I get a newsletter from magicvault.com, and this one was on coin gaffs.
I DID NOT WRITE THIS, MARK M. REED DID. I suggest signing up for his newsletter at http://www.shopmagicvault.com/ or check out his blog at - http://magicvault.net/blog/ where this was posted as well
This is what was written up:
The differences in commercially made coin gaffs.
With so many makers of coin gaffs, new magicians often find themselves wondering "who makes the better gaff?" or "What are the differences between all these guys?". With exception to the high end custom makers such as Schoolcraft or Lassen, most coin gaffs are commercially produced using precision metalworking equipment in a mass production approach. Schoolcraft and Lassen are focused on custom work where each set of coins is treated as a unique process and even greater focus is given to the finer details. While custom makers offer the absolute best in quality, be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on your gaffs. But what about those of us that just want
an affordable gaff set to practice and learn with... do we need to give up quality fit and finish? The answer depends on which manufacturer you choose. We will highlight the most common makers of commercial coin gaffs and try to give an honest opinion of the pros and cons of each...
Johnson Precision Magic
Johnson is considered to be the best maker of commercial coin gaffs. They have been around for a very long time and have a commitment to quality that surpasses any other commercial maker. The fit and finish of their coins are so close to the custom makers that unless you are looking for special coins (antique silver dollars for example) Johnson is the way to go. I think you would have an incredibly difficult time finding any magician with something bad to say about Johnson products. The downside to Johnson is that not every magic shop carries them, and they are usually priced higher than most other makers. MagicVault is proud to be a Johnson dealer and can supply you with any of their items.
Tango is an Argentinean company that has recently gained more of a presence in the U.S. They offer a very wide selection of items. In fact, in addition to the common gaffs, they offer many unique items and gaffs that are exclusive to Tango. Many times these unique items are common gaffs tweaked in ways that the founder of Tango feels adds more value or ease of use. The quality of Tango items is very good. Not quite as good as Johnson. The fit and finish of the gaffs are of quality, but if you place them next to a Johnson, you may notice a slight difference. Sometimes the edging and milling is a little more rough, or there is a little more gap in a shell. Nothing major, but still a difference. Where Tango does fall short is the included instructions with gaffs. They are horrible. They are written in very broken English that often leaves unfamiliar magicians unclear about the use or method of handling. If you order a Tango item, either know how to use it, or know that you can work with a fellow magician to get the handling down. MagicVault does carry various Tango items we feel are of merit. We do not carry the entire line as we suggest magicians purchase Johnson when possible. Pricewise, Tango is very close to Johnson - usually about 10-20% lower.
You occasionally find gaffs made by Kueppers. Kueppers is actually a custom maker but supplies gaffs commercially as well. These gaffs are well made. Kuepper also makes various coin utility items such as coin benders. Kueppers is on par with Tango and priced similarly. If you cannot get a Johnson or Tango, Kueppers is a decent alternative.
You do not see Sterling too often these days. Due to the dominance of Johnson and Tango, Sterling has become a lesser known maker. Sterling offers a decent quality - but again a definite noticeable difference when compared among Johnsons. We have heard of sporadic past quality issues. They are much lower in price, and do have a narrow product line that is mostly limited to shells and nested coins. Scrutinize the coins when you get them to make sure they are ok. MagicVault does not carry Sterling. We suggest sticking with one of the better makers.
Sasco gaffs are where you start getting into the low cost economy coins. Sasco, while inexpensive, often lacks the quality and detail fit and finish that working professionals and picky amateurs require. They are perfectly fine for beginners looking to get a few gaffs to learn and practice with, but in all honesty we suggest taking that money and putting towards one of the better made gaffs. The prices are not that much lower that it creates a huge spread. Consider Sasco a novelty level gaff maker. Not for the professional or serious amatuer.
No Name Makes
These are usually gaffs made overseas. They are made in bulk lots in a very quick and sloppy manner. They often have rough edges, gaps in milling work, sloppy fit, etc. They look gaffed and spectators will notice. Stay away from the coin gaffs that are no name brand. You will be wasting your money.
Schoolcraft or Lassen
As we mentioned at the start of this article, custom makers are the absolute best in terms of quality fit and finish. Schoolcraft and Lassen are the premier makers of custom coins. Be prepared to spend a great deal of money - however you will have a gaff set that holds its value and performs flawlessly. If you are a working professional that relies on coin work and are making a good living doing magic - these are for you. Amateurs with some extra cash and desire to have the best - take a look at them also. Anyone else - stick to Johnson. Johnson will not disappoint you.
Keeping your coins in good condition...
Keeping your coins in good working condition is critical. Shells with dinged or bent rims can be the death of an effect or at the minimum serve as a strong exposing point. Nested coins such as Scotch and Soda can become very loose and not maintain a hold or just the opposite - a small ding in the edge could result in the set not coming apart even with a bang ring. You spend a great deal of money on coin gaffs and you should allocate money towards protecting those gaffs. There are a number of style of coin wallets and cases to help accomplish this. In addition, these cases help you keep your gaffs organized and make them easy to carry. In all of the styles, we tend to favor the roll type or folding cases. These are long strips usually made of leather and a soft interior with many slots to hold your coins. It folds up nicely allowing many coins to be carried. We have seen a number of cases where coins are carried in a single pouch. We do not suggest this approach as the coins tend to hit and contact each other and could result in dents and dings - especially with your shell coins. ALWAYS keep your shells stored with the proper child coin placed in them to avoid damage.