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More Playing Cards from Murphy's Magic
 
Murphy's Magic is a wholesale magic dealer that was formed by Mark Murphy in 1998. They have an enormous range of magic products which they sell in bulk quantities to magic dealers around the world, and they have a huge network of contacts in the retail industry. Their website is a terrific resource with tons of information about their products, which include all things magical: magic kits, magic tricks, card tricks, DVDs, books, gags & jokes, puzzles, juggling, playing cards, accessories, and more.

But given my love for playing card games, performing card magic, and collecting card decks, what really interests me is the fact that Murphy's Magic also produces their own playing cards. They have developed and produced multiple decks of playing cards over the years. In this article, I'll be covering four of their newest releases, all of which are available from Murphy's Magic dealers and retailers that sell magic supplies or custom playing cards. Besides the colourful and artistic Mondrian Broadway Playing Cards and Untitled Playing Cards, there's the thoughtful and unique Infinitas Playing Cards, and the latest version of the very popular Cherry Casino Playing Cards (Tahoe Blue).

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Cherry Casino Playing Cards (Tahoe Blue)

Without a doubt, the new version of the Cherry Casino Playing Cards (Tahoe Blue) is one of my favourite decks in recent times. It's just so versatile and practical, ideal for card magic and playing card games, while also adding an immediate touch of style and class courtesy of the bold metallic ink that is used for the signature "tahoe blue" colour on the tuck case, and all the maroon colours that substitute for the traditional garish red.

Created under the Pure Imagination label, designer Sam Devins has teamed up with Derek McKee to produce something truly special.

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The concept of a Cherry Casino deck is at this point hardly new, and most playing card connoisseurs will already be familiar with several versions of decks with this name that have preceded the Tahoe Blue edition. The original aqua coloured Cherry deck was published in 2015, and several versions followed in successive years, including one in black. As evidenced by the Cherry Casino name, the idea behind the decks in this series is to draw on the image of an old time casino, hence the classic cherry artwork that is familiar from slot machines, an iconic symbol of gambling.

But now with this latest deck, the casino has moved to Lake Tahoe, one of the clearest and deepest lakes in the United States. That's what accounts for the classic cherry being set against the background of an inviting pearlescent blue, presented in a metallic ink, and creating a colour that you can easily immerse yourself in - just like the famous lake. 

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The tuck box is a very simple design, with the words Cherry Casino emblazoned on the sides. But it's precisely the simplicity that emphasizes the metallic inks used for the blue and maroon colours, and ensures that the design is memorable and eye-catching. An enticing metallic look makes an instant statement of class that sets this deck apart from the competition, and it has a magnetic quality about it that made me an instant fan.

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The card backs feature the same design, although naturally with the expected white borders. Especially satisfying is the fact that the publishers haven't skimped on quality, because the metallic look is present on each and every card. It's not too strong, and yet when it catches the light, it's obvious enough to make it stand out very pleasantly and alluringly.

As for the card faces, these have the traditional look that casino use demands, making them immediately at home with other card games or card magic. But there are subtle changes, mainly in the colour palette, with the usual garish red replaced with a more muted maroon - again with a pleasant metallic look.

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The other colours are as normal, although the blue is more muted, to fit better with the lake inspired colour of the card backs.

For the rest the customization is as expected for a very practical deck, with an oversized pip on the signature Ace of Spades reminding us of the Cherry Casino brand.

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And of course we have two custom Jokers, featuring two luscious metallic cherries, compliments of East Las Vegas Nevada, with the word "Jackpot" functioning as an appropriately thematic substitute for the word "Joker".

In addition there are two gaffs, a double backer and a blank card.

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The cards themselves have been printed by USPCC, although a thin crushed stock has been used for pleasant handling. But as you'd expect from a USPCC produced deck, the quality is second to none, and cards are a delight to dribble, fan, spread, and shuffle.

For the cardist and the magician, the Tahoe Blue version of the Cherry Casino deck will a very flexible, practical, and welcome addition to the collection. This is a stylish and high quality deck that will readily be at home almost anywhere.

