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Reviewer EndersGame
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Your chance to view the main events from 52 Plus Joker's annual convention


I've never been to a playing card convention. Probably you haven't either. But along with me, today you will. Each October an international playing card convention is organized in by 52 Plus Joker, the American Playing Card Collectors Club. But travel restrictions as a result of COVID forced the regular convention to be cancelled in 2020 and again in 2021.

So what do you do when it rains lemons? You make lemonade. In light of the unfortunate cancellations, the club made a massive step forward into the 21st century by deciding that they would hold their October 2020 convention virtually using Zoom. Not only did they decide to hold all the lectures and other events online, but they also extended an invitation for playing card collectors around the world to participate, including non-members. It was a brave step, but a bold and successful one, which history will undoubtedly look upon kindly in years to come.

But first, let's share some background about the 52 Plus Joker playing card club. It was formed in 1985, and was originally geared towards the needs of American collectors specializing in antique playing cards. But over time the scope of the club widened to include all kinds of playing cards, and also to encompass collectors world-wide. Today it is the largest playing card club in the world, and represents a vibrant and active community of keen playing card enthusiasts.

The club facilitates collecting and trading, and advances the cause of playing cards generally by means of regular newsletters and magazines like Card Culture and Clear the Decks, organizing auctions, and issuing awards. Under the strong leadership of playing card expert Lee Asher, who has been the Club President since 2016, 52 Plus Joker is easily the premier playing card collecting club, and most of the recognized figures in the playing card community are members.

But the single biggest event in the calendar for 52 Plus Joker is easily their annual convention, which is typically held every October. This represents an opportunity for collectors to come together; buy and trade; meet collectors, designers and manufacturers; chat about playing cards; and perhaps most importantly, have the opportunity to listen to speeches from experts in the field. Sadly, the 2020 convention planned for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wasn't possible, due to the global impact of COVID on travel and meetings. More recently, the 2021 convention planned for Niagara Falls also had to be cancelled, although it is hoped that the presentation of the club's annual Diamond Awards will still be possible in April 2022, as part of a larger event.



But as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and the COVID cloud certainly included a silver lining for playing card enthusiasts. The good news is that the folks over at 52 Plus Joker weren't about to let their cancelled convention plans dampen their enthusiasm completely. It takes more than that to kill the passion of a true collector. So they decided to do something creative and unprecedented: to make the 2020 Convention a virtual one, with all the speeches and meetings by Zoom.

We're talking about an online virtual convention, with four full days of events! And best of all for non-members, they opened up everything to the public. For free. In other words, any collector could participate in almost all of the Convention events, even if you weren't a member, and regardless of where in the world you lived.

It was so successful, that when the 2021 convention had to be cancelled as well, they organized a similar event this year, which they called a Virtual Day 2021. The smaller scale the second time around is because it was hoped that it will still be possible to hold some events in person early in 2022. But what a great opportunity to learn, to rub shoulders with some big names, and to get your enthusiasm for playing cards and for collecting fired up! As club president Lee Asher says at one point: "This is the biggest playing card party that the internet has ever seen."

But wasn't the 2020 Convention a year ago now? True, but the good news is that after last year's virtual convention, the tech gurus involved with running it organized edited versions of all the speeches and main events to be available online. Permanently. For free. So now that we're a year further, I figured it would be a great time to post a review of last year's virtual convention, providing a summary of the key things included in each presentation and lecture, and inviting you to check out the full videos of each.

A lot of playing card collectors probably don't even know that this great content is out there. And of those that do, many may not have seen all the lectures and presentations. Thanks to 52 Plus Joker, this is a great opportunity for all of us in the playing card industry to watch some great presentations, and hear some terrific lectures from some carefully selected experts. Best of all, this is almost certain to fire up your enthusiasm, not just for 52 Plus Joker, but for playing cards generally. Let's head to the lecture theater and get started!



Kevin Reylek: MARKED CARDS

Kevin Reylek is the production manager for playing cards over at Penguin Magic, and has been involved in the production of many decks of cards, including the DeLand Centennial Edition decks, and numerous modern custom decks. He has a solid background in magic, and a love for playing cards, particularly marked playing cards, and is extremely well-read and knowledgeable on the subject. In his lecture he focused on the history and styles of factory printed marked cards, as well as some big names in the world of marked decks.

How far back do marked decks go? Kevin references various pieces of literature to show that putting marks on cards, starting with simple methods like stains or nicks, seems to have been a practice that dates back as far as playing cards themselves. The first factory produced cards go back to the 1830s, although self-marked decks enjoyed some resurgence in popularity in the late 1800s.

After covering some of the history, Kevin covers key terminology. Perhaps the most important distinction to be familiar with in today's world of marked decks is the difference between coded systems and reader systems. Kevin prefers to call reader systems "openly readable", since he points out that the term "reader" was historically used to refer to any kind of marked deck.

Theodore DeLand (1873-1931) is the single biggest name in the world of marked cards. His work had a huge impact, and many of his methods are still used in modern decks today. Especially influential was his Dollar Deck (also called the Automatic Deck, or the DeLand Deck, or 100 Dollar Deck) which goes back to 1913. It is a stacked stripper deck that uses clock style markings, and remarkably uses 230 marks per card. These not only tell you the identity of the card itself, but also the location and identity of others in the deck. It has inspired modern Bicycle decks like The Code (Andy Nyman) and The Marksman Deck (Luke Jermay). DeLand's edge marking decks also lie behind popular modern decks like Butterfly Playing Cards by Ondrej Psenicka.

Al Baker (1874-1951) seems to have been one of the first to come up with a more openly readable system of markings, which he achieved with scratch work. Today's DMC Elites are a good example of a modern deck that uses Baker's philosophy. In the 1920s a magician by the name of T. Page Wright apparently pioneered using a typewriter to put openly readable marks on the back of cards. Ted Lesley's 1983 book popularized a similar concept for Rider Backs using rub-on transfers. The factory-produced GT Speedreaders deck (Garrett Thomas) is a modern printed deck that employs a similar method but with printed cards.

But the first factory-printed marked Bicycle deck with an openly readable system precedes the GT Speedreaders, and dates from around 2005. It was created by Boris Wild, who cleverly developed the idea of using openly readable marks only for value, and using the placement of these marks on the cards to indicate suit.

Kevin rounds off his lecture by mentioning a few interesting recent marked decks, and some other helpful resources on the subject. It really is a splendid lecture, full of careful references, and many images that show the decks, books, and markings mentioned. It's a must-watch if you like marked cards, or want to learn anything about them. And the Q&A session afterwards is great too, which covers topics like Kevin's personal favourite printed marked decks to use (Penguin Marked Cards and the DMC Elites), the NOC marking system, tactile marking systems, the cleverest versus the worst marking system, and more.

Video: Marked Cards - lecture (Kevin Reylek)
Video: Marked Cards - Q&A (Kevin Reylek)


Paul Ruccio is the founder of Jetsetter Playing Cards, and his talk focuses on branding. Advertising decks have been around for centuries, and we tend to associate branding with decks geared to promote a product. Paul makes the case that almost every creator of a deck of playing cards needs to think about their brand.

To illustrate this, he tells the story about how he got to where he is with Jetsetter Playing Cards, and some of the decisions he had to make along the way. One product alone doesn't make a brand. But if you follow up with a second deck, or with other products, then inevitably you are creating a brand. And many elements play a role in shaping what that brand looks like, including the products produced by the brand, the goal of the brand, and the faces and names of the individuals behind the brand.

For Paul, it is important to find other ways to interact with a brand besides the main product. This is something he realized when someone wanted a luggage tag with his brand. Accessories like this can strengthen a brand, and people do want that. In Paul's case, he combined his passion for travel and aviation with his passion for playing cards. That led to his first deck, but more decks would follow, and that's where important decisions were necessary to become a brand.

While Paul's lecture is quite brief, one of the neatest things about it is that he had the video footage shot in an actual hangar, with a real airplane in the background - very appropriate for his own brand! The Q&A afterwards runs on for much longer, and I really learned a lot from the many insights Paul shared. He emphasizes how it is important to think about whether you just intend to produce a single deck, or do more. And if you do more, then you need a larger goal and plan, and this requires careful thought.

There's some great discussion about how businesses can use playing cards for their brand. I'd never thought about Fontaines this way, but Paul points out that Zach Mueller himself is really the pre-existing brand, while his Fontaines deck is really just an extension of that. Zach's decks are often considered "hype decks", but that's really because they are an accessory to the man himself, and people are prepared to spend money on the cards because they are buying into the brand.

Other great aspects of the Q&A include some discussion about what you can learn from failing; how to get feedback from others; thoughts on accessories and apparel; and selecting a playing card printer that fits with your brand.

Video: Branding Playing Cards - lecture (Paul Ruccio)
Video: Branding Playing Cards - Q&A (Paul Ruccio)


Getting Michael Slaughter as a featured speaker was a real coup for the convention, given that he is the current CEO and President of USPCC. The story of how Michael first got his job working for USPCC is a remarkable one, and you'll hear it in the lecture. He originally worked in their casino division, then ran their global sales marketing, and quickly became the president in 2014. It's immediately obvious that Michael is super enthusiastic about playing cards and about the USPCC brand, and that he's committed to building a lasting legacy, and to preserving the rich heritage that he sees himself as a steward of.

Michael begins by highlighting some facts about the state of the playing card industry, which is thriving. COVID has led many people back to enjoying playing cards, and USPCC is working hard to keep this fresh, and to prevent things becoming tired and old. If USPCC is any reliable indication, the playing card industry is not in decline, because sales have been through the roof in recent times.

The historical section of the lecture is especially interesting, because Michael's own past is closely wrapped up with USPCC. He grew up as a child in Norwood, which is where USPCC's Norwood facility was located. As a youngster, he would often ride his bike to the factory, so he has a long personal connection with it. He mentions that its iconic clock tower was even used by locals like him as a geographic reference point. Michael even remembers going to the factory for a third grade field trip, and playing baseball at a nearby park.

