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.




NOVELTY DECKS

I must admit that I'm a real sucker for decks that look highly unusual, and have a great amount of novelty. Admittedly, not many of these are the kinds of decks that would quickly make it to the paper table, although many of them are certainly functional and playable. But the prime appeal of these kinds of playing cards is to the collector, that appreciates the unusual elements that decks like these bring to the table. Here are some prime examples.

Disruption deck

To begin the unusual, let's start with something truly off kilter, namely the Disruption deck.

This is a deck that immediately takes us offguard and away from the familiar due to its unusual design, which is a deliberate distortion of all that we've taken for granted in the world of playing cards, much like looking in a fun hall of mirrors. The tuck box immediately gives us an impression that all is not right, because we have an intentionally blurry image of an oversized Spade pip, which looks as if its inked on wet glass, with paint running in different directions.



Courtesy of designer Johnny Wham, the card backs greet us with a sense of playfulness and colour, with vibrant curved geometric shapes merged together to create a colourful whole that is pleasant to look at.

But our sense of order is quickly thrown out of the window once we examine the signature Ace of Spades, which looks like it is struggling to emerge out of some waterlogged paint, and is twisting itself inside out.



The court cards are similarly shaking in their boots, with faces and figures distorted at unusual angles, with dashes of watercolour emerging from their edges.



Even the indices cannot escape the distortion treatment. The pips on the number cards have also suffered the effects of a minor artistic earthquake, and repose on the cards in a variety of shapes, sizes, and angles, in what can only be described as a "beautiful mess".



As for the Jokers, these guys have always been the fun-loving characters in the bunch, but in the case of the Distortion deck, they have really become the life of a most unusual party! A double backer and a empty King of Spades bring our dynamic friends to a team of 54.



Despite all the jumbled mess that makes up this deck, there seems to be some order to all the chaos. Not least, the quality of the cards themselves is more than satisfactory, because USPCC has come to the party with their usual quality air cushion finish, to make sure that nobody is disappointed with the handling or durability.

This is a marvellously entertaining deck that despite all the mumbo jumbo, remains functional and usable, and is a delight to the eyes and the heart.



Christmas deck

After our sense of decorum and order has been totally shot to pieces with the Distortion deck, fortunately someone has come along and put all the pieces together again. The warmth of the Christmas season rarely fails to put everyone in a good mood, and Natalia Silva's beautiful Christmas deck arrives to help us with some holiday cheer that will keep us smiling all year round.

I've been a long time fan of Natalia Silva's beautiful folk art style, inspired by traditional Russian art, which has led to several stunning decks. This deck is a result of a collaboration with Penguin Magic, which is acknowledged on the side of the tuck box. This collaboration produced a popular Christmas deck in 2015, and given the huge success of the project, a new deck was created at the end of 2017, which is the one featured here.

The tuck box greets us on the flaps with a "Happy Holidays", and of course the name of the deck: Christmas Playing Cards. Any deck that has a Christmas tree on the front is fairly obviously themed around the annual gift-giving holiday. But not every Christmas tree has a waving Santa on one side and a blushing beanie-wearing penguin on the other!



The back design continues the emphasis of seasonal imagery, with a red and white design with a central snowflake pattern, surrounded by a myriad of other beautiful snowflakes.

Each of the Aces features an oversized pip, adorned with a snowflake design and holly, and a Christmas stocking.



The colour scheme is exactly what you'd expect: a dark green accompanied with a Christmas red.

This deck is full of whimsical and playful images, with Santa, snowmen, reindeer, and penguins all making an obligatory appearance somewhere or other.



But while this deck features 54 unique designs, all different from one another, there is a real sense of order and pattern, with each value depicting one theme. For example, all the Kings depict Santa, all the Jacks depict snowmen, all the sixes depict penguins, and so on.



