The Pen Through Anything

Updated May 2007 Added photos, updated the article a bit

In 1993, John Cornelius released the Pen Through Anything, a cleverly gimmicked pen that allows the magician to produce the illusion of pushing a pen through a borrowed dollar bill, removing it, and leaving the bill unharmed. The method differs greatly from that of Timothy Wenk's Misled, a pencil through dollar effect made famous during a television performance by David Copperfield.

The original Pen Through Anything was a heavy, expensive, high quality "Mont Blanc" style pen. As inexpensive take-offs began to emerge from the woodwork, John switched to a less expensive pen, and finally to the metal, executive "Cross" style executive pen that he sells today for about $20 a set (see photo below).

The original Pen Through Anything could not be examined directly. Rather, a second ungimmicked pen is provided that can be written with and examined. While some may find this approach objectionable, the effect should not be presented in such a way that the focus is on the pen. Rather, other effects would be done, at least one of which uses the normal pen to allow the spectator to write something. In this way the pen is seen as normal. Later, when the pen through bill effect is presented, the gimmicked pen is used. Since the spectator has just used the pen to write with, little suspicion would be placed on the pen in use.

Nevertheless, being able to immediately hand the pen out for use may be desirable for some and will fit certain routines better than being "caught" with a gimmick in your hand. John Cornelius responded with the Perfect Pen. This was a version of the Pen Through Anything that could immediately be handed out for inspection. The pen could be "locked", and the possibility for the spectator discovering the secret would be slim to none.

Near this same time, Doug Edwards developed an alternative approach to the Pen Through Anything using a commonly used ball-point style pen, rather than the executive style metal pen used by John Cornelius. This was a single pen, that with a simple sleight, could be handed out for inspection with no fear of the gimmick being discovered. Doug's version is called the Wonder Pen-A-Tration (see photo below). An additional feature of this pen is the ability to perform the Electronic Rating Pen or Double X effect. The main fault with this style pen is that the penetration depth is necessarily less than with the switchable or mechanically locking pens.

Note: There is one "flaw" in The Pen Through Anything effect, which is not usually noticed. If I really pushed a pen through a dollar bill, I would push the pen back and forth through the hole I've just made in the bill. With the above effects, the pen is clearly seen penetrating the bill, but the pen is stationary. Some of the other methods of performing the pen or pencil through dollar (as found on the Pen Magic reference page) allow the pen/pencil to be slid back and forth in the hole, but most also require strange folds of the bill, or require covering the bill with a paper or other object.

There have since been many knock-offs on these three basic designs. The following is an incomplete list of some of the currently available pens in each of the three categories:

Style 1: Original Pen Through Anything. These are the pens that require a switch.

John Cornelius Pen Through Anything. The original. The pen is a well made, metal executive "Cross"-style, thin pen. Well made. $20
Funtime Innovations Pvt. Ltd. (India): manufactures several inexpensive knock-offs of this style. They also offer a rip-off of Wenk's Misled. $15-20
Magic Max Laser Pen. Grey PaperMate Flexgrip style pen. $30. The Laser Pen Video starring E.J. Cardona and Verne McCarthy is also available.
Penguin Magic Pen Through Dollar. Pen is a grey PaperMate Flexgrip Pen in style of Magic Max Laser Pen. $30
Ronjo: Pen Through Everything/Pen-A-Trating: Large Black fountain pen style w/pocket clip. $30
The Sharpie We Use (not sure of manufacturer). Pen is a Sharpie marker as used by many magicians. $30

Style 2: Perfect Pen. These don't require a switch, and do not require a sleight.

John Cornelius Perfect Pen. This is the original and the best. It is suggested that the pen not be handed out for "examination", but for common use. The gimmick will not be discovered. $50
Magic Makers The Pen (also seen as "Deluxe Pen" and "Ultimate Pen". About $25. This is a knock-off version of the Perfect Pen, and the quality is reportedly not on par. Get the original!

Style 3: Wonder Pen-A-Tration: These don't require a switch, and require only a simple sleight to allow the pen to be fully examined. Not all of these can be used for the Double-X or Electronic Rating Pen effect.

Doug Edwards' Wonder Pen-A-Tration. This is a Bic-style ballpoint pen. Highly rated. $30
Perfect PENatration/Penetration Pen/Write Thru Pen (not sure of manufacturer). These look like the Wonder Pen. $20
Empire Magic Pen Penetration. An inexpensive version of the Wonder Pen. The pen is a slightly thicker, black roller ball pen. I've heard mixed reviews. $12
Penguin Magic Stealth Pen. In the Wonder-Pen style. $15
Richard Raven Voodoo Pen. Pen looks like Empire's pen. Comes with a video by Richard Raven. $28

John Cornelius Pen
John Cornelius Pen Thru Anything
Doug Edwards' Wonder Pen-A-Tration
Doug Edwards' Wonder Pen