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Something for Everyone

I've previously written a couple of reviews about playing cards from Legends Playing Card Company (here and here), where I stated that I considered them to be an industry leader, capable of producing playing cards on par with big name producer United States Playing Card Company (USPCC). Since then, I've had the opportunity to try a lot of different decks of playing cards, from both USPCC and Legends Playing Cards, and I've had to adjust my conclusions somewhat. Legends PCC is not on par with USPCC - but considerably better!

The man behind Legends Playing Cards is Hong Kong magician Lawrence Sullivan. Lawrence is more than just a magician, a businessman, and producer of playing cards. He's also a perfectionist, this pursuit for perfection lies at the heart of his success with Legends Playing Cards. His relentless passion for producing the absolute highest standards in every respect accounts for playing cards that are the very best you'll see, starting from amazing looking tuck boxes, to the quality of the playing cards themselves. In this series of reviews, I'm covering another half a dozen great decks from Legends, along with some of their accessories, to show that they truly have something for everything. I hope others will enjoy these great decks as much as I do!


*** SECRETS: For the Magician ***

Yes, magicians definitely have their secrets, and one of them is a marked deck of cards. Having said that, most magicians prefer to work with a standard deck, and have developed such skills with sleight of hand that you can hand them an ordinary deck of quality playing cards and they can work miracles with it. But once in a while, there's a need to perform miracles of an extraordinary nature, and marked decks give that possibility - as long as they used simply for entertainment purposes, and not for gambling or anything illegal! In other words, the specialized decks featured below are something I'd only recommend as suitable for someone who performs serious card magic.


Like the Sharps deck coming up next, the Cadenza Playing Cards is a rare deck with a secret marking system built in.

Produced in two colours (vintage blue and vintage red), only 700 of each were printed. This deck comes from comedy magician NKW (Ng Ka Wai), who is based in Hong Kong. The name Cadenza originates in the world of music.


There's a lot of unique features with the Cadenza deck, and it starts with the tuck box, which is made from a special water-proof and tear-proof synthetic paper.

I haven't tried tearing it apart yet, or taken it swimming, but the material sure feels unique enough to take the publisher's word on the fact that it's going to be long lasting and durable - as this brave picture of the deck being immersed under a stream of water from a running tap also demonstrates!


But the star attraction of the Cadenza deck is the rare secret that has been woven into the floral back design, which has a timeless look and feel.


More than just classic beauty has been poured into this design. In addition there's another important ingredient secrecy. There are in fact several marking systems that have been incorporated here, two of which work independently to give the key to the card's identity (one is UMD style, the other is Boris Wild style).

To unlock these secrets, owners of the deck can scan the QR code on the tuck box to get access to a 50 page eBook that will teach you all you need to know. Not only does this explain all the features of the deck, but it has an amazing amount of content, including some suggested ideas for tricks and routines.


A third marking system indicates each card's Mnemonica number. The deck is shipped in Mnemonica order, and those familiar with this system can put it to work straight from the box.

Magicians will also appreciate the two gaff cards that come with each deck:
- The blue deck includes a double facer and a queen with unique artwork that includes a 4 of Clubs card reveal.
- The red deck includes a double backer and a `Banker wins' gaff card (ideal for the close of a Monte effect).


The court cards and pips employ a soft burgundy colour instead of the usual harsh red, and the use of a soft grey instead of the usual garish blue results in a more sophisticated look, while still retaining the classic look and feel of a traditional deck of playing cards.

Two Jokers are also come with this deck, both with custom art-work that hints at their Jester-like nature, at the same time offering a reprise of the floral card-backs, similar to the Ace of Spades.


The snappy and high quality Diamond finish for this deck will ensure that it is long-lasting, and will perform well even in humid conditions.


I've seen comments from other magicians on this deck, and they are unified in their praise for this deck, some considering it the best marked deck available.



The Sharps Playing Cards is an extremely unique and also a rare deck of playing cards. Three different colours were released, with only around 300 of each: Blue, Green, and Red.


The tuck box has a textured matt feel that immediately reveals quality.

It also showcases Legends' skill in creating exotic tuck boxes, with the die-cut design on the back of the tuck box being of particular interest. This design cleverly reveals a Lawrence Sullivan monogram that is on the center of card backs themselves.


In addition there's an artistic and clever Lawrence Sullivan ambigram on the old-school styled over-sized tuck box flap.

Why all the self-referential elements? Well, from time to time Legends produces an in-house deck to showcase some of their new technologies and to expand their product line in new directions. That's why the Sharps deck has such a highly stylized and impressive tuck case, with many signature elements. But this in-house produced deck was also a landmark for Legends: it has the distinction of being the very first deck produced in Legends' Classic Finish, which would subsequently become one of their more popular finishes, with a paper stock that has a higher degree of embossing than their Diamond Finish, and a feel more similar to the paper stock of a standard Bicycle deck.