The Norwood facility was built in 1899, but is now being deconstructed, given that the company has been operating in a new facility in Erlanger since July 2009. But they have been able to save some artifacts from the old facility. Michael shows us parts of the old empty building, which has some fascinating aspects about it. The old property is going to be used for housing and retail outlets, and these are set to include a museum for USPCC, and maybe even their own retail store.

Michael also shares some photos from inside the newer Erlanger facility, and we learn that the production of playing cards is much more complex than just printing on paper. What especially makes USPCC unique is that they are the only playing card company in the world that manufactures their own card stock, which has the real advantage that they can control all aspects of the quality of their playing cards.

But Michael's presentation isn't only about the past, because he also gives us a few sneak peeks about the future. He makes some important comments about the recent acquisition of USPCC by Cartamundi. He doesn't see this as a negative, because Cartamundi has a long history, and like USPCC is very proud of their playing card heritage. USPCC realizes that card players also play other games, so lately they have been expanding their range by launching a number of social games and party games. They are even looking at expanding further towards becoming a lifestyle brand, by offering products like Bicycle-branded apparel.

In the Q&A segment that follows his lecture, Michael adds some more great thoughts about the future of playing cards. While they go back centuries, in his view they will always be part of our culture. We live in a golden age of playing cards, but he really sees the need to keep things fresh, and to introduce playing cards to a new generation. Other interesting areas covered in the Q&A section include Michael's thoughts about republishing historic card backs; why he loves the classic Bicycle Rider Back; why USPCC doesn't give facility tours; USPCC's appreciation for collectors and history; and some things USPCC does to ensure quality and consistency.

Video: United States Playing Card Company - lecture and Q&A (Michael Slaughter)

Where to learn more? Visit 52 Plus Joker American Playing Card Collectors Club

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
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In my previous article, I shared information about a great opportunity: the chance to sit in on some great speeches about playing cards delivered by experts and leading figures in the industry. Via online videos, we could get front row seats inside an international playing card convention organized by 52 Plus Joker, the American Playing Card Collector's Club.

This prestigious club has managed to find a silver lining in the cloud called COVID. They had to cancel their annual convention, but they didn't let this disappointment rain on their parade. Instead, they turned it into a wonderful opportunity. Rather than nuke their convention entirely, they decided to go virtual, by taking events they had planned for their 2020 and 2021 conventions, and running them online via Zoom.

So now we get the chance to enjoy these informative lectures and terrific presentations after the fact. For free. Even if we aren't members. Let's quickly slip inside the lecture room before they change their mind!



Jason McKinstry is an avid researcher and playing card historian, who is an expert on antique playing cards. He specializes in American playing card manufacturers, and can be considered an heir to the throne occupied by Hochman and the Dawsons. He enjoys writing biographies of the important playing card makers in American history, and is author of the book Paper Empires, which covers the history of the first four US playing card manufacturers. He also writes actively about these topics on a monthly basis for the Card Culture club magazine.

An expert like Jason is the perfect person to help us understand the larger story behind the playing cards we enjoy. You'll immediately be blown away by the gorgeous antique Aces and decks behind Jason as he talks. Throughout his lecture he shows delightful vintage photographs, and of course, cards from the antique decks themselves. You'll also find some great pictures and information over on his website, and his Instagram channel (jason_mckinstry).

Jason's own journey into this world of history began by being captivated by the playing cards themselves, especially from the time that he describes as the golden age (1835-1935), when several manufacturers were giants of the industry. During this era important discoveries were made that had a huge impact on playing cards and on printing more generally, like the four-colour printing press by Lewis I. Cohen. New York was the heart of the playing card industry at the time. Many of its leading playing card manufacturers were closely connected by blood or marriage, such as Lewis Cohen, John Lawrence, John Levy, and Samuel Hart, whose companies would later join forces in 1871 to establish the New York Consolidated Card Company. Another big name is Andrew Dougherty, a self-made man who built up his own remarkable playing card empire, and who had close connections with Abraham Lincoln. I was surprised to learn that this is just one of many connections between playing card makers and important political figures.

Then there is the famous duo of Russell and Morgan, who established their business in 1881, and had a huge impact on what would happen in years to come. They had several levels of quality, ranging from Tiger (lowest) to Congress (highest). Despite their diverse range, all their decks had a similar look, particularly their classic Ace of Spades that depicted the Statue of Freedom, which was a genius branding move. Russell & Morgan's company became the United States Playing Card Company in 1894, and over time would start eating up all the competition by absorbing the smaller playing card makers. By then playing cards were becoming quite standard, so USPCC could focus on branding. They did this with great success especially with their Bicycle Playing Cards, which came out in 1885, and reflected the fascination of the world of the time with actual bicycles.

Along the way Jason has many stories and details to share. For example, what deck was Wild Bill Hickock using with his famous Dead Man's Hand in 1876? He posits that it was likely not a faro deck as is often thought, since by this time in the late 19th century poker cards had begun to replace faro playing cards. The famous story of Wyatt Earp also includes playing cards, and so do many similar tales. As Jason demonstrates, the history of playing cards ties in very closely to American history more generally.

There is a lengthy Q&A session following Jason's lecture, and as part of that he shows some of his collection. His goal is to collect one of each deck Dougherty ever made, and he's well on his way to achieving that. He also displays some great historical ephemera. Jason is a carpenter by trade, and it is neat to see the gorgeous miniature models he's made of historical factories, as well as other cool playing card related items he's cleverly constructed out of wood. Some other interesting topics also come up for discussion, such as why the standard colours for playing card backs are blue and red, Jason's plans for a series of unboxing videos for antique decks, his Paper Empires book, and tips on getting into collecting antique playing cards.

At the "Virtual Day" in 2021, Jason gave a further 15 minute video presentation, in which he displays and provides commentary on a number of rare playing card items from his own collection. This includes some lovely antique advertisements, portraits of key figures in American playing card history, a printing plate, and various other ephemera from the 1800s and 1900s. The presentation begins and ends with a wonderful video montage of Aces, Jokers, and other memorabilia, which Jason created as a tribute to USPCC's 140th anniversary. This man is a real asset to the playing card community, and it's a real pleasure to watch these videos and learn from his incredible knowledge.

Video: Antique Playing Cards - lecture (Jason McKinstry)
Video: Antique Playing Cards - Q&A (Jason McKinstry)
Video: Rare Playing Card Items - presentation (Jason McKinstry) - from the 2021 Virtual Day


Patrick Varnavas is a cardist from New Jersey, and is the guy behind the Instagram channel bestcardistalive. He's one of the forerunners of today's cardistry movement, with years of experience, as is amply evident from the fact that at the time of his presentation he had over 1600 curated posts to his credit. It's hard not to be impressed with his opening 3 minute video segment, which showcases some of the best cardistry seen over the last half a dozen years or more, and gives a good idea what all the fuss regarding this art-form is about. For those unfamiliar with cardistry, Patrick's presentation gives a sense of how much cardists value playing cards, and how they use them.

He explains that good cardistry takes full advantage of all the properties of playing cards, in contrast to the regular user of a deck that uses it for card games or card magic. In his view, playing cards are in essence a toy that can be used in a variety of ways. Very few people have an interest in improving this product, other than initial improvements like rounded corners and the addition of indices. But unlike others, cardists are the ones that want to get the most out of their playing cards throughout the entire life of a deck. They will even use cards in ways in which they weren't designed to be used for, and they really test their limits. There's no doubt that cardists are the ones pushing innovation beyond the status quo.

The current quality level of USPCC playing cards is high, and Varnavas compares a typical USPCC deck to the waves on which cardists surf. As such he believes cardists don't need playing cards to change or improve, since cardists surf with whatever they've got. But cardistry has now achieved a level of popularity that cardists like Patrick and others are being approached by playing card manufacturers to see if playing cards can be improved. After all, cardists have the unique ability to isolate and test individual qualities of a deck, and have very useful insights to share on these topics that manufacturers can take advantage of. Patrick does believe there is room for innovation and improvement in playing cards, and that cardistry itself will mature and grow in tandem with this. Having manufacturers sponsor cardists and making them part of the evolution of playing cards will not only help lead to an improved product, but will also promote brand recognition, and help cardistry advance even further.

According to him, putting decks into the hands of cardists is one of the best things that a manufacturer can do in order to get good feedback about what works and what doesn't. An example of this is the arrival and embracing of crushed stock, which has quickly become an industry standard. Alternative and non-standard back designs have also had an impact on cardistry due to the visuals. Some aspects of design like borders or specific geometric shapes affect the look of cards in motion, and can introduce new elements, which will also change the nature of how a deck looks. Many factors come into play here, and different qualities like the weight, size, shape, and friction of playing cards all change how playing cards handle and look. Later in the Q&A section Patrick admits that sponsoring this kind of cardistry requires choosing the right people, giving them the right resources, and ensuring it develops the brand, otherwise it could just be a waste of money for the sponsor.

The Q&A session includes some interesting discussion about the innovations and qualities of specific decks, like the Red Dots decks from Anyone Worldwide, and FLUX by Lotusinhand. Patrick's comments about different stocks and finishes will be of real interest to many viewers. He also emphasizes that innovating and shaping taste requires a historical perspective, and that looking back to the past is essential. I also love his suggestions for how to get started: don't use cardistry trainers, but use a regular deck, and just get going with tutorials like Lotusinhand's Cardistry Bootcamp. He also suggests basic moves to begin with as an essential foundation for more advanced moves. Rather than describe cardistry as juggling, he prefers to see it as an art form like poetry or skating, with a very personal component. Patrick also shares some great thoughts about Cardistry Con, and how it can also innovate and improve.