Some of the images also use transformational pips, such as the Six of Spades, in which the pips have been turned into fish. On other cards the diamonds have become streamers or Christmas lights, and the clubs have turned into musical notes or Christmas trees. The creativity here is a real delight to look at and enjoy.



The two Jokers form a diptych that combines to depict Santa's reindeer pulling his sleigh, closely accompanied with fun-loving penguins.



Two bonus cards are included, both double backers, one with red, and the other with red/green.

Once again USPCC received an invitation to the Christmas party, and they haven't disappointed us, with a beautiful air cushion finish that will ensure that we're happy handling these cards both on Christmas Day and indeed every day of the year.



Views deck

Is your mind ready to be blown? These cards might not quite blow your mind, but they are very likely to twist it into some very weird shapes with its super trippy and yet awesome design. These is the stunning Views deck.

These cards are in a box that itself shows how this deck is full of illusions. You can see the name of the deck (Views Playing Cards) in gold and white hot-stamped letters, but the word Views is broken up into pieces, thus contributing to an optical illusion, with everything jumping around in your vision.



The real optical illusion here, however, is the black background with white dots all over the box. Small shades of a mint green near the dots creates strange patterns in one’s eyes, and looks very confusing and yet very cool!

This deck has been designed from scratch by Yves Krähenbühl, who has done an amazing job on the deck. The back design is a bordered design with the same illusion as on the tuck box, with a black background featuring white dots and a mint green touch. This creates a deliberately confusing look, forcing your your eyes to see various patterns that jump around as you look at the cards, and is especially effective as the cards are moved about.



The Ace of spades is customised to have a spade with red, white, mint green and gold around it, matching the colours of the court cards. The name Views is also beneath the spade.



The courts have been customised to a simple style, with gold pantone metallic ink, and yet are very recognisable and practical, while the gold ensures a rich and memorable look.



The faces are entirely custom, with unique pips and indices. The indices feature a relatively thin font, yet are very readable and usable.

The pips have been slightly customised, and the Clubs and Spades have a circle at the base rather than a triangle, which is a really cool touch.



The two Jokers are the heads of jokers, and seem to almost be mocking the viewer of the deck for having to deal with the confusing nature of this deck.

Included with the deck is also a double backer and a blank faced card for the magicians out there.



The cards have been printed by the USPCC on a crushed Bee stock, meaning they are softer than standard Bee decks, but are still quite snappy and durable. They are also traditionally cut, which aids faro shuffling and other gambling moves.



You will find that these cards catch the attention of anyone who sees them, and they are great for magicians, cardists and collectors. They do work for card games too, but you just might find your head starting to spin after looking at them too long!




TRANSFORMATION DECKS

A transformation deck takes artistic decks to a whole new level. This is a unique deck of playing cards where the pips have been incorporated into a larger artistic image. For example, the five pips on a Five of Hearts might be transformed into five faces that are part of a larger image picturing five people, or they might be five balloon held by a child, or they might be five fish in a pond, or leaves on a tree. Decks where the pips aren't in the expected position/colours are sometimes referred to as semi-transformation decks. Many collectors love these decks, and I count myself among them; they are easily among my favourites, due to the incredible creativity and ingenuity that is required. I'm a huge fan of transformation decks, and have posted a lengthy pictorial article on the subject here.

These kinds of decks enjoyed huge popularity in the 19th century, and also in the late 20th century. Some of the popular decks from that era include several decks by artist Peter Wood, including Teddy Bear (1994) and 2000 Pips (1999). These decks are now rare items prized by collectors, so I was thrilled to discover that together with Newt's Playing Cards, Peter Wood has produced several more semi-transformation decks in recent years, and even better - PCD stocks them!

Wild deck

The Wild deck immediately introduces us to the subject matter, with a tuck box cover that features an animal crew that includes a giraffe, tiger, and parrot. The tuck box opens up to show a bamboo structure covered with leaves, and small details like a ladybug can be found on the flaps.

