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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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So, today is my one year anniversary for joining The Magician's Forum. I joined TMF just a few weeks after I decided that I wanted to learn magic, so it works as my anniversary date for starting magic, at least it's close enough for me. I did a 6 month update, so I decided to a one year update as well. 

I suppose I should answer the question now that I am one year in, what do I think about magic and the magic community? 

I cannot speak to the larger community, I've really only engaged on TMF and I have no desire to engage on other forums after seeing how people acted there. For me, this forum IS the magic community. Everyone has been really, really great to me here. Some of been more than generous, sending me books and offering me advice. I wish the whole internet could be as good as this forum.

 In a broad sense, I have come to realize that I have entered magic in a time of flux. The old school way of doing things, meeting at the local brick and mortar magic shop, going to local magic club's meeting, finding a mentor has faded, and the internet, especially YouTube, has gained supremacy for learning magic. For new magicians, this leaves us in a bit of spot. You see, without mentors, you have to reinvent the wheel yourself, often by trial and error, to develop you knowledge and skills. There is also an almost overwhelming amount of magic material available and learning to navigate that is also a challenge in itself. I was fortunate that I found TMF so quickly, that has helped me avoid some, but not all, of the redundant or less than optimal skills and thinking. Sadly, since the older generation of magician's didn't embrace the internet as a teaching/mentoring tool, the magician's culture as it has been is dying out and being replaced with 12 year old who reveal the secrets, whether they are any good or not simply for views on their social media. I don't really blame them. No one has ever taught them any better so how would they know they shouldn't do that?
 

For me, I decided my wheel would based on depth and not breadth. After a year, I can do maybe 20 card tricks, many very simple. I add tricks slowly so as to have time to really dig into them. In other words, quality over quantity. Besides cards, I am also working on coin, rope, cups and balls, and some miscellaneous tricks and I hope to add sponge balls very soon. My main way of practicing is to take the sleights out of the tricks and do a practice routine with them where I move from one sleight to the next, double lift, top change, top shot, classic pass, etc'; and I do that over and over. I found a similar idea in The Royal Road to Card Magic about card controls. It is gratifying to have my ideas confirmed like that. 

A part of the philosophy of practice I ended up adopting is to work from the macro to the micro, which is opposite of how I started. When I started, I picked random tricks off of YouTube. Somewhere in the first six to nine months, I figured I should start with the end in mind so I made an outline for an act that would be 45 minutes long and exactly what tricks would be in the act. This was a great help to me in bringing focus to my practice. It is a paradox in any arena of creativity that limitations inspire creativity. When you have limitations, you have to overcome them and that makes you more creative and the more creative you are, the more you can do. That's why I started with a time limit. From that time limit. For example, I have six card tricks in my act and no more, even though I could do more. I have similar criteria for the rest of the tricks. 

As I am writing this, my five subject notebook is sitting next to me on my table. It has notes and directions for doing routines. Not just my routines, but extensive notes on masters whose work I wanted to study and learn from. For example, I went to YouTube, as all beginners must these days, and looked up cups and balls tutorials. While I found instructional videos there, but they were geared toward children. Not being proud, I watched, I made notes, and I learned. Those simple basic videos allowed me to understand what was going on at the very basic level, so when I saw some masters at work, I was (after many, many viewings) able to deconstruct more advanced routines. I have two cups and balls routines written down in their entirety by two great magicians and I am working on a third. One routine is by David Regal and the other by John Mendoza. This is not to say that I copied these routines, but I analyzed them to supplement what I already knew from the children's videos and I came up with a fairly sophisticated routine (that I need some more work on but I hope to present it at a session in June). It really was interesting to see how two different masters constructed their routines. From John Mendoza I learned about structuring the routine and from David Regal I learned about presentation.

 But I have more in my notebook than cups and balls. It is sometimes journal, joke book, scripts for tricks, and sometimes a collection of reviews and musings on things I agree and disagree with in magic. One of the things I found I don't like in magicians is arrogance and/or the denigration of the audience.

 So, that's where I'm at right now. Maybe I will give another update on the two year anniversary of me joining the forums, but maybe not.

