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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: The LUXX series (Original, Shadow & Palme) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Paul Middleton is the man behind JP Playing Cards, which was founded in 2012, and has rapidly expanded since its inception. A name-change to JP Games is in the works after they have also begun to stock other items like dice, tops, puzzles, and games. But it was Paul's passion for collecting and enjoying luxury playing cards that fuelled the start of his business. Given when he first began involved in the playing card industry, he witnessed first-hand how Kickstarter turned the industry on its head, by helping independent designers and small agencies successfully bring their creative custom playing cards to market, and successfully compete against products from larger companies.


The next step was for Paul to become involved in the creative aspect of the playing card industry himself, and that's exactly what happened when he began working on his vision for a series of LUXX Playing Cards. The LUXX decks were designed to be a series of top tier premium playing cards, and intended to be of the highest calibre. Billed as "Designer Playing Cards in Luxury Packaging", Paul is the one who has put this series together, created and inspired by much-loved patterns and themes. The official ad copy describes it this way: "A luxury brand which will make a beautiful centrepiece of any home card game, or a great idea for those who appreciate a unique gift." Paul described his own vision for the decks as follows: "I wanted to create a brand which was synonymous with luxury, whilst being decks which people actively use." In other words, the series had to look impressive, while remaining functional. From the outset, the intention was to create beautiful and luxurious decks of playing cards that had enough traditional elements to have a broad appeal, that would include magicians, cardists, collectors, poker players, and card gamers.

One of the catalysts for starting the series was the success of Legends Playing Card Company. This established itself as a quality producer of playing cards by means of its in-house Legends decks, and subsequently began to offer a printing service for third-party clients looking for a high end product. Paul saw this as an opportunity to build his own brand, by creating an elegant and stylish deck that was still practical. From the beginning it wasn't his intention to pursue a radical customization that would significantly depart from the well-established contours of traditional designs. Rather, he wanted to work within the framework of a traditional deck, focusing on an aesthetically pleasing card-back design, court cards with some adjustments, along with stylish Aces and Jokers, all packaged together in an impressive tuck box. At the same time, Paul wanted to make sure that these beautiful cards would remain affordable, and so be at a very accessible price-point. The result was the LUXX series of decks, which has four main members in its family: Original/Shadow, Palme, Elliptica, and Greille.

Taking all this a step further is the LUXX Gilt Edge Collection. These decks have been produced with the collaboration of a skilled craftsman in England, who gilds the edges of decks in either gold or silver. It makes these decks absolutely stunning in every way, with an amazingly glamorous look! Let's find out more!



Not all the LUXX decks have been produced in a gilded version with gold/silver edges, but only the following members of the LUXX series: LUXX Shadow Edition, LUXX Palme, and LUXX Elliptica. Although my focus in this review is on the LUXX Gilt Edge collection, for completeness I will cover all the decks in the LUXX series first, and then I will go on to the versions which have gilded edges.


The first of the classy LUXX projects was the Original LUXX: First Edition, which was first released in August 2014, to mark the beginning of this special series of premium luxury decks. It consisted of two versions: Orange and Blue.


The deck was designed by Randy Butterfield of Midnight Cards, and featured lots of swirls and elements of ornate design, both on the card backs as well as on the cards themselves.


Each suit had its own colour that was used for the court cards, while the pips for the number cards had ornate details inside them to give them an elegant and classy look.


The decks were Victorian/Deco inspired designs, and had exquisite looking tuck boxes finished with foil accents in silver/orange and silver/blue respectively.


The LUXX Original is now out of print and not readily available except via the secondary market.


After this successful release, Randy Butterfield created a second lot of decks for LUXX, the LUXX Shadow Edition, which also had two versions, Gold and Silver.

This is considered to be the second edition of the original deck, because it takes its starting point in the original design, but with a darker feel and metallic inks. Black is the dominant colour (replacing the Silver from the First Edition) in order to fit the Shadow theme. Once again it features packaging that is amongst the most glamorous imaginable.


The beauty of these decks begins with the stunning tuck boxes, which are made out of matt black card-stock. The intricate design has been presented with black glossy printing, along with metallic foil accents, gold in one case and silver in the other. This combination of black and gold/silver looks stunning against the backdrop of matt black, and makes an immediate and thoroughly positive impression. The interior of the tuck boxes have a very smooth, polished, and glossy look, which adds to the look of sophistication.

Gold deck

Pictured here is Gold deck. The Ace of Spades is every deck's signature card, and in this case it makes a clear statement of style, with the help of ornate patterns and elaborate line-work.


