Keuppers stands out is the gaffs he custom makes. Much lower price than Schoolcraft or Lassen – and very nice quality.
Sterling Coin Gaffs
You do not see Sterling too often these days. Due to the dominance of Johnson and Tango, Sterling has become a lesser known maker. Sterling offers a somewhat decent quality – but again a definite noticeable difference when compared among Johnsons. They are much lower in price, and do have a narrow product line that is mostly limited to shells and nested coins. For the cost, stick with one of the other makers. MagicVault does not carry Sterling at this time.
Sasco Coin Gaffs
Sasco gaffs are where you start getting into the low cost economy coins. Sasco, while inexpensive, often lacks the quality and detail fit and finish that working professionals and picky amateurs require. They are perfectly fine for beginners looking to get a few gaffs to learn and practice with, but in all honesty we suggest taking that money and putting towards one of the better made gaffs. The prices are not that much lower that it creates a huge spread. Sasco has been getting better at quality and hopefully they will grow to the point of being on the same level as the rest. Only time will tell.
No Name Makes
These are usually gaffs made overseas, or some of the SS Adams or Magic Makers gaffs. They are made in bulk lots in a very quick and sloppy manner. They often have rough edges, gaps in milling work, sloppy fit, etc. They look gaffed and spectators will notice. Stay away from the coin gaffs that are no name brand unless you need a very low cost gaff for occasional amateur use. Consider these practice sets.
Schoolcraft or Lassen
As we mentioned at the start of this article, custom makers are the absolute best in terms of quality fit and finish. Schoolcraft and Lassen are the premier makers of custom coins. Be prepared to spend a great deal of money – however you will have a gaff set that holds its value and performs flawlessly. If you are a working profession that relies on coin work and are making a good living doing magic – these are for you. Amateurs with some extra cash and desire to have the best – take a look at them also. Anyone else – stick to Johnson. Johnson will not disappoint you.
There are obviously other makers spread across the world that we have not touched upon. The goal here was to hit the mainstream and well known makers to help people understand the differences. Granted these comments are the opinion of MagicVault staff, we find that they mirror many of the professional views in the community.
Folks, basically what it comes down to is that if you are a person that wants the absolute best (and you have the money available), go with Schoolcraft or Lassen. If coin work is your money maker and full time forte, by all means use the best out there! If you are happy with a quality commercial gaff and not looking to spend a fortune, go with Johnson or Tango. Johnson and Tango are professional level gaffs that have come a long way in the past years, gaining much respect in the magic community. These gaffs will last you a lifetime. Maybe people make a living off doing magic using Johnson and Tango items.
That wraps up this attempt to give you folks out there in magicland a decent review of the major players in the coin gaff market. Make sure to look us up at www.shopmagicvault.com for all your magic needs!
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