The Bicycle Magic Playing Cards is by Alex from Prestige Playing Cards. This is a deck for the true collector and also for anyone who enjoys magic. But in this case, it's not firstly about a deck intended to be used to perform magic, but as an artistic tribute to the art of magic itself. Magic has been filled with "impish tricks" that have entertained and astonished spectators for centuries, and this deck is a playful homage to this mysterious art. Little wonder that the cover artwork introduces us to a mischievous imp, along with various other items that have a long association with magic, like wands and dice.
We're in for somewhat of a surprise when we open the tuck box, because the card backs are bordered in a rather striking ochre or orange colour - not what I expected judging by the tuck box. It does match somewhat with the vintage colours used on the faces of the card, but for me they seem to take away attention from the artwork on the card backs. I wonder if something more like the card faces or even a plain black like the tuck box would have been a better choice. But our impish friends do return on the card backs, which have a mirrored and symmetrical design - or is it? A closer look reveals that all four suits are being carried off by our mischievous imps. So although not immediately obvious, it's very much a one-way design - which magicians can perhaps use to their advantage. Other symbols like an eye, skulls, and stars accompany a scene that appears to offer us a glimpse behind the curtain, where a veil of darkness can be found.
I do love the vintage tones used for the face cards, which really suit the direction that this deck is going as a homage to the past. The four Aces are a real highlight, all with giant pips that are inset with mirrored imps. These mischievous characters are set among a variety of magic paraphernalia like wands, top hats, gloves, keys, and dice. The court cards are all unique, and feature delightful images that depict different magic acts - doves, levitation, swords, cards, and even large-scale classic illusions like the woman sawn in half. In some cases the artwork goes right to the edge of the card for a very lavish look, while the art style has a decidedly vintage feel. But everything about this deck has been steered towards an antique look, even the elongated thin fonts used for the indices. This is especially true of the pips - each of which is a round circle in red or black with the pip itself in white. I love the way this looks, and it all adds to the charm of this deck. Two playful Jokers - with a masked imp and blindfolded magi - complete the deck, along with two gaff cards (of course!), which are a double backer and a blank faced card.
With USPCC printing, this deck also handles well. But it's not something I intend to put into regular use, but rather it's a real collectors item that does a sterling job of paying tribute to two of my loves: magic, and playing cards.