Green’s Dictionary of Slang

short con n.

also short coin, short con game, short con racket, short money racket
[abbr. SE short (time) + con n.1 (7)]

1. (US Und.) any variety of confidence trick that can be performed spontaneously and on the spot, with no elaborate props, preparation etc.

[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 5: Then I got initiated into a short-con racket, this was the delivery boy racket [...] We’d fill a box with old sacks, and through the telephone book get the name and address of a prospect through ringing up to find out if they were in. If they were out we would deliver the box to the Caretaker which would be marked from ten to twenty dollars on delivery C.O.D. [Ibid.] 34: He was now on the short-con racket, picking up a five-dollar bill where he could. [Ibid.] 37: I’m playing a sure thing now, the short money racket.
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 57: The second class of con rackets are called ‘short con’ because they can be played in a very short time, in almost any place, and are designed merely to get the money the sucker may have on his person at the time.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 3: There are scores of short-con games which seem to enjoy periodic bursts of activity. [Ibid.] 251: In addition to the short-con games discussed in this chapter [...] the following were once very popular [...] The spud, the hat, the send store, the green-goods game, the rocks the tale, the lemon, the tickets or the ducats, the fight-send store, the wrestle-send store, the strap, the short-deck, the pigeon the shiv, the sloughs, the broads, the autograph, the tear-up, the big-mitt, the big joint, T.B., the single-hand con, the dollar store, the high pitch or the give-away, the slick box, the penny-box, the double-trays, the cross, the slide, the hoodle, the count and read, the electric bar, the transpire, three-card monte. There are many others, including the old Spanish prisoner, which is now being revived by con men in Mexico City.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 67: A routine of hitting commuters for fifty cents, which is one variety of the ‘short con’.
[US]L. Block ‘Badger Game’ in One Night Stands (2008) 23: Working the short con in railway stations, grifting hard for ten bucks here and twenty bucks there.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 106: I met this broad while playin’ short coin in the golden west.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 32: The ‘Murphy’ when played by experts was a smooth short con game with a slight risk.
[US](con. 1950s) D. Goines Whoreson 35: Lets try that short con Fast Black showed us.
[US]E. Bunker Little Boy Blue (1995) 217: ‘What’s “short con”?’ asked Alex. ‘It’s any con game that takes place all at once [...] you knock the mark for whatever he’s got in his pocket.’.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 110: Artists of the ‘short con’; the match, the strap and laying the note (a form of short change) were standard games. [...] In a short con, one simply takes what the sucker has on him.
[US]M. Salovesh in Comments on Etymology Feb. 15: At various times, one or another of them would try to rope me into some kind of short con.
[US]Simon & Burns ‘Reformation’ Wire ser. 3 ep. 10 [TV script] I was a superstroker on the pool circuit in the early days. But mostly it was pickpocketing and short cons.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 213: Chilly’s honest [...] he keeps straight books, square to the last butt. The next wheel to come along might be some short-con punk.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 59: Still the short con smile, smooth and cute as a baby’s ass.

In compounds

short con artist (n.) (also short con man, short con worker) [-artist sfx]

(US Und.) a confidence trickster who specializes in spontaneous or short-term trickery.

[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 124: The addicts I was dealing with were [...] pickpockets, boosters that is shop-lifters, street girls and short con men.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 10: There were hordes of gamblers, thieves, grifters and short-con workers.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 96: Most of them were short con artists, working for little more than enough money to get them to the next town.
[US]E. Bunker Little Boy Blue (1995) 216: Charlie’s one of the best short con men on the West Coast.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 66: Bigfoot and the gambling man were short-con artists, and I’d been taken for my last three bucks.