Playing Cards for an Anniversary Celebration

In this review series, I'm featuring a number of decks I recently received as part of my first ever order from PlayingCardDecks.com (which I'll mostly refer to as PCD in this article). And because PlayingCardDecks is currently celebrating their first anniversary, from 24 - 30 April you can get 20% off everything on their website using the coupon code "YEAR1" at check out. They have 10,000s of decks in stock, with over 1500 different decks as part of their range.

In my previous article I covered three decks from the Texture series, three vintage style decks, plus some sophisticated decks that are ideal for playing card games and card magic. In this article I'll cover some more colourful and artistic decks, as well as a number of decks that PCD's Will Roya has been involved with producing himself.




ARTISTIC DECKS

Personally I'm not even remotely artistic, in terms of my own skills with paints or ink, but I do have a number of family members and friends who are artists. So I have learned to appreciate and enjoy art as an observer and admirer, and I have a special fondness for artistic playing cards. Decks with a high degree of customization, and that are truly out of the ordinary, immediately attract my interest. In this category, I'll showcase some genuinely artistic decks, which are striking precisely because they incorporate illustrations of art, or have other artistic elements.

Masterpieces deck

The Masterpieces deck is an obvious and worthy candidate for this section, because even its name suggests what its subject material is about: masterpieces of art.

This project was produced under the umbrella of Bocopo Playing Cards, and was a collaboration with seven different designers under the supervision of art director Eddie from Bocopo. The navy blue tuck box makes a statement of class, while at the same time providing key information about what it took to produce this deck: 8 artists, 348 hours of work, and 58 illustrations. The title stands out in white, while branches adorn the sides of the front piece, and while a peacock stands guard on the reverse side.



The card backs feature a complex college of triangles full of earthy colours and patterns, that combine well to produce a singular impression. The geometric fragments enhance flourishing, while the singular whole and colourful edges with the thin white borders help create pleasant fans and spreads.



But the real highlight of this deck is the card faces, each of which has a unique and fresh design. Each tells a different story, such as "Fear of a Powerful Monster" (2 of Diamonds) and "An Entanglement Giraffe" (4 of Hearts).



Here we have a "Humorous Octopus Magician" (6 of Diamonds) and "Distinct Meditation" (10 of Diamonds).



The Ace of Spades, for example, has a intricate heart shape with red and orange being key colours to convey the idea of enthusiasm and energy, while the center of the heart is filled with the word LOVE, a thought that is further emphasized with soft lines emanating from the central shape. Also shown in the picture below is the Jack of Spades, which is entitled "Fire Balloon with Sunset Clouds".



Wherever you look in this deck, there are things to explore and enjoy, that capture the imagination and attention, from poker playing dogs to chameleons, hot air balloons, and much more. It's a true collection of fascinating individual masterpieces, and as such reminds me of the Ultimate Deck, minus the transformational elements.



What I particularly appreciate is that the cards do not have a crisp white canvas, as in the collaborative project by Playing Arts (see my review), which does create more of a sterile look. Here instead there are whites, browns, greys, and blacks, and the result is that it feels like a more authentic collection of art, that isn't overly stark or artificial.



The uncut sheet shown here gives an overview of the entire deck, showing some of the range of styles and subject material.



Like many other decks, this was produced by USPCC with their classic air cushion style finish for quality and good handling.



KADAR deck

I'm not one that puts any faith whatsoever in horoscopes or tarot cards, since as a Christian I am confident that everything I need to know about the future is recorded in the Bible, and I can trust God to take care of everything He hasn't told us about. But I can appreciate the aesthetic beauty of tarot cards, and in the beautiful KADAR deck we have a fine example of what happens when the idea of fortune telling comes to life on a deck of playing cards.

The tuck box creates an immediate sense of intrigue and wonder, with our mysterious and turbaned oracle friend Kadar staring into our eyes. The sides of the box say "Kadar knows all, Kadar sees all", which adds to the sense of mystery.