The text on the box invites us to enjoy the deck as follows: "Can you find the hidden Pips (Heat, Club, Diamond, & Spade) that are transformed into each card?" This deck is subtitled "Hidden Seek-N-Find Animals", or "Wild Animal Hidden Image Playing Cards", due to the hidden images that await discovery inside. There's also a bonus challenge that the deck allows us to discover, as mentioned on the box cover: "Have more fun with the `Where's Woody' Snails that are hidden throughout the deck."



The face cards all have beautiful illustrations of wild animals from around the world, and each card features a different animal with unique artwork. All your favourites are included, including large animals like polar bears, tigers, and whales, dangerous animals like snakes and crocodiles, curiosities like kangaroos and puffins, birds like peacocks and toucans, as well as tiny insects and butterflies.

This deck comes along with two special challenges and hidden treasures. Firstly, each card has pips hidden throughout the artwork. For example, the 7 of Diamonds has 7 Diamond pips cleverly incorporated into the artwork, while the 10 of Spades has 10 Spade pips hidden. Unlike a normal transformation deck, where the pips are deliberately obviously, in this deck these are somewhat hidden and disguised, and it's part of the challenge to find them.



The second challenge that this deck offers is that the deck has tiny snails (Woody) hidden throughout the deck, and your mission is also to find as many as you can. As an example, see the snail crawling on top of the 5 of Clubs.



The court cards and aces aren't given any special treatment, but with this deck I really don't mind, because every single card in the deck has been given the honour normally ascribed only to royalty, and has been given a large picture of its own!



The card backs feature the delightful group of animal friends pictured on the tuck box.



This deck is truly a delight for animal lovers, especially because the artwork is the real focus of every card, enclosed in a rectangular frame with white borders that helps emphasize the picture.

At the same time the indices are all very standard, so when holding a hand of cards you can still clearly see the suit and value of each card, making this a very playable deck at the same time.



The artist, Peter Wood, is an independent artist from the UK, who has created several transformation decks in the 1990s. This deck is one of three that he created specifically for Newt's Playing Cards. One of the card mentions a copyright date of 2003, so if that's when this deck was produced, it's not surprising that it doesn't have the quality Bicycle air cushion finish that we've come to expect from decks in the modern crowd-funding era. These cards have a smooth finish, and while their quality doesn't match that of USPCC playing cards, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they still fanned quite evenly.



Busy Bears deck

The next semi-transformational deck is another Peter Wood design, namely the Busy Bears deck which was published in 2007.

This is another "Seek-N-Find" deck, with the box cover proclaiming: "Can you find all the pips (hearts, diamonds, spades & clubs)?"



Peter Wood had previously published a Teddy Bear deck in 1994, which was inspired in part by the teddy-bear collection of his wife, and showed teddy bears in unusual or unexpected situations, interacting with the pips. This deck is different in that the pips are disguised and hidden, just as with the previous deck, and the aim is to find them in the artwork, where they have been cleverly incorporated.



All the cards picture a "Busy Bear", wearing different types of uniforms and in different work settings and occupations. Examples include the Busy Bear pictured as a firefighter, truck driver, farmer, housewife, dentist, zoo keeper, doctor, forest ranger, librarian, and many more. Each occupation is stated on the card.



An interesting touch with this deck is the inclusion of indices on all four corners of the cards.



Once again the court cards don't receive any special treatment - because every single card in the deck has received special treatment!



It comes with a few "Wild" cards (Circus Clown and Couch Potato) and a couple of ad cards.

This deck has been produced in China, and while the cards are standard poker sized and have clear indices, making them ideal for use in card games, they have a shiny finish with minimal embossing, and so the card quality doesn't compare favourably with a Bicycle style deck. However these cards are best enjoyed by collectors, who will appreciate looking through the card and enjoying the creative artwork. This deck will especially appeal to fans of teddy bears, and to anyone who appreciates the cleverness and effort that has gone into producing the beautiful pictures on each and every card.