 

 FOR NEW MAGICIANS

If you are someone new to magic and you should happen to find this post, this is the advice that I would give. First, I have to say there are more knowledgeable people here than I, and they can give you better advice, but this is the best advice I know how to give. YouTube has some good magicians and good magic, but a lot of magic is bad and that shouldn't be the first place you look, but it probably will be, but the sooner you start your library the better. Your first three books should be the following:

 

“The Magic Book” by Harry Lorayne. Harry's outlook and philosophy of magic is going to serve you well. The tricks in the books are solid, but it's the concepts of how to approach magic that are going to be the real gems in this book. It is also a book dedicated to impromptu magic, so no gaffs or set ups prior to performing the tricks. This will give you confidence.

 

“Mark Wilson's Complete Magic Course” by Mark Wilson. Wilson is also a famous magician and this book is considered a solid book by professionals. In some places it overlaps what is in “The Magic Book”, but is also expands out from close up magic and includes parlor and even stage magic. It has been around awhile and you can get them cheap, if you by them used. Mine cost less than $7 in hardback from Alibris.com.

 

“A Book of Magic for Young Magicians- The Secrets of Alkazar” by Allan Zola Kronzek. This is a small book, and the tricks are good, but the real value of this book is that breaks down ideas like how to apply misdirection and patter. It will give your performance a boost if you apply what it says to your magic performances, even if you are not a young magician. One of the first real lessons that you learn as a magician is that tricks are often simple and easy to do, it's how you present them that makes them interesting. This book will help with making things interesting.

 

I hope this helps you.


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Andrew

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Reply with quote  #2 
This is a lovely post to read, Sam. I think I would do well to take a leaf out of your book and take the time to consider what I want to achieve and review it periodically.

Great to hear about your first year and nice to hear that TMF has been such a nurturing place for you. Thanks for posting.

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Magic Harry

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Reply with quote  #3 
You did us and others a great service by what you were able to put in your heart onto paper.
Thank you

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chris w

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Reply with quote  #4 
Thank you, Sam!

I like how deeply you're thinking about magic and the learning process itself, and I suspect that the way you've articulated your experience here will be very helpful to others coming along. I think Magic Harry is right: you've done us a great service.
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Reply with quote  #5 
What a great post! Your approach of going deeper rather than wider is so valuable. Your method of study is pedagogically sound as well. :-) As far as the three beginner's books you recommend, I couldn't agree more with the first two. I haven't read the third one, but you certainly make it sound valuable as well. Kudos!

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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #6 

That’s a beautiful post, Sam!  Great insight.  And it’s not just for beginners.  I’ve been interested in magic for more than 60 years … with part of that time spent earning a living as a pro … and I still found your post very inspiring.  Thank you!


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chris w

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennball
As far as the three beginner's books you recommend, I couldn't agree more with the first two. I haven't read the third one, but you certainly make it sound valuable as well. Kudos!


Secrets of Alkazar is a great book, and easy to track down in the Dover edition. I can't imagine anyone interested in magic not getting a lot out of it. Check it out if you get a chance. [thumb]
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Mbreggar

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Reply with quote  #8 
Sam, this was a great read. Thanks for taking the time to reflect and share your thoughts and progress with us.

You’ve really come a long way! Your exploits teach us too!

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #9 
Sam, I wish all my students (Computing, not magic!) had such a sensible approach to learning - congratulations on your progress and your attitude.

One of the most successful forms of learning community is "The Studio" - modelled on the way artists trained in the Renaissance.  Artists of all levels of experience, from total beginner to master, would mingle in the studio.  Everyone was engaged in both learning and teaching, passing on what they had learned to those around them.  

A Forum like TMF may be the closest thing to a studio we have ... but it only works if people of all levels feel comfortable in sharing what they have learned.  Thank you for doing that.
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Gracie Morgan

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Reply with quote  #10 
Sam, I do not believe that you can learn Sleight of Hand from YouTube Videos.
Neither can you learn how to perform magic. You can learn tricks, at most. You
have demonstrated that you know that and I am very impressed.

