The Most Amazing Decks of Playing Cards You Have Ever Seen
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There are ordinary decks of playing cards. But then there are amazing decks of playing cards. The best of the best, the ones that just make your jaw drop, and say: WOW!

This list is about those amazing decks of playing cards. It was inspired by the stunning Pipmen World deck that I came across recently, which got me thinking - surely there must be more amazing decks of cards out there? I want to know about them, and showcase them on this list! I've got things started by researching and posting about 20 examples of remarkable decks that I know of or have come across. But there must be many more!

So here's where I need your help, and here are two ways that you can participate.

1. Comment on the existing entries on this list. Tell us what you think about them, and tell us your reactions to some of the individual decks posted here. Which decks are your favourites, and why?

2. Add new entries to this list. If you can, include a description of the deck, what makes it special, and maybe even an image or two. So go ahead and post examples of other decks of playing cards that you think are amazing. There could be all kinds of reasons why you think a deck is amazing, but try to tell us why, and show some pictures if you can.

Important note: This list is only about 52-card decks of traditional playing cards, featuring hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds. The artwork, of course, could be very creative and unique, as could the size or style of the cards. But it should be a `regular' poker deck in the sense that 13 cards in each suit are represented. So please don't post decks from other card games (e.g. Lost Cities), or even Italian or French style decks which often consist of only 32 cards and use different suits.

Where to buy? If you are wondering where to purchase decks of playing cards like these, one good source I can recommend is Rare Playing Cards.
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26. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
JK
New Zealand
Bay of Plenty
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I hope it's not too tacky to add my own item to this list...

The Austen Deck

This is a standard deck of 52 playing cards, plus two jokers, featuring illustrations by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) for the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817).

This started out as a custom deck for The Shooting Party, but soon grew into a project of its own.

What makes it special?

Each suit corresponds to a different Austen novel:
hearts = Sense and Sensibility (1811)
diamonds = Pride and Prejudice (1813)
clubs = Emma (1815)
spades = Persuasion (1818, posthumous)



Every card corresponds to a character from the novel and features a line drawing of that character. The characters are assigned to the different card denominations in an organised way; for example, the queens are the heroines and the kings are their eventual husbands. The exception is the aces, which depict the settings of the novels, approximated by architectural drawings by Colen Campbell from Vitruvius Britannicus (1715-25). The font is derived from Jane Austen's handwriting and the card background is a page from the manuscript of The Watsons.



Best of all, it's a free Print and Play!

Plus, there's a Tichu expansion available here.

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27. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Ian Engleback
England
Croydon
London
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For the geeks amongst us, the code: deck, featuring different programming languages.


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28. Board Game: Jungle [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:8840]
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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These are among my favorite offered at the Art of Play website:





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29. Board Game: Black Gold [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1876]
Michael Kandrac
United States
Grand Prairie
TX
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I have a deck of these cards, and I'm reluctant to use them because they are probably worth a lot more than what I paid for them.

"The Bicycle allure deck is elegantly done in a dark grey and gold color scheme. The grey and the gold are used on the card faces, along with the back design. One of the most interesting aspects of this deck is the floral design, which is lurking in the shadows on the card faces and backs. This is a limited production deck with only