Introducing Steve Minty

Every gamer should own at least one set of playing cards, and by that I mean a traditional deck of 52 cards with hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs as suits. There are so many wonderful games that can be played with a standard deck - I've listed some of my own favourites in this list here.

But playing traditional card games doesn't mean you necessarily have to use a traditional deck of cards. There are some basic requirements: it should have 52 cards in the four normal suits. And it should be legible and clear. But that doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. I've seen artistic decks where the art gets in the way of the visual clarity of the cards. But there are also some amazing decks that are stunning to look at, and perfectly functional to play with. They give you something to look at and admire during moments of down-time, and for many people will enhance the overall playing experience.

Lately I've been having a lot of fun exploring some of the creative and artistic decks that I've discovered, and I want to share with my readers some of the best of the best. And they really don't get much better than the playing card creations of Steve Minty. In this review, I want to show you some of the wonderful decks of playing that Steve Minty has created, as well as share some news about some current projects he is working on. I have four of Steve's decks, the Muertos Night deck, the Olympia Underworld deck, and the Anubis and Osiris decks. I also want to share with you some information about the HANA deck, which is a Japanese themed deck that is the current deck that Steve Minty is producing. So let's tell you about some of his work, and show you some of his cards.



But first let me introduce you to Mr. Steve Minty. Steve is a traditionally educated illustrator and designer, who previously did branding and design for major sport stars and celebrities. He's even done scenic painting for theatre productions. But like many artists, his soul longed to be set free from these well-trodden pathways, and he was eager to find other opportunities to develop his creativity. So now he's doing freelance work of his own choosing, and making his own designs or projects. He's interested in a whole range of things, including photography (he's a creative and skilled amateur photographer) ... and playing cards.

And that's where Steve's artwork caught my interest, because I love playing cards. I've seen some beautiful cards, but his decks stood out as being among the very best and most creative. He has produced several artistic decks of playing cards, including the Muertos series (inspired by the Mexican `Day of the Dead'), the Olympia series (inspired by Greek mythology), and the Anubis and Osiris decks (inspired by ancient Egypt), and is currently working on a deck inspired by Japanese culture called the HANA deck - it is currently in the process of being funded on Kickstarter (here), and is already funded by more than 200%. I'll focus on showing this new series, along with some of Steve's earlier work. Steve is also a photographer, so I'm gladly making use of some of his own fantastic images, but since I have four of his decks in hand, I can assure that they look every bit as good in real life as you see here in this review. In fact, I've learned to be sceptical and not have too high expectations based on photos, but these decks (especially the Anubis and Osiris ones, which have gold foil backs), turned out to be far more impressive than I had ever expected from pictures!



CURRENT PROJECT

HANA decks (2017)

I'll begin with Steve Minty's current project, two beautiful decks that were inspired by classical Japanese culture, and capture something of its unique elegance. Steve has tried to incorporate aspects of textile, art, and social structures into the design.

For this project, he spent time over three years doing research that included studying books on topics like Japanese society, samurai armor, and he even attended some museum exhibits for this purpose. He even travelled to Japan to do research, as well as look for insights and inspiration! In his own words, "This deck is more art centric than the decks I have done previously. It draws upon the history of playing cards in Japan as well as the art that makes them special.. Aspects of Feudal Japan, Hana Fuda, Kimonos, Ikebana, Ukiyo-e among others are incorporated into the decks."

This project is currently on Kickstarter and funding ends very soon on 18 March, so if this appeals to you, you can't wait too long - although it is already more than 200% funded.

The HANA deck comes in two colours/styles:
● a Gold themed red deck
● a Silver themed blue deck



The deck contains a cast of characters from a range of occupations and classes, such as an Artisan, Farmer, Merchant, Samurai, Ronin, and on the feminine side of things, a Geisha, and an Onna Bugeisha.

Here is the Merchant (Jack of Diamonds) from both decks. If you look carefully, you'll see very small differences in detail (e.g. glasses).



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



HANA Silver

To give an idea of what the Silver deck is like, here are some of its beautiful court cards, clearly Japanese inspired: the Queen of Hearts (Geisha), and the Queen of Clubs (Onna Bugeisha).



The number cards are basically the same as those from the Gold deck, but using a different colour scheme, and equally beautiful.



Here's two more court cards, the Jack of Clubs (Farmer), and the King of Diamonds (Samurai)



HANA Gold

As an example of beautiful court cards from the Gold deck, here's the Geisha (Queen of Hearts) and the Onna Bugeisha (Queen of Clubs) from the Gold deck.