I'm old. Or maybe it's just that I've been around magic for 50 years...
No wait. I'm old.[biggrin]

I was on the first magic "forum" on the internet. It was a BBS called MAGIC!.
That was when we only had Dial Up. Since then I've been a member of almost
every major public magic forum and a lot of private ones.

I've seen a lot of history when it comes to magic and the internet.

Here is where you want to be.

Here people care about each other, as well as magic.
Here, you'll find knowledgeable people who know people are more important than magic.

Here is where you want to be.


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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #11 
Congratulation for your TMF aniversary, Sam!
Yesterday I turned 5 months here, but I feel as if it were 5 years because of so warm and friendly welcome by everybody.
I'm glad that things are going well for you in magic regarding motivation.

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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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Reply with quote  #12 
Thanks to everyone for saying such nice things about this post. This forum is truly is a great place to be. 

I probably should have included that I struggle with an addiction to novelty. The one lesson that I think is very difficult to carry out is the one of discipline. By that I mean grinding a trick to a fine polish so you can do it perfectly on demand. Once I get to a certain level of proficiency, I immediately want to chase after another trick. I, however, understand that to master something means not excepting %95 but working to get that last %5, that is where true mastery is found. The difference between a person who does tricks and a real magician is in the last %5.

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Reply with quote  #13 
One of the greatest joys I have in magic is being able to help another magician.  I am happy that Sam is still excited about magic 'one year in' and that he is continuing to look for ways to improve in the art.  While there is no microwave for experience, by paying attention and asking questions, learning curves can be shortened.

Keep up the good work Sam, keep thinking about magic.  Keep thinking about that last 5%.  We've discussed John Guastaferro's "one-degree" analogy here and your 5% comment is right in line with that.  Keep asking what you can do to make an effect clearer, simpler, easier, and most importantly, more entertaining.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  It was good for magicians here of all levels of experience to read!
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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #14 
Ah, the addiction to novelty - that's what keeps magic dealers in business!  For decades, magicians would walk into the magic shop and ask "What's new and exciting?"  Now we get daily emails announcing "This new breakthrough is the greatest of all time!" or "This is the one you've been waiting for" ... all aimed at igniting our thirst for the novel.

Ray is right - there's great value in polishing and improving.   As the great Al Baker said "The usual trouble is that we don't bother to think long enough or hard enough."
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Matt G

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Reply with quote  #15 
This is an awesome post, Sam! I started the same journey not long after you, and couldn't agree more with your way of thinking 😉

I gotta say, I'm a bit surprised by the animosity towards YouTube channels for beginners in here -- while I agree that the "generic" channels made to get views by revealing tricks are generally kinda lame, there's definitely a lot of really good educational content on YouTube as well, that really delves into the right way of thinking about magic. I really like 52Kards' YouTube channel for instance, as well as the curated course on his website.

I love reading books, but sometimes it is tricky to conceptualize without a video demonstration (at least, for me). Supplementing literature with video is a really helpful tool for me. I don't really enjoy the "here's a cool trick, now let me show you how you do it without crediting the innovators" videos, but some of the tutorials on sleights, controls, and forces that I've seen on YouTube have been really helpful.

For whatever it's worth, Shin Lim says he got started in magic from YouTube, and says it was the #1 tool of learning for him. Other hand other YouTubers like Chris Ramsay are book junkies and always cite the literature sources.
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Dave Campbell

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Reply with quote  #16 
Great post to read Sam -- thanks for sharing that!

Also love Gracie's comment "Here is where you want to be".

I have also been on a LOT of the online forums over years, and am currently happily a member here and I agree with Gracie!

With regard to the YouTube videos, Matt -- I picture YouTube videos like panning for gold -- you gotta dig through a lot of dirt to find that one nugget … for me, I'd rather find a solid author and pay for good training.

Picking up the wrong handling for something can happen in a very short amount of time, and take a LONG time to recover and change. For example, I've relearned the Elmsley count once in a major way, and am working on a finesse now that would have been good to know about before now. 