Newtropolis deck

The Newtropolis deck is the most recent addition to this collection of transformation decks from Peter Wood. It was probduced in 2014, and is subtitled "Newtropolis & The Fantastic Fur".

The box cover introduces us to a super hero bear, while the back of the box tells us what this deck is about: "Newtropolis and The Fantastic Fur features super heroes & villain bears who have a vast range of special powers! Drawn by UK artist Peter Wood." Each deck has an individually numbered seal, and includes full interior printing with a stylish honeycomb pattern.



It's soon obvious that this is a deck of Heroes versus Villains, featuring features that have a diverse range of unique super powers. The Spades suit represents the Villains, while the Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds all represent the Heroes. The card backs feature a two-way design, with Heroes on one side and Villains on the other.



What inspired this deck are the comic book superheroes that Peter Wood enjoyed in his childhood. He also loves teddy bears, and so the stage was set to combine these two loves in a deck full of superhero and villain teddy bears.

Here are two of the Heroes, with Brain Bear being a central figure to the deck.



Newtropolis is the main city of Hugobia (The Land Of Bears) and the ad copy describes its inhabitants and storyline as follows:

"Newtropolis is the home of a host of powerful and very special teddy bears who have a vast range of special powers. Some are gained from unique circumstances, some from accidents and some from years of dedication to their craft. These 'Super' bears are joined by their desire to rid Hugobia of all evil and wrong. They are divided into 3 main 'factions': The Diamonds, Hearts & Clubs. They are all connected in their battle with evil via Brain (Ace of Clubs) who has the mental ability to contact anyone at any time and read their minds whilst planting his own thoughts within his subjects heads.

All is not well in Newtropolis! Although the 'good' bears in Hugobia derive much of their energy from the honey combs pure honey, there is a mutant strain of this food that was infected many years ago - some say deliberately. For those bears that eat from this source it eats away at their more positive traits and has created the villain 'Spades', which are the sworn enemies of Newtropolis. They also have a wide range of bears with special powers of their own.

And so the battle for Newtropolis begins. Heroes versus Villains. Good versus evil. One lovable hug at a time...but who will win?
"



Some of these are parodies of famous comic book heroes and villains, and you'll enjoy browsing the deck and trying to figure out the original characters that inspired these playing cards. Others have been produced straight from his own imagination.

Here are some of the villains:



Once again this deck is part of the "Seek and Find" series of semi-transformational decks, in which the goal is to find the hidden pips (hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades) on each card.

This deck also includes an extra challenge, because the hexagon - the symbol of Newtropolis - has also been hidden throughout the deck, and it can be fun to try to find all the places where it occurs.



In addition to the expected 52 playing cards, there are two Jokers (The Dealer and The Jester) as well as two bonus Jokers.



I love the vibrant and colourful borders on each of the cards, and also that each card has a text book explaining the character's super powers.

Like the Busy Bears deck, this was produced in China, with an inferior quality to a USPCC deck. The cards don't fan as well as a Bicycle style deck, and don't seem as durable. However for a collector, they should do just fine.




UNUSUAL DECKS

I love a standard sized deck of poker cards that I can use for playing card games, doing card magic or card flourishing. But I also like unusual decks that are not standard. While I'm not likely to use these for the usual purposes, they are great novelty items and discussion points, and are a wonderful addition to a collection. In this section, I'll cover a couple of examples.

Coca-Cola Clear Plastic deck

The Coca-Cola Clear Plastic deck is a novelty for obvious reasons, not least that it is a Coca Cola branded item, and will have immediate appeal for collectors of everything Coke related.

It comes in a durable and hard plastic carrying case with a tab on the side that keeps it closed.



Pictured on the front of the storage case is a six pack of Coke bottles that will return on the card backs. The back of the box indicates that this is an authorized Coca Cola Company product, made in combination with the United States Playing Card Company in 2016.

Here we get our first glimpse of one of the transparent plastic cards we'll find inside the box, with the famous Coke brand being the chief point of interest on the card backs.