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See the official trailer from Murphy's Magic here:



Mondrian Broadway Playing Cards

I'm no artist. But I do have family members, relatives, and friends who are artists, both professional and amateur; over the years I've seen a lot of art, and I've even learned to appreciate and enjoy it. So it won't come as a surprise that I also love artistic playing cards, especially decks that feature vibrant colours and striking patterns.

The Mondrian Broadway Playing Cards pay tribute to painter Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), and this particular deck is based on a Mondrian work entitled "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (1943). By turning to the world of real art, and drawing inspiration from the works of a famous abstract artist, we end up with a colourful and playful deck that is ideally suited to card flourishing.

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But first, a word about Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. A a well known abstract artist with a very distinct and recognizable style, he was renowned for his influential grid-based style of work. This typically consisted of abstract compositions with straight lines and coloured rectangles, much like what we see on the tuck box of this deck. Produced in Paris in the 1920s, Mondrian's style had a big influence on European painting, and even founded an artistic movement called De Stijl.

After a previous Mondrian deck inspired by the artist's more common compositions, Got Magic's founder Nicholas Earl has now teamed up with designer Yves Krähenbühl to produce another deck directly based on Mondrian's familiar style. The tuck box features a genuinely wrap-around piece of Mondrian art, with four eye-catching primary colours in Pantone. To add to the sense of artistry and authenticity, it incorporates Mondrian's signature in silver foil. The interior of the box is also decorated with a silver foil pattern based on the Broadway artwork that encases the entire tuck.

You can see Mondrian's original "Broadway Boogie Woogie" painting displayed in a museum here. His penultimate work, it expresses his fascination with New York, especially the lively beat and melody of American jazz, such as the Boogie Woogie.

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The museum where this piece is housed describes it as follows: "These atomized bands of stuttering chromatic pulses, interrupted by light gray, create paths across the canvas suggesting the city's grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz." And to think that now you can carry around this intellectual and artistic brilliance in a deck of playing cards!

It's no surprise that the cards themselves have artwork on the back that matches the artistic design on the tuck box. It is typical Mondrian, with simple colours, straight lines, and connected rectangular shapes.

The geometric forms, lines, and colours, of the main Broadway design have also determined the shape and style of the creative and artistic Ace of Spades.

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The court cards retain the traditional artwork of standard playing cards, but the colour scheme has been altered to match the rest of the deck, using the primary colours that were a common feature of Mondrian's work.

Those who have the first deck in the Mondrian series will notice that the majority of the face cards have not changed from the original. With both decks, I especially like how the typically garish colours of the courts are maximized rather than toned down, to give a uniform set of colours on both the card faces and backs. This makes the deck particularly well suited for cardistry cuts and flourishes that showcase both sides of the cards, because the faces and backs work in tandem rather than against each other.

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The rectangular yellow lines of the main pattern are interspersed with a series of coloured squares, and this particularly lends itself to the production of striking fans and spreads.

I'm sure even Mondrian himself would have appreciated the impressive look generated by a fan!

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The number cards are entirely standard, making this a very practical and functional deck. Meanwhile the two Jokers reprise the fashionable lady in a cocktail dress who first made her appearance in the original deck, except that her dress pattern now features the design from the Broadway card backs. One Joker is in colour, while the other is in black and white.

Two extra cards are also included, namely a double backer and a blank card.

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As you'd expect, this deck is particularly at home in the hands of skilled hands of a cardist, since it is especially suited to card flourishing, due to the ease in which it produces beautiful fans and spreads, courtesy of the bold and colourful Mondrian patterns that decorate the cards. 

Fortunately for the non-cardists among us, it is also practical and familiar enough to be equally at home in the hands of a magician performing card magic, or on the card table for some hands of your favourite game.

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The stylish patterns and colours of the Mondrian Broadway deck are matched by quality printing. Produced by USPCC on their crushed Bee stock, this deck is an all round top notch product that has good handling and durability to match its colourful good looks. While remaining a vibrant and faithful tribute to a true legend in the world of art, it not only makes a welcome contribution from the perspective of art, but will be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone who enjoys fine playing cards.

