Sharps and Flats: The Secrets of Cheating
home introduction book content links advertising contact


foreword to the online edition


I. introductory

II. common sharpers and their tricks

III. marked cards and the manner of their employment

IV. reflectors

V. holdouts

VI. manipulation

VII. collusion and conspiracy

VIII. the game of faro

IX. prepared cards

X. dice

XI. high ball poker

XII. roulette and allied games

XIII. sporting houses

XIV. sharps and flats









Bookmark and Share

The Purse Trick

If we search the purlieus of the race-course, we are sure to find the 'purse trick' well in evidence. A good many people seem to get a living at it, yet there is not much mystery connected with it. Its accomplishment rests purely on sleight of hand. We are all familiar with the purse purporting to contain a half-crown and a shilling which the salesman offers to dispose of for the modest amount of sixpence or so. It is extraordinary, however, how few know wherein the trick lies. For the benefit of those who are unacquainted with it, the following short description is given.

The man throws a half-crown and a shilling into a two-penny purse, and the price demanded for the whole may vary from sixpence to eighteenpence, according to circumstances. Sometimes the purse, when purchased, is found to contain the actual amount ostensibly put into it. 'Springes to catch woodcocks!' The purchaser is a confederate. In the event of a stranger buying it, the contents will prove to be a penny and a halfpenny. The operator really throws the half-crown and shilling into the purse several times; turning them out again into his hand, to show the genuineness of the transaction. Or, he may spin them in the air, and catch them in the purse by way of variety. But when the time for selling arrives, although he does not appear to have changed his tactics in the least, the transmutation of metals becomes an accomplished fact, silver is converted to bronze.

The man has a money-bag slung in front of him, into which he is continually dipping his hand, for the purpose of taking out or returning the coins. This bag seems to contain only silver, but there is a vein of baser metal underlying the nobler. Therefore, in taking out a half-crown, nothing is easier than for the man to palm a penny at the same time. This being done, it is the penny which goes into the purse, and the half-crown is transferred, for the moment, to his palm; but only for the moment. It is dropped, immediately, into the bag; so that, by the time that his hand has fallen to his side, it is empty. That is one dodge. Another is to take the half-crown and penny together in the fingers, the penny underlying the half-crown, concealed from view. Then the penny is dropped and the half-crown palmed as before. Again, the half-crown and shilling being really in the purse, the man will take them out with his fingers, apparently for the purpose of showing them to the multitude, at the same time introducing into the purse three halfpence which he has held concealed. Then he appears to throw the silver coins quickly into the purse, but in reality he palms them, the sound made by the coins in falling being counterfeited by chinking the coppers which the purse already contains. A variation upon this trick is sometimes performed with a piece of paper in which is screwed up some article of cheap jewelry, and into which the coins are supposed to be thrown, as in the purse trick. These men adopt various methods of explaining their reasons for selling so much money at so cheap a rate, one of the most common being that someone has laid a wager that the public are too skeptical to buy money offered in that manner. Well, such a wager would be a tolerably safe one; for, as a rule, the public are only skeptical concerning those things which are genuine. It is probably because the purse-trick is not genuine that the tricksters find purchasers. It is always the swindle which takes best with the public. Certainly, anyone who is taken in over this trick deserves to be.

Bookmark and Share


« commons sharpers... (the coin toss) commons sharpers... (nap) »

home | introduction | book content | links | advertising | contact