The overall look of this deck was inspired by David Blaine's famous and very popular White Lions deck, and that's evident already from the tuck case, and continues on the card backs. These repeat the Lawrence Sullivan monogram in a tiled design (a similar idea to the "db" on David Blaine's deck), along with thin borders. Unlike many USPCC produced decks, these narrow borders are consistent and beautifully precise, to complete a classy look.


But hidden secrets lie within for the initiated. These decks are the result of an extremely difficult printing process that required extensive experimentation to get right: a printing of white on a white `shade'. This means that parts of the cards have an additional white printing that is very difficult to detect unless you know how and where to look.

Dubbed a "Shade" pattern, the system employed here is more about the hues on the back design than obvious marks, and it will take time to train yourself to notice the small and subtle colour changes that are key to this deck's secrets. It's a devious system that even the usual "riffle" test of taking a deck to the movies won't reveal. In fact, many people own this deck without even realizing it is a marked deck - that's how clever it is!


There's nothing too unusual about the face cards, which are standard, with the exception of the signature Ace of Spades.

There's also a single card with a blank face, and a single Joker. As with some other in-house decks from Legends, the Joker features a Dragon. In this case the dragon is enclosed within a diamond shape, and also has a nice card reveal that magicians will appreciate.


All in all, the Sharps is a very classic looking deck, and yet it has a high degree of sophistication. As an extra bonus, if you master the key that unlocks its secrets, in the hands of an experienced and smooth magicians it can perform wonders.



So what is it that makes Legends Playing Cards stand out, and why am I convinced that their decks of playing cards aren't just a match for industry giant United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), but significantly better? Here are some reasons and conclusions:

Legendary tuck boxes: For Legends, a tuck box is your first experience with a deck of playing cards, and so Lawrence is constantly stretching the boundaries of what is possible, and experimenting with new technologies and ideas to make them the most classy and beautiful that they can be. For him, foil accents and embossing are just the beginning of this quest for elegance, innovation, and creativity. Much more is possible, and his decks prove it: Die-cut windows that reveal part of the deck (e.g. the Sharps deck); Embroidered touches (e.g. the Persian deck); Synthetic materials that are water-proof and tear-proof (e.g. the Cadenza deck); Textures that feel like bark or reptile scales (e.g. the Tough Luck and Teliad Alfrin decks); Creative designs (e.g. the walkman-like Soundboards deck). Clearly Legends doesn't just have the ability to produce a run-of-the-mill tuck box. These are incredibly outstanding tuck boxes that look beautiful, and stand out far above the average and the ordinary.

Legendary printing: If you come from a standard department store or corner store deck, USPCC decks like Bicycle are going to seem very impressive due to their superior quality and handling. There's no doubt about the fact that USPCC makes a quality product. But as I've sampled a large range of USPCC custom decks, I'm more and more starting to notice recurring weaknesses as well, particularly with their printing registration. On numerous occasions, the borders of USPCC-produced decks aren't printed consistently and evenly. It's just a small thing, to be sure, but it takes away from a perfect look, especially when the borders are narrow to begin with. And once you notice it, you can't help but notice it every time you use that deck. I've never experienced this issue yet with a single deck from Legends. Their printing registration is always right on, and this means that they can produce playing cards with consistently narrow borders if desired, and the result will always come out beautiful. Narrow borders are quickly going to look ugly if the printing is only slightly off, but that's never been the case with all these decks and many more I've seen so far from Legends.

Legendary finishes: One thing I really appreciate about Legends is that they offer a range of different finishes. Newcomers to the world of playing cards might wonder what USPCC means with a "linen finish", "cambric finish", or "linoid finish". Well quite honestly, these are identical. While these terms had their origin with different materials used for printing many years ago, the modern production process has been standardized. USPCC continues to use these terms because each of them is associated with a specific brand like Bicycle, Bee, and Tally Ho respectively, but in reality they are all embossed air-cushion style finishes and are actually identical. The Classic Finish from Legends is an embossed finish that looks and performs similarly to this air-cushion style finish from Bicycle. But Legends also offers other choices, including their Diamond Finish, which is less papery and slightly smoother, but is also snappier and longer lasting. Then there's their Elite Finish, which has a softer feel and a different embossing pattern. In recent times Legends has been experimenting with other finishes as well, such as their Emerald Finish (also known as the JN Finish, a reference to the legendary Jerry's Nuggets), which uses stock around 0.1mm thinner than the Diamond finish but with a similar texture, and is said to handle somewhat similarly to the legendary icon of playing cards. Hopefully in a follow-up article I can give more information based on further experience with the new JN Finish, and also with the new Stud Finish that Legends is currently experimenting with. But all their current finishes are excellent, and it means that creators of custom playing cards have some real choice, all of which are quality. Represented in the review above are decks with the two most popular finishes, i.e. the Classic finish (Soundboards, Teliad Alfrin, Sharps), and the Diamond Finish (Glitch 2.0, Tough Luck, Cadenza).


