Trick School: The “Magic Elbow”

Sometimes, the old tricks are the best. Any magician worth their salt knows the basics are where the real art of tricks comes out. No fancy gimmicks to rely on, it’s all about your skill with sleight of hand, and how you control your audience. As far as complexity goes, the “Magic Elbow” is simple enough but utilizes the technique generations of magicians have long sought to perfect; misdirection.

I would liken this trick to a driving test. You’ve put in the hours of study, you’ve taken a few “test drives,” but now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and show your worth. If you can’t master this trick, you need to go back to basics and start again. It doesn’t matter how clever your tricks are, if you can’t pull this off convincingly, there’s something lacking about your stage presentation; which is the best tool a magician could ever need.

What You Need

The requirements for this trick are simple. All you need is a coin. Size and shape don’t matter at all, so long as you can hide it in your palm. Other than that, all you need are your hands and your elbows. If you don’t have those, I’m afraid you’ve probably got bigger problems than being unable to do magic tricks.

The Trick

The trick itself starts innocently enough. Sit yourself down and lean over a surface like a table. You then show the audience your coin in one hand and place your other elbow on the table. Take the coin and start rubbing it into your forearm above the elbow. Continue this for a little while until… oops! You’ve dropped the coin. Butterfingers!

The coin can then be picked back up, and then you can resume the rubbing. After a little while, pull your hand away and reveal your palm. No coin! You may have botched the trick first time, but it totally worked the second. Right?

How It Works

Wrong. It may have looked like you messed up the trick first time, but you did it intentionally. This is done to get the eyes of the audience on the coin. While setting back up for a second run at the trick, pick up the coin with the hand on the side with the elbow you were rubbing.

Here’s the thing, from here you need to make it look like you’re passing the coin into the other hand when you’re not. All you have to do is make a quick movement like you’re dropping the coin into the other hand. What you’re actually doing is closing your hands over your palms during the rapid movement, so you give the impression that the coin has been received. This is called a false transfer.

From there, the trick continues as normal. Of course, you don’t show the coin clearly to the audience this time. You rub a while, then pull your hand back to reveal the coin is gone.

What about the other hand, though? You can show that too. Just dispose of the coin down the back of your collar while the audience’s eyes are on your rubbing. It really is as simple as that. You’re transferring and getting rid of the coin all under the audience’s nose.


The biggest pitfall in this trick is the false transfer. You need to make it look convincing but natural. Make sure the audience sees it happen but make it look casual. Don’t make a big thing out of it, and neither will they. Speed is the key above all else.

Keep your eyes on your audience. Watch them. They could be looking out for you disposing of the coin, for instance. Luckily, you can use the rubbing to your advantage here. If they’re not watching what they should be watching, you can stretch out the rubbing process a little. Maybe say a few magic words, anything to make their concentration waver for just a moment. When you see that opportunity, you grab it.

If the audience is watching you like a hawk, make use of that. Prolong the coin disposal until you’ve pulled your hand away from your elbow. When you’re showing your first empty hand, that’s where their attention should initially be, giving you a short window to dispose of the coin and reveal the other hand.