One of the more bemusing trends I’ve encountered while trawling through Kickstarter for playing cards is the tendency towards absurdly elaborate, often literally jewel-encrusted, tuck boxes. 

“Wow,” I say, as I read how many tons of gold foil are layered around the cardboard box the cards come in, “that’s a lot of time and effort put into something that’s going to end up abandoned under my bed.”

Like a lot of aspiring (and actual) magicians, I prefer my cards to hang loose – to go commando as it were. I have a few tuck boxes on hand for gimmicks that require them, but most of the time my decks are allowed to graze free-range around the house. Fortunately, the geniuses over at Ellusionist are willing to cater to my hedonistic naked deck ways. 

Reloads are just decks of cards that come in a simple cellophane wrap instead of a traditional tuck box. That change knocks about 45% off the price. Right now Reloads are only available for Sea Green Keepers, but that’s okay because Keepers are great. 

What are Keepers?

Adam Wilber’s Keepers, in my humble estimation, are better Bicycles. Designed with performers in mind, Keepers have standard fronts save for the ace of spades and the club royals and beautiful, light-house themed backs that are meant to pass for Bicycle’s gold standard at a glance (the Rider Backs that is, not the awful, custom flaming mariachi skeleton special editions people with bad taste can’t get enough of). 

The key difference is that Keepers are thinner, a little firmer, sharper (no joke, I’m fairly certain I could cut someone’s throat with one of my Keeper Blues), and infinitely tougher. The only downside is they cost about three times as much as Bicycles. Reloads kind of solve that problem. The introductory price puts the Sea Green Keeper Reloads at just $3.50 a deck. That’s close to Bicycle territory. Buy 12 or more and the price gets knocked down to $2.98 a deck. That’s not “oh yeah check out my 400 Bicycle deck bulk order,” cheap, but it’s cheap for a deck this good.

I would totally be stocking up right now, only I live in the UK and shipping is a thing. That being said, this is a great deal for a supply of cards that will last you ages. Here’s hoping Ellusionist starts to offer other decks in this new naked format. 

“The more playing cards that are put out there, they expose themselves, they expose the industry,” says magician, former card-cheat, and playing card salesman, Daniel Madison. “There’s no governance.”

He says this in an artificially grainy, black and white YouTube video released to promote DISCONNECT, a documentary in which Madison responds to telephone calls from people who’ve bought one of his products. The low-fi, art house authenticity of the video is only slightly diminished by the music video from Sia’s Elastic Heart playing on a laptop in the background. My eyes keep being drawn to Shia LaBeouf’s jiggling buttocks and I regularly have to rewind to listen to Madison’s unrestrained truth bombs.

“You can make the sh*ttiest deck of playing cards and just release them and people will or won’t buy them,” he continues. “The point is you can do it. I f**ked around so much towards the end of my career by releasing the most ridiculous playing cards just to f**k with the industry and have a little fun. I released a blank deck of playing cards for f**k’s sake.”   

Yes, the playing cards industry has low barriers to entry and is filled with secondary businesses looking to make a buck printing anything anyone is willing to pay for, thus a lot of decks are awful. I know, I wade through hundreds of them for each instalment of Kickstarter Cards.

What’s more interesting is Madison’s apparent suggestion that while other people release bad decks as a quick cash grab, any bad decks bearing his name – with the exception of Madison Blanks which were quite clearly a joke – were made to “f**k with the industry,” like a playing card version of Duchamp’s Fountain.  

Whether or not the people who bought any of Madison’s products were supportive of his disruptive goals is a bit unclear, of course. Maybe they just liked the cards.


VIEWS’ optical illusion back design is eye-catching beyond belief, but it’s not the only thing this slick, entirely custom deck has to offer. 

Both the courts and the pips are sleek and visually flat, a pleasant contrast to the illusory lumps and bumps of the white and mint backs. The deck is printed on crushed Bee stock and, according the lucky gremlins over at Kardify who’ve gotten their sticky mitts on a sample, handle perfectly. 