Video: Future Playing Card Innovation - lecture (Patrick Varnavas)
Video: Future Playing Card Innovation - Q&A (Patrick Varnavas)


Rory Rennick is a comedy magician, with an interest and expertise in researching magic and the history of playing cards. He also writes for Card Culture, where he has penned great philosophical one-liners like this: "Playing cards are objects of art that can speak to a people and for a people." But can we really talk about how playing cards have depicted race and colour? When he grew up people were taught not to talk about politics, religion, and race, and in his view this led to many important conversations being stifled or avoided. Rory rightly sees himself well-qualified to speak about this sensitive topic in a respectful and informed way, because of his perspective as a black person. He explains something of his own journey, and the painful emotions and feelings that the depiction of coloured people can produce.

He describes his lecture with the title "A Journey of Jokers, Juice, and Models". It takes the form of a brilliant slide presentation with many terrific images that serve as examples for his insightful commentary, which walks through a lot of his own original research.

Jokers: Black people were already depicted in the Cotta's Almanac transformation deck (1805). But for the most part they were absent, until the late 1800s when they were often depicted with exaggerated features, such as the "Watermelon Jokers" and later the "Watermelon Aces". The Cotton Belt Route deck (1903) was the first deck to have a black person depicted on all the cards, via a "safe choice" of artwork on all the card backs. But when they were pictured on playing cards, black people were typically depicted in subservient roles, engaging in working class activities, or pictured as lazy, playful, or flamboyant. They were often stereotyped and misrepresented as being lazy workers, even though in reality they experienced much hardship and worked in poor conditions.

Juice: The first time a black man was pictured on the back of a deck was the Green River Whisky deck in 1935, which depicted someone leading a horse, an image also found in their other advertising materials. After extensive detective work, Rory managed to track down the source of this image to an 1899 photo. He also uncovered other artwork from the artists behind it, including some that depicted young Negro children under the horrifying title "alligator bait." But the real prize he shows is a postcard photograph of a black man named Henry (pictured with a horse, black woman and child), which he posits is the model behind the famous Green River Whisky picture.

Models: Black women were often depicted negatively on playing cards in the early 1900s, much like the black woman on the above-mentioned postcard. That's because black women were often defeminized and simply regarded as breeders or sex objects. Only from the 1950s did they begin to be depicted with any kind of glamour or positivity, such as in the black-oriented Ebony magazine, which featured striking Negro models like Ann Porter and Harlean Harris, who also made it onto playing cards.

Rory is an extremely informed researcher who isn't afraid to do the hard work of trawling through primary sources to come to his conclusions, and to tackle important and difficult topics like race. His lecture gives the vocabulary and background to help us have important conversations about sensitive topics like this. It has to be admitted that playing card manufacturers reflected the social norms of their day, and the images he brings to light are good examples of propaganda that was not always helpful.

But while such playing cards may not be acceptable for us today, they are still historically significant. Rory rightly points out that playing cards are historically and culturally significant because they depict the values of a culture, and we can use them to learn about the cultural norms of the past, even if it means we must challenge those norms today. It takes real maturity and wisdom to be able to use images as teaching tools in this way, rather than just brand them as racist and want to destroy them - as Rory admits was his initial inclination and response. His solution isn't to encourage a cancel culture, but rather to include cards like this in our collection, providing we give them an appropriate context and perspective. His own collection of playing cards about black history is a fine example of how you can provide a context for correctly interpreting and understanding the artwork we see.

The Q&A section includes some interesting questions about collecting decks that feature black history or black pride, and about Rory's personal collection.

Video: Racially Charged Playing Cards - lecture and Q&A (Rory Rennick)

Niyomwungeri Maxime: GAKONDO PLAYING CARDS

Niyomwungeri Maxime has the distinction of being Rwanda's first playing card designer and producer, with his brand Gakonda Playing Cards. His goal with his playing cards is to share aspects of his culture and heritage, and this objective is also the subject of his presentation. This was not part of the 2020 convention, but was part of the "Virtual Day" held the following year. Although his presentation itself is brief, the Q&A that follows gives the opportunity to learn a great deal about the many ways that Gakonda is successfully communicating the rich heritage of Africa via playing cards.

Maxime's journey towards creating his own playing cards and brand started four years earlier, when he began asking the question: why don't we have our own playing cards here in Rwanda? But from the outset his vision was much bigger than just having a custom deck that Rwandans could call their own. He wants to use this as a tool to revive game-playing, and to pay tribute to his people's rich tradition, culture, and heritage. And most importantly, he wants to help educate the next generation with the help of playing cards. The concept is ingenious: playing cards can start important conversations. So put a custom Rwandan deck in the hands of youngsters, get them asking questions, and get them talking.

The name Gakonda is a word that means origins, roots, or foundations, and captures Maxime's vision for his brand. As it turns out, few traditions are more important to old Rwanda than cows. Hear me out here, because cows are going to become very important for Gakonda decks. In old Rwanda every king typically had various items that indicated his social status, such as a drum, a shield ... and cows. Naming his cows was an important part of this, and traditionally cows were named corresponding to their colour. Cows especially had importance because they represented wealth, particularly if you had a large group of cows. In fact, 12 cows were needed to move up to another social class. Maxime cleverly came up with the idea of creating a series of 12 decks, each with a different colour and name, much like the cows of old Rwanda. In other words, collectors can have the goal of assembling 12 different decks inot a brick, with each deck representing a different cow.

Besides this initial series Gakonda Playing Cards is also in the process of producing six decks about the heritage of Africa as a continent, beginning with their Dark Continent deck. The Dark Continent deck captures how different empires influenced and shaped Africa. The court cards of this fully custom deck depict real historical figures, with all the details (e.g. hair styles, and beads, which symbolized social classes) being historically accurate and significant. Clearly Maxime has put a huge amount of thought into all the aspects depicted in the deck. Eventually he'd like to broaden his Gakonda brand to include games, books, and other lifestyle merchandise, and he already has some good ideas for this.

It's hard not to be impressed with Maxime's passion and enthusiasm. He's clearly a real visionary, with a love not just for playing cards, but for humanity. He is a bright young man who is remarkably articulate and sophisticated. He values important qualities like integrity and kindness, and they are part of his vision for his brand. He'd love to see the next generation learn to connect with who we are as human beings, and he is eager to promote education and critical thinking as a means to that end.

Despite the differences between people around the world, you'll feel much in common with this Rwandan designer. Because his passion for playing cards and his respect for his fellow humans transcends the barriers of language and culture. What a wonderful way to connect playing cards with culture. And even more importantly, what a wonderful way to pass on the kind of values that are important for us all.

Video: Gakondo Playing Cards - lecture and Q&A (Niyomwungeri Maxime) - from the 2021 Virtual Day

Where to learn more? Visit 52 Plus Joker American Playing Card Collectors Club

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
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Your chance to view the main events from 52 Plus Joker's annual convention (Part 3)

One of highlights of the online convention was the opportunity to go on a tour to get an inside look inside the homes of renowned playing card collectors. In addition, separate tours were organized for the facilities of some key industry figures, including manufacturers and retailers. The good news is that it was all caught on camera, and you can now view these videos in their entirety, regardless of whether or not you are a member of the 52 Plus Joker club. So join me for an exciting ride, as the curtain is pulled back, and we get a unique chance to see some amazing playing card collections, and visit some of the facilities that make our favourite playing cards.



Jackson Robinson: Kings Wild Project Facility

Jackson Robinson is the man behind the well-known Kings Wild Project, one of today's most popular brands of custom playing cards. He's one of the few playing card designers in the world that makes a living designing custom playing cards on a full time basis.

When he began, he started as a one-man operation in his garage, to use his words, "trying not to screw up". He says that he's still "trying not to screw up". But at the time of this tour, Kings Wild Project has been doing very well thank you very much. It has grown rapidly and supports 19 employees. Jackson himself is the creative brains behind the entire Kings Wild Project, and aims to focus his time and efforts on designing, while having the rest of his crew manage other aspects of his operation.

He recently moved from Austin, Texas, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is where non-playing card items like limited edition prints and Kings Wild Coffee are produced. The actual main production facility is still in Texas, however, although aspects of the operation are being moved to Chattanooga.

The tour of the Austin facility begins by introducing us to members of his team. It then runs through the entire process by which one of Kings Wild Project's gorgeous Postage Paid decks is produced. The cards are printed elsewhere, but from then on we see different members of the Kings Wild Project team at work: building the tuck box, adding individual stamps, wrapping it with cello, packaging it in a box, organizing the label, and preparing it for shipping.

I was surprised by how young the team members are, but they are developing a great amount of expertise in customizing individual elements of the process. In the future Jackson may even offer this as a service to other designers. We also get to meet other team members who focus on other aspects of the Kings Wild Project business such as customer care, marketing, advertising, and taking photographs and video footage.

In the Q&A that follows the tour, Jackson shares some info about some of his licensed projects, like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. He's also working on some custom shirts that feature his artwork, and some of these will also have companion decks with matching artwork on the card backs.

Video: Kings Wild Project Facility Tour (Jackson Robinson)

Eddie Kamal and Sam Zubai: Gambler's Warehouse Factory

Gambler's Warehouse is one of the largest fulfilment operations used by creators of playing cards. In this video, we join Eddie Kamal and Sam Zubai directly from their factory in Texas, as they take us on a walk-through of the full process involved with making custom tuck boxes.

The process begins with the customer making a selection of materials from their catalogue. There are many options to choose from, especially the type of card stocks (e.g. soft touch), and types and colours of foil that will be used on the box. Using the client's artwork, Gambler's Warehouse then produces copper plates which will be used for making the tuck box. It was especially neat to see the actual rolls of foil and some examples of these plates.

