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The first attempts at creating a marked deck of cards relied on creating “blisters” on the cards. This was usually achieved with a small, unsharpened pin that would be pushed up from the underside of the card creating a mark that could be felt - a little like braille.
When the back of a deck of cards started having patterns on them, of course, card sharps would alter the patterns in a way that would allow them to know the identity of the card. There are four main marketing systems for creating a marked deck.
Marked Card Techniques:
This method relies on using a pen with exactly the same shade of red or blue as the card deck back. Little white sections would effectively be coloured in. On Bicycle cards, petals of the flowers could be coloured in, telling the magician or card sharp the value of the card.
Almost the same as block out work, tinting involves applying a wash of tint to the area to be marked. So instead of colouring in the whole petal, a tint would be applied with a light ink.
This is using a razor blade or craft knife to scratch and scrape away an area of the card that has been printed.
There are a variety of different shading techniques from the somewhat high tech “video luminous marking” that is only detectable using specially designed equipment and filters on a TV monitor to the infamous “juice” which is a marking technique that can be read from the other side of the room, but involves quite a knack and practise to be able to read them. Much like the popular “magic eye” pictures popular in the 80s and 90s.
What is the best marked deck?
We may be slightly biased here, but we believe Jermay’s Marksman deck is the ultimate marked deck you can currently buy. Luke takes famous Deland Automatic Deck and elevates it in a way we never thought was possible. You can watch a 45 minute performance documentary for free.
It's different because not only does it tell you the top card, but also you’ll know the next card, how far away the mate is and five other hidden features.
Due to immense demand, refills are now available. Making this not only incredible, but also affordable.
Marked Bicycle Cards
The US Playing Card Company no longer allows regular Bicycle backs to be marked. Obviously they could be used for nefarious means as well as presenting hard hitting card magic! However the very popular mandolin backs are available as marked cards and we recommend the GT SpeedReader deck.
This deck is Garrett Thomas’ new twist on the Ted Lesley idea. The marks are brilliantly hidden and allow the performer to read them super quickly. The main difference with these cards though is the position of the mark. Normally, marked cards are marked in the top left (and bottom right) corner. These are marked in the opposite positions. (Top right and bottom left). It’s more natural, more safe and much easier to read.
You’ve heard of the juice deck, you may even have tried to juice a deck yourself. And if you have you’ll have learned how hard it is to do well. That’s why we’re happy David Malek released his Angel Shade Juice deck to the community. It’s professionally marked and only a few people in the world will know what to look for.
Marked Phoenix Cards
If you’re anything like us, you’ll have been using Phoenix cards for years. Now, you can get a marked version of the hugely popular cards. Based, again, on the Ted Lesley work on marking cards, these are marked traditionally, in the top right corner. We’ve shown them to hundreds of magicians and you sit and wait for the smile to come. The smile when they finally see the mark and realise how clever it is. You’ll smile too. Marked cards don’t get easier than this.
Who should buy marked cards?
Everyone that wants to perform miracles! We think when you get started in magic, you’re scared of using marked cards in case you get caught out. The only way you will get caught is if you take too long staring at the back of the cards. Your audience will never see any marks if you handle them like a normal deck.
Think back to when you were learning about key cards. Probably when you were going through The Royal Road To Card Magic. Now, think about if you used a marked deck and knew your key card just by looking at the back. Game changer.
Many professionals rely on using a marked deck to make sure their card magic is as hard hitting as possible.
So, really, a marked deck is suitable for beginners, amateurs and professionals. Which one should you get? That’s up to you.