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Wizard of Oz
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Profile of Wizard of Oz
In case you haven't noticed, there is an abundance of really unique, finely-designed and produced playing cards out there lately, and I for one, am abundantly happy. As a graphic designer and collector, this current tide of boutique decks is right up my alley, but I know there are many folks who think it may be a trend. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't. Either way, I'm glad it's happening. There is no pressure to buy these marvelous packs of art, but in case you are inclined, they are certainly available...and in spades.

So why now? Is it the new technologies in design software, printing technologies, and distribution channels now available for entrepreneurial artists that allows them to more easily design, produce, and sell these custom paste boards? Or is it to feed a genuine demand that has gone unmet for too long?

So my question...could this be a Golden Age of Playing Cards, ("A time of great happiness, success, and achievement" as defined by Merriam-Webster)? Most "Golden Ages" pass unnoticed and are only recognized by future historians. Could we be witnessing one and not realize it?

I'll be the first to poke a hole into my assertion. I'm guessing that very few people outside of the magic community even know that there are so many of these delightful new boxes of wonder available. Probably because they have no way of knowing unless they have a keen interest. So since this is a phenomenon associated with a specific audience (us), is it a legitimate "Golden Age?"

Obviously custom playing cards have been around for decades, but I'm not talking about cards with puppy dogs on the backs, or logos, or graduation pictures. I'm not even talking about classic designs that we've grown to love, (insert your favorite deck here). I'm talking about a legitimate re-kindling of our love for playing cards? A new energy. A new charge to make the most of these 52 little flat jewels.

I feel we are all witnessing a little bit o' golden. What say you?
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Steve Brooks
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I think this could certainly be a time of creativity (in some instances), certainly variety and a lot of new ideas. A golden age? I think that remains to be seen.

While technology has advanced in the printing industry in some respects the quality is not quite the same.

For example, digital processing can make things easier for the artist but you cannot achieve the same depth of quality that the early printers did with stone lithographs and early card decks when plates were carved from wood and stone by hand. In some instances environmental laws have forced large companies like USPCC to change the type of coatings they use on cards, thus the finish is not the same. In many cases the formula (i.e, recipe) for certain finishes have been lost as well.

So, you may have a reissued deck of Aristocrat playing cards that look like they use to back in the day but I guarantee you the cards are not made the same way and certainly do not handle as well as they use too.

In that light you can easily imagine why many collectors would consider the mid 1900's the golden age of cards as opposed to the present.

The bottom line for myself is how you might personally feel about the whole affair - If you think the last twenty years have been the best in playing card history then who am I to argue?

Art, like food is very subjective. Smile

"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
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Profile of sprouts1115
There is talk about this being the golden age of playing cards. is helping to spearhead this. The USPCC even has a "Kickstarter Custom Deck" pamphlet. I think they changed the minimums in 2009. For Bicycle stock, it's 2500 and for Bee stock it's 5000. They only have two finishes Embossed and Smooth. They have streamlined their production to be more efficient, but now we have limited choices. Bicycle/Embossed, Bicycle/Smooth, Bee/Embossed, Bee/Smooth
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Profile of foolsnobody
The Golden Age of Playing Cards were the 1960s to the early 1980s when I could get Bicycle Fan Backs, Aristocrats with their original colors, Blue Ribbon, Bicycle Racer Backs, and a better quality card all around without paying a premium for it because they *all* were "traditional cut" with symmetrical borders. Other brands as well.And if you were a Schulien you bought the cheap Aviators by the gross and they were an excellent card for the money.

What is going on now is marketing B.S. pure and simple...or not so pure and not so simple depending how you look at it.

Just my not-so-humble opinion.
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Profile of challengedmichael
I have to Agree with the well stated opinion of Foolsnobody.
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Profile of Stanyon
On Jun 12, 2014, challengedmichael wrote:
I have to Agree with the well stated opinion of Foolsnobody.

Let me second that.


aka Steve Taylor

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Profile of Chessmann
Depends on what someone's criteria is.

For variety of design, which is truly unparalleled, there is no doubt we are currently in a golden age. Personally speaking, I love the variety. If one wants to call it marketing bs, fine. A demand is being filled, which is leading to incredible variety and choice, which I think is a positive. Actually, the USPCC has recently changed their stock to a higher quality. I don't know yet if this will trickle all the way down the standard Bikes and Tallys you can find at the local drug store, but it will the standard for all custom decks. I don't know when the actual switchover took place (or, will take place), or when we'll see the first decks with them. I'll wager competition is behind the switch.

If the overall quality of cut and finish is the main thing, 60's - 80's would be the golden age.
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Tim Cavendish
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Profile of Tim Cavendish
And yet didn't magicians turn away from Bicycle cards for a span in the 70s-80s due to quality issues?

Didn't Bicycles have problems with finish and pale back colors during that time?

Isn't that why the literature from that period shows a lot of Fox Lake, Aviator, Hoyle cards?
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