I’ve loved playing cards since I was 3. I had a big sherbet tub filled with five or six loose decks, and I used to play with them for hours. Some of the decks were standard Bicycle Rider backs or Hoyle shell backs. One was a bridge deck with a picture of an old woman wearing purple — I always thought it was a picture of MaMere, an old French lady that lived near us in New Jersey.
As you can see, the habit has stuck. Though I’ve always had stacks of decks around me, my collection started in earnest when I was in college. I found a deck called the “Key to the Kingdom,” a transformation deck designed by Tony Meeuwissen. Each card featured the traditional pips reimagined according to an old nursery rhyme. Since then, I’ve been absolutely fascinated with the four suits and how they are depicted.
When the tornado hit our old house in Joplin, it blew cards everywhere. Some of the decks hidden in cabinets survived, others were soaked. I lost about 400 decks of cards, some of which I’ll never be able to replace (I miss you, Bicycle Eagle backs and Bell Atlantic pay-phone-for-prisons promotional deck).
Not that I’m not trying.
One of the things I always meant to do back at the old Geek Central, located near the seemingly redundantly named Gabby Street Boulevard, was to do blog posts on each of my decks. Now that I have a respectable collection, I can start that mission again in earnest. And as you can see, I’ve been busy finding decks. My collection is not tempered by the need for the deck to be “collectible,” or high-functioning for magicians or flourishers. I love playing cards of all kinds, and some of my favorite decks fan like go-se. And that’s OK.
This house is shaping up to be perfect for cards, as a matter of fact. Check out the shelves in the new Geek Central. This used to be a window for a bedroom. But the former owners built a new master bedroom behind it, and changed this window into shallow shelves perfectly sized for cards. Cards are a major decorating theme, too: Check out the matchboxes I found at a flea market, and the Ace of Spades throw pillow.
These are golden days for playing card enthusiasts. There are so many custom decks being published these days that card lovers like me are in absolute nirvana. Ellusionist, Theory 11 and Dan & Dave are producing great decks that feature perfect combinations of design AND performance — something that was desperately missing before Ellusionist cranked out the first Black Tigers. But those of you who are magic-minded and would gladly pay $100 for a deck of Jerry’s Nuggets, these posts will take you in a different direction.
See, I have a collection rule: I will never pay more than $20 for a single deck, especially considering how fragile and ephemeric playing cards are. If you would pay hundreds for a single deck, that’s cool: It’s your money and I won’t judge you. But if we’re talking triple digits for a deck, I think it’s better spent pursuing something like a deck of Hustling Joe transformation playing cards: a TRULY rare deck.
And I bet most of you magicians have never seen a Pippoglyph deck. Or Pegleg Pete’s Deck of Royal Rogues. Or this Grateful Dead deck. All three of those handle pretty well. (Not as well as a UV-500 Ghost deck, but I digress.)
Card collecting is an incredible hobby because there are SO MANY decks out there, just ripe for the picking. My collection may not be as valuable as others (I probably have a third of the value of the decks hidden in Lyle Borders’ cabinet, for instance), but it is priceless and magical to me. I love these things, and I can’t wait to share them with you.