The Most Amazing Decks of Playing Cards You Have Ever Seen
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There are ordinary decks of playing cards. But then there are amazing decks of playing cards. The best of the best, the ones that just make your jaw drop, and say: WOW!

This list is about those amazing decks of playing cards. It was inspired by the stunning Pipmen World deck that I came across recently, which got me thinking - surely there must be more amazing decks of cards out there? I want to know about them, and showcase them on this list! I've got things started by researching and posting about 20 examples of remarkable decks that I know of or have come across. But there must be many more!

So here's where I need your help, and here are two ways that you can participate.

1. Comment on the existing entries on this list. Tell us what you think about them, and tell us your reactions to some of the individual decks posted here. Which decks are your favourites, and why?

2. Add new entries to this list. If you can, include a description of the deck, what makes it special, and maybe even an image or two. So go ahead and post examples of other decks of playing cards that you think are amazing. There could be all kinds of reasons why you think a deck is amazing, but try to tell us why, and show some pictures if you can.

Important note: This list is only about 52-card decks of traditional playing cards, featuring hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds. The artwork, of course, could be very creative and unique, as could the size or style of the cards. But it should be a `regular' poker deck in the sense that 13 cards in each suit are represented. So please don't post decks from other card games (e.g. Lost Cities), or even Italian or French style decks which often consist of only 32 cards and use different suits.

Where to buy? If you are wondering where to purchase decks of playing cards like these, one good source I can recommend is Rare Playing Cards.
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1. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Pipmen World deck

This is the deck that inspired this list. It's currently being funded on Kickstarter (I've seen a prototype firsthand), and costs around US$15.

What makes it special:

This deck of playing cards is a remarkable example of polyptych artwork. Each individual playing card features "pipmen" (i.e. stick men interacting with the pips on the cards). But all the 52 cards can be put together to make a single larger panoramic picture. Check out these examples:





The complete single image is based on the picture shown here:



It looks amazing, and I'm very impressed by the creativity and work that has gone into this project.



To find out more about this deck of playing cards, you can check out my pictorial review here:

Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The best deck of playing cards. EVER!
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2. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
24K Gold Plated deck

This deck looks very classy and impressive. They're quite readily available online at places like eBay, at a somewhat surprisingly low cost of around US$15-20.

What makes it special:

This deck features playing cards that are plated with a thin layer of 24 carat gold foil. Very shiny!



It looks very classy and impressive. Typically they come with a certificate of authenticity.



Slightly different styles are available, but they are often packaged in an impressive looking wooden box.

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3. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Japanese Wooden deck

This wooden deck comes from the Dan & Dave team, and was made in Japan, selling for around $150 each.

What makes it special:

The cards are made out of actual wood! The deck is made from a single piece of mahogany.



Each “card” has been laser etched with the details of the card.



In addition, each deck comes with a custom leather carrying case.

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4. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
CMYK deck

This unique deck was the result of a Kickstarter campaign, and is still available for just over US$12.

What makes it special:

This deck uses the ink colours used by printers as the four suits: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.





In addition, the individual cards of each suit are numbered using the different opacities of ink. The colour of each card corresponds to these opacities, so the cards create an amazing gradient when fanned out in your hand.

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5. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Space Invader deck

This Space Invader themed deck is made of PVC plastic.

What makes it special:

Everything about these cards reinforces the Space Invaders concept. It has a pixellated 8-bit look, and the cards themselves all have designs from the arcade classic Space Invader. The cards are also made out of PVC plastic, and are waterproof. Even the carrying case is made out of clear PVC.




You can see through your cards, but your opponents can't see what you’re holding.



Apparently this is an officially licensed Taito product. The ad copy says it "features an innovative perforation that gives the cards a unique transparency."

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6. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Glitch deck

First produced on Kickstarter, this deck shows deliberately glitched artwork. A sequel also followed, called Glitch 2.0.

What makes it special:

The artwork is hypnotic and shows mind-bending designs that happen when the card designs are slightly glitched - deliberately.



All the cards feature different styles of printing glitches.



Here's what an uncut sheet looks like:

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7. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Vintage deck

This deck looks like it is more than a century old! Yet you can buy a brand new deck like this on eBay for around $10. I know a magician friend who has a deck of these, and this Ellusionist produced deck doesn't fail to impress people.

What makes it special:

This is what Ellusionist calls their "Bicycle 1800 Vintage Series". They are red/blue decks that are designed to look ancient and worn. Despite the old, rustic, and grungy look, which makes the cards look cracked and worn, the cards themselves are the same high quality as a normal Bicycle deck.



