People new to playing cards are typically familiar only with what they’ve seen and experienced firsthand, namely the classic Bicycle deck with standard court cards. The average person simply isn’t aware of the many beautiful custom decks of playing cards that are on the market today, and how popular these are.
But as any collector will know, there is a wide range of fantastic and creative playing cards available today, and a vast array of different types of decks is being produced on a regular basis. Many of these display wonderful creativity in terms of their graphic design, with heavily customized faces and pips, card backs, and stylish tuck boxes. This variety is not a new phenomenon by any means. Already in the 15th and 16th centuries, when playing cards were first spreading rapidly throughout Europe, they were anything but “standard”. The history of playing cards is a rich tapestry that includes a wide range of different styles of playing cards.
So what are some of the different types of decks that are available? In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the more common types that have been produced. It’s not an exhaustive list, but is intended to serve as an introduction to some of the different types of decks that are available. The aim is to arouse your curiosity about these types, and perhaps whet your appetite to learn more about them, and explore some of the other kinds of non-standard or unique decks that you’ll find in the wonderful world of playing cards.
When collectors refer to a “standard deck”, what they typically have in mind is a deck that has a very traditional look. Over the years the court cards have become more or less standardized, and so has the shape and style of the pips and indices. While card backs vary, and the Ace of Spades and Jokers can also be customized, the rest of a standard deck typically looks the same. Typically the faces of the cards are exactly as you’d expect to see them in a normal Bicycle style deck, aside perhaps from minor variations, such as in the colours used for the court cards.
Card gamers tend to prefer relatively standard decks like this, primarily for practical reasons. While it’s fine for a deck of standard playing cards to have a classy looking tuck box that exudes sophistication and style courtesy of embossing and foil accents, the cards themselves need to be functional and immediately recognizable, in order to play games with them. A standard deck of playing cards, with clearly recognizable indices and suits, will usually serve that purpose best.
Most magicians also prefer to work with a standard deck, because they don’t want their spectators being distracted by fancy artwork or hard-to-read pips and indices. Furthermore, the sleight of hand skills they have developed will often make tricks seem more impossible and miraculous if the deck of playing cards they are using looks ordinary in every respect. So despite the success of custom playing cards, we can expect standard decks to continue to be popular for card games and card magic.
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