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Socrates

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Reply with quote  #17 
The Secrets of Alkazar is an amazing resource for any magician, I've been gifting copies of this book to beginners for so many years, it is that good... and what better recommendation can you get for the book than the following:

“This little book is an overlooked gem. There is value here for every magician.” -Michael Weber
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Rudy Tinoco

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates
The Secrets of Alkazar is an amazing resource for any magician, I've been gifting copies of this book to beginners for so many years, it is that good... and what better recommendation can you get for the book than the following:

“This little book is an overlooked gem. There is value here for every magician.” -Michael Weber


Socrates!! How are you?

Welcome back!

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EndersGame

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SamtheNotasBadasIWas
So, today is my one year anniversary for joining The Magician's Forum. I joined TMF just a few weeks after I decided that I wanted to learn magic, so it works as my anniversary date for starting magic, at least it's close enough for me. I did a 6 month update, so I decided to a one year update as well.

Congratulations, and what a great post this is.  There's lots of wise words here and great advice about learning magic and how to approach it.  Thanks for sharing!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SamtheNotasBadasIWas
“A Book of Magic for Young Magicians- The Secrets of Alkazar” by Allan Zola Kronzek. This is a small book, and the tricks are good, but the real value of this book is that breaks down ideas like how to apply misdirection and patter. It will give your performance a boost if you apply what it says to your magic performances, even if you are not a young magician. One of the first real lessons that you learn as a magician is that tricks are often simple and easy to do, it's how you present them that makes them interesting. This book will help with making things interesting.

How have I not come across this book before?  It sounds like a classic that Dover has republished.  I'd love to hear thoughts on it from others too.


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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EndersGame


... Secrets of Alkazar ...


How have I not come across this book before?  It sounds like a classic that Dover has republished.  I'd love to hear thoughts on it from others too.



Here are my thoughts on this wonderful book:  quite a few years ago the young son of a friend asked me to teach him some magic.  Due to time and distance it was not possible to have lessons in person so I wrote up a couple of lessons.  I reflected on the childrens' magic books I had read and I came to the conclusion that most of them suck.  Their contents mostly consist of optical illusions, lame gags, extraordinarily weak tricks and/or much too difficult ones, and complex arts-and-crafts projects to construct props that would end up looking like crap.  So my criteria for selected material were
  • no arts and crafts
  • no challenging manipulation
  • process that an 8 year old could remember
  • kick-ass magic that would fool parents
and I decided that I would take advantage of the fact that kids are natural born actors to stress the utmost importance of presentation - and give such guidance as I could in that regard.

After a few lessons were written I started to think that this would someday turn into a book - my working title was "Magic for Smart Kids" - as a rebuttal to books like "Magic for Dummies" and "The Idiot's Guide to Magic".

To cut to the chase, one day I found a copy of "The Secrets of Alkazar".   I immediately shelved all my book-writing plans ... this was exactly the book I wanted to write, and it is far superior to anything I would have produced.

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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #21 
I definitely agree about the importance of The Secrets of Alkazar.  Don't own a copy anymore, but if I remember right, the book contains valuable information about presentation and misdirection.
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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ
One of the greatest joys I have in magic is being able to help another magician.  I am happy that Sam is still excited about magic 'one year in' and that he is continuing to look for ways to improve in the art.  While there is no microwave for experience, by paying attention and asking questions, learning curves can be shortened.

Keep up the good work Sam, keep thinking about magic.  Keep thinking about that last 5%.  We've discussed John Guastaferro's "one-degree" analogy here and your 5% comment is right in line with that.  Keep asking what you can do to make an effect clearer, simpler, easier, and most importantly, more entertaining.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  It was good for magicians here of all levels of experience to read!


My math may have been off somewhat [biggrin] and I don't really know the percentage of effort it takes to be a master, however I do know that mastery of anything comes at the end after the hobbyist gives up. I agree with the learning curves point, the more we learn from other people's experiences, the easier it goes.

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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Dawes
Sam, I wish all my students (Computing, not magic!) had such a sensible approach to learning - congratulations on your progress and your attitude.