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See the official trailer from Murphy's Magic here:



Infinitas Playing Cards

I've always been fascinated by paradoxes and numbers. The idea of infinity has always intrigued me, because no matter how big a number you can think of, you can always add one more.

Infinitas Playing Cards takes its name from the Spanish word for infinite, and pays homage to this paradoxical concept of that which never ends.

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Rian Lehman is the designer of the Infinitas deck, and although the creation of this deck didn't take an infinite amount of time, it did take him the better part of two years. It was his goal to pay tribute to the infinite possibilities that lie before us, as well as the idea of interconnectivity.

But the concept of infinite possibilities not only has significance for life in general, but especially comes to life when applied to card flourishing. As a growing art form, is it not true that there is unlimited potential at your finger tips, when you have a deck in hands? Not only can you expand the horizons of your own skills, but the young and rapidly maturing art form of cardistry is also awaiting new discoveries, when the minds and hands of budding cardists are unafraid to explore new territory, try new moves, and make new conquests. All things are limitless, but when this boundless and endless horizons are a regular feature of your creativity, who knows what new heights you might climb!

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These ideas about infinity already find a home on the tuck box, which has multiple figure-eight symbols - the classical and elegant image of pure infinity - linked together. The deck's title employs a cursive font that helps suggest something of movement and artistry, while the rugged cream white card stock of the tuck box has a very earthy feel and look to it. With this deck, we might start with our feet on the ground, but once the cards come out of the box, we are ready to reach for the sky!

The possibilities start to open up at the same time as we open the tuck box, which has this intriguing slogan on the inside of the flap: "Your choices are half a chance, so are everybody elses.” As for the cards, they defy traditional stereotypes, thereby serving as superb examples of the boundless potential that awaits when we are prepared to break with standard patterns, and venture into the unknown! Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, and among the infinite possibilities and outcomes there's just the chance that viewers will give this deck's unique style their personal seal of approval.

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Everything about this deck is custom. Of course you've seen custom card backs before ... but not like these! These offer a very minimalist and yet symmetrical design based on interlocking infinity symbols. Not everyone will be thrilled by all the open space here, but these card backs do look gorgeous in cascades and waterfalls. And some fun possibilities can be harnessed for magicians wanting to capitalize on fans that can create a rare vanished or blank deck effect.

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The infinity symbol is clearly the key that unlocks this deck, and you will find it everywhere, not least because it is the defining shape that is the main building block used to construct the custom pips.

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But the elegance of infinity is everywhere present wherever you look. It is clearly shaping everything about this brave new world, especially the sophisticated Aces, which all feature giant pips. Note that despite the apparently phallic look of the Spade pip, it was actually designed to resemble the classic swords common in old time decks. 

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The court cards show that some memories of traditional characters still remains, but these offer a completely new interpretation in line with the deck's theme. Minimalism continues to be king, in a land without borders. The Spades and Clubs are decked out exclusively in a mono-coloured black, while the Hearts and Diamonds rely on a simple black and red colour scheme that proves bold yet effective.

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There are some hidden revelations within, if you know where to look - after all, this is a land of infinite possibilities! And don't miss how our royal friends are dressed, with miniature suit pips emblazoned on their apparel. Their true loyalty is thus never in doubt, despite the pips used for the indices being far more ambiguous.

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The number cards unquestionably exude a certain amount of charm, charisma, elegance, and sophistication. It's hard not to appreciate the artfulness and atmosphere that surrounds these playing cards on all sides.

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But let's be honest, in view of the very non-conventional approach to the pips, this deck is probably more at home in philosophy than it is in being practical!

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The printing comes to us courtesy of USPCC, which proves that even our Bicycle loving companions are willing to join us in a class of philosophy if it is quality that we're after. With the wheels of their proven reputation supporting us on our creative journey, travelling through these cards is always going to be comfortable and smooth.