Next we get to see the actual process at work by demonstrating the creation of a tuck box of Arcadia Playing Cards. With hot foiling, which is what we see happening in the video, the foils have an adhesive. When heat and pressure are applied in a special press used for this purpose, the foil sticks to the card stock of the tuck box. Adding each foil or embossing requires a separate process with a different press, so alignment is critical to ensure perfect registration of the final product. In the case of the Arcadia deck, we see three different coloured foils applied separately, and then a fourth step to produce the embossing, by pressing the card-stock between two custom dies. The final result looks magnificent, with perfect registration. Another machine then cuts the card-stock into the shape of the box. From there glue or tape is added, and the boxes are folded and constructed - although we don't get to actually see this final step of the process happen.

The team then showcases some of the tuck boxes they have made over the years, including their very first one, Delirium. They won an impact stamping / letterpress graphics award for that box, and have won similar awards for other work. The gallery of tuck boxes they have produced and display for us is truly an impressive greatest hits collection of excellence and luxury. You'll immediately recognize some of their clients like Thirdway Industries, and the Planets decks. They also demonstrate some specialized boxes, like a two deck box, and the crazy box design of the Cardistry Touch decks. Some of the packaging options they have available are absolutely incredible.

The main Gambler's Warehouse company focuses on the packaging, but they also do complete fulfilment of playing card projects, which they do for a lot of clients and creators. At one point Eddie mentions that they are shipping over 2000 orders a day, which gives you an idea of the scope of their operation. Now that I know something about the process involved in making tuck boxes, I now have a new-found respect for the beauty of custom decks that use multiple foils and embossing on the tuck box, and will never look at a deck of cards in quite the same way again!

Video: Gambler's Warehouse Factory Tour (Eddie Kamal and Sam Zubai)

Will Roya: PlayingCardDecks Facility

Will Roya is the founder of, one of today's biggest online retailers of playing cards, which he launched in 2017 after a full-time career in magic. He takes us on a personal tour of his warehouse, starting us off right from the front door of his facility. It is a multi-purpose building that doubles as an office, showroom, packing area, and storage facility.

A massive collection of decks is organized alphabetically in the showroom. It's quite remarkable to see so many decks of playing cards in one place! All their items are listed on their website, as well as on eBay and Amazon, via an electronic inventory system. There are multiple working areas for specialized tasks such as assembling their Frankendecks (great for singles collectors), putting together their Pip Boxes (their monthly subscription club), and packaging.

There's also an upstairs office with extra space and computers used to run the business. It was especially cool to see some of Will Roya's displays, such as a large display featuring decks he's produced, and several framed uncut sheets, as well as artist proofs of upcoming decks from USPCC. Will has produced recreations of several beautiful historic transformation decks, and those uncut sheets look particularly lovely, especially when framed.

And just when you think the tour is over, Will takes us through a door into a warehouse which is his overstock area. While his display showroom only carries a dozen of each deck at most, this warehouse room is where we get to see piles of brick boxes and larger boxes filled with cards. As some would say, this is playing card heaven! He also has a large range of tarot decks, and playing card accessories like carat cases.

In the Q&A section after the tour, there are some great questions that get asked, such as how many decks he has sold in total (Will estimates around one million). He sends out around 3000 orders a month, and that doesn't include his fulfilment to Kickstarter supporters or sales of the decks he produces to wholesalers. People may have thought that custom playing cards were just a passing fad, but it's clear that growth is continuing. Don't miss the final section of the video where Will sniffs a deck and talks about how different decks have different smells!

Video: PlayingCardDecks Facility Tour (Will Roya)


Mike Quinn: Playing Card Collection

Mike Quinn is the guy behind a very popular Instagram account (a_deck_a_day). Several years ago he began a challenge to post a photo of a different deck every single day. What prompted this was the realization that he had such a massive collection of playing cards, and that he had enough decks to keep him busy with a different deck every single day for several years. He's been doing this for a few years now, and has over 2,000 posts and over 2,000 followers.

His collection focuses more on modern playing cards, and watching him run through the highlights of his collection will make anyone who enjoys modern decks drool. He has decks from all the major brands and all the top designers: Lotrek, Stockholm17, Alex Chin, and Kings Wild Project, to name just a few. It's amazing to see all these remarkable and popular decks together in one place.

Mike also has some delightful ways of displaying his decks so that they can be enjoyed and appreciated, and you'll get some good ideas from seeing how he has his collection set out. Just try not to get too jealous! The Carat Cases created by Sherman Tsao are easily Mike's top recommendation for a variety of quality ways to display your playing cards. Besides playing cards, Mike also has a wide range of unique accessories, prints, clocks, sculptures, collector coins, and boxes.

But that's not all, because Mike also has some good advice for other collectors, especially his philosophy: collect what you like. He's certainly done that. By his own admission, he's backed over 1,000 Kickstarters, so it's not surprising that he has acquired some prized goodies for us to admire. To learn more about Mike, you can also check out the interview he did with PlayingCardDecks back in 20150.

Video: Playing Card Collection Visit (Mike Quinn)

Joseph Pierson: Playing Card Collection

Joseph Pierson is a rockstar among playing card collectors, who specializes in collecting antique Bicycle decks, many of which you can see on Instagram (pip_nosher). He also runs the amazing website, an essential resource for anyone looking for complete and reliable information about antique Bicycle decks. At his home Joseph has what is effectively a private museum, with all kinds of vintage items like old typewriters, telephones, tobacco tins, cigarette packs, phonographs, fans, and more. We get to see some highlights, and will quickly realize how Joseph came to the realization that he'd eventually run out of space, which saw him develop a focus on collecting playing cards, due to their smaller size.

He has a special love for 19th century graphics, and his speciality is antique Bicycle 808s. His collection started in the 1990s with a purchase of ten decks from the collection of Lenny Schneir, the man who started 52 Plus Joker. That led to him specialize in Bicycle 808s, which have seen 82 different back designs, and besides the popular Rider Backs there are designs like Acorn Backs, Thistle Backs, Handle-bar Back, Wheelbarrow Backs, and many more. Each of these different back designs is typically available in red and blue, but some also appeared in other colours such as brown and green.

I can't say enough good things about the 25 minute video showcasing collection highlights that Joseph produced for the convention. It is absolutely fantastic, with terrific footage. He shows us several wonderful display cases, and then the real treasure: a massive cabinet loaded with multiple drawers containing his complete collection of prized decks, carefully stored and arranged. The real treat was seeing Joseph pulling out some of his prized decks, and actually opening them to show us the cards, with great close-ups of the actual decks. It's like being actually there!

And Joseph certainly does have some very rare decks, such as his four 1917 war decks, which are among the rarest of all Bicycle decks, with hardly any known copies. Joseph also owns some Bicycle decks that were produced exclusively for the UK. In terms of ephemera, you can't help but marvel at his gorgeous mounted Bicycle advertising posters from 1904 - the only known ones in the world. He also shows us some wonderful sample salesman display books that go back as far as 15085. Not all decks from that time came with boxes, but Joseph has also come up with a clever way to create his own antique-looking tuck boxes for decks that are missing a box.

Just when you might think Joseph is one-dimensional, he informs us that he is actually a hybrid collector, and that he also collects some of the best modern decks. We don't get to see any of those on camera, but our jaws are already dropping from his treasure trove of Bicycle decks that we did see. What we did get to see in the Q&A section that follows is his collection of beautiful singles. As well as enjoying some beautiful cards, we get some great ideas for organizing and displaying decks and playing cards. Pierson also has a background in art and graphics, and also shows his personal deck project, which includes his own Fire Bike Back design, and a gorgeous design on the Ace of Spades.

Video: Playing Card Collection Visit (Joseph Pierson) - promo
Video: Playing Card Collection Visit (Joseph Pierson) - 52 Plus Joker members only


Phil Bollhagen: Playing Card Collection

Phil Bollhagen has impressive credentials as a playing card collector. He's a second generation collector, historian, and expert, who has even done presentations on playing cards for museums. He's one of the founding members of 52 Plus Joker, and a winner of their prestigious Dawson Award for his incredible contributions. And he has a massive, massive collection of playing cards that will make antique collectors drool.

He starts his tour in what he calls his "singles room". I found it particularly interesting to see how he stores and displays singles inside plastic sleeves within large binders. And there's a lot of them: binders full of Jokers, and binders full of Ace of Spades (especially from English and American decks). Some of what he has is very rare, such as decks with square corners, and from little known companies. He even has some items from the early 1700s. Besides all his singles, he has some massive collages on the wall, one consisting entirely of European singles, another consisting entirely of Art Deco singles.

But that's just the start of his collection, because about halfway into his video Phil goes down into his basement, where the really good stuff is, with cabinets and cabinets filled with wonderful antique decks. There are decks from all kinds of different countries, with drawers and drawers full of prized treasures. He pulls out a number of these to show us, such as a couple of 19th century transformation decks. Besides an incredible number of historic decks, he also has ephemera like posters and calendars, a couple of massive collages and displays, including a gun cabinet he's revamped into a card cabinet. We even get to see his oldest single, which dates from before 1500.

Phil is currently in the process of selling his collection, and mentions that he has enough cards to sell in auctions for the next 20-30 years! One unfortunate part about this presentation is the quality of the video, which was sub-par to say the least. Fortunately we could hear his color commentary, and perhaps it's just as well we couldn't see everything too clearly, because the amount of good stuff he has is hard to believe!

Video: Playing Card Collection Visit (Phil Bollhagen)

Matt & Liz Romeril: Playing Card Collection

Matt & Liz Romeril will be familiar to many modern playing card collectors from their popular instagram account (, where they showcase outstanding and creative photos of some outstanding modern decks. It's an absolute pleasure browsing through their images, many of which feature close-up details from tuck boxes or individual playing cards.