Created by Christopher Gould, this deck is inspired by the idea of arcade style fortune-telling machines, where one could put in a coin in return for the wisdom of the great oracle Kadar. While having a lifelong interest in Tarot, Christopher Gould actually earned his living as a stage magician, and so his aim was primarily to give magicians a pocket sized deck of playing cards with plenty of nods to oracle reading.



This is what has inspired the artwork, as well as the fortune-telling card sets from the 1950s and 1960s, and also the colourful pictorial cards of the 18th century and those that were used by travelling fortune tellers in Europe. The original idea was to make the artwork look like a cheap deck found at a disreputable fun fair in the mid 20th century, but the creator decided to make them more polished, with plenty of inspiration also from the graphic style used by "Silver Age Comics".

The court cards all have their own character, and are intended to represent a unique cabinet with its own Kadar.



The card backs are based on old carnival fortune telling machines, and are hand drawn with intricate detail.



The Aces picture the slots into which you would place a coin, in order to get a message from the oracle.



Each suit has its own flavour and concept, described as follows:
Spades: The card of the thinker, the planner and the strategist. Highly intellectual and rational. Possessing of logical, sceptical frame of mind. This person can also be highly idealistic, a little unemotional, and somewhat judgemental.
Clubs: The card of the creative, energetic, entrepreneur. The person who likes to be the centre of attention. H e or she is a magnet who draws others to them. But they can also be a little headstrong and easy to anger.
Diamonds: The card of the solid dependable worker. This person lives in the material world and enjoys the good things in life and will work hard for them. At the same time he or she can be rather predictable and unlikely to take any risks.
Hearts: The card of the romantic; the person whose heart rules their head. Dreamy and intuitive, they drift through life guided by their inner voice. They can also be disorganized and rely on fate to plan their lives for them.



The deck is rounded out with a couple of colourful Jokers, a double-backer and an blank face card.



Christopher considers the Kadar Fortune Telling Cards as a homage to his Great Aunt Ruth, who claimed to be of genuine Romany stock, and was primarily intended to be used for fun purposes, since it is based on playing cards rather than the tarot first of all. For me, the chief appeal of these cards lies in how colourful and vibrant they are, as well as the element of intrigue that they stir up.



Printed by USPCC, they are look, feel, and handle great. My only wish is that the white borders had been slightly thinner, giving even more emphasis to the stunning artwork, something along the lines of the image below. If a reprint ever happens, I hope it would be printed by EPCC and LPCC, a publisher that is capable of more consistent and narrower borders, while ensuring crisp registration doesn't suffer.



I'm not about to start using these cards to try to tell fortunes, but they extremely interesting to look through and enjoy. Certainly you can have fun with them in a light-hearted way, much like you might with a magic eight ball. Card collectors will also enjoy them, due to their unique feel and look, making them stand apart from most other decks of playing cards.

While perhaps not the most suited to a traditional card game, they do especially have elements of mystery and intrigue that a magician can take advantage of. You can download a free 17 page brochure (25MB PDF) with more information about the Kadar deck and its system at geminiartifacts.com here. People who buy the deck are also entitled to a 39 page PDF which gives information about how to mark the cards, and a basic introduction to the meanings of fortune-telling cards. Also available for separate purchase here is an 111 page eBook called "Kadar for Magicians" and 118 page eBook called "The Kadar Reading System" (select "Mystery Performer Manual Only" for the first item, and "Psychic Performer Manual Only" for the second item). The free eBook gives the bare bones, while the complete "Kadar for Magicians" book has much more detail, including several routines and performance ideas.


CARDISTRY DECKS

Cardistry decks have their own unique set of requirements, since card flourishing doesn't require cards to be functional for card games or magic. As a result, the very kinds of things that could distract or make a deck unusable for a card game or magic, are precisely the kinds of things that can work well for cardistry. Vibrant colours and patterns are in demand due to the visual aesthetics these can create, while functional indices and pips are no longer essential. With the rapid growth of cardistry in recent years, the market is ripe for decks of cards that are optimized specifically just for card flourishing, and these are some fine examples.