Here's a look at the card backs, which are the same on every card:



Even the game box is designed to look ancient.

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8. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Bruce Lee deck

This deck by Dan & Dave is a homage to Bruce Lee, and was created as a tribute for his 73rd birthday.

What makes it special:

The appeal of this unusually coloured deck, is how the graphic design matches the theme perfectly.



First of all, the cards come in the same colors as the legend’s famous yellow jumpsuit.



Additionally, each card has a Bruce Lee quote on it.



The quote is positioned right across the middle like a black belt – perfect for this deck!

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9. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Typography deck

Quite a few decks have been designed around printing typography. This deck, called "52 Types" and created by Adam Bauer, is one of many fine examples.

What makes it special:

This deck doubles as a reference tool for new designers, by introducing all the various types, as well as a fully functional deck of playing cards.



Each card is designed with its own font. The Court cards and Aces show the majority of each font’s family.



The number cards 2-10 have a more radial design.



Here's what part of the uncut sheet looks like, showing more cards.

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10. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Monarch deck

This Theory 11 deck is one of several examples that could be given of a deck that just breathes all-round class and elegance. A similar deck in this category is their White Artisan deck.

What makes it special:

The ad copy describes the Monarch deck as follows: "Monarch Playing Cards express elegance, clarity, and pride. We didn't want to settle with adequate or even greatness - we wanted perfection, with an uncompromising eye for quality and durability. These playing cards, and the tuck case, are fit for a king. The back design is truly a masterpiece."



This is definitely the kind of deck I could imagine royalty playing with!



The back of the cards look beautiful as well.



It is immediately obvious from the box that this is a very classy deck. It features gold foil printing on an embossed, navy blue.



Interesting fact: The Monarch deck is the one used in the films Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2.
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11. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Highland Fauna deck

This stylish deck was designed by Tomski & Polanski, and is themed on the Bohemian highlands woods.

What makes it special:

The art style of these cards is unique and beautiful. The cards are hand-drawn, and geared to bring bring you "the mysterious atmosphere of the woods in the Bohemian Highlands and the ancient wisdom of their native inhabitants."



But that's not all. All the court cards in this deck have a secret message using backwards writing, which can only be read using a mirror.



The cards have a vintage and almost dark feel about them.



Here's an uncut sheet showing all the cards in the deck.

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12. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Stained Glass deck

The beauty of the Stained Glass deck speaks for itself. The box (pictured at left) features a stained glass Spade.

What makes it special:

This deck looks exactly like you'd expect - standard cards, but reimagined as stained glass windows.



The card backs are designed to look like the glass in a church, with a kaleidoscope inspired circular design that looks great when fanned.



The colours are unusual, but for a stained glass effect, they are perfect!

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13. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Metal deck

The Wood deck and Metal deck are part of the "Texture" series produced by Max from Max Playing Cards.

What makes it special:

The Metal deck reinterprets the classic Bicycle deck using a set of textures to give the cards a real metal aspect.



Here are all the Aces:



The corner screws on the cards even have a flip-motion feature when you riffle through them in order.



Wood deck

This deck is the follow-up to the Metal deck, and also focuses on textured artwork that looks real.

What makes it special:

Even though it's not made of actual wood, the cards have been carefully designed to give this deck a realistic wood look.



Here are all the Aces:



The corner screws on these cards can also create a flip motion effect.

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14. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Anubis deck

The Anubis and Osiris decks are two luxury decks of playing cards by Steve Minty, that were inspired by and depict ancient Egyptian culture.

What makes it special:

The cards have gold foil artwork on a black background.



The court cards feature artwork that reflects the Egyptian era, and look luxurious and attractive.



Printed on black cardstock with gold ink etchings, they are designed to be bold and opulent, just like the Egyptian gods/kings that inspired it.



Osiris deck

The Osiris deck is the counterpart to the Anubis deck.

What makes it special:

This deck has a similar style to the Anubis deck, but features a rich turquoise colour instead of black.



The number cards on both decks have a minimalist style that still reflects the Egyptian theme.



Both decks have metallic gold foil, which looks beautiful on the background.

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15. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Old Parchment deck

This Kickstarter-produced deck has a classic look that is reminiscent of the pre-printing press era.

What makes it special:

The cards feature artwork that looks like yellowed brittle paper, typical of many famous historic writings like the Declaration of Independence.