This couple can show how deep of a rabbit hole you can fall into once you get into collecting playing cards, because they only started getting immersed into this world when Matt pledge for his first Kickstarter deck in early 20150. Unsurprisingly the majority of the decks in his collection are modern decks, primarily sourced from Kickstarter. It's amazing how much he's accumulated since then, and in his collection we get to see some of the best decks from popular contemporary creators like Stockholm17, Thirdway Industries, Alex Chin, Lotrek, Kings Wild Project, Uusi, Bona Fide, Theory11, and more.

Liz is the artistic member of the team, and has even written a novella used by Thirdway Industries for one of their Kickstarter campaigns. She does a great job of sourcing used cabinets and shelving from thrift shops and Facebook Marketplace, and repurposing them into gorgeous displays for playing cards. I especially love how the decks are displayed to show off as much of the tuck case as possible. Matt isn't a collector who leaves his decks sealed, because he wants to enjoy the artwork on the cards. I really enjoyed the fact that he took the time to open a number of his more interesting decks on camera for us, and thumb through the deck to show us the beautiful artwork on the actual cards themselves.

As well as individual decks there are also numerous boxed sets in their collection that are particularly lovely, such as Erte, Kinghood, Standards, Planets, BrainVessel Creative, and Alex Chin's NPCCD decks. Of course there are other novelty playing card related items to show, such as framed uncut sheets, card potion vials, collector coins, and an impossible bottle.

Although most of their collection is modern, there's a few vintage and antique decks as well, as well as some tarot decks and reproduction decks. Some of the standouts here for me were ones that Matt opened and showed us, such as a lovely vintage Icelandic deck, the gorgeous Ephemerid by Mr Cup, a deck by Salvatore Dali, and as the grand finale of the tour, a wonderful antique deck 15090. There's plenty here to make modern collectors salivate, while Matt & Liz also pass on sage advice not to buy everything but to curb our instincts, wisely pointing out that taste is refined with experience.

Video: Playing Card Collection Visit (Matt & Liz Romeril) - from the 2021 Virtual Day

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
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I would really like to go there, but it's expensive and far away
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On Feb 27, 2022, Zuzyak wrote:
I would really like to go there, but it's expensive and far away

Good thing that the last two conventions have been online virtual conferences then! Anyone can join in, no matter where in the world you are.
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Your chance to view the main events from 52 Plus Joker's annual convention (Part 4)

52 Plus Joker is the world's biggest club for playing card collectors around the world. Each year they host an annual convention, where creators and collectors meet, listen to presentations, and much more - all the while enjoying a shared love for playing cards.

When COVID made it necessary to cancel the two most recent conventions, the club ran a virtual event instead, which they opened up for free to anyone interested in playing cards. Everything was recorded on video, and in this article we continue our coverage of the main events from this online spectacular.

This time we get to watch several "Table Spotlights", where collectors show and talk about part of their collection. In addition, we get a front row seat to the club's "Mega Auction", which gives us the chance to see and learn about some delightful playing cards from the past. Finally, we round off this installment with a fun "Game Show", which is a fun format designed to help us learn more about the playing cards we love.



Over the course of the convention there were several "Table Spotlight" features, which gave individual collectors the opportunity to introduce themselves, talk about what they collect and like, show some of their favourites, and run through some decks they have for sale and trade. This turned out to be far more interesting than I had expected, and here are some highlights from each.

Table Spotlight #1

In the first Table Spotlight segment we meet Darren, a relatively new collector who especially focuses his collection around playing cards that are skull themed. Next up is Joseph, who had a very extensive personal collection, but was looking for a new home for a large number of prized items that many modern collectors will drool over just seeing.

Rounding out the first segment was Kelly ten Hove, who created Red Fox Playing Cards together with his wife, and who shared some of what they have produced.

Table Spotlight #2

The highlight for me in the second Table Spotlight segment was singles collector Kevin Dixler, who focuses on whiskey/beer themed cards. He gave a fascinating and informative slide-show in which I learned a lot about a collecting niche that I didn't know much about, and now have a new-found appreciation for.

Also very interesting was the portion with well-known Bicycle collector Jason Rideout, who not only had an extensive collection of decks for sale, but brims with knowledge and enthusiasm. Another collector was showcasing a number of very old decks in sealed condition, which were remarkable to see. It's pretty amazing to think that these decks have remained unopened across all those years.


Table Spotlight #3

The third Table Spotlight included several collectors of vintage advertising cards (e.g. airlines, ships, cigarettes, beer/liquor); a collector who had actual company badges from USPCC employees of yesteryear and some historic USPCC stock; and an enthusiastic new collector with some starting decks who shared some things he learned in his first year as a collector. Another collector makes and sells jewellery items (e.g. cuff links, hair clips, tie clips, lapel pins, earrings) that incorporate artwork from playing cards.

But the highlight for me in this section was a feature by Steve Bowling, a member of 52 Plus Joker's executive, who showed a number of older American decks and ephemera. He also did a slide show presentation that gave a historical overview of the evolution of Bicycle designs. I was amazed to learn that in 1905, Bicycle offered over 40 different designs to choose from.

Table Spotlight #4

In the fourth Table Spotlight there's a "show-and-tell" from another five collectors. Two of these had large collections for sale, the first being a lady who had inherited a lifelong collection from her mother, who was born in 1930 and had acquired many of her cards from her great aunt who worked at a card company. But real treasures were especially to be seen courtesy of a 92 year old collector who started collecting in the 1940s. He had many old decks in near mint condition, and also showed some wonderful playing card ephemera, much of it from the 1800s.

New board member Dave Hofmeister had a good range of things to show, and I was especially struck by his observation that when he started collecting more than ten years ago, there were about 3,000 playing card listings on eBay, whereas now this has grown to around 120,000. His fascinating story about why playing card factories appreciate having birds in the area is well worth hearing. Next up was a collector who had a great slide-show with tons of modern decks. Rounding out the segment was Kevan Seaney, better known as The Congress Guy, in view of his passion as a collector of Congress decks. He showed and introduced numerous rare and beautiful Congress decks from his collection, many from the late 19th century.


Watch the Table Spotlight videos here:
Video: Table Spotlight #1
Video: Table Spotlight #2
Video: Table Spotlight #3
Video: Table Spotlight #4


Watching the online auction proved far more interesting than I thought it would be. It's like watching a slide show with expert commentary. Auctioneer Larry Herold does a great job, and provides some interesting explanations about the auction lots along the way. Lee Asher adds some interesting comments and observations throughout as well, including sharing comments from other collectors in the chat. You'll certainly learn a thing or two about grading vintage and antique decks, and how that works. And it's a chance to see and learn about decks you've never heard about before, and increase your general knowledge about playing cards. If you like playing cards, then try watching some of these auction videos, and you may be surprised to discover how fascinating they are, and how much you will learn!

October 2020 auction

Most of the items listed for sale were playing cards, but there were also some ephemera, such as a book of card games from 1889. I really enjoyed seeing the wide range of playing cards, and it was especially neat to see many authentic decks from the 1800s. The auction included a significant amount of original decks from the late 19th century, such as a copy of the gorgeous Triplicates, and an original Samuel Hart deck. You'll even see some playing cards that are more than 200 years old, like the famous Thomas Crehore 1820 deck, which has square cards with no indices, and sold for $1000.

Many newer collectors of modern playing cards start hesitating at the thought of a Kickstarter deck costing over $20. But when you're talking vintage and antique decks, a hundred bucks is considered a bargain. Most of the older decks tend to go for hundreds of dollars each, and some even topped well over $1000.

For example, you'll get to see a Mediaeval Deck by NYCC from 1897 that went for $1200; a USPC Norwood #85 deck from 1909 that closed at $1950; and a Murphy Varnish deck from 1883 that sold for $2750. A Tarot of the Fools deck by Piatnik from 1864 didn't sell at its $1250 starting price, but looked lovely. A Hodges Court Game of Geography Deck from 1827 attracted a bid of $5000, but didn't sell because it had a reserve of $9000. It's amazing what some things can be worth!

Some ephemera can also be worth considerable amounts, like a Russell Morgan calendar from 1893 that sold for $2500. One of the prize items for sale was a limited edition double deck set celebrating the USPC-Cartamundi Merger. To add to its uniqueness, it was in a special numbered box (only 125 were made) made from wooden floorboards from the old Norwood factory. This went on to sell for $1500. The auction itself seemed to be a big success, and by far the majority of items did sell, with only ten of 114 lots going unsold.


April 2021 auction

Another club auction was held in April 2021, and the edited video for this runs for around 3 hours and covers 64 listings. By now the 52 Plus Joker team had found ways to improve the technical side of things, and the result was a smoother system. Once again, some fantastic items were listed, and it was a joy to listen to the banter and chitchat between auctioneer Larry Herold about the listings, although Lee's audio seemed to disappear about halfway.

I love just seeing the pictures of some great old decks, and hearing the guys talk about them, and as always I learned a lot. Watching auctions like this - even well after the fact - really is a great opportunity to get exposed to playing cards and ephemera that I wouldn't normally see, and to broaden my horizons and knowledge of playing cards and collecting.

November 2021 auction

The club went even one better for their November 2021 auction. In advance of the auction, they had a 90 minute glow-up, which consisted of going through all the auction items in advance of the auction, and discussing them with a panel of playing card collectors and experts: Judy Dawson, Dave Hofmeister, Harry Wastrack, Larry Herold and Lee Asher.

This is a terrific idea, and not only does it give potential buyers an opportunity to make well-informed and well-considered decisions when bidding, but it's also a terrific way to get to see some wonderful playing cards, and learn about them. This 90 minute video not only helped educate buyers, but is a treat for anyone interested in learning more about playing cards.