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Our two matching Jokers dispense with humanity completely, and celebrate what this deck is really about: a philosophical and exuberant exaltation of the infinite. But for those who really do want extra cards to play with, and who insist on making something magical out of all this philosophy, a double backer and blank facer are provided.

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Even those who can't always understand the language of these unique playing cards at a glance, cannot fail to be impressed with the philosophical depth and artistic detail that have collided to create the very single possibility of bringing this deck into existence. The Infinitas deck truly breaks the mold, and departs from the traditional, inviting anyone with a pioneering and creative spirit to be its companion.

If you're looking for something truly original and unique, and want to be inspired to spread your wings and chase the sky, this is a deck for you. At home especially in the hands of a collector who enjoys novelty or philosophy, or the cardist who wants to break free anything that constrains, this minimalist deck is durable and smooth, and should last even longer than your dreams.

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See the official trailer from Murphy's Magic here:



Untitled Playing Cards

I must confess that the the paradoxical title of this deck intrigued me. Untitled Playing Cards - really? After all, by ascribing a title, even one that is non-descriptive like "untitled", these playing cards are by definition titled, thereby creating a pleasant paradoxical contradiction in terms! And what kind of creator gives the title "Untitled" to a deck of cards that he's undoubtedly spent hours working on? Is this an indication of laziness on the part of the designer, that he couldn't come up with anything better? Be honest - that's what you were thinking too, right?! Or is it a sign of cleverness, of a truly creative mind at work, making a statement with this cryptic name? 

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Laziness or cleverness? I think it is the latter. Because the creator, Adam Borderline, is a true artist, and he's not going to do things on a whim. In his words, "I've always had a fascination with abstract art, it's raw and unconventional. I really wanted to portray that in this deck. Untitled Playing Cards offers a freedom from constraint, pursue your creativity." Now it's all starting to make sense. The ambivalence of the word "Untitled" captures precisely this sense of abstraction: the undefined, the unnamed, the unconventional.

Adam's own artistic credentials are well established, and he's recognized particularly for his skills in photography. Head to his Instagram account to see some stunning examples of his imaginative and creative photography - unsurprisingly, many recent images feature the Untitled deck. He's well respected for his skills with "liquid card photography", and his #fluidcards series of photographs are superb work that really deserves to be checked out and admired. These typically showcase playing cards with liquids, like the image below.

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As the side of tuck box of the Untitled boldly proclaims: Fluidcards. This expression captures the essence of Adam's photography, but it also captures the very nature of cardistry, which is all about motion, and thus is indeed fluid.

But Adam wants us to stretch our boundaries, and head deeper into abstraction. Thus vibrant colours adorn the tuck box, in a stunning and engaging blur of colour that picks up the effervescent design of the card backs. It's a one-way design, it's fresh, lively, colourful, vibrant, and compelling, but it's also completely abstract. But that doesn't matter at all, because when cards like these are in motion, they are all about moving colour and patterns, and in that context we typically lose our sense of distinct shapes and boundaries anyway. This is a deck that captures that concept beautifully.

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My only concern is that due to the one-way design, the blur of colours on the card backs can at times become a confused slurry rather than an orderly array. But isn't that what abstract art is all about from time to time, and doesn't that just give this deck even more potential in the right hands?

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The card faces are quite standard, but there is customization in the usual places we expect as a bare minimum with a custom deck. Our lead character, the Ace of Spades, unsurprisingly, is an exuberant ambassador of Adam's blaze of abstract colour.

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But more surprises await, especially if we parade through the Spades last of all. Every single Spade card has one pip that has been decorated with a splash from the card backs, instantly injecting some welcome life and colour to the face cards, while still ensuring a relatively standard look for the rest of the deck.

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But there's a fresh approach to the court cards as well. By eliminating the usual blue from a traditional deck, the overall palette is no longer garish and noisy, but has a much more pleasant and settled feel, that feels mature and balanced rather than juvenile. As I indicated at the outset, what we have in our hands here is not the work of a lazy man, but rather of an artist who has given careful thought to all his aesthetics, even in an abstract world.