The Aces from the Gold deck feature intricate Japanese-themed artwork, and I think they look especially exquisite and terrific.



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



Because of the high level of funding, all the cards will be printed with Gold and Silver metallic inks; the tuck-boxes will be embossed and foiled, and seals will be printed on gold foil. In other words - luxury all round!

PREVIOUS DECKS

Now let's take a quick look at some of the other decks previously made by Steve, beginning with the Muertos decks.

Muertos decks (2014)



The Muertos collection was created in 2014 and was one of Steve Minty's first deck designs. It was inspired by the Mexican holiday that celebrates life and death: Dia De Los Muertos, also known of the Day of the Dead.

Funding for this deck was raised on Kickstarter. To give you some idea of the popularity of this deck, and its enormous success, it had a goal of $13,000, but raised a staggering $159,706! Wow, that's incredible!

Muertos Night

Steve grew up in Los Angeles, which is where he was exposed to many cultures, including Mexican traditions, and that's how he first became intrigued by Dia De Los Muertos. He found its imagery and symbolism incredible beautiful, and despite the fact that it involved the sombre topic of death, it also had a lot of whimsy and playfulness; it is this combination of sorrow and laughter that he tried to capture and convey.



He describes his goal in creating the imagery for the Muertos deck as "to honor the message that Dia De Los Muertos celebrates. From Aztec influences to José Posada’s works and even the Mexican-American Wars, I aimed to capture the social classes and implications that are set within the history of the culture."



The aesthetics are classical and yet reflect something of the culture that the deck depicts. The number cards have pips that still exhibit some of the traditional symmetry, but feature an updated design aimed to feel fresh.



While this deck has a somewhat macabre theme, in a remarkable way, Steve manages to depict The Day of the Dead in a beautiful way using just two colors - gold and black - to simultaneously capture the elements of celebration as well as of loss, a juxtaposition which is unusual and yet works.



Other Muertos decks

Pictured above is the Muertos Night deck. Given the enormous success of the Muertos project, it is no surprise that several other similar decks were made available. So in addition to the Night deck that I own, which is the main deck in this collection, there are also the also four other Muerto decks which featured different coloured themes and back designs:



Muertos Mourning Gold deck (white/gold) - This features the same designs but with a lovely combination of white and gold colors.

Muertos Love deck (blood red) - In Steve's own words, this deck is "based on the blood that runs in our veins. They say that Blood is thicker than water and so is the love of family. Dia De Los Muertos brings family closer together to honor the dead and I couldn't help but use that as my source of inspiration."

Muertos Celebration deck (purple/pink) - Steve explains that this deck is "based on the vibrant fun decorations of Dia De Los Muertos. From Papel Picado to Flower decorations, I looked to them all as a source of inspiration."

Muertos Sun deck (blue/orange) - According to Steve, this deck is "based on the gifts of Marigold and the sky. Also known as cempazuchitl, cempasuchil or zempasuchitl, Marigolds are used during Dia De Los Muertos so that your deceased loved ones can find their way back home."



Featured as court card characters in the Muertos decks are: El Padre, La Hermana, and El Soldado (Spades); El Catrin, La Viuda, and El Bandito (Hearts); El Caudillo, La Bailarina, and El Vaquero (Clubs), El Azteca, La Catrina, and El Ranchero (Diamonds).

I have the Muertos Night deck, which comes in an impressive black box with embossed gold foil printing. While the cards themselves don't have gold foil printing, it's certainly an unusual and creative deck that gets immediate attention, looks attractive, and handles well.



Olympia decks (2015)



These two decks were produced by Steve Minty in 2015, and were based on a Greek mythology theme. I'm a sucker for anything to do with ancient Greek and Rome, so this was always going to be a hit with me! There is a white deck, and a blue Underworld deck, which is the one that I personally have.

Steve Minty describes his aim with these decks as "to capture the beauty of Greek sculptures in a new medium of playing cards while simultaneously updating it with a graphic twist." As a result, "Olympia blends the classical beauty of Greek Sculptures with the elegant and sleek lines of modern design."

This project involved two different decks:
Olympia (white theme)
Olympia Underworld (blue theme)



These decks were inspired by the gods and heroes of ancient Greece. Like many of us, in his childhood Steve spent countless hours devouring their stories about love, betrayal, death, vengeance and the heroic deeds within Greek Mythology.



Olympia

Pictured below as examples of the white cards from the Olympia deck are Poseidon, god of the sea, and Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, and artisans.



The Greek gods featured as court cards in the Olympia series are: Zeus, Hera, and Hermes (Spades); Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus (Hearts); Hades, Artemis, and Apollo (Clubs); Ares, Athena, and Dionysus (Diamonds); Hestia, Persophone, and Cerberus (Jokers).