Just released on is Views Playing Cards! This trailer for Views was made by @PaulRobaia, and it features Dan Buck (@danielmbuck) and Paul Robaia. Produced by @gotmagic, these cards are a one of a kind. The back design features a beautiful mint undertone offset underneath a series of white dots; the design creates the feeling of looking at an illusion. The face cards are entirely custom, and the court cards, in particular, are modernized and feature a stunning mint and metallic gold color (in addition to red and black). The box has been gorgeously crafted on a vintage Heidelberg Press. It features 3 foils including gold, white, and green on premium, Plike paper. Available on now. If you want your photo to be featured on our page, tag it @artofplay. #artofplay #cardistry #playingcards #bestcardistalive #magic

A post shared by Art of Play® (@artofplay) on

The tuck is crafted out of synthetic soft-touch paper and decked in hot-stamped white and mint foil.

A deck of VIEWS will cost you US$14.97 at Got Magic? or $15.00 at Art of Play. So it really comes down to which company has better shipping to your place.

David Blaine’s latest deck of cards, Stoics, hit the market today and word on the street is they’re great. One deck will cost you US$15, but for just 24 hours, you can pick up an entire brick (that’s 12 decks, for the uninitiated) for just $90. A quick bit of cutting-edge-journalism (elementary maths) tells me that’s a saving of $90 off the regular price of $180. Fifty percent, in fact.

The brick comes in a simple black box. Covered in art paper and stamped with silver foil, it’s a nice contrast against the stark white tuck boxes within. 

The cards themselves are largely understated and mostly standard save for the usual Blaine quirks we’ve come to expect – I’m not sure any other magician could get away with putting his own face on the King of Spades. The card are printed by the Expert Playing Card Company on JN Finish stock, which, according to the deck’s shop page, is the closest you’ll get to the feel of those insanely expensive Jerry’s Nugget decks. 

 You can get a deck or a brick of Stoics at the David Blaine Shop. 

Kickstarter Cards with Carter is our regular column about playing card Kickstarter campaigns. Remember, Kickstarter pledges are not pre-orders and results are not guaranteed.

I know you’re looking at that skeleton at the top of the page with a very confused look on your face. Trust me, everything will become painfully clear soon enough.

Masquerade by Brain Vessel Creative (printed by USPCC)

The latest Kickstarter venture by Brain Vessel Creative (Bones, Sea Creature, Seven Seas) is a collaboration with award-winning artist and sculptor, Denyse Klette. The campaign is looking for US$13,000 and is just shy of half way there already. 

Klette’s known for her bright pastel portraits and fashion mag-style cartoons in which playfully exaggerated models in giant sunglasses sip lattes in French cafes. She’s an unashamedly “girly” artist, and her work on Masquerade is no exception. It’s very much a wine and handbags kind of deck, with hand-drawn pips and abstract royal faces hidden in foliage. Think Picasso by way of Teen Vogue

The regular version of Masquerade will be printed in grayscale, with splashes of red for the hearts and diamonds. A delightfully gaudy, full-colour, Mardi Gras Edition of the deck will also be released if the campaign reaches a stretch goal of US$34,000. 

A Masquerade deck will cost you $15 with free shipping inside the US. There are other goodies, such as deck pouches, coins and pins on the deck’s Kickstarter page. The campaign will run until May 1st.

Nervous by Kevin Keeney (to be printed by MPC)

This deck’s jack is a stretched stock image of a 90’s CGI skeleton wearing a baseball cap. 

I’d love to just end this segment there, with the promise that skeleton Jack’s poorly photoshopped hat is a design nadir from which Nervous nimbly recovers, but there honestly isn’t a single element of this deck that isn’t questionable. The custom pips feature more unsightly stock art gracelessly forced into awkward sigils, the index typeface is both ill-suited to the deck’s theme and touches the edge of the cards in the higher ranks, the art for the queen seems to have come from a different artist compared to the rest of the deck and the King is just hilarious, with his ridiculously square jaw, flattened cranium and perilously low crown that hangs in front of his eyes. One of the Jokers features a brain and nervous system that’s been stretched horizontally to fill out space and the other an artistic interpretation of a neuron that literally extends off the edge of the card. And just try not to turn the cards over because the backs look like what you’d see if you looked through a child’s kaleidoscope into a flashlight.

You can have all that for a mere US$12 plus shipping. If the campaign reaches its $4,317 goal, Mr. Keeney will be able to license the stock art he’s using for commercial use. 

Solstitium by Collectable Playing Cards

What comes to mind when you think about the life-giving importance of the sun? I really hope it’s gold foil.