One of the most successful forms of learning community is "The Studio" - modelled on the way artists trained in the Renaissance.  Artists of all levels of experience, from total beginner to master, would mingle in the studio.  Everyone was engaged in both learning and teaching, passing on what they had learned to those around them.  

A Forum like TMF may be the closest thing to a studio we have ... but it only works if people of all levels feel comfortable in sharing what they have learned.  Thank you for doing that.


This reminds me of a story my older cousin told me years ago. We graduated from the same High School, although he graduated in '58 and I graduated in '85. His generation spent time the grade school years in one room school houses. This would have been in the 40s and 50s in rural Missouri which was very backwards from the more urban areas. In 1940, electricity would have been a relatively new thing for people in the area we are from.

Anyway, he drove past his old school and he told me about going to school there. He talked about how his teacher (cannot remember his name) taught his students math(s) by having them design a house. All of the kids worked on it together, the older students helping the younger students. Thirty five years later he still remembered those lessons and how well they worked.

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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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Reply with quote  #24 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt G
This is an awesome post, Sam! I started the same journey not long after you, and couldn't agree more with your way of thinking 😉

I gotta say, I'm a bit surprised by the animosity towards YouTube channels for beginners in here -- while I agree that the "generic" channels made to get views by revealing tricks are generally kinda lame, there's definitely a lot of really good educational content on YouTube as well, that really delves into the right way of thinking about magic. I really like 52Kards' YouTube channel for instance, as well as the curated course on his website.

I love reading books, but sometimes it is tricky to conceptualize without a video demonstration (at least, for me). Supplementing literature with video is a really helpful tool for me. I don't really enjoy the "here's a cool trick, now let me show you how you do it without crediting the innovators" videos, but some of the tutorials on sleights, controls, and forces that I've seen on YouTube have been really helpful.

For whatever it's worth, Shin Lim says he got started in magic from YouTube, and says it was the #1 tool of learning for him. Other hand other YouTubers like Chris Ramsay are book junkies and always cite the literature sources.


Youtube has some gems in it, but there is a lot of static. As it become the norm, the quality will pick up, I'm sure. I often use YouTube as a visual reference for what I'm reading about in a book.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SamtheNotasBadasIWas


This reminds me of a story my older cousin told me years ago. We graduated from the same High School, although he graduated in '58 and I graduated in '85. His generation spent time the grade school years in one room school houses. This would have been in the 40s and 50s in rural Missouri which was very backwards from the more urban areas. In 1940, electricity would have been a relatively new thing for people in the area we are from.

Anyway, he drove past his old school and he told me about going to school there. He talked about how his teacher (cannot remember his name) taught his students math(s) by having them design a house. All of the kids worked on it together, the older students helping the younger students. Thirty five years later he still remembered those lessons and how well they worked.


I love that story.  The power of collaboration is awesome!
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Reply with quote  #26 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Dawes
To cut to the chase, one day I found a copy of "The Secrets of Alkazar".   I immediately shelved all my book-writing plans ... this was exactly the book I wanted to write, and it is far superior to anything I would have produced.

Great follow-up story!

It looks like the same writer produced a book called Grandpa Magic.  Is anyone here familiar with that title and can comment on what that's like?

Grandpa Magic - Paperback / softback NEW Kronzek, Allan  07/11/2018
 



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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #27 
Grandpa Magic is AZK's latest book.  I haven't seen it but I expect it is a high-quality product.  My understanding is that the cover illustration captures the intended market: people who want to learn some magic and stuff to entertain family members.  The gentleman in the cover illustration looks a lot like AZK himself.

I can give a more informed recommendation for his book Artful Deceptions - a small collection of gems of card magic, including strong presentations.  His treatment of Jennings' "Visitor" is one of my favourites.

Disclosure:  Allan is a friend of mine.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricS

Though I have to admit, after reading/seeing Seth do his Nickels to Dimes routine, I did purchase a Quiver and a Nickels to Dime set and I am still looking for a good Card to Wallet wallet (haven't found one that I really like yet thought I hear that Real Man's Wallet is a good one).


I've owned a few Card To Wallets but my favorite has been the Quiver Wallet. It looks great and has a super easy load
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