Shown here below are Zeus' wife Hera, goddess of women and marriage, and Hermes the protector god.



The number cards also have a very classic Greek style.



Olympia Underworld

This is the deck that I own, and is similar to the regular Olympia deck in terms of artwork, but with a turquoise colour.

Most of the artwork is identical to the Olympia deck, but there are a few small changes to reflect the Underworld theme: The King of Spades and Queen of Spades are now Hades and Persephone respectively, reflecting how Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and became Queen of the Underworld; while the Jokers combine to picture Cerberus, the "hound of Hades".

Depicted here are the Greek gods Zeus and Hades.



I'm especially fond of the artwork and design on the backs of these Underworld cards, which looks fantastic.



While not quite as successful as the Muertos series, the Olympia decks enjoyed good support, almost tripling the required level of funding on Kickstarter.

The style and colours of the two Olympia decks remind me somewhat of the Egyptian themed Anubis and Osiris decks featured next in this review. As good as these Olympia decks are, in my opinion Steve was able to build on the designs and colours of these decks, and in his later work produce something even more beautiful by applying what he'd learned to ancient Egypt.

Anubis & Osiris decks (2016)



The following year, in 2016, Steve created the Anubis and Osiris decks, which were inspired by and depict ancient Egyptian culture.

They are absolutely spectacular, and the photos you see here really don't do justice to how impressive they look in real life. They look stunning, from the moment you first hold them in your hand, as I'm doing here:



They are sealed with an impressive looking gold foil sticker.



Both the box back and the card backs feature an embossed gold foil design which just sparkles in the light - I did my best to capture it in a photo here, but it looks even more beautiful than what you see here!



Anubis

The cards of the Anubis have gold foil artwork on a black background. I own a copy of both of these decks, and quite frankly these two are my favourites of all the ones I own, because they just exude class, elegance, and quality!



The court cards of the Anubis deck feature artwork that reflects the Egyptian era, and look luxurious and attractive. The artwork here was inspired by the Egyptian gods and kings of the past, and incorporates into the design elements from the classical Egyptian era and from the Egyptian revival.



The court cards feature the following Egyptian gods: Amun, Mut, and Thoth (Spades); Osiris, Isis, and Khnum (Hearts); Anubis, Sekhmet, and Geb (Clubs); Ra, Hathor, and Horus (Diamonds).



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

The Osiris deck is the counterpart to the Anubis deck. 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.



If you look carefully, you'll notice that three tones of blue are used on the card faces, making the details pop out even more than the Anubis deck. I'm a huge fan of the turquoise color used here!



With a funding goal of $20,000, unsurprisingly this project enjoyed huge support, with over $93,000 raised. As a result of this high level of funding, both decks were produced with metallic gold foil, which looks absolutely stunning on the background. I really can't say enough about how beautiful these two decks are!



CONCLUSION

Now I realize I've included a lot of pictures - but hey, that's what decks like this are all about, the visuals, and I wanted to give you a chance to see what the cards look like. Let's wrap things up with my concluding thoughts.



I'm extremely happy with the four decks by Steve Minty that I have, and here is why:

I love the artwork: Everything about these cards is stunning, from the back designs to the artwork on each card. They really do look beautiful. In fact, they are probably the most beautiful decks of playing cards that I own. I have other decks that are truly unique (like the Pipmen decks by Ben Jones), and classy (like the Omnia/Dedalo decks by Giovanni Meroni), but in my mind the Steve Minty decks have to take the prize for being the most beautiful. I just love the way all the aesthetics come together in a wonderful package.

I love the themes: I love how Steve has worked with different cultures and ideas (and even done some research in the process), and how he's found ways to reflect this in the themes. As a result, each deck has its own very distinct flavour, in reflecting either classical Japan, ancient Egypt, mythological Greece, or traditional Mexico. Going back to ancient times also gives you a sense that these playing cards are steeped in a long and rich tradition, and make one feel some connection with the past.

I love the variety: Even though there is superficial similarity between some the decks (e.g. both the Anubis deck and the Muertos Night decks rely on a black and gold colour scheme), all the decks have a unique flavour. This isn't just a reflection of Steve's creativity, but more importantly it reflects the fact that he has been drawing on the unique elements of different cultures, and this comes to fruition with decks that look quite different from each other.