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Our Joker friends have come to the abstraction party entirely, by featuring what seems to be a primitive yet carefully orchestrated palette of paint splashes, making a bold yet visually satisfying picture of the abstract.

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It's little wonder that all this artistry has been paired with quality printing, courtesy of one of the very best in the industry: United States Playing Card Company. With the usual air cushion embossing ensuring an optimal level of friction for smooth and consistent handling, combined with a thin crush stock for softness, this is a deck that deserves to be felt as much as looked at. Cardists will love the flashing colours, while magicians will be delighted that the familiar card faces work equally well in the world of card magic. And this deck will be equally at home in a game of poker or cards.

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If all this sounds like your thing, then maybe it's time to make the abstract become real, by putting a deck of Untitled Playing Cards into your hand. Well done Adam Borderline!

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See a cardistry demo with the deck here, and the official trailer from Murphy's Magic here:



Acknowledgement: Most of the images of the Untitled deck by Adam Borderline himself, and are used with his permission. To learn more about his outstanding work, visit his official website, or admire the content he posts on social media at his Instagram and Facebook pages.

Conclusions
 
Usable: Many custom playing cards that are published are especially geared towards collectors, and end up remaining in shrink-wrap or collecting dust. That's not what you'll find happening with these decks from Murphy's Magic, because it's obvious that these are decks of playing cards that are designed to be used. Whether in the hands of a cardist, magician, or card gamer, these decks are definitely created with the idea of people using them and playing with them. Not only do they look beautiful, but they are also very functional. Even though they all have some degree of customization, it is not to the point that the cards are rendered unplayable or unrecognizable to the average person.

Magician-friendly: Some of these decks are especially ideal for use by magicians. That's evident by the fact that additional cards for use as gaffs have been included with the several decks, such as the Cherry Casino Playing Cards. The pips on this deck in particular have a hint of customization with metallic ink for the maroon colours, which adds enough to make the deck look sophisticated, yet without making the entire deck totally customized and unfamiliar.

Cardistry-friendly: Some of these decks are especially ideal for use by card flourishers. The bright colours and inspiring designs of the Mondrian Broadway deck and Untitled deck will immediately grab the attention of cardists, who will see its potential for all kinds of flourishes, with the possibility these offer to create hynoptic moves. The styles of these decks that lends themselves particularly well for cardistry. While traditional pips and colours could distract from the movement of the card faces, these decks have card faces that promote and accentuate flourishes due to their creative design.

Wide range: One thing I also appreciate about decks created by Murphys Magic is the wide range of diverse styles they offer. Some of their playing cards offer a high degree of customization while remaining fully playable and usable for card magic, while others are geared completely to cardistry, and yet others again are more traditional and conservative in style. If there's a style you're looking for or that suits your needs, they're almost certain to have something that will work for you, given the wide selection of decks they've created and that they offer.

Card quality: All the decks I've seen from Murphy's Magic have all been of good quality. The playing cards of all the decks featured in this review are printed by United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), who have earned a solid reputation as an industry leader through producing cards under their Bicycle brand. Their cards are consistently of solid quality, and feature excellent handling, due to their air cushion style embossing and magic finish/coating. As a result they handle smoothly, shuffle well, and work well for spreads and fans.

Affordable: With a recommended retail price of around US$10-15, these decks are not only practical, but they're also in a reasonable price range that makes them a more attractive for people looking for a customized deck that handles well.

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Recommendation

So are any of these decks of playing cards for you? If you're looking for practical playing cards that you can actually use for playing card games, performing card magic, or for card flourishing, you'll almost certainly find something that fits the bill. With good looks and good handling, these decks continue the solid contribution that Murphy's Magic has made to the custom playing card market, and I am happy to recommend them.

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The decks reviewed above are all available at your favourite Murphy’s Magic retailer. Want to learn more? Murphy's Magichttp://www.murphysmagic.com

Here are direct links for all the decks featured in this review:
Cherry Casino (Tahoe Blue): http://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=60952
Mondrian Broadway http://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=60904
Infinitas: http://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=61421
Untitled: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=62213

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Paul Hallas

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Reply with quote  #2 
I wouldn't use any of these decks for magic except maybe the fake casino deck. I liked the Infinity deck best, but didn't think the heart suit looked instantly recognizable as hearts, and that becomes a problem if you're having cards selected. 