Cardistry Fanning deck

The Bocopo Playing Card Company has recently been releasing a multitude of decks, and many of them are ideal for cardists. One of these decks that is designed especially for cardistry is the Cardistry Fanning deck (White Edition)



The tuck box shows what the design of the cards is like, featuring a white background with red, black and grey on the corners and forming a star shaped design, complete with a circle in the centre. On the inside of the tuck flap are the words “Welcome To Cardistry Way”, which is quite nice invitational touch, and highlights the fact that as you open up the box, you are entering the world of cardistry.

The back design of the cards has black and red triangles on the top left and bottom right corners of each card, and a grey triangle on the top right and bottom left. This allows for beautiful fanning patterns depending on which way you fan the deck, as the different choices you make in fanning the cards produces different results - just like all choices in life.



While this deck is ideal for fanning and spreads, those are not the only card flourishes that this deck is good for. The back design also features a star-like design with a circle in the centre. This creates a clear point of focus on the cards, and allows for great effects when the cards are spun or twirled. As a result of these added graphical elements, these cards also look great when doing cuts.



The faces of the cards have no indices, instead having the triangles in the corners in the same way as the back design. This is a deliberate design choice, because it means that when fanning with the faces of the cards, it will generate great visual patterns with the same repeating design showing.



On the centre of the cards is a large pip corresponding to the card's suit, while the value is in white. This means that the different suits and values from a standard deck are still present. But their large size makes cuts look interesting due to the unity and similarity between the cards. Each card also has a circle in the centre of the faces, creating a focus point for cardistry moves.



Included in the deck are two Jokers with the Bocopo logo, with the logo also present by means of a watermarked background. Two ad cards for other decks from Bocopo are with the deck as well, as tantalizers and tempters, these being an Ace of spades from the pink edition of the Art of Cardistry deck, and a card featuring the back design of the Cardistry Turquoise deck.



This deck has been printed by the USPCC, and the cards handle great, like all Bicycle style decks. They fan and spread well, which is especially important for a deck that is geared towards cardistry. This is a terrific deck for all those who are interested in cardistry, whether new or experienced, because the cards will automatically help bring your card flourishes to new levels of aesthetics. With this deck in your hands, cardistry instantly becomes all the more enjoyable, due to the great artistic design. While this deck isn't suited to magicians or card games, due to the absence of indices, this quality also makes it all the more enjoyable for cardistry.



Binary deck

The Binary deck is a super colourful and creative deck of cards that has been designed by the Bocopo Playing Card Company.



The story of its genesis is a fascinating one, since it was inspired by a mundane mosaic loading screen on a computer, but the designer was immediately captivated by it and saw its potential.

The white tuck box has the name of the deck on it, and on the one side is a beautiful coloured pattern composed of individual small triangles, which make up squares and form lines of colours splashing across the edge. This fades away into individual squares and shows the idea of a loading page on a computer, the inspiration of this deck.



The back design of cards is a bordered design similar to what appears on the tuck case, but now the pattern takes up the complete canvas of the cards minus the white borders which help add emphasis. Individual triangles create a low-poly effect, and there are lines of colour going across the deck. The vibrant colour is really eye catching, and the low-poly effect looks very appealing. A gap of colour at two of the corners of the card makes fans and spreads look more interesting as well.

The faces of these cards are customized from the individual triangles and look amazing. Each pip is composed of the small triangles that made their first appearance on the card backs, thereby ensuring a unity of design between the card faces and backs.



I can't say enough about how beautiful and amazing the card faces are to look at, especially the court cards. While they employ the main overall design of standard courts, they also incorporate the triangles and the low-poly style artwork, and this combination results in them being some of the nicest court cards I have ever seen.