The card backs have the same design as the original, but now have grey and black tones with silver and gold metallic inks, and the shading is designed to emphasize the visual beauty of spreading and fanning.


The only change to the court cards and pip cards from the first edition is that metallic gold and red ink is used for the suits, instead of using four different colours (one per suit).

The court cards are inspired by the classical design, but have all kinds of elaborate touches to add an element of sophistication and style, such as detailed borders, and a design of dots within the pips themselves.


The colour scheme is also minimalist, to ensure it doesn't detract from the ornate designs, with the spades and clubs court cards depicted in a simple black and gold scheme, and the hearts and diamonds court cards depicted in a simple black and red scheme.


The black and gold of the black-suited court cards complements the card backs beautifully, since these have dark tones emphasized by well-placed gold touches.


The number cards have an instantly recognizable design, but the stylized pips immediately sets these cards apart from a regular deck.


Silver deck

The Silver deck is basically identical to the Gold deck, with the card faces being the same. The only difference is to the accents on the card backs, which have a touch of Silver rather than of Gold.


Like the original, this deck has two extra cards: a Joker, and a poker hand rankings guide.


The details on the card-backs are especially worth studying and enjoying.


Since the First Edition of the LUXX deck had proven more successful than anticipated, a larger print run of this Second Edition (aka Shadow Edition) was produced. Clearly there was a demand for quality and well-priced decks like this, and the larger print run was also intended to make these decks available at an even better price-point.


The LUXX Palme deck is considered to be the second independent design in the LUXX series, and comes in a Red and a Blue version.

This deck was designed by Rick Davidson. By opting for a different designer, Paul Middleton wanted to ensure that this next deck in the series moved in a different direction, and yet retained the signature elements of the LUXX brand: a luxury look, and usable style.


The luxury and class is evident already from looking at the tuck-box, which has gorgeous wrap-around artwork, and an embossed logo accented with beautiful gold foil, while the swirling patterned design also has elements of embossing to add to the sense of quality and the feel of luxury.

The design of the LUXX Palme is inspired by the renowned Paisley pattern. Paisley is an English term (derived from a Scottish town) for designs using the "buta" or "boteh", which is a motif shaped like a droplet or fig. It originates in Persia, but was especially popular in the West in the 18th and 19th centuries. Here are some examples of the signature Paisley shape:


The Paisley shape is already evident on the tuck box of this deck, both on the outside, as well as on the gold style full interior printing that has hints of the same design. But the Paisley motif continues on the full-bleed borderless card backs, which accentuate the flowing design. As well as the signature paisley shapes, the artwork here includes various floral motifs; the main paisley element incorporates a palm leaf and is surrounded by other leaf-shaped designs, all of which add beauty and pattern to the overall design.

Also noteworthy is the fact that instead of using a vivid and sharply contrasting white, the design employs a light beige, and the addition of this yellowed-brown colour gives the impression of a vintage feel, which makes the contrast with the blue and red look more seamless and smooth.


It is especially the Paisley card-back design which is the highlight here, because it looks spectacular when the cards are fanned or spread, creating mesmerizing curves and patterns, regardless of which direction you fan the cards.

One person has gushed about it as follows: "The borderless Paisley design results in some of the best looking fans in the history of playing cards!"


The court cards have a classy and traditional style, but are customized to give the deck its own unique look. The deep red and blues that are used complement the colours used on both card backs, to ensure a consistent and unified overall design, with the other main colours all being shades of gold and browns, to produce a very royal and classy look.


Particularly noteworthy are the split pips, which are highly stylized by being composed of separate pieces, a feature found throughout the entire deck.

The indices use a thin font for the card values, which has an elegant look that matches the split pip design on the cards themselves. As a result, every single card, including the number cards, has a thoroughly customized look.


All the Aces have oversized pips that incorporate elements of the paisley shapes and curves in a gold colour, along with floral features and borders, to create a very rich look. The split pips look especially satisfactory and stylish on these Aces, such as on the ornate custom Ace of Spades shown below.

The Joker returns to the deck's theme with hints of the Paisley again, especially in the character's clothing, which picks up the pattern from the card-backs. Only one Joker is included, while the other extra card is a promo card for the LUXX series, proclaiming "LUXX, a brand of beautiful card decks designed by some of the world's most talented playing card designers."


Here are some more examples of the court cards, featuring the split-pips.


Lawrence Sullivan, the founder of Legends, gives the LUXX Palme deck high praise by describing it as "very subtle and one of the most elegant decks we have ever printed", while the Kardify blog named it as one of the Top 12 decks of 2015.