Watch the Auction videos here:
Video: Day 1 Mega Playing Card Auction (Lots 1-28)
Video: Day 2 Mega Playing Card Auction (Lots 29-50)
Video: Day 3 Mega Playing Card Auction (Lots 51-80)
Video: Day 4 Mega Playing Card Auction (Lots 81-114)
Video: April 2021 Auction (Lots 1-64)
Video: November 2021 Auction Glow-Up (Lots 1-63)


If you attended an actual playing card convention in person, you'd get the opportunity to meet other collectors and chat about playing cards. Lee Asher came up with a great way for us to meet other collectors, find out something about what they collect and what interests them, and learn some trivia about playing cards at the same time: a game show!

The concept was simple: the production team randomly pointed to someone who was participating in the live event, and put that person's camera on screen for everyone, bringing them live onto the hot seat. About a dozen or so people were picked out in the course of the show, and it was especially fun seeing people's reactions of surprise when they realized they'd been chosen.

First we got to learn a little about the surprise `contestant', such as where they were from, and what kind of cards they liked to collect. After some chit-chat with Lee, he then gave them the choice to pick which category of playing card trivia they wanted to be asked about: modern, vintage, or antique. Even though 52 Plus Joker has a membership that especially thrives on antique cards, it was neat to see that the majority of people selected had a preference for collecting modern cards. With a correct answer, contestants got to "spin the wheel", and win one of many prizes, such as free club membership, or the 2020 Uusi Club Deck.


This was a great way to learn some interesting trivia and facts about playing cards, and I especially enjoyed that aspect. For example:

Questions in the modern category included ones like these: Who is the owner of EPCC? What playing card project was the first to generate over a million dollars on Kickstarter? What graphic designer produced the back design for Smoke & Mirrors? What was Theory11's very first deck? What Ellusionist deck ignited the modern collecting movement in 2004?

Questions in the vintage category asked about the location of USPCC's factories in Canada, anniversary decks created by artist Nick Martin, the Chicago playing card manufacturer that produced Duratone decks, and the name of the St Paul born graphic designer who created pin-up art decks for Brown and Bigelow.

Questions in the antique category required you to identify the Boston playing card manufacturer who is one of the patriarchs of American playing cards, and to know something that even Hochman didn't - something of the parentage of William W. Russell of Russell Playing Card Company.

To learn the answers, you'll just have to watch the Game Show video! But contestants could get help from the chat to come up with the correct answers, and it was obvious that the goal was to have everyone who participated be declared a winner and go home with some prize.

Even though the `game show' idea may have felt a little cheesy, it was still a very fun format, and doing a quiz of some kind at an online virtual convention definitely has real potential. More importantly, collecting playing cards isn't just about the cards, but it's also about the community, and this really was a nice way to connect with other collectors and get a small sense of the many people out there who share our passion.

I'm very pleased 52 Plus Joker has made these videos available for posterity, because even if you didn't get the chance to participate at the time, it's a wonderful way to learn from others in the playing card community.


Watch the Game Show video here:
Video: Lee Asher's Playing Card Game Show

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
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Your chance to view the main events from 52 Plus Joker's annual convention (Part 5)

If you're serious about collecting playing cards, chances are you already know about the world's biggest club for playing card collectors, 52 Plus Joker.

Each year they organize an international playing card convention, which gives the opportunity to listen to presentations on playing card related topics from leading figures in the industry, as well as a host of other playing card events. Sadly, the current global pandemic has forced the club's executive to cancel the two most recent conventions that would normally have been held in October 2020 and October 2021.

But the folks over at 52 Plus Joker aren't short on creativity. Instead of simply cancelling these annual events completely, they undertook a brand new initiative: a virtual convention. It involved running numerous planned events via Zoom, and was open to collectors around the world, including non-members. Genius!

Fortunately for us, these events were recorded, and this article continues my coverage of the convention events. As well as being an opportunity to be educated on a whole host of playing card subjects, the convention also showcases some new deck releases and announces awards for the best decks from the past year. So without further ado, let's recap some of the highlights from the club's Deck Release event, and the Diamond Awards.


2020 New Deck Releases

One of the highlights of each convention is the launch of several brand new decks, which are released to coincide with the event. The need to have the convention virtually was no reason to miss this special event, and several great decks were announced and released. Hosted by Bill Kalush, each release featured a presentation from the person involved with putting them out.

Screams at Midnight: Kevin Reylek introduced Penguin Magic's new Screams at Midnight deck. This is a marked deck created for Halloween, and has one of the best video trailers you'll ever see for a deck of cards. The marking system is an innovative one based on the occlusion principle, and the deck even comes with special red/blue glasses.

Jerry's Nugget box set: Bill Kalush introduced a special double deck box set of Jerry's Nuggets. What makes this set unique is that the cards are printed with double foil. This means that the card backs have no ink whatsoever, and consist entirely of two hot foils, as a result of a new process developed and fine-tuned in EPCC's new factory in China.

2020 NPCCD decks: Alex Chin introduced the 2020 National Playing Card Collection Day decks. With the theme of "Hindsight is 2020", this set of gorgeous designs was conceived as a response to a difficult year, and functions as allegory for our world, with each deck represented by a spirit from Pandora's Box. Alex Chin is a real innovator in packaging design, and one of the highlights of these decks is how the tuck box opens in a unique way, revealing a golden frieze. The artwork on the cards is by artist Kristina Carroll, and features imagery you could imagine discovering in a lost temple, with characters from Ancient Greek mythology.

Watch the video here: 2020 New Deck Launch


2020 Club Deck Release (Uusi)

The crowning item of the release event was the launch of the 2020 52 Plus Joker Club Deck. A top playing card designer is invited to produce this deck each year, and the 2020 club deck was created by design team Uusi, a partnership between studio artists Peter Dunham and Linnea Gits. The biggest section of their video presentation consisted of an extensive slide-show from Peter, giving an overview of Uusi and their work. They began in 2010 as a design studio, mainly making art objects and functional objects for the home, building off previous work they had each done individually.

Their Kickstarter-funded Blue Blood deck was their first playing cards release, and they were shocked by the incredible response this received, because they didn't realize how big the playing card community was. This was followed by five further releases, to complete a planned six deck set: Bohemia, Royal Optik, Blue Blood Redux, Pagan, Hotcakes, and Uusi Classic.

Following these successes, Uusi has branched out into a new market, by creating several Tarot decks: Brut Tarot, Pagan Tarot, Eros Tarot (much like Hotcakes). Then came several Oracle type decks, which are typically less formulaic than tarot, and come with guide books: Supra, and Materia Prima. The latter is especially interesting in how it applies the concept of Tarot/Oracle to the periodic table. Many of their playing card fans followed them into this new territory.

Although they have been expanding their range, Uusi hasn't abandoned the playing card genre entirely. Along the way they have also produced a new version of their Pagan deck published by EPCC, and a number of client decks, such as a custom deck for Hyde Park Mouldings, and their Junkanoo deck for Baha Mar Casino.

What is unique about Uusi's decks of playing cards is that all the artwork is created by hand using traditional methods. So it is very labour intensive, and their recent projects typically each take up to 12-18 months to complete. Along with each project they often feature unique art pieces and accessories that take advantage of their varied design skills, such as amazing custom wooden cases. Given the amount of work involved for these huge projects, today Uusi is spending all their time on creating playing cards and on the associated publications (e.g. guide books) that go with their decks. Despite their creative and original art style, which is classically inspired, it is important to Uusi to ensure that all their decks remain very functional and playable.

After this rundown of their history, finally the lovely 2020 Club Deck was unveiled, and we got to see what its tuck box and cards looked like. The artwork was hand-inked, and is inspired by earth tones. It features gorgeous mono-coloured faces with a woodcut look in red or black, and a Guilloche style back design. In 2021 Uusi would later release their Republic deck, which is based on Finnish/Nordic folk art and design, and takes over much of the style and artwork of the Club Deck.

Watch the video here: 2020 Club Deck Launch


2021 Club Deck Release (Stockholm17)

After the cancellation of the 2020 convention, hopes were running high that the 2021 convention planned for Niagara Falls would be possible. Alas, it was not to be. So instead, the usual deck release event hosted by the convention was instead held online on October 21, 2021. Michael Feldman, Kevin Reylek, and Bill Kalush all had the opportunity to present some new decks that were launching that day. But the feature that everyone was looking forward to was the presentation for the release of the 2021 Club Deck, which was created by rock star designer Lorenzo Gaggiotti. Better known as Stockholm17, Lorenzo is one of today's most sought after playing card designers. His presentation represented a marvellous opportunity to learn more about him, and to see the 2021 Club deck for the very first time.

Lorenzo first gave an overview of his own experience as a designer, which began after a move from Italy to Sweden in 2009. His first venture in playing card design was a custom deck in 2013, which was created with and for the company he was working for at the time as a graphic designer. He then set out on his own to create his first completely independent designs, Heretic and Requiem.

The goal of the 2021 Club Deck was to celebrate the classic deck of playing cards, hence a somewhat standard look and classic feel. But first there's a unique tuck box to admire, which has several cut-out features that showcase parts of the playing cards themselves. The card backs feature foils for a very shiny look, with the club logo incorporated as part of a two-way design. The court cards are spectacular, and have a classic look but were completely redesigned by Lorenzo from the ground up. These also feature foils, and all the pips (including on the number cards) have been touched with gold foil as well. A classic looking Ace of Spades and two Jokers with the club logo round out the deck.

Your appreciation for the tuck box will be enhanced as you get the chance to see Lorenzo's original sketches, which he created while developing ideas for the unique design of the two-part sleeve. From these initial concepts he then created mock-ups from card-stock, which he used to test the resulting ideas further. It was fascinating to see some examples of his early mock-ups.