I love the style: They just have a luxurious look and feel about them. Especially the cards with foil printing look outstanding. The style and class is immediately evident just from looking at the box. Three of the four decks that I have have gold foil printing on the tuck boxes, and come with a gold seal. From the moment you first set your eyes on these deck boxes, they look stunning, especially when held up to the light. I was just blown away by them when I first saw them, because they look even more amazing in real life than they do on photos! This positive impression remains when you look through the cards. They are very stylish and have a great deal of character and class.

I love the quality: Although one of the primary points of attraction with these cards is their visual appeal, they are made from good quality card stock, and handle and shuffle well. People who enjoy playing card games will appreciate the quality of the card-stock and printing. The most recent decks were printed by Expert Playing Card Company, and seem to be of an even higher quality than the earlier decks printed by US Playing Cards. I gave them to an accomplished magician to get his thoughts, and he said the cards handled amazingly well, very smooth, and he just loved them. The sense of quality and luxury begins with the tuck boxes, where there are tiny details on everything (even the flaps), and the cards on the inside match this high standard.

I love the playability: Despite the wonderful aesthetics, the numbers and suits are still clear enough that you can actually use them in a game, without the artwork getting in the way of game-play and functionality. While decks like these have value for collectors, in the end I don't own cards to look at them, but to play games with them, and these do that job nicely, while at the same time giving players something beautiful to look at during moments of down-time. My only concern is whether the red and black suits of the HANA Gold deck court cards need to be differentiated more clearly, but perhaps you'd quickly grow to recognize the difference in the shades of red used for this.

I love the service: These deck were shipped very promptly, and in a package that included a box with soft padding inside, a business card and a Steve Minty sticker. So even the packing materials used shows top quality service and thoughtful attention to detail.

I own a lot of different decks of playing cards, but these decks from Steve Minty are easily among the most beautiful decks I own, and arguably they are my most prized decks of playing cards. If you think they look good in the pictures you see here, just wait till you see them first-hand - they look even better. My favourites so far are easily the Anubis and Osiris decks, but when the HANA decks come into print, I wouldn't be surprised if they match that. If you'd like to add some delightful decks like these to your own collection, you're in luck: if you're interested in the Japanese themed HANA deck, you can check out the Kickstarter for these decks here, or if you are interested in getting some of the other decks, head over to Steve Minty's own website here.


BoardGameGeek reviewer

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Y P
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These decks are painfully beautiful. I want them, but I'm not sure I'd ever have the heart to play with them considering the abuse a typical card deck gets.
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James C
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Meanwhile I play with a couple decks I took from a Princess cruise ship ten years ago. Hah.
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Matt
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Great cards. I have the Muertos black and the Anubis and Osiris decks. Thanks for the heads up on the Hana decks. Those are awesome, and I'll get some for sure.

If you're into a different and very innovative deck, check out the Pipmen World cards, currently on Kickstarter...
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Peter S.
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Of the Anubis and Osiris decks, which would you recommend (if you had to pick one)? I've been completely on the fence for these guys for over a year now - it's really hard to justify both, but damned if I don't want 'em.
 
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Matt
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I slightly prefer the Osiris. I think the backs are stronger with the blue and gold. But both are very nice, as you can see
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ErsatzDragon wrote:
Of the Anubis and Osiris decks, which would you recommend (if you had to pick one)? I've been completely on the fence for these guys for over a year now - it's really hard to justify both, but damned if I don't want 'em.
One of my sons prefers the Anubis. One of my daughters prefers the Osiris. Go figure!

They are both terrific, but the Anubis is just gold with black, whereas the Osiris is gold with three tones of blue, and the three different blues make some of the details pop out a bit more. You can't go wrong either way - I'd take a careful look at the Aces and decide which colour combination you prefer.

In the end I think it's mostly just a preference of colour. While I do love the combination of the turquoise and gold, if I had to choose, I think the simple black and gold combination looks even more classy.

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chaochou wrote:
If you're into a different and very innovative deck, check out the Pipmen World cards, currently on Kickstarter...
Yep, I totally agree! If you haven't yet seen it, check out my pictorial review here:

Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The best deck of playing cards. EVER!

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Adam P
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I love collecting designer decks. I think I own all of these mentioned (but not all colors).
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Ed
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These are cool. My only concern is the darker cards getting marked from wear. Any problems with that?
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ed95005 wrote:
These are cool. My only concern is the darker cards getting marked from wear. Any problems with that?
That is going to be somewhat of an issue with any dark or black deck.

I just posted a detailed review of the Black Tiger deck, where you'll find details about a free book from Ellusionist called "The Black Deck Book". This book gives some great tips about taking care of black cards, and how to improve them if ever edges start looking worn.

There's a link to a free download of this digital book (in PDF format) in that review.

 
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