* * * CONCLUSIONS * * *


Stylish designs: It's very obvious that the LUXX decks of playing cards aren't your average design. The court cards in particular feature some truly beautiful elements and stylish features. This is also true of the card backs, which reflect famous motifs like the Paisley design on the LUXX Palme, or the shiny foil on the LUXX Greille. In their own way, each of these decks feels stylish and unique.

Two designers: Both the LUXX Palme and the LUXX Greille designs were created by Rick Davidson, whereas the Original LUXX (First Edition and Shadow) and the LUXX Elliptica were both created by Randy Butterfield. I'm a big fan of Randy's work, and he's created a wide range of designs that reflects a real diversity of styles - for a comprehensive overview of them all, see my review here. With this series both Rick and Randy have had opportunity to showcase some variety in design, and the LUXX series is all the better for it.

Bordered & borderless: One interesting feature of the LUXX series is how two of the decks are bordered (Original, Greille) while two are borderless (Palme, Elliptica). Both Rick Davidson and Randy Butterfield have each contributed one borderless design to the series, and it's nice to see this kind of variety. While most people might prefer the traditional bordered designs, a deck with full-bleed card-backs that takes advantage of the entire canvas of the card-backs gives new possibilities for design, and has a unique potential to produce elaborate and attractive fans, as is particularly evident with the LUXX Palme deck.

Functional designs: Even though all these decks look very stylish and and refined, they all remain very practical. There's not an excessive degree of customization so that the cards aren't really recognizable anymore. The court cards are very much inspired by traditional designs, and while they have been customized enough to make them look elegant, there remains a very clear connection with the classical style. In addition, the number cards don't have extravagant changes from what most people are used to. The alterations add elegance and refinement, but ensure that the suits and numbers are very readable and clear, whether looking at a card as a whole, or just at the indices.

Legendary tuck boxes: In my estimation, Paul Middleton has made an excellent choice by opting to have all these decks printed by Legends Playing Card Company. When it comes to innovation and luxury in the design of tuck boxes, they are an industry leader. That's certainly evident in the decks in this series, which feature enhancements like embossing, gold foil, and more. A tuck box is your first point of contact with a new deck of playing cards, so it needs to make a positive impression from the outset, and these decks certainly do that. The LUXX Elliptica tuck box immediately confronts you with a rich gold foil pattern, whereas the LUXX Shadow Edition tuck box is darker and yet still very stylish and classy. The LUXX Palme has the wrap-around Paisley design that is its eye-catching signature, while the massive amount of foil of the LUXX Greille is impossible to go unnoticed. In every case, the tuck box makes an immediate statement of refinement and luxury, and impresses from the moment you set eyes on it.

Legendary card quality: Legends Playing Card Company is also renowned for the quality of their playing cards, which they make available in several different finishes: Classic, Elite, Diamond, and Emerald. The LUXX series features examples of the first three of these. With the Gilt Edge Collection, you get one deck in each of these three finishes: The LUXX Shadow Edition features the Diamond Finish, the LUXX Palme the Elite finish, and the LUXX Elliptica the Classic finish, which is also used for the LUXX Greille. The Classic finish is closest to the air cushion finish of a typical USPCC produced deck of playing cards. The Elite finish is similar, but has a different embossing pattern and more papery feel. The Diamond finish has the thinnest card-stock, but is the most durable, and has a great long-lasting snap. All these finishes offer different advantages, and it's largely a matter of personal preference. But one thing is for sure: they are all quality finishes, with crisp, clear, and accurate printing, and durable card-stock, which shuffles and fans beautifully. They also have a diamond cut with super-smooth edges that is significantly superior than any USPCC produced deck. For my thorough reviews on Legends playing cards and their different finishes, see my two feature articles here and here.



Looks: I can't say enough about how amazing the gilded edges look. They have been applied to this deck just beautifully, and clearly this has been done by an expert craftsman who knows what he is doing. It looks absolutely classy, especially when the deck is together as a pile. The gilded edges won't show up that visibly when holding a single card, but look amazing when holding a stack or the entire deck. With nearly all these decks, the gold gilding matches at least one element of card-backs beautifully, and so complements the overall tone of the deck with welcome elegance. The visual impact is significant, and it really adds an extra degree of stylishness and luxury. It especially shines when doing packet cuts - clumps of cards really bring out the best of this deck, and will give you the biggest visual benefit from the gilded edges.