Lorenzo also demonstrated how he designed the court cards. Getting an inside glimpse into the mechanics of the design process was particularly fascinating. He started with a semi-transparent version of classic courts as his base template, sketching over the top of this and making various changes along the way. The work required to edit individual aspects of the design is considerable. Lorenzo begins with his black and white image, after which he experiments by adding in different colours. He uses both Illustrator and Photoshop for this process. Each court card takes him a full day to create a vectored design in black, and then another full day to do the colourizing, while the back design is something he does off and on over the course of a week. The number cards are much easier, so in total this deck took him about a month to design.

This deck was limited to 999 numbered editions, which sold out very quickly. Like Stockholm17's other decks, these were quickly fetching high prices on the secondary market. The demand was much higher than anticipated, so the club has undertaken a special initiative to release an additional set of 500 unnumbered decks, with club members getting the first chance to get these. Like Lorenzo himself, these playing cards are all class, and it was no surprise to anyone that the 2021 club deck recently took out Portfolio52's 2021 "Deck of the Year" award, and also Kardify's 2021 "Deck of the Year" award.

Watch the video here: 2021 Club Deck Launch - from the 2021 Deck Release Event


2020 Diamond Awards

Each year 52 Plus Joker unveils the winners of their Diamonds Awards, which have been running since 2017, and which are the club's way of recognizing excellence in playing cards. This portion of the convention was hosted by club vice-president Don Boyer, who is the chair of the Diamond Awards Committee.

Dawson Award: Steve Bowling. The Dawson Award is named after two of the club's legends: Tom and Judy Dawson. It is a lifetime achievement award bestowed upon someone who has made a dramatic and positive award to the club and to the hobby of playing cards and collecting. The winner is hand-picked by Judy herself, and the 2020 recipient was Steve Bowling, who has fulfilled many roles throughout his involvement with 52 Plus Joker.

The two most prestigious awards for playing cards are "Deck of the Year" and "Artist of the Year". Out of the hundreds of decks released annually, only a small percentage get to be nominated for the "Deck of the Year" award, which goes to the best deck produced in the past year. While winning Deck of the Year is a real honour, the Artist of the Year is arguably an even more prestigious honour, because it recognizes the top playing card designers in the industry, based on their entire output that year. Both awards covered decks created and released in the period 1 July 2019 through 30 June 2020, with artists considered based on their entire output in this period. The Diamond Awards Committee nominated a short list of around six nominees for each category, from which the winner was chosen through a voting process involving 52 Plus Joker members.

Deck of the Year: 2019 NPCCD deck (Alex Chin). The Deck of the Year was presented by committee member PipChick, and represents the pinnacle of the previous year's releases. The 2020 Diamond Award for Deck of the Year went to Alexander Chin's 2019 National Playing Card Collection Day deck. From the hundreds of eligible decks, the other decks nominated by the committee were Ascension (by Steve Minty), Iron Spades (by Roxley Games), Luminosity (by Black Ink Playing Cards), United Cardists 2019 No 7 (by Montenzi), and Vivaldi (by Passione Playing Cards).

Artist of the Year: Jackson Robinson (Kings Wild Project). The Artist of the Year was presented by Don Boyer's wife, and the 2020 Diamond Award for this category went to Jackson Robinson (Kings Wild Project). Jackson has been nominated for four years straight, and finally came out with a win. It wasn't altogether surprising, given his prodigious output in the twelve month period, which consisted of 19 releases (23 decks), including several Kings Wild Shorts, and table players subscription decks. The other nominees for the award were Charles Adi (Blackout Brother), Alexander Chin (Seasons Playing Cards), Jody Eklund (Black Ink Playing Cards), Giovanni Meroni (Thirdway Industries), and Steve Minty.

Appropriately, all of the recipients got the opportunity to say some fitting words in receiving their awards. It added up to a lovely half hour show, and a wonderful way to bring the 2020 convention to a close.

Watch the video here: 2020 Diamond Awards


2021 Diamond Award Nominees

The nominees for the 2021 Diamond Awards were announced at the 2021 Virtual Day, which was held in lieu of the convention originally planned for Niagara Falls that year. Here is a quick overview of the candidates nominated.

Deck of the Year
● Bird Deck (by Hilary Pfeifer)
● Charmers (by Lotrek & Kellar O’Neil)
● Circus Playing Cards (by Marianne Larsen)
● Holographic Legal Tender Version II (by Jackson Robinson)
● Onda (by Alessandra Gagliano & Anthony Holt)
● Umbra (by Jody Eklund)

Artist of the Year
● Stephen Brandt
● Alexander Chin
● Elettra Deganello
● Alessandra Gagliano & Anthony Holt
● Marianne Larsen
● Giovanni Meroni

The video clip gives a quick run-down of all the nominees in both categories. Sadly the 2021 Convention had to be cancelled in the month leading up to it. So the votes are in and the winners have already been decided. But the Awards Ceremony has been postponed until April, when the winners will be announced as part of a larger 2022 April Virtual Weekend event on April 23 and 24. In addition to the presentation of the Diamond Awards, there will be some lectures, a playing card game show, a "Desert Island Edition" show and tell, and an auction.

In the meantime we'll have to wait to see who the winners are, although that's not to stop you from speculating about who they might be, based on the nominations! I'm particularly pleased to see some new names on the list of Artist of the Year. Stephen Brandt's flip-book animation decks are very novel. And the high class work of the talented Elettra Deganello is especially impressive. I look forward to finding out who the winners will be in April!

Watch the video here: 2021 Diamond Award Nominees - from the 2021 Virtual Day


Want to be part of the next event? 2022 April Virtual Weekend (April 23-24, 2022)

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
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Your chance to view the main events from 52 Plus Joker's annual convention (Part 6)

Collectors of playing cards enjoy talking to other collectors. Put two playing card enthusiasts in the same room, and they will quickly find something to talk about. Collectors enjoy showing each other decks from their collection, discussing their favourite playing cards and designers, talking about the latest and greatest news in the world of playing cards, and even buying and selling from each other. The playing card community is a particularly vibrant one, and it's not surprising that you don't have to look far to find many collectors active in playing card related forums such as Reddit and elsewhere.

So it's also no surprise to discover that playing card clubs also have a solid history. And of the many such organizations around the world, the most well-known and the biggest one for playing card collectors is 52 Plus Joker. Catering to antique, vintage, and modern playing cards, as well as playing card related ephemera, it is the world's premier playing card club to be part of.

But now that we're in the year 2022, things are changing. Not only are people around the world connected more than ever before with the help of the internet, but there are also new ways of meeting, courtesy of modern technology. The current global pandemic in particular has forced us to discover new ways of getting together virtually. It has also helped give us the tools and experience to do so.

And that's why 52 Plus Joker is at somewhat of a turning point, and arguably on the edge of a new era. Over the past two years it has demonstrated a willingness to experiment with new formats. Particularly their 2020 online convention was a landmark event. It is a harbinger of the exciting new opportunities that lie ahead for playing card enthusiasts in years to come. In this article I want to do a broad review of their 2020 virtual convention, and talk about what might lie ahead in the future.



But first, a few things about the club itself. 52 Plus Joker was founded in 1985, which means that it's not that far away from its 40th year of operation. The Chicago Playing Card Collectors club is another long-standing club of this kind, and in 2018 the two merged to become the largest association of playing card collectors across the globe.

The club was founded out of a desire for people to get in touch with other collectors, to learn more about the hobby, and give opportunities for fellow enthusiasts to connect, trade, and share ideas. Benefits are numerous, even for those who will never attend an event in person. For an annual fee of $25 per year, you get access to the club's two magazines, entitlement to attend the annual convention, and the option of purchasing the club's annual deck.

I've personally been very impressed with the quality of the two club magazines. Card Culture comes out digitally every month, and is jam packed with interesting articles and information. I especially enjoy browsing through all the delightful pictures of historic and modern playing cards that are found within its pages. The larger periodical Clear The Decks comes out quarterly, and you get a hard copy mailed to your address. It gives the opportunity for more detailed exploration of playing card related topics. The magazines have regular contributors who are well informed and passionate, and both of them are well put together in a professional looking format. But perhaps best of all, with your club membership you also get access to all the back issues from both magazines. So the moment you become a member, you instantly have plenty of great reading to keep you busy for a long time!

The annual convention is usually a highlight of the club calendar, and includes auctions, presentations from leading figures in the playing card industry, and other special events. Because of COVID, in the past two years these events have been conducted online instead, including the auctions. The quality of the items up for sale at the auction is very high, with many rare and old decks being a real treat to see. Each year the club also produces a unique Club Deck, for which they often bring in big name playing card designers like Alex Chin, Randy Butterfield, and most recently, Stockholm17. And there's the annual Diamond Awards, which among other things recognize the Deck of the Year and the Artist of the Year.



The global landscape of the year 2020 was very different from previous years, and the pandemic forced 52 Plus Joker to reinvent itself and go digital. For the very first time in club history, instead of being able to meet in person, the annual convention was held online. So in retrospect, how did it go?

The virtual convention was organized using Zoom, and with some good techies on staff, the mechanics of this new initiative worked quite well. There were some technical issues from time to time, like a flipped camera, muted sound, and the usual growing pains you'd expect as everyone gets used to video conferencing. But overall things went fairly smoothly. Throughout the conference there were good visuals and audio, and opportunity for viewers around the world to participate and engage with speakers via the chat. There were typically 100-200 people in the chat room at any one time, who had the opportunity to ask live questions or share comments.

Lee Asher did a terrific job of running things from his President's chair, introducing the speakers, and being the main hinge around which the convention turned. He is a fantastic ambassador for 52 Plus Joker specifically, and for playing cards generally. It's hard to imagine anyone on the planet doing a better job of this than he does, or being more suited for this role. Seriously. Watch him do his thing and you'll see why. He is incredibly knowledgeable, and positively brimming with enthusiasm about playing cards. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that parts of his body are made out of playing cards, or at the very least that he eats them for breakfast. He is very welcoming to new members, and exudes warmth, and where appropriate, humor. Not only is he a fantastic President of the club, but he's perfectly suited for that role and for running a convention, and I can see him doing this for years to come.

