Learning To Navigate
By Ben Harris - Friday, February 26, 2021
The cartons had accumulated in the hallway.
“What?” I asked… “All cards?”
I had only turned away for what seemed like a moment: Book manuscripts had to be supplied to publishers, playing card impositions for the USPCC needed the okay, and puzzle prototypes required approval. The distraction had lasted no more than three weeks. Yet, when I turned back, the sheer quantity of newly published Playing Cards was overwhelming! Cartons of ‘em!
What’s going on? A couple of things. Firstly, it is a fashionable thing within magic to produce a deck of Playing Cards. It’s more cost-effective and accessible than ever before. (There was a time, long, long ago, when the USPCC frowned upon—and refused to produce—any specialized cards. Today, they have an entire division devoted to it!)
Secondly, Covid-19 has impacted the Playing Card factories, creating lengthy back-logs. Many are now just coming back on line, the floodgates bursting as catch-up plays out. One publisher of Playing Cards explained that they, alone, had 20 new decks in the cue at the USPCC!
What are we to do? New decks from Art of Play, Fultons, Kings Wild Project, Gemini Casino, Madison, NOC, and a fountain of Fontaines! Even some new Blaine decks! It’s an onslaught and you want ‘em all, right?
To start, there’s no need to have every new deck that comes out. None at all. It’s a simple, though hard decision to come to. I know the desire is strong, it’s seduced me for a while. “Having it all” is a ridiculous notion (and, arguably, lazy). I’ve just realised that I’m going to have to learn to “navigate.”
Take book collectors, for example. They do not buy every single book that is published. Instead, they navigate the oceans of what’s available—being selective—collecting only specific authors or genres. Coin collectors rarely collect every single coin minted, rather they concentrate on a particular period in time (or a country of origin). Collectors of guitars (myself included) don’t buy every instrument produced, we slowly acquire those that satisfy our particular likes.
So, it should be with our collections of Playing Cards. A good collection, I think (and I am working through this dilemma myself) is a tight and refined assembly that expresses one or more worthwhile attributes or characteristics that are held in esteem by the person collecting. It makes no sense to add to your collection unless these conditions, at the very least, are met. Consider it a basic filter of sorts. For me, these are must-have features:
- Must be printed by the USPCC
- Must be printed on the finest quality stock
- Must be traditionally cut
- Must have white borders (preferably wide)
- Should have matching Jokers
- Should have an elegant back design
This filter of mine is structured from prejudices acquired through 45 years worth of performing and writing about card magic—they are my personal likes. Your list will probably be quite different. For instance, you may favor other manufacturers, not care about the cut, borders, or the Jokers. All fine. Point is, by ensuring we be true to our likes—rather than all-encompassing—we can slow the rush of non-needed decks. At the end of the day we’ll have more useable decks in our collections and less junk.
Once the “basic filter” is established, you’ll find that your collecting takes on a more tangible “feeling of a hunt.” You’ll begin to look through online catalogues and card listings with new vigor, sorting the wheat from the chaff according to your own special requirements. The intensity of the “hunt” can be further magnified by creating another filter. Do this by refining your collection to one or two brands or designers. There will be far less decks to buy, but you will have to dig deeper to collect some of the early works from your chosen brands or designers. As an example, you may choose to collect the Playing Cards that David Blaine has brought to market. Maybe you’d like to follow the Fontaine trail, or how about Dan & Dave. Then there’s Kings Wild Project, Daniel Schneider, Madison, Alex Pandrea, and so many more…
Me, I’m tossing up between Blaine and Dan & Dave. Both brands have played an important part in the development of fine quality Playing Cards (and continue to do so). The cards are beautifully designed and produced. Worthy of collecting.
What filters have you applied to your collecting? Please leave a comment and let me know. Would love to discuss it with you. Happy collecting!
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