The indices are also composed of the customized pips, while a delicate font is used for the numbers.

The two Jokers are the letter J and are made up of the low poly triangles, matching the rest of the deck. Also with the deck are two extra cards, an ad card for Bocopo and the Ace of Spades from the Art of Cardistry deck.



The cards are printed by the USPCC, and they are on a Casino Stock with an Air-Cushion finish. These cards handle great, and will last you a while like most decks from USPCC.



Collectors will appreciate the artwork, magicians and gamers will love the uniqueness of the cards, and cardists will enjoy the colour and style these cards bring. They are particularly well suited for cardistry given their creative colour and design, but when used for magic or card games you'll also find that people can still use the cards while at the same time appreciating the wonderful design.


PCD PRODUCED DECKS

Will Roya is very ambitious. Not only has he commenced an online sales platform and business - which alone is an enormous undertaken. But his passion for playing cards is such that he also has been involved in producing playing cards himself, with the help of crowdfunding. Anyone who has been involved in Kickstarter knows that doing this requires huge commitment and effort. Somehow, Will has successfully been able to run his business, and simultaneously succeed in producing several playing card projects. I don't know how he does it - perhaps part of his magic background included experience with juggling, and keeping multiple balls in the air at the same time? Whatever the case, in this section I'll cover several decks that Will Roya has produced himself under the banner of PlayingCardDecks.com.

Chicken deck

Our adventure in the PCD produced decks begins in the same place where Will Roya's did: by heading to the chicken coop. His very first ever Kickstarter project was for this charming and playful deck, entitled Chicken Playing Cards.

This entertaining deck was designed by artist Susan Krupp, and features a chicken theme that is evident already from the brightly coloured tuck box, which has an oversized spade pip with intricate artwork featuring a colourful feather.



The light blue colour of the tuck box is the feature colour throughout the deck, with the card backs and faces also employing this colour - a wise move so that reversed cards don't clash with the overall colour scheme.

The highlight of this deck has to be the delightful court cards, which feature our fowled friends in all manner of exalted poses. These are really well done, and real pleasure to study and enjoy.



But the superb qualities of the court cards have carried over to the number cards as well, with detailed artwork forming a background panel to the pips, which are heavily customized with brightly coloured feather-inspired artwork, similar in style to what was evident on the back of the tuck box.



The indices are given their own white oval-shaped backgrounds - unquestionably egg shaped - which helps set them apart from the rest of the artwork, and also ensures that they are very clear and usable. Despite the heavy customization of this deck, this ensures that the cards can easily and quickly be recognized when fanned, and so they are still very practical, and ideal for card games.



The Aces are among my favourite cards as well, with a gigantic pip matching the suit, featuring colourful feather-inspired interior decorating.

The card backs have a very whimsical design, with what appears to be three mischievous roosters playing a game of poker. I only wish that the canvas of standard playing cards had larger dimensions, enabling us to appreciate and admire better the beautiful detail here!



The deck also comes with two humorous matching Joker foxes, one having an empty cage, and the other having an identical cage with a young chick inside, giving magicians potential for some fun with colour changes. Magicians will also like the 8 of clubs reveal on the Jokers, as well as the fact that the tuck box also has an Ace of Spades reveal on the flaps. Since this is a quality USPCC produced deck, it also comes with two extra cards, one being a third Joker, the other being a double backer.



While the practical indices ensure that this can be used for playing card games, and even for some card magic, this deck will especially be appreciated by collectors.

Friendly Felines deck

With some experience under his belt, including another project that he collaborated with, Will's next project continued his love for spirited and lively decks, by producing the cute Friendly Felines deck.

This deck has humorously been described as "the cat's meow"! The tuck box immediately introduces us to one of the cat characters that populate this deck. It also has a numbered seal (featuring a paw print), and a two of spades reveal on the inside flap.



