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One of the true classic plots in magic is the ‘signed borrowed object to impossible location’ one, and there have been many examples using different items over the years. One of the most popular is the version using a signed rolled up bank note, and this has been made to end up inside a locked brass tube (the Bill Tube), a lighter (my own Flash Note Lighter) and inside a marker pen, to name just a few.
I have been performing the bill in marker pen for nearly 15 years. I originally purchased the effect from Antonio Romero at a FISM convention in the mid 2000s, and in more recent times Nick Einhorn marketed a very similar version using the same type of pen and method. Now Gary James has released another iteration, and it is this one that we are concerned with here.
The main difference between Gary’s method and that of Romero/Einhorn is the way that the note is loaded into the pen. Gary’s version is very quick and practical and can be instantly reset, which makes it suitable for walkabout as well as stand up work. The pen that the note appears inside can even be out in full view before it is loaded, which makes it more akin to my Flash Note Lighter, both in handling and principle, than the Romero/Einhorn version.
So what do you get for your money? Inside a neat little carry box you receive two identical looking black marker pens. One is the gimmick which doesn’t write, the other is a real working duplicate. You also receive a piece of black rolled plastic which can be used to simulate an ink cartridge, and this enables you to either have the bank note end up inside the ‘ink cartridge’ within the pen, or use it as a swap so that the note disappears to be replaced by the ‘ink cartridge’ which then explains why the note is inside the pen.
The instructions are supplied as a 36 minute online Vimeo production. In this Gary shows exactly how the gimmicked pen works and should be handled, explains various different ways to load the note, and rushes through some handlings for affecting the vanish of the rolled bank note. Although the video contains everything you need to know, I did find the order of the explanations muddled and some of the camera work left a bit to be desired, but it does contain all the information you need if you stick with it.
I think the principle of the method is excellent, and Gary has clearly performed it for many years very successfully. As a result, he handles it extremely slickly and demonstrates perfectly just how quickly and impossibly the note can instantly appear inside the pen. You will need to practise the moves and not be afraid of a little palming in the face of spectator scrutiny, but the load is so quick if done as described that you are not in an exposed position for more than a moment or so.
A couple of observations. I was a little disappointed that there are stickers that are wrapped around the barrels of the pen with the Pro Marker printing on them rather than the pen barrel itself being printed on directly. Unfortunately, neither of the stickers on my pens were on quite straight, nor were they firmly stuck down where the edge of the upper surface runs down the length of the pen. My fear would be that this will very soon start to unpeel and come loose, thus catching on anything it comes in contact with.
The other problem, is that although Gary says that the working of the gimmicked pen becomes a bit looser with use, after playing with mine for about 10 minutes I ended up being unable to open the load chamber at all! So, buyer be warned that you may need to handle the prop with great care.
The Pro Marker is a good idea, and has great potential for working performers. For walkabout performance it is probably the only practical method worth considering, but for stand up the ‘bill tube’ style method of the Romero/Einhorn version is every bit as good.
Review by Mark Leveridge. Originally published in Magicseen Magazine, issue 88