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Created: 07/15/2011

Popular Playing Cards

When I started to seriously get into magic, which was in the late 80s, the most popular deck of cards was the Bicycle 808 deck either in its red or blue back variety. And most magic gaffs were produced with a Bicycle back, too. Occasionally you saw a Tally Ho or Bee back, but it was a rare event. Outside the US you could find some local brands like Piatnik or Fournier, two European brands. Bicycle was also the most popular brand outside of magic which was partly its appeal for magicians - blend in and don't stick out with 'magic cards'. The only frequent odd cards where advertisement cards where a large company decided to print a deck with their logo as back design to hand out as freebies. A few artists had their own cards printed, again for promotional reasons, but most of these cards were rarely used for magic performances.

However, in recent years this has changed dramatically. Unless you have been walking around with closed eyes, you will have noticed that one can buy all kinds of 'weird' decks these days. And I am not just talking about the decks one can buy in a magic store or online at the usual suspects. Go to your next Target or Walmart and visit the toys section. Most likely you will find all kinds of new backs from unusual color variations of the Bicycle back to Dragon designs and other new designer decks. Also USPCC (United States Playing Card Company), the produce of Bicycle cards, has made dramatic changes by introducing the new Bicycle 809 Mandolin back primarily targeted to magicians. USPCC does not anymore print altered Bicycle backs, for fear of loosing their trademark, and will only produce gaffs with the Mandolin back.

My feeling is that this trend will continue and we will see a lot more designer decks make their debut. Is this a good thing for magic? Yes, I think it makes our tools, a deck of cards, much more interesting. They become a conversation piece. And some are, to be frank, beautiful pieces of art.