I can't say enough good things about the borderless back design. The ornate artwork really emphasizes the two cats that are silhouetted as the key feature, and the full bleed design looks stunning in spreads and when handling. My only concern is that the style doesn't seem to entirely fit with the artwork style employed by the face of the cards, but there's no doubt that these card backs look truly spectacular.



But the real appeal of this deck lies in the court cards, which depict various cats that are dressed for success. Each suit depicts cats from a different region as follows (listed here in order of Jack, Queen, King, and Ace):
- Hearts (Europe): Scottish Cat, Russian Blue, Tuxedo Cat, Lynx
- Spades (America: Bengal Cat, Rag-doll Cat, Calico Cat, Cougar
- Diamonds (Asia): Black Cat, Persian Cat, Himalaya Cat, Tiger
- Clubs (Africa): Chausie, Abyssinian Cat, Egyptian Mau, Cheetah



The card faces have a vintage style appearance, that looks great and works well with the artwork, while the pips are clearly customized, and the indices are clear.



I like the fact that the Aces have been given their own identity, with heavily stylized artwork that on the one hand matches the court cards, and yet is clearly distinct from them in that they feature the great cats of the wild: Lynx, Cougar, Tiger, and Cheetah.



The Jokers add more cat characters to the mix, with a Lion (the only cat with a mane), and a Sphinx (an unuxual hairless breed).



Two extra gaff cards give possibilities for magical effects involving transformations and vanishing, with two extra Ace of Diamonds, one with an alternate cat character, and the other with a blank area where the cat character would normally be. Once again the printer of choice is USPCC, to ensure high quality, durability, and smooth handling. Collectors will especially enjoy this deck, but the fact that it has very clear indices also ensures that this deck can also work just fine for card games or in the hands of a magician.

The Guard deck

Next up is The Guard deck, which was originally conceived as a luxury set of two companion decks, one in Slade and the other in Oak. The Oak deck was available exclusively through Kickstarter, while the Slade deck is the one that is still available, and is what I am featuring in this review.



This stylish deck was designed by Polish artist Artur Rajch, and is described as a "retro classic vintage inspired design for the modern player, collector, cardist or magician."

The court cards are clearly inspired by traditional designs, and yet are a very fresh take on the standard courts.



Especially noteworthy are the dual tones used for the pips, with two shades used for the over-sized custom pips on the cards themselves, as well as in the indices.



All the Aces have a heavily customized look, not just the Ace of Spades. The card backs have an ornate design that offers detail for those who inspect it closely, and yet doesn't distract too much when the deck is being used.



Two very playful Jokers round out the main deck, with artwork that has a clear link to traditional jesters, while still giving a very fresh feel.



The deck also comes with two gaff cards, a double backer that can be used for a colour changing deck effect, and a blank faced card. Magicians will also be able to make use of the 7 of Spades reveal on the flap of the tuck box.

With quality printing from USPCC, this deck handles smoothly, while the cards themselves are a very crisp and pleasing looking white. It's extremely functional, despite the amount of customization, and would be ideal for use in Poker games or other card games, or for use in magic.


PCD CO-PRODUCED DECKS

Besides the above mentioned titles, PlayingCardDecks.com has also collaborated in the production of several other decks of playing cards. In some instances this involvement has been a matter of giving financial backing to a project, in other instances it has been taking care of the fulfilment. Examples include the Alice in Wonderland deck and the Runic Royalty deck which I have previously reviewed here. In this section I'll cover two newer decks that have hit the market, that were co-produced with PlayingCardDecks.com.

Freedom deck

I'll be upfront from the outset. This is one of my favourite decks that PCD has been involved with. The Freedom Deck makes an immediate impression with a very classy looking tuck box, with a deep black being the prominent colour. On this inky black canvas there's some ornate borders, and of course the name being the focal point with elegant lettering: Freedom Playing Cards. On the sides there's some Latin text, including the word Libertas, meaning "freedom".



