While I was working on JACK, one really annoying thing about hunting around through the public domain literature looking for classics was that the Stanley Collins Ace Trick proved pretty elusive. Collins was pretty proud of his opening vanish sequence and appears to have used it for a number of similar effects.

Here are two links for you. Collins’ Card Creations and Original Magic Creations. In the latter, on page 14, is The Omega Ace Experiment, which uses the same basic vanish approach as the commonly-known trick with spelling revelations. It uses duplicates, which may or may not turn off a few people, but it does have some nice merits, including an interesting approach to cleaning up, one less vanish than the spelling version, and an effect which is (in my opinion, anyway) almost on par with Macdonald’s Aces.

Collins wasn’t the only one taken with that vanish sequence, though. In Expert Card Technique, Hugard and Braue put together “Solo Flight Aces” using the Collins vanish approach and a revelation sequence from Dai Vernon. It’s more demanding than the speller one, for certain, and while the Collins version has a chance to play at least somewhat big, “Solo Fight Aces” feels a bit smaller and cozier.

Collins’ Card Creations has an interesting trick within it as well. It’s called “Fours”, and it’s like an inverted “Everywhere and Nowhere”. Three cards are selected and lost. The top card is turned over, and it’s the Four of Clubs, not one of the cards. It’s set aside. The bottom card is shown, and it’s also the Four of Clubs, and it too is set aside. A card from the middle is taken, and it’s the Four of Clubs too, and it’s set down. The deck is naturally suspect at this point, but it’s shown to not have any Four of Clubs in it. One of the indifferent cards is pocketed (or slid halfway into the vest, if you do it according to the original). The three discarded Four of Clubs are turned over, and they’re the selections, and the pocketed (or vested) card is removed, and it’s the Four of Clubs.

This trick seems weird. At first glance, it seems like the sort of plot that would do well for magicians — not because it’d be a magician-fooler or anything, but rather because it’s got a bit more complexity to it than your average card trick, and so it’s the kind of thing that would appeal more to people who’ve seen their fair share of card tricks. I tend to side with Tommy Wonder in that I think regular audiences need to see a straightforward approach to an effect before getting a variation on it, but every now and then you run into audiences who can handle a more complex trick. If there’s one thing that feels off, though, it’s that the middle of the trick is obviously meant to bait the audience into thinking that there are multiple Four of Clubs in play, but since the three initial selections are themselves proof that there are regular cards in there, it’s hard to know where that swerve is supposed to take people.

Getting away from the theatrics of it, this is also where something like the classical “Everywhere and Nowhere” strategy maybe needs to come into play. The duplicates there serve a slightly different purpose, and create a more mysterious final effect. “Fours” on the other hand, is trying to similarly create the impression of multiple duplicates in play, but because there are no duplicates, you don’t give the audience strong proof that you aren’t just showing the same card several times, which I think lessens the effect somewhat.

Still, things like this can create an interesting challenge. I don’t know that I can solve the no-duplicates problem, but I think the theatrical issues could still be worked out. For instance… You open by saying that while everybody knows about how the magician finds a single card, you’ll teach the audience how to have several cards picked and how you can find each one. First, you have a single card openly chosen from a shuffled deck and placed into your pocket, but you make a big deal out of the fact that they can’t look at the cards, because that’s part of the secret. You then force the same card on three different people (you really only have to force the last two). After some shuffling, you show that the top card is their selected card (we’ll pretend it’s the Four of Clubs again), and you verify it’s the first selection, and then you show the bottom card is also the Four of Clubs, and you verify that it’s the second selection, and then you do the same thing with the card from the middle. The secret, you tell them, is that you just have to have an entire deck of cards that are the same, and you show all the cards are alike (various displays are possible), before snapping your fingers. Of course, sometimes people will suspect something’s up, so you’ve got to clean up the evidence. You turn over the three Four of Clubs to show that they’ve changed back into normal cards, and then spread the deck to show they’re all indifferent as well, before reaching into the pocket to remove the card that was isolated from the beginning, and it’s the Four of Clubs.

I’m still unsure that this sort of trick is better than something strong and straightforward, but at least it gives a bit of reason for the way things unfold. In the meantime, the search for the commonly-known Collins Ace Trick continues…