Weird Nuggets

By Ben Harris - Wednesday, July 22, 2020


One way of creating new magical ideas, plots, and methods, is by noticing the oddities that life, nature and human error occasionally present us with. You take the oddity, say to yourself: “that’s weird, wonder if anyone else has noticed…?” and then proceed to work with the piece of strange.

Jerry’s Nuggets

Lubor Fiedler was the master of the oddity. Tricks with chemicals, silly putty, refraction, and optics - all repurposed into magical gems. Think Lubor’s Lens. The ribbed plastic has been used for decades as a novelty. It took Lubor to notice that if you peeled the backing off a lenticular lens and looked THROUGH IT (beyond where the backing had been) that the Reality Twister effect could be realised. Lubor had also noticed, decades before (1966), that a piece of dental dam, when stretched, had particular properties. However, It is Lubor’s wonderful Gozinta Boxes that we’ll use as our segue to Playing Cards. You see, there is something very strange about the sizes of the tuck cases for the re-released Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards.

I’ve been planning to have a look at the new Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards for a while. Much has already been said by others, and I’m sure that as a card enthusiast you already know the back-story. You are aware that the originals were printed in 1970, rejected for casino use (most probably because the glossy and solid colours presented an unacceptable nail-nicking opportunity), and then sold through the casino’s retail shop. Lee Asher, Dan Harlan, the Buck Twins, and others (at the dawn of what was to grow into Cardistry) discovered and then used the cards due to their superb finish and iconic back design. This design - featuring two oil derricks against a solid background - created a visually pleasing, mechanical-look when in motion. In a world dominated by Bicycle and Tally-Ho Playing Cards, the Nugget’s “sports-stripe” back design accentuated the visual appeal of the new cuts and flourishes that were falling so effortlessly from these young and talented fingers.

Two versions of Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards have been reproduced to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the original production, which had sold out about 1999: the Vintage Feel and the Modern Feel. Let’s break these down and then we’ll look at a couple of oddities that no one else has noted.

Vintage Feel

These are produced by the Expert Playing Card Company and are designed to closely resemble the original cards in feel, thickness, stiffness and over-all handling. They certainly have a heavy varnish that’s quite glossy compared to what I’m used to. Straight out of the box, these are a little too stiff for me. Fans feel odd and a little clumpy. That said, these cards Faro like butter! No doubt they are superb playing cards—it’s just an over-all “feel” I’m not used to. Colours available are: Blue, Red, Black, Yellow and Steel.

Modern Feel

These are special runs produced by the United States Playing Card Company with crushed stock. The aim is to bring the look of the brand to a modern-feeling deck. Executed on the company’s web press, the results are stunning. This deck feels right at home in the hands. It fans, springs, compresses, blooms, and makes a great Anaconda—a flourish that really focuses on the benefits of the back design. In Australia we have a rather venomous snake known as the Red-bellied Black Snake. These cards allow me to simulate something just like that: but with a variety of colours offered by these cards. Colours available are: Blue, Red, Teal, Coral.

Now, to the anomalies that piqued my interest while toying with these wonderful cards:

Jerry’s Nuggets

The Anomaly of the Tuck Cases

The Modern Feel cards are crushed stock - the full deck is about a single card THINNER than the full deck of Vintage Feel cards. This is fairly common knowledge with collectors of cards - the latter deck does, indeed, feel thicker - chunkier in hand than the Modern Feel deck. It’s sort of like a bulky-feeling Bee deck. Here’s the strange bit: This fatter deck (Vintage) comes in a tuck case THINNER than the case for the Modern Feel deck. Weird, eh? Look at the photo. ONLY Vintage comes in yellow, so you can see no mistake has been made. The Blue case (which is clearly thicker) is a Modern Feel deck that is actually thinner than the Vintage Feel deck! Lubor…

The Anomaly of the Oil Derrick Towers

The oil derrick towers (featured toe-to-toe on the backs of the cards) are CLOSER together on the Modern Feel edition. This seems to imply that a second set of artwork was used to produce one of the editions. So, which is actually the more accurate facsimile of a genuine (and original) Jerry’s Nugget Playing Card?

What can we do with these little observations? Well, in regards the off-position oil derricks, the first thing that comes to mind is that the derricks MOVE due to a slight earth tremor. The casino is in Las Vegas, after all. Please note, this is a very, very minor effect and best reserved for freaking out fellow Jerry’s Nugget enthusiasts and not real audiences! To play with the shifting derricks you’ll obviously need two decks with matching back colours. They will be either red or blue decks, the two colours available in both Vintage and Modern styles. By switching a single card between the Vintage and Modern decks you’ll have all you need. Force the special card, have the spectator shake it, reveal the shifted oil derricks. There are many ways to proceed from here, using further switched cards, but it’s probably not worth the effort. Can you think of a more exciting way to put the anomalies to work? If so, please do make a post to the comments. While there, any thoughts you have about the blog and its content are most welcome.

See my new book, MACHINATIONS.

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