The thematic idea behind this deck is about being bold, because there are no restrictions with freedom. The Freedom deck is a project by artist Bryan Nirattisai and Enliven Magic Entertainment, and these cards reflect something of his thinking as an artist, to use his words "Basically, I do whatever I want to do." In other words: Freedom.



One of the most striking features of this deck is the stunning design of the card backs. There's a strong circular shape, which is emphasized by the details that are part of the artwork, and this central element is given a sense of motion by two feather shapes on opposite sides. The simple black and white colour scheme emphasizes the shapes, and accentuates the details.



The court cards have a uniform style that is reminiscent of a paper cutting technique, with all the characters depicted in a simple and stark black sillhouette. The red suits are still distinguished from the black suits by means of red pips, but the courts themselves are all jet black. It looks amazing!



Speaking of the pips, each of these has some small decorative white lines within the pips themselves, which can only be appreciated with the naked eye and won't really show up in photos due to the intricate detail, but it all adds to the feel of customization. The pips and indices are all quite small, but this does have the advantage of making fans that display all the numbers and suits very easy to do.



Further customization comes in the form of an elegant Ace of Spades, which includes the thematic "Freedom" designation below it.



And there's two custom Jokers, which are identical, and each feature a two-way design. Two basic gaff cards are included as a bonus, one a blank card, the other a double backer.



This deck was printed by USPCC in their usual embossed air cushion style finish, for quality and smooth handling - and these cards do handle beautifully. They look very sophisticated and stylish, and will be equally at home in the hands of a collector, a cardist, a magician, or a card player.



Opulent deck

The Opulent deck is more of an artistic deck, and was created by George Williamson with the assistance of PCD and artist Jennifer Bennett. The word opulent is synonymous with extravagant, and that epitomizes what George wanted to pack into this creative deck.

Our admiration begins with the luxurious looking tuck box, which features the gold and blue colours that are synonymous with this deck, and has an individually numbered seal.



The design of the exquisite card backs is based on the interior ceiling design of the Dome of St Aubins, a church in Belgium. It's also worth mentioning that all of the Aces are patterned after the style of the Ace of Spades, with highly detailed and oversized pips.



While the courts clearly are based on traditional designs, they have been given a very original look, with the help of ornate details and lavish artwork that adds to the overall feel of opulence that this deck is intended to evoke. Despite the extravagant detail, the lines are bold, and the shapes are clear, so there is an immediate sense of the familiar. Yet the overall look conveys the sense of an exquisitely crafted woodcut, which is amplified with the use of a very simple colour scheme.



All the cards are framed with a highly patterned background that goes all the way to the borders, while an oval shape in the middle ensures that the decorative pips stand out in sharp relief to the background, and are immediately noticeable, while still rewarding the attentive observer with lots of intricate detail.

The indices continue the theme of sophisticated detail combined with practical clarity, and are immediately recognizable and easily identifiable. My only concern is that while the use of single colour for all the suits is a good choice artistically, it does make the traditionally red and black suits more difficult to distinguish at a glance.



The two Jokers can be used to reveal a selection of the 6 of Clubs, and it's details like this that magicians especially appreciate. The two gaff cards included are a double backer and a double faced Jack of Hearts and Three of Clubs. One subtle easter egg that many will miss is a bar code reveal, which cleverly features the Four of Spades.



Printing of this deck was done by USPCC, an industry leader that has once again not disappointed, with consistent printing and nicely embossed cards that handle smoothly and pleasantly.

Other decks

Many other decks that PCD has been involved in are in the process of being released soon, including Knights Bicycle, Monster Bicycle (May), Strigiformes Owl Bicycle, an ARCCO 2018 Reprint, and the Royal Vortex (the first anniversary deck).

Coming up soon on Kickstarter is a strong line-up of many decks: Ancient Warriors (2 Deck Set), Armageddon Bicycle, Mushrooms (2 Deck Set), Ghoul Guys, Cyber Punk Bicyle, and Lady Bug (2 Deck Set). So there's plenty more in store in the new future!