The artwork on the cardbacks is reminiscent of an old map design and portrays the dusty burn marks outlining the entire card.



The cards themselves have a sandy look, with burn marks lining the outside edges.



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16. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
HANA deck

Like the Anubis and Osiris decks, these two luxury decks are by creator Steve Minty. Currently on Kickstarter, this deck was inspired by classical Japanese culture. The HANA deck comes in two colours/styles, a Gold themed red theme, and a Silver themed blue deck.

What makes it special:

As an example of court cards, here's the Queen of Hearts (featuring a geisha) and the Queen of Clubs from the Gold deck, both of which are clearly inspired by Japan.



The Aces from the Gold deck feature intricate Japanese-themed artwork.



The intricate borders are used on all the cards, including the number cards.



The card-backs of the Gold deck and the Silver deck are different, with one featuring the sun and the other the moon.



To give an idea of what the Silver deck is like, here are some of its court cards.

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17. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Grid 2.0 deck

The Grid 2.0 deck is certainly unique - it uses ultraviolet ink for additional artwork that can only be seen under UV (black light).

What makes it special:

On the surface, this looks like a normal deck of cards, although with some unusual designs.



However, under a UV light, the cards look very different as the ultraviolet ink is revealed.



Here are some of the court cards from the Grid deck, as they appear normally.



Secondary designs will appear on the cards under the UV light.



With some cards, like the Ace of Hearts shown here, they even have hidden reveals that can be used for magic tricks.

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18. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Federal 52 deck

This classy deck by Jackson Robinson was inspired by US bank notes and currency.

What makes it special:

Jackson Robinson has always loved traditional engraving designs of bank notes and currency. With the Federal 52 deck, he has combined this with his dream to design an entire deck of cards.



Even the number cards in the Federal 52 deck have the feel and look of banknotes, with soft hues and background colours.



The different deck boxes also look amazing.



The deck features hand-drawn renditions of the presidents and other key figures found on US currency.



In a subsequent project, Robinson began a new series of decks entitled "Legal Tender", which are also inspired by the different styles and looks of world currency of the world, beginning with modern US and Chinese notes.
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19. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
X-Ray deck

This very unusual deck features clear plastic cards that allow you to see through them, without revealing their suit or value to your opponents.

What makes it special:

The cards come with an image of a translucent human skull on each side.



The card fronts have a blue skull, and include the suit and value. The face cards and jokers have some additional splashes of color and features such as eyes, teeth, and a brain.



The card backs are all identical, with a black skull.



Here's the best bit: the see through design lets you look through the cards in both directions. So you can see your opponent through your card, and they can see you through it as well. But only you can actually see what your card is, and identify the value/suit!



The stunning visual effect is made possible through clever use of a halftone printing process.

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20. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Bacon deck

For pure silliness, I have to include the Bacon Playing Cards by Wesley Klein.

What makes it special:

There's not a lot to say here aside from the obvious: life is better with bacon!



So here we have a completely bacon-themed set of playing cards!



The deck features cute pig face cards, colorful designs, and quotes about that perfect meat.

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21. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Clear deck

These cards are transparent, and are sold under a variety of names. You'll find them at places like eBay and amazon for under $10.

What makes it special:

This deck is sometimes called a Clear deck, or an Invisible deck. The cards have large sections that are transparent.



Many of these are also waterproof - so yes, you can play in the bath with them!



Some of these decks even feature a glow-in-the-dark ability.

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22. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
World Record Largest deck

This is an official record from the Guinness World Records.

What makes it special:

This deck weighs over 200kg. The playing cards are 158.4 cm tall and 104.4 cm wide (62.3 in x 41.1 in).

This deck was created by Claes Blixt from Sweden, setting a new world record when it was measured on 14 May 2016.



Some of the previous world record holders for this also have made impressively large decks, like the one shown here:



These cards were made at the high school that set a previous world record in 2011.

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23. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Dee Wongsa
United States
Houston
Texas
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Playing Arts Decks

Each card in the deck is illustrated by a different artist. There are 3 "regular" editions and one special edition, where each card is the winner of a design contest between about 10 different artists.



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24. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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The Manifesto Deck!
There are a few different versions out there. I have one of the earlier copies which the cards were poor quality. The later ones (pictured below) are great.


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25. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2721]
Clay Blankenship
United States
Owens Cross Roads
AL
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1883 Murphy Varnish cards

This is a reprint of an old playing card deck used for advertising. I like
the way the pips are integrated into the pictures.






[Old] Kickstarter link
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