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Rare. adjective. Not found in large numbers, and so of interest or value. Not occurring very often. Unusually good or remarkable.

When it comes to playing cards, what's not rare are the "ordinary" decks of playing cards most of us see and perhaps use all the time. You can find these in abundance at your local department or corner-store. But what about an artistic deck of custom playing cards that is truly beautiful and artistic, produced only in small quantities? These are the kind of rare items that you'll find being sold by online retailer Rare Playing Cards. They sell hundreds of stunning decks, ones that are not easily found or purchased elsewhere, and are typically of high quality card stock, with unique and beautiful designs.

But high quality playing cards aren't the only thing that can be rare. The same is true of animals, particularly in our modern world, where urban development at time threatens the habitat and homes of various animal species, some of which are facing very real threats for survival, and becoming increasingly rare. There are also animals which are not under threat as such, but nonetheless are rarely seen. When is the last time you saw a walrus, a water buffalo, or a crocodile? Exactly. For most of us, that's rare.

In this review, I want to take a journey with you to check out the beauty of some rare playing cards. And in keeping with the "rare" theme, let's especially take a trip to the animal world, to see if we can find some decks of playing cards that give us the opportunity to enjoy some of the beautiful animals that we might rarely see in normal life. Now let me warn you in advance: expect some gushing enthusiasm! I love decks of playing cards like these, and I love the fact that I can get them at a one-stop-shop online. They've made great gifts for family and friends, both gamers and non-gamers alike, and they also make great prices for tournaments. So let's get our tour started, hop into our online safari bus, and get started!



From lions and tigers we go to another animal at risk, and it's perhaps one you wouldn't expect: Bees.

The Bumble Bee deck from Ellusionist pays tribute to the humble bumble bee. As they point out: "Bees are more necessary to growing food than tractors are. We are dependent on their ability to pollinate the food we need to eat. We should be bowing down to thank the honey bee every day we find ourselves alive. Instead, we load their little bodies with a witches brew of pesticides which have caused "CCD"...Colony Collapse Disorder. Whole hives are wiped out almost instantly. "


Our package gets us buzzing immediately, courtesy of a sweet looking tuck box. But how big is the problem? According to the creators of this deck, 10 million hives have been wiped out in the past 6 years, in what they call a "Beemageddon". Clearly these little insects need all the help they can get!

But all is not lost - the Bumble Bee deck has been designed to help the plight of the bumble bee. 10% of all profit generated by the Bumble Bee decks is donated to support honey bees via the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since 2015, Ellusionist has raised over $16,000 in funding towards the sustaining of bees.


The card-backs feature a very intricate design on a faded and antique style background, one that bees would certainly feel at home in - in fact two of them have a home right in the middle of the card.

And if you want to join the rest of the swarm, then just head over to the Ace of Spades, where there's a hive ready to go.


I love the simple colour choices - completely bee friendly of course - and the somewhat vintage 1800s look is completely in keeping with the environmental theme of the deck.

I especially appreciate the way that the pips have been done on the corners of the cards, with the spades in yellow highlighted against bumblebee black.


The court cards also have a very earthy and unpolished look, that celebrates our connection to nature.


But it's the indices that really makes fanning the card look beautiful. The red suits have indices with white pips against a red background, to distinguish them clearly from the black suits, ensuring good functionality.


Both Jokers offer educational reminders about the vital role of bees as pollinators.


Others have described the handling better than I could: they are smooth and sweet like honey, with card-stock that will make you buzz with excitement, stinging the mind, and handling like butter!


Inside and out, this is a beautiful deck, and it's a great cause too.


But not every bee is entirely innocuous, even if bees do need protection!

The Killer Bees deck pays homage to a hybrid breed that is a mutant mixture between the friendly European honeybee and their less friendly cousins in Africa.


This stylish deck begins making an immediate impression with its matt black tuck box, with gold foil accents. But lurking beneath the humble black and yellow exterior is some killer material inside! A glimpse of the potent and sleek design of the card-backs should give some indication of what is in store.


This deck is all about killer bees. The Africanized honey bee was introduced to Brazil in the 1950s to build up the production of honey, but 26 swarms escaped quarantine in 1957, and the dangerous species has since spread throughout North and South America. They've killed around 1000 humans, with the amount of stings they give their victims being tenfold what their European counterparts impart. They've also killed horses and other animals.

Sounds nasty! And so is this deck. As the creators of this deck put it: "We wanted to capture the darker bodies of these cold-face killers in our deck. Creating a harsh black back with toxic-waste yellow honeycomb spilt on the back."

The card-backs have a striking geometric honeycomb design.


The court cards emphasize the simple black and gold colour scheme (with white for the opposite coloured suits) with sharp lines and lots of empty space.


The number cards employ a similar formula of minimalism, while yet ensuring that the suits are sufficiently distinguished, and that the red and black suits won't quickly become confused. The creators describe it as a "sinister simplicity - like something you'd expect to see on a discarded barrel of methylamine".


The result is a very dark looking deck, where the cards work together to create a powerful impression together, which may even sting you with surprise.


The Aces are superb examples of the greatest minimalism possible, but even they can swarm together to impress.


The Jokers get in on this act with some killer moves of their own, in a homage to the vital role that bees play in pollination, while recognising both the well and woe that they can bring to humanity.


And all this elegance is brought together in a smooth looking package with a wrap-around honeycomb design.


The Killer Bees deck is a great choice for cardistry, with its sleek look and minimalist colour choice, or anything that requires something flashy and stunning. People just love the geometric shapes and bee theme. And reviews on the design and handling have been consistently positive.

But what else would we expect from an Ellusionist deck? As our friends at Ellusionist would have us believe: "Killer Bees are the result of an unsanctioned lab experiment when toxic-waste spilled into a delicate hive of Honey Bees. Get them before they get you."



So are these animal themed decks from Rare Playing Cards something for you?

If you're looking for an unusual or high quality deck of playing cards, the selection you'll find at Rare Playing Cards is so vast, that it even includes some of the exotic and rarely seen beasts like the ones pictured above. Some of them are breath-takingly beautiful, and I am especially excited about the artwork of the 17 year old prodigy in the new GAIA deck. But I'm glad that this artistic and creative talent is combined with elegance in design, with decks like the Chameleon deck and Killer Bees deck breathing luxury inside and out. Others, like the Animal Kingdom deck and Little Atlantis deck, have more of a whimsical feel.

At the same time, all these decks are excellent quality in terms of card-stock and handling. Rare Playing Cards only stocks playing cards with a high standard of quality that matches the creativity and style of the artwork and design, such as those printed by US Playing Card Company or Legends Playing Card Company; printers which have an established reputation for the best quality in playing cards.

Like most people, I love nature and animals, and so it's beautiful to discover decks of playing cards that showcase the magnificence of these precious creatures, and in some cases even give financial support to sustaining them in years to come. Such rarities deserve to be preserved for future generations, and these rare playing cards help us honour these wonders of the natural world. I'm very pleased to to recommend the decks I've featured in this review!


What to learn more? Check out Rare Playing Cards

Direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Wild Animals: GAIA Playing Cards and Animal Kingdom Playing Cards
- Unique Animals: Mantecore Playing Cards and Chameleon Playing Cards
- Flying Animals: Bumble Bee Playing Cards and Killer Bee Playing Cards
- Underwater Animals: Little Atlantis Playing Cards


BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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