CONCLUSIONS

The Decks

So why are some things I really like about these decks of custom playing cards?

Variety: I love the variety of different decks available, like the ones featured here. Within the range that is stocked by PCD, there's tremendous variety, in terms of style, colour, and design. Playing cards can be used for many different purposes, and depending on what they are used for, they will also have different qualities that are important. Whether you need cards for playing card games like Poker or Hearts, or for doing card magic, or card flourishing, you'll find something to suit your needs.

Creativity: I just love the creativity that has produced many of the designs featured in this article. Unlike an "ordinary" deck, there's a great deal of creative and artistic qualities that have contributed to some unique designs, and that's something I really appreciate and enjoy in decks of custom playing cards like these.

Quality: The majority of the decks carried by PCD are decks are printed by United States Playing Card Company, makers of the well-known Bicycle brand, with their standard air cushion finish. The quality of these decks is consistently wonderful - these are by no means the cheap quality playing cards you'd typically find in a corner store. USPCC produced cards have a well-deserved reputation for quality, and are rightly respected highly for their consistently good card-stock, clear printing, good handling, and durability which ensures they last longer than a regular deck of cheap playing cards. Even though PCD has an enormous range of decks in stock, Wil Roya especially has a fondness for limited edition custom decks printed by USPCC. But you will also find decks in his range from other industry leaders, like Expert Playing Card Company, and these decks are also superb.

Suitability - Card games: I love playing a large variety of card games with a standard deck of playing cards, and while an "ordinary" deck of Bicycle playing cards does do the trick, I do find the experience so much more enjoyable when using a custom deck of playing cards. At the same time, the cards must be functional and recognizable, so the amount of customization can't get in the way of usability. Fortunately there are lots of decks at PCD that fit these criteria perfectly, yet look sophisticated and classy, often starting with an exquisite tuck box touched with foil accents and embossing.

Suitability - Card magic: One of my long-time hobbies is card magic. While in the past magicians tended to restrict themselves to Bicycle decks, in the crowdfunding era we now live it is considered quite acceptable to use a custom deck of playing cards, and these won't typically arouse the same level of suspicion that they once did, because they are becoming much more common. Just as with playing cards for card games, cards used for magic need to be instantly recognizable and can't distract too much. Many of the above decks work ideally for this purpose, having a very familiar look, and yet adding elements of class and sophistication via small amounts of customization, and stylish tuck boxes. And of course there are the magical possibilities that gaff cards offer, and many of these decks include at least a couple such bonus cards.

Suitability - Card flourishing: Many of the decks now available were created for the explicit purpose of being used for card flourishers. Card flourishers tend to have exacting requirements for the decks that they use, and for good reason, since the visual aesthetics of their art-form will be magnified when combined with colours and patterns that accentuate the movement of cardistry. Many custom decks have been specifically designed for this purpose, making them perfectly suited for this art-form due to designs that make the most of colours and patterns.



The Retailer

So what are some reasons why my experience with PlayingCardDecks.com was a positive one?

First impressions: This was my first order with PCD, but I was very impressed at how smooth everything went. I'm particularly impressed with their amazing selection. Not only do they typically have a large number of each deck in stock, but they also have a great range.

Service: I did have some questions prior to making my final decision about which decks to get, and my email correspondence with Will was always positive. He communicated quickly and pleasantly. I also found the website very professional, easy to navigate, and user-friendly. The fact that it includes images of many of the decks also ensures that you can see in advance what you're getting, so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Packaging: The decks arrived in a package that was well-packed, to ensure that the decks would be well-protected en route. I received a tracking number, and everything arrived safely, so that opening the package proved to be an exciting exercise for me and my children.