Legendary handling: Because of the embossing on the paper stock used by the above finishes, and a coating that Legends uses on the cards at the end of the production process, their playing cards handle beautifully. The embossing creates tiny dimples and air pockets between them, and means the entire surface of each card isn't in full contact with the next card. This makes sure that they slide smoothly and evenly over one another, and it's what makes them spread and fan consistently and beautifully, and also shuffle nicely. You don't want cards to have so much friction that they don't slide evenly, but you also don't want them so slippery that the deck won't stay in your hands without cards sliding all over the place. The qualities of the playing cards from Legends gets this balance just right.

Legendary durability: Playing cards wear. It's just a fact, and there's no getting around it. The longer you use a deck of playing cards, the more that you'll notice the edges starting to chip or get ragged, the colour can fade, and the handling can be affected. Eventually, the cards won't slide as smoothly and evenly anymore, and you'll especially notice how this affects the performance of fans and spreads. This is true for any deck of playing cards, although cheap cards will already have this issue straight from the box, after just a shuffle or two! But in my experience, Legends Playing Cards last a whole lot longer than other decks I've used, including those from USPCC. One of the best ways to test this is to use a deck with black cards. Black cards look stunning out of the box, but they are notorious for getting chipped edges, which reveal the white of the cardstock underneath (less noticeable with white cards, obviously). With USPCC printed decks I have, this has been a real problem with black cards, and as much as I love black decks, I know that they just won't go the distance for this reason. I'm pleased to say that I've noticed a real difference with black decks from Legends. Legends claims that their cards are more durable and long lasting, and you really do notice this with their black decks, such as the Pipmen Shadow edition, which has jet black cards, and yet doesn't show signs of chipping or wear quickly. The Diamond finish is especially durable and is an excellent choice for black decks like this, and will give superior results to a standard USPCC produced deck.

Legendary cut: When I first saw a picture about the difference in edges between USPCC cards and Legends cards, I thought it was an exaggeration. But folks, there really is a massive difference - ask anyone who has taken the time to compare them. Legends Playing Cards uses what they call a "diamond cut" to make the edge of their decks absolutely smooth. This process doesn't prevent the cards from doing weave shuffles like the faro, and yet the result is completely crisp, and the edge of a new deck feels like glass. Compare that to the edge of a deck from USPCC, and you'll instantly notice that it looks and feels rough. You don't even need to be a trained expert to see and feel the difference - my son can immediately tell the difference between a Legends and a USPCC deck with his eyes closed, just by feeling the edges of a deck, seriously! So straight from the box, there's an instant quality difference in the cut of the cards.

Legendary prices: I've not produced a deck of playing cards myself, so this isn't something I can comment on from first-hand experience. But I have had contact with a lot of creators of playing cards, and more than once I've read some frustration with the minimum order requirements that USPCC has, and how they calculate their costing. Effectively you need to budget on making more decks that you actually need, because there is a percentage error factor that is built in to their pricing. I don't know all the details, but I do know that because Legends is based in Taiwan, their Asian base of operations means that they can offer a superior product without needing to charge higher prices. In other words, Legends isn't a more expensive option, despite their quality.

Legendary accessories: If you're looking for accessories like a card clip, Legends also has you covered with that as well. These aren't typically cheap, but if you are looking for a quality product like a carbon card clip, you can expect to pay for it. But the quality is superb, it's long-lasting and functional, and it also looks fantastic. These would make great gifts for the serious card enthusiast, or even a useful accessory for the person who is constantly walking around with a deck in his pocket.



Now, as I said at the beginning, Legends Playing Card Company isn't paying me to write any of this. They have no idea that I'm going to write such high praise, and they certainly don't know about the enthusiastic conclusions I'm writing here. And when I first decided to do this feature article, it wasn't initially my intention to bring such high praise. But I couldn't help myself.

After spending a lot of time over the last number of months tinkering with decks from both Legends and from United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), and using them both for cardistry, card magic, and card games, the difference in quality is becoming more and more obvious to me. Sure, USPCC cards are good, and there's a reason why they are an industry giant. But they lack the passion and perfectionism that Lawrence Sullivan brings to the table at Legends Playing Cards. Lawrence also has the advantage that he has access to printing processes and technologies of a factory in Taiwan, whereas USPCC is an entirely American outfit.

I'll continue to appreciate USPCC produced cards, and if a designer of custom playing cards is using USPCC, that will give me an assurance of quality. But if I was to give advice to anyone considering producing a project of custom playing cards, I'd definitely suggest they consider Legends if they want the very best. [Legendary playing cards indeed!


Want to learn more?
Legends Playing Card Company:
Playing Card Online Store:

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
Novelty: For the Collector - Glitch 2.0 Playing Cards, Soundboards Playing Cards
Style: For the Connoisseur - Tough Luck Playing Cards, Teliad Alfrin Playing Cards
Secrets: For the Magician - Cadenza Playing Cards, Sharps Playing Cards
Accessories: For Everyone - Carbon Fiber Card Clip, Leather Tab Card Wallet

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