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EndersGame

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Reply with quote  #3 
I agree, Paul. I've been using the Cherry Casino (Tahoe Blue) deck for magic recently, and it's been ideal. The faces look almost just like a Bicycle rider back, except for a slight metallic look, and slightly adjusted colours in the courts. It's worked well.

I've been thinking about using the "Untitled" deck for magic as well - it's just the Spade pips that might draw attention. The Mondrian deck would work fine as well - I can see a cardist enjoying it for flourishing, and if asked to do some magic, it could easily be suitable given the standard faces.

I would definitely avoid the Infinitas deck for magic. As you say, the pips aren't recognizable enough, especially hearts and spades. It's more of an artistic deck for collectors.

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Ben Morris-Rains

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Reply with quote  #4 
Those cherries are my favorite looking version, I just can't justify spending $12/ pack on cards when I have so many to use. When Blaine runs black friday deals, I find those worth it as you can get cards up to $5/pack which is doable. But a dozen bikes at costco is like $15? 

I have all the design files for my own custom deck and I know USPCC price points. $12/pack for that deck (especially when printing in the 10k+ range) means they are making head over fist.

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Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks for the input Ben. Based on your knowledge of USPCC price points, what would you estimate Murphy's cost price per deck to be?
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"Instead of attempting to learn a great number of tricks, concentrate upon a few good tricks and master them so that their technique and their presentation is so excellent that those who see them will want to see them again." -Expert Card Technique
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Ben Morris-Rains

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Reply with quote  #6 

Well, my spec sheet is confidential but I can say that on average for 10,000 decks it is about $2 a deck for Bicycle stock/custom case.

But then you add about another $1,000 for the artwork for the back, faces, and tuck. So let's say they pay $3 a pack? Then charge people $12. They aren't paying for shipping. I would say they make at least $5 a deck. So I'd guess they are making $50k+ on those cards once they sell all of them. That is if they did print 10k decks. 

I don't know, I just feel like... for something I am going to throw away after it gets to gross to use, $12 is a lot. If I was a working pro, I would consider it a tool of my trade and write off the purchase. But since I am more or less just a hobbyist it is more than I can justify these days. 

 



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Ben Morris-Rains

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Reply with quote  #7 
Lets not even forget Zach Mueller and his Fontaines... That kid was smart. Those decks cost hardly anything to produce. They aren't special or flashy. He prints 20k and sells out. He's making an amazing living in one drop. 
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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Morris-Rains
Lets not even forget Zach Mueller and his Fontaines... That kid was smart. Those decks cost hardly anything to produce. They aren't special or flashy. He prints 20k and sells out. He's making an amazing living in one drop. 

Exactly. Zach Mueller didn't initially plan for the Fontaine decks to become big the way they are today.  He made the deck virtually overnight in 2013, mainly for his own usage, by using a mirror image of the letter "f".  But after using his deck in several of his cardistry videos, he found that viewers kept asking where they could buy the deck, so he decided to try crowdfunding a Fontaine deck via Indiegogo. Boom! - he earned a profit of around $20,000 the first time around!  Further campaigns for the same deck design in different colours earned even more.  He then expanded to other Fontaine merchandise (e.g. clothing), and today he earns a six figure income.

The Fontaine decks are not really special in themselves, but Zach has been smart.  Featuring them in his viral videos only helps increase demand and strengthens his brand, and people today are willing to drop dollars just to get his "brand".  It just shows 
what clever marketing and branding can accomplish, when the resources of youtube and the internet are carefully and cleverly harnessed, as he has done. 

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"Instead of attempting to learn a great number of tricks, concentrate upon a few good tricks and master them so that their technique and their presentation is so excellent that those who see them will want to see them again." -Expert Card Technique
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