Shipping: Shipping is free in the USA for orders over $50, while free shipping to Canada applies to orders over $100 (otherwise a flat rate of $10) and select international countries for orders over $150 (otherwise a flat rate of $15). For more details, see here. Most orders are shipped by USPS within one business day, along with tracking, and I have no complaints how this worked.

Range: New custom playing cards are hitting the market all the time, so it can be a challenge for a retailer to get the right balance of ensuring that they have all the latest and greatest products, while at the same time also carrying stock of previous favourites. PCD has a very well-rounded selection, and of all the online retailers that I've had experience with so far, they easily have one of the largest selections I've seen.

Prices: Prices compare favourably to other large online retailers. Of course, the fact that they currently offering a 20% discount site-wide for their first anniversary makes the prices even more attractive, although be aware this runs for only one week, from 24 April to 30 April 2018.



The Specials

20% off Anniversary Sale: Because PlayingCardDecks.com was launched on 20 April 2017, with its first sale that week, Will has decided to have a special sale to mark his first anniversary, with 20% off all stock, site-wide. He obviously has extensive experience in selling products prior to the launch of his website, including selling magic products and playing cards via Amazon and eBay. But even so, April is the official anniversary date of PCD, and from 24 April to 30 April 2018, we get the opportunity to get 20% off any purchase. Use the code "YEAR1" to get this fantastic discount.

Anniversary deck: To help celebrate the first anniversary of the site, Will is also creating a special promotional deck, which is going to be available in a super limited print run of only 500 units. Details about what this deck looks like remains a secret at this stage, and the only information available so far is that they are printed by Gemaco with an ivory finish, standard faces, a custom tuck box, and have gold foil on the backs. Supporters of a special Kickstarter to launch the initial Pip Box Club memberships will receive this mystery deck in their first box.

Pip Box Club: Will has just begun a new initiative in conjunction with PCD, which he has called his "Pip Box Club". It's a monthly subscription service which gives members an opportunity to get decks, samples, and more, at a discounted rate. There are multiple options for joining, including a Small Blind subscription level and Big Blind subscription level. For example, the Big Blind membership costs $30 a month, and this includes getting three surprise decks shipped to your house (at a minimum, these include two newer releases), sample cards from other new releases, a 15% discount code, and access to unlisted products like uncut sheets and limited version decks. Subscriptions outside the US cost more, but all the rates include shipping. For more details and how to sign up, check out pipboxclub.com



Recommendation

So is PlayingCardDecks.com something for you? It's exciting to discover another terrific retailer that can connect me with so many wonderful decks of custom playing cards, like the ones reviewed here. I love a great deck of custom playing cards, and use them for playing card games and for card magic and cardistry. I also enjoy collecting some of the more unusual designs. Furthermore, a quality deck of custom playing cards makes a terrific gift, and I've given away many decks as presents over the last year or so, and they've nearly always been well received and much appreciated.

So if you're looking a high quality deck of playing cards, PCD is definitely a terrific online retailer to check out. And getting 20% off with their anniversary sale, now is a great time to discover this site. I'm very pleased to recommend all the decks featured in this review!



Want to learn more? Check out PlayingCardDecks.com
- Online Store: playingcarddecks.com (use code "YEAR1" to get a 20% discount site-wide during the first anniversary sale 24th to 30th April 2018)
- Related links: Blog, Kickstarter projects, Loyalty Rewards Program, Pip Box Club
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Artistic decks: Masterpieces ($8.99), KADAR ($18.99)
- Cardistry decks: Cardistry Fanning - White Edition ($10.99), Binary ($9.99)
- PCD produced decks: Chicken ($12.99), Friendly Felines ($12.99), The Guard ($12.99)
- PCD co-produced decks: Alice in Wonderland ($14.99), Runic Royalty ($19.99), Freedom ($9.99), Opulent ($11.99)




BoardGameGeek reviewer

For more of my reviews on custom playing cards, subscribe to this list: Pictorial Reviews of Playing Cards by EndersGame

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