Besides the carton of half a dozen Coke bottles in the center of the card, the bottom left corner has a circular red Coca Cola logo, and the top right corner says "yes, Coke". Aside from these printed features, the rest of the card is entirely transparent and see-through.



The faces of the cards are printed with white on the same parts of the plastic that has printed material on the card backs.

The two circular areas on opposite corners function as indices, noting the card value and suit. In the case of the number cards, the area in the center of the card has the actual pips of the card, depicted as a black outline.



Courts cards use an image that depicts royalty, while the Jokers feature a jester's hat.



Not only is the hard plastic box made of a very durable plastic, but the plastic cards themselves are also good quality, meaning that they should stand up well to outdoor usage. You can even get them wet, because the plastic cards are water-proof. So by all means take them outside, and even besides or in the pool!



$100 Bill Foil Deck

While the Coke deck has a high coolness factor, the novelty $100 Bill Foil deck easily surpasses it due to the high level of bling.

This deck comes in either gold or silver, and both the front and the back of the deck box features a $100 bill from US currency, in either gold or silver foil.



The tuck box makes an immediate impression, and looks stunning when it catches the light, especially vibrant strips along the edge. Photos really don't do this beauty justice!

The box is made entirely of foil, so once you pull out the cards, you're left with a sturdy case that is a conversation piece of its own. The backs featuring the same shiny foil artwork and design that is on the tuck box, while the card faces have borders and background that has a rough texture, which ensures that it catches the light from every angle.



The court cards have a traditional look, including the addition of red, blue, yellow and black colours. The pips are relatively standard looking, in red and black, but when you look closely you'll observe that these also have layers of colour, which creates a hypnotic effect when viewed from different angles. All the indices are very functional and clear, ensuring that this deck is actually usable.



Are they actually plated with gold foil leaf or silver foil leaf? Despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to find out quite for sure, but I do know that they look like the real thing, and have the appearance of significant value, even though they are actually quite cheap to buy. So if you're looking to impress people with a luxury look without blowing your budget, this is definitely a deck for you.



As far as handling goes, the cards have a somewhat plastic feel. I suspect that a manufacturing process has been used which adds a thin metallic coating to cover the entire surface of cards which have have a plastic core. Even though it handles differently than a usual deck due to the materials employed in making it, it is not so slippery that it can't be used.



While the cards are bridge sized, they are still very practical. I've both a silver deck and a gold deck, and have used them for poker games, and they have proven surprisingly durable. They certainly have added a real touch of sophistication and bling to the poker table, and been admired by everyone who has seen.

Whether you go for the gold deck or the silver one, both look fantastic. And for just $7 or $8 each, it's hard to go wrong!




CHEAP DECKS (under $5)

You don't have to spend a huge amount of money to get a top quality deck of playing cards. In fact, PCD has a huge range of low-cost decks that are under $5, and yet are high quality playing cards. I've picked two fine examples, but many more decks are available in this budget price range, without sacrificing quality.

Texas Star deck

The Texas Star offers big value, after all, everything is big in Texas. This deck comes from the makers of the Bicycle brand, and is inspired by the colours and imagery of the Lone Star State.



The Texas Star is a key motif in this deck, featured prominently on the front and back of the tuck box, as well as on the card backs, where it resides against the pleasant background of vintage style parchment, creating a look that brings to mind the olden days of yesteryear.

In keeping with a touch of the wild west that is part of the theme, the Ace of Spades features both the name of the deck and a pair of of pistols, ready to fire up some action.



The court cards feature the standard designs, but are reproduced in red and blues, for a whole new look, to fit with the colours of the Texas Star featured on the card backs and tuck box.



The numerical face cards are all standard, but the theme returns with the Jokers, which are made up to look like Wanted posters.



As for the card quality, despite the low price, don't think that short cuts have been taken, because these are top notch playing cards, with the usual air cushion finish from Bicycle. This is a deck that will be right at home in the hands of a magician, or at a card or poker table.