Usable: when I first saw one of the LUXX gilt-edged decks, I imagined it would be consigned to becoming a collector's piece, and that it would be destined to remain in its box in order to preserve its pristine condition. While a gilt-edged certainly can be used that way, it would be a mistake to think that this is its only purpose. Despite its lush appearance, this is by no means a fragile museum piece that cannot be used! You can certainly use it to play games, without fear that subjecting it to shuffling or game-play will ruin it. In fact, I personally believe that actually using a gilt-edged deck for playing card games is one of the best ways to get full enjoyment of a beautiful deck like this!

Handling: The first thing you'll notice with these decks when removing them from the box the first time is that all the cards appear to be stuck together in clumps. That's just a feature of the gilding process, and confirms that the deck has been delivered directly to you from the craftsman who applied the gilding. As a result, you will need to gently pry apart some cards the very first time you use the deck, but that is easily done. One publisher advised the following: "When you decide to break the deck I would first flex the entire deck lengthwise and then just fan the deck slowly, one card at a time, using your thumb to separate any cards that stick together." Once broken in this way, it functions more or less like a normal deck. The handling is affected somewhat, because most of the cards have a tiny lip on the edge. My experienced card flourishing friend was still able to give them a beautiful faro shuffle and lovely cascade flourish without much difficulty, but I expect this could cause cause the gilded edges to wear more quickly. But once the deck is worn, it handles fairly similar to a normal deck, unless you are doing sleight of hand. Because of the gilding, I can't recommend this deck for all kinds of cardistry (although they look beautiful when doing cuts, since these typically involve moving packets of cards!), or for a magician that performs moves relying on sleight of hand - it could be a little less predictable. But aside from that, the gilt edge deck still fans fairly evenly, shuffles well, cuts especially nicely, and for the average person, will function just like a regular deck. I was pleasantly surprised by this, and had expected the gilding to have an even bigger impact on the handling. Evidently the hand process used by LUXX's master craftsman is more effective than a commercial gilder or an automated process.

Durability: To be honest, I wasn't expecting the glossy gold edges on these cards to stand up to a lot of handling. But I wanted to give them a decent trial, so I took one of the decks along on a family holiday, where we used it intensively every day for Cribbage and other traditional card games, and really put it through its paces with heavy shuffling and usage. I was pleasantly surprised how well it stood up! Even after more than a couple of weeks of intense use on a daily basis, the gilded edges still looked shiny and gold. The only real signs of wear were from places where cards had been dropped on a hard floor surface, which would cause visible damage to the edges of cards from any deck. I've read reports of other gilded decks shedding gold specks almost immediately when shuffling, but with these decks the gold gilding didn't flake off while handling the cards or anything like that, but has stood up rather well. Perhaps this is the result of the fact that the decks have been printed by Legends Playing Cards, noted for producing very smooth edges, and that the gilding is the personal handiwork of a master craftsman. So judging from my experience, the gilded edges are very durable, and you shouldn't be seeing any signs of wear after using them a number of times. Expect the luxurious look to last for a decent amount of time, and even though signs of wear will become apparent eventually, my well-used deck still looks impressive.

Gift-worthy: These luxurious decks would be ideal to give away to anyone who enjoys card games, even if they're not a collector. They are all very usable and practical, and yet look incredibly stylish. The ad copy for the Gilt Edge Collection notes the following, which I heartily agree with: "Gilt Edge decks make an absolutely stunning gift for playing card collectors or those that appreciate the finer things in life!"



I knew that these the decks of the Gilt Edge Collection from LUXX would look beautiful, but they have impressed me far more than I could ever have imagined. I expected the gilded edges to look beautiful, of course, and adding gold and silver to the edges of a deck definitely adds a significant look of luxury and class. But I didn't expect this visual beauty to be as durable as it has proved, nor was I expecting the handling of the cards to still be as good as it is. It's hard to imagine a deck of playing cards more stylish and elegant for use in playing games of traditional cards.

What's more, the designs of the LUXX series are creative and attractive, while not departing too far from elements of traditional design, which ensures that they are functional and practical. I can highly recommend the original series for gamers and collectors alike, especially given that they have been produced with a reasonable price-point in mind. And for the person looking for an ideal gift, or for some self-indulgent luxury, you really can't go wrong with the LUXX Gilt-Edge Collection!


Want to learn more?
JP Playing Cards:
LUXX Playing Cards:

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
Standard LUXX decks:
- Original LUXX: First Edition (Orange, Blue)
- Original LUXX: Shadow Edition (Gold, Silver)
- LUXX Palme (Red, Blue)
- LUXX Elliptica (Red, Blue, Green, Purple)
- LUXX Greille (Copper/Black, Silver/Blue)
Gilded LUXX decks:
- LUXX Gilt Edge Collection

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