Such is the power of gold foil that the Kickstarter campaign page for Solstitium spends most of its space showing you every possible (CGI) angle of the deck’s gold-foil encrusted tuck box. To be fair, the box is quite nice, featuring a deep red background and an image of the sun (rendered in foil that is gold) on its front and back. There are presumably some playing cards inside this opulent container, but this deck is designed by Collectable Playing Cards, and the thing about collectable playing cards is you’re not supposed to open them. 

The cards look pretty good. The backs have the same sun design as the tuck box, albeit without that all important GOLDEN FOIL, and the circular motif continues in accents around the fronts. The royals are custom across the board, with the only real standout being the Jack of Diamonds, who looks like a man carrying two watermelons while wishing he had three.

The Kickstarter campaign for Solstitium is looking for $14,000 and, as expected, has no stretch goals, variants or uncut sheets. The lowest pledge tier that includes a tuck box (and cards if you want them) is $15 with free shipping inside the US. 

Canvas by Ben Heirbaut (printed by Cartamundi) 

A custom deck of playing cards, designed for cardistry with paintings by cloudkid. A fresh and new concept.  

No. No. Nope. Hold your horses, mate. Your deck of cards does not get to be a deck of, “playing cards,” if the only game you can play with them is the world’s most boring game of Snap. 

I mean, it’s quite nice as far as not-playing cards decks go. The card backs are appealing, even if there are exactly twice as many of them as there should be, and yes, Cartamundi’s B9 finish is very nice. 

Canvas’ Kickstarter Campaign is looking for €7,000. A single deck will run you €13 plus another €10 in shipping. The campaign ends on May 2nd. 

 Now get off my lawn.

If you’re planning to Kickstart your own deck, drop us a line and we’ll feature it here.   

Kickstarter Cards with Carter is our regular column about the latest playing card Kickstarter campaigns. Remember, Kickstarter pledges are not pre-orders and results are not guaranteed. 

Sakura (printed by HCPC)

Designer Francis Garcia’s claim that Sakura is the first completely pink deck isn’t quite true, but his cherry blossom themed cards are striking nonetheless. Decked entirely in mild pinks, Sakura boasts custom courts, with beautiful abstract royals, a custom ace of spades, a cherry blossom petal joker, and a deliciously retro tuck box. Aimed at cardists with more subtle tastes, the deck is printed on luxury thin stock with a “legendary finish.” The Kickerstarter campaign has just about reached the half way point of its US$5,000 goal and will end April 28th. The cheapest tier that comes with a deck is $12 with free shipping to the US and Taiwan. $35 will net you one deck and an uncut sheet. 

One of three Kickstarter campaigns launched today by playing card and playing card accessory retailer, TCC Playing Cards (Edge, Essence, Bicycle: Dead Soul), Wolfram is about as basic as decks get. “Featuring” mostly blank card backs and standard fronts with the exception of a geometric joker, Wolfram is obviously relying on presentation to turn heads. Each deck comes with a minimalist black, white and red tuck box, a secondary card case with a slide apart design and a presentation box with a wax stamp. There’s no info on which company is printing the cards, only that they’re made in Taiwan and that they’re limited to just 1000 units, only 300 of which will be available on Kickstarter. The Wolfram set will run you US$20 plus shipping with an estimated delivery date of May, 2018. The campaign is already funded and will end on April 25th.

Flexible (printed by USPCC)

While Wolfram was all about fancy presentation, TCC’s second Kickstarter offering, Flexible, is taking a very different approach. This deck is cheap, people. Available in black and red variants, Flexible, costs just $2.99 plus shipping, a price that’s reflected in the deck’s barebones design. Featuring simple black or red card backs bisected by white lines, and the usual custom jokers and ace of spades, Flexible isn’t going to be winning any design awards, but if you’re in the market for a cheap and cheerful cardistry deck for tooling around with, this’ll do.    

It’s a plastic box to put your cards in.

And there we have it. A very… minimalist Monday. If you’re planning to Kickstart your own deck, drop us a line and we’ll feature it here. 

Designed by sleight-of-hand artist, magician, and “young entrepreneur” Noah White, the Seraphim deck is an exercise in monochrome minimalism that, unfortunately, only ships within the US. The deck’s Kickstarter campaign is looking for US$7,500.

The Seraphim card backs have a sleek, one-way design which produces some fantastic effects during flourishes and fans, as demonstrated by White himself in the video above. The fronts are standard, save for a winged Ace of Spades and a pair of red and gray jokers that add a splash of color.

