BET: Line up across the bar-top a dime, penny, nickel, quarter and a half-dollar in that order. Then place a stack of ten quarters near the five coin line-up. Bet your friend a beer that he can’t tell you which coin, when standing on its edge, is closest in height to the stack of ten quarters.
SECRET: Believe it or not it is the dime.
I’ve found the best way to present this little illusion of perception is to lay out the five coins according to size (not their value). Then place the stack of ten quarters nearby on top of something like a cell phone (Fig. 1), drink coasters, etc. When elevating the quarters off of the surface of the bar or tabletop it makes guessing correctly a little trickier.
Most people who analyze this challenge will take the safe bet and go with the nickel since it is the middle coin. Should they choose this coin or one that is larger I’ll say, “I’ll even give you a second guess if you are willing to double the bet. What do you say?” If they accept this wager then they typically will choose one of the coins adjacent to their first selection choosing the quarter or penny. Most people don’t carry half-dollars in their pockets any more so you’ll need to bring one along when performing this little betcha. Having this fifth coin is crucial to this optical illusion.
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