Stargazer deck

Now it's time to head to the night sky, to check out the stunning Stargazer deck from Bicycle.

This deck owes its origin to the Starlight series produced by Collectable Playing Cards. The first Starlight deck featured a colourful pattern of glowing stars, while its sequel Starlight Black Hole took the stellar concept in a new direction, with the card-backs depicting a swirl of glowing stars fading into the dark unknown of a black hole. Further entries in the series included Starlight Shooting Star, Starlight Lunar, and Starlight Solar. The Stargazer deck is a separate product from Bicycle, however, and the stunning silver foil on the tuck box immediately gets us thinking about the sparkle of stars in the night sky.



These decks were designed by Juniardi Satyanagara, and it is the design of the Starlight Black Hole deck that is chiefly responsible for the design of the Stargazer deck, with similar colours and style, although the black hole has been adjusted to a figure eight shape that incorporates two black holes. This swirling shape amplifies a sense of motion when used for twirling, and looks beautiful in fans and spreads, since the colourful artwork here has a full-bleed style. The use of a black canvas as the background of both the card faces and backs gives possibilities for an unusual yet beautiful palette of colours to shine.

The Ace of Spades has a classic shape, but features a galaxy of stars inside the design, as a tribute to the colourful heavenly views seen at night. The artwork on the cards looks like illumined signage, is very eye-catching and appealing.



The design of the border-less and colourful card backs means that card flourishers can capitalize on the colours that go to the very edge of the cards, and maximize the effect of these glowing colours in fans and spreads.



The court cards feature a burst of light touched with purple and pink, that is clearly inspired by a straight forward and classical design that has been transported to a colourful and starry night sky.



As well as adding aesthetic beauty, the colour choices also ensures they can easily be distinguished in dim light. The white, pink, and purple colours work together beautifully against the black backdrop, ensuring that the visual clarity of the indices has not been sacrificed while using an uncommon colour scheme.

While the large pips on the number cards feature a combination of pink and purple colours, the indices use a binary choice of colour, with the traditionally black suits of Spades and Clubs featuring purple pips, and the traditionally red suits of Diamonds and Hearts featuring pink pips.



The matching Jokers look like magnificent visions that have stepped straight out of the night sky!

This deck of playing cards was produced by USPCC, in their standard air cushion finish.




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:
- Novelty decks: Disruption ($13.99), Christmas ($11.99), Views ($17.99)
- Transformation decks: Wild ($9.99), Busy Bears ($9.99), Newtropolis ($8.99)
- Unusual decks: Coca-Cola Clear Plastic ($7.99), $100 Bill - Foil ($7.99)
- Cheap decks (under $5): Texas Star ($4.99), Stargazer ($4.99)




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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If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please consider giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
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Jeff Clarke
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The Disruption deck looks fun. I bought the Stargazer. Love the colors scheme. Thinking of buying the Christmas deck by Natalia Silva. Love her art style.
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elclarkey wrote:
Thinking of buying the Christmas deck by Natalia Silva. Love her art style.

I love Natalia's art style as well, Jeff.

If you like the look of the Christmas deck, you might also enjoy checking out some of her Russian Folk Art decks which I covered in the article below. I especially love her `special edition' deck which has black card faces/backs with yellow/red/green folk artwork.

Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Playing Cards From Russia with Love

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Jeff Clarke
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EndersGame wrote:
elclarkey wrote:
Thinking of buying the Christmas deck by Natalia Silva. Love her art style.

I love Natalia's art style as well, Jeff.

If you like the look of the Christmas deck, you might also enjoy checking out some of her Russian Folk Art decks which I covered in the article below. I especially love her `special edition' deck which has black card faces/backs with yellow/red/green folk artwork.

Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Playing Cards From Russia with Love



I had seen her folk art decks, but I didn't know about the special edition version. Very nice!
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