The deck will be printed by the United States Playing Card Company on thin crushed stock and comes with a few extra features for you magician types. There’s a duplicate Jack of Spades, a two of diamonds mark on the tuck flap and the cards come in Mnemonica order. On the subject of the tuck box, it’s been tweaked since White shot the promo video. The new design features a black box with a white logo and looks very fine indeed. 

The Seraphim Luxury Playing Cards Kickstarter will run through to April 19th. The lowest pledge tier that earns you a deck is $12 plus $5 shipping. Uncut sheets will be made available if the Kickstarter reaches a stretch goal of $8,000. 

I’m going to be honest, folks, my heart’s not in the pun game when it comes to this deck. There’s just something very dignified about the Wind Rose deck, and I feel like I’m sullying it with my amateurish attempts at lexical tomfoolery. Okay. I’ll just remove all the puns in the next draft…

Okay, so now that’s out of my system, the Wind Rose Playing Cards – White Edition Kickstarter went live earlier today and is looking for $15,431. Designed by Antony Carvelli (Plexus), the deck is an elegant, white and gold ode to the wind charts of old. The card backs depict a wind rose surrounded by Greek patterns and accents. The Greek theme continues throughout; each of the suits is matched with a cardinal direction of the wind and a figure of Greek myth. The jokers feature a ship’s wheel. 

Wind Rose will be printed with metallic ink by the United States Playing Card Company on their premium quality card stock. The tuck box will be debossed and printed with gold foil.  

The Kickstarter for Wild Rose ends on April 19th. The lowest pledge that comes with a deck costs roughly $12 plus shipping, but that’s an early bird price limited to just 50 customers (40 remain at the time of writing). After those pledges are gone, it’ll cost you $14 plus shipping for a deck. A pledge of $43 will net you an uncut sheet, but only five of those remain as of right now. 

As a rule, I’m all about the minimalism when it comes to decks (like this amazing cardistry deck I wrote about earlier today) but I’ll go for busier decks if they’e pretty, and the Bicycle Stained Glass Phoenix deck is very, very pretty. 

The card designs are rich and intricate, and clever color choices give the effect of light filtered through stained glass. The card backs depict two phoenixes emerging from the sun, drenched in hazy reds and lush oranges, while the fronts feature custom faces and numbers in black and green juxtaposed against cool blues. The way the card fronts dim to black towards the upper and lower edges is particularly brilliant.   

The deck has already been approved by the United States Playing Card Company for printing and, since the Kickstarter is already successful, are expected to start shipping out in May. Since this is a Bicycle joint, I wouldn’t expect these cards to be Kickstarter exclusive for very long, if at all, but Kickstarter prices are always a little cheaper than retail in my experience. Rumor has it that GeniiOnline editor and fledgling cardist Susan Arendt has already laid down the cash for one of these beauties.  

The Kickstarter will continue until April 15th, but there are no stretch goals in place. The cheapest pledge that includes a deck will cost you US$11 plus shipping. A pacl of six decks will run you $55 plus shipping. There are no uncut sheets, unfortunately.  

Diva Playing Cards is an upcoming deck with one goal in mind, making your cardistry flourishes as eye-popping as possible. Okay, it also has a Kickstarter goal of, like, eight-and-a-half grand, but it’s mostly just the eye-popping thing. 

Launched on Saturday by designer, UI developer, and cardistry enthusiast Alex Matencio, the Diva Kickstarter is already just shy of half way to its US$8,590 goal with 90+ backers thus far.  

Matencio’s background UI is a pretty obvious influence on Diva. The deck design is strongly reminiscent of the “material design” design language used by the likes of Google and Microsoft, but also draws from Parisian street art and even classic sculpture  Featuring bold colors, sharp squares and precision curves in an exact grid layout, the card backs are organized chaos and really pop from a distance. The royals and aces use the same principles to make shapes that are abstract, but instantly recognizable. The pips on the number cards are tight and centered, giving the fronts a lot of white space for contrast against the colorful backs.  

Similar attention to detail is employed in the printing. Assuming the deck reaches its Kickstarter goal (which is more than likely), it’ll be printed on B9 True Linen Finish by Cartamundi. A stretch goal of roughly $11,000 will unlock a fancier Touch finish. The deck will also come in a matte tuck case.  

The Diva Kickstarter ends on April 17th. The cheapest pledge that includes a deck is about $13 plus shipping. A pledge of $20 will get you an uncut sheet, but no regular deck.