One benefit of a digital format is that it makes it possible to preserve a record of all the events that were part of the online convention, and put them online for people to view. In previous articles I've already covered most of the components of the convention, in which I gave a short overview of each part of the conference, along with a summary of some of the main points gleaned from each segment. If you haven't seen those articles, I encourage you to browse through them. Even more importantly, do check out the convention videos yourself, to get a taste of what things were like. You'll find a chronological overview of all the events over on 52 Plus Joker's convention page and on their youtube channel.

There's no doubt that going virtual was a big success. When the 2021 Convention planned for Niagara Falls also had to be cancelled, a Virtual Day was organized on 2nd October, 2021, with a similarly run Deck Release Event on 21st October, 2021. But the party hasn't stopped yet, and plans are currently underway for a larger 2022 April Virtual Weekend event to be held on April 23 and 24, 2022. This will include presentation of the 2021 of the Diamond Awards, more lectures, another playing card game show, a "Desert Island Edition" show and tell, and an auction. The virtual convention format is obviously working well, and will only get better with the benefit of more experience.



So what are some things about the convention that help give us insight into the internal machinery of the club itself? To answer that, we got the chance to observe their 2020 General Meeting, which was one of the events that was part of the 2020 online convention. It is quite a privilege to sit in 52 Plus Joker's General Meeting, because normally non-members don't get the opportunity to see this, and it's held behind closed doors for members only. But the club is all about transparency and I'm glad that they released this for anyone to see.

Prior to the convention the Executive Board of the Club had an online meeting where they made various decisions, charting the way forward for the club. The first part of the General Meeting simply involved sharing the outcome of these decisions and various related details, such as a report from the treasurer, reports from the editors of the club's Clear The Decks publication and their monthly Card Culture magazine, and some internal reshuffling in the board as a result of a resignation. I found it interesting to learn that as a result of their new website, new membership in the club has gone up significantly, with around 25 new members joining each month. Some information was also shared about the annual Club Deck, the location for the next conventions, and the club's annual awards. The final part of the meeting gave members the opportunity to ask questions, or make suggestions and comments.

For an outside observer, this video will give you a good idea of how the club works, and the kinds of things they do. It's also very obvious that the club wants to be very proactive about attracting new members and spreading the word about playing cards. Historically, it has largely consisted of older members over the age of 60 or 70, who focused on antique playing cards, and many of these aren't tech savvy. Social media platforms like Instagram are a perfect example, because while they are flooded with cardistry channels and modern decks, there's less than a dozen collectors showcasing antique decks. There is a growing recognition that there is a need to share this love for older cards with a new generation, to pass on the wealth of knowledge, and also to bring modern collectors and cardists into the fold.

This was part of the vision of former president Tom Dawson, and is something Lee Asher really emphasizes as the current president. So the club has been taking steps like supporting new creators on Kickstarter, and looking at ways of providing scholarships for budding designers. With forward thinking visionaries like Lee Asher and others at the helm, it is obvious that the future of 52 Plus Joker is bright, and that the club will continue to grow, especially if more modern collectors come on board.

Watch the video here: General Meeting



While the pandemic has taken a lot of things away from us, it's also given us some good things too. And in my mind, 52 Plus Joker's 2020 Virtual Convention was more than just a historic first. I wouldn't be surprised if in years to come, it is something that people look back at as a significant turning point in the history of 52 Plus Joker, and an indication of good things that lie ahead for the club.

1. A broader participation

Historically 52 Plus Joker originated as a club for American collectors. While these do make up a significant part of the membership, it's now very much an international club rather than simply a national one. Over time the club has attracted a growing number of members from around the world. This virtual event is only going to accelerate that trend, by making it easier for a global audience to be involved and experience the benefits of the club. Unlike the past, you no longer need to be physically in the same room any more.

That certainly is a silver lining in the COVID cloud. The pandemic has forced all of us to learn how to use video conferencing programs like Zoom. And one benefit of that is that most people are open to the possibilities of having online meetings using this kind of technology, and have experience with them. It's hard to imagine a virtual convention like this being possible without the benefit of the experience most of us have been forced into as a result of COVID, and it wouldn't nearly have attracted the same level of participation. As a result, this really opens up new possibilities for doing this kind of thing more often, even in a non-pandemic setting, because it comes with the very real advantage of trumping geographic limitations, and enabling enthusiasts around the world to participate.

2. A broader scope

Historically the club has focused on antique playing cards, and on American playing cards. But already years ago the club's former president Tom Dawson had a real vision that if the club was going to survive and grow, it needed to broaden its scope. He believed that the club had to embrace and welcome vintage collectors, modern collectors, and cardists, since that was the way of the future, and they had to be brought into the fold.

Lee Asher is also a visionary who shares this perspective, and his arrival at the club was an important catalyst that helped make this expansion start happening. It's a vision he has continued to implement ever since he served on the board and once he became president. He is very intentional about this, and I've heard him make mention of it numerous times, including in his closing remarks at the 2020 virtual convention.

Playing card collectors have more similarities than differences, and can be united under one roof to keep the community thriving going forward. The types of events and lectures on the schedule of the 2020 convention reflects this vision, because there was a great balance of material, covering a range of things both old and modern. It might not yet be reflected with the auction listings (which mostly had antique decks) or the membership just yet, but that is slowly changing, and Lee has done a terrific job in executing Tom's vision, in order to ensure the ongoing and growing love for our beloved playing cards.



What lies ahead for 52 Plus Joker in the future, and what can we expect? I'm not on the executive, and I don't claim to speak for them. I do know that it includes some very competent and highly motivated individuals, whom I respect and admire greatly. So I have no doubt that the club is in good hands as long as they continue their good work. But I'd like to consider the future from a slightly different angle. The 2020 Virtual Convention should not only make us aware of the benefits of playing card collectors from around the world being able to connect, but also make us realize how important this is for the future. More specifically, the vision that Tom Dawson and Lee Asher have rightly recognized and have worked hard to turn into a reality is important for several reasons:

1. Antique collectors need modern collectors.

Folks putting out content about modern decks are a dime a dozen, and there's no shortage of material about that side of the spectrum of playing cards. But right now there's only a handful of guys on social media putting out content about historic and antique decks. Part of that is because most antique collectors are older people, don't use technology, and aren't on social media. A good number of the members of 52 Plus Joker are 60-80 years old or more, and not many of these are active online or technologically savvy, and you can hardly criticize them for that.

But what will happen to the love for antique decks when that generation is no longer around? And what will be the future of playing card collector's clubs 20 years from now? For clubs like 52 Plus Joker to survive, they need to embrace modern collectors and cardists. But just as important is the need for them to educate modern collectors about antique decks and get them interested. Otherwise valuable information about the past will be lost. Antique collectors need modern collectors to whom they can pass on the torch, and share their wealth of knowledge, and instil a love for the heritage we all share. Eventually there will be a critical mass where there's enough modern collectors who are part of the club, and can help ensure its future.

2. Modern collectors need antique collectors

Modern collectors typically don't know anything about antique cards, and they need to learn to branch out to older material. I know this because it's been part of my own journey: I got into collecting myself via modern decks. While I don't collect vintage/antique decks myself, I have come to realize how important it is to have a sense of the history that has brought us to the present, because that is the heritage that modern playing cards have inherited and are building on. It is critical for modern collectors at the very least to learn something about that.

This is something I personally enjoy, and it's a big reason why I've enjoyed picking up some reproductions of classic antique decks, giving me the opportunity to appreciate some of the heritage, without needing to spend the big dollars normally associated with antique decks. Putting the spotlight on content about the history of playing cards and about antique decks gives modern collectors like me a sense of perspective, helps broaden our vision, get more informed, be enriched, and be more appreciative of the past.

3. 52 Plus Joker connects the two

Clubs like 52 Plus Joker are playing an important role of connecting modern collectors with antique collectors, and giving both collectors a platform to share with one another. This crossover is essential, and both groups of collectors will become stronger because of it. Introducing a modern audience to the world of the past is essential if our heritage is going to survive.

The 2020 virtual convention has the potential to have a wonderful spin-off effect that promotes this kind of crossover and connecting. It helps make modern collectors see what other collectors are doing, and can make them interested in the club and its activities. And at the same time they start learning more about vintage and antique cards, and become more interested in that. That will really help the future of the club, and of playing card collecting generally. 52 Plus Joker is playing an important role in connecting these two groups of people who share similar passions, but might otherwise never meet.

One challenge 52 Plus Joker faces is to get a larger number of modern collectors into the membership, otherwise there's no incentive for them to use some of its features like the auction. Once there's a critical mass of modern collectors in the fold, it will potentially generate some real momentum, and finding ways like this to make the club appealing to cardists and modern collectors will really help it grow in years to come.



It's been a real blast to work my way through all the videos from the 2020 Virtual Convention, the 2021 Virtual Day, and the other online events that 52 Plus Joker has organized over the past 18 months. These developments and experiences bodes well for the future of the club. Given how successful these events were, surely we can expect more of the same in the future. Things can only get bigger and better from here, as the club gets more experienced in using the available technology, and putting it to work for playing card collectors around the world. The upcoming Virtual Weekend planned for April 23-24, 2022 promises to be another wonderful opportunity for playing card collectors to come together and have a grand celebration of all things playing cards.

Meanwhile, why don't you head to the website of 52 Plus Joker, check out what the club is about, and consider joining up? It's very inexpensive, and you'll immediately get access to all the back issues of the club magazines, which is a real treat. When collectors like you and me are willing to support clubs like this, the future of collecting playing cards will continue to be bright. And with 52 Plus Joker bringing us new opportunities to get involved online, the future looks bright indeed!


Want to be part of the next event? 2022 April Virtual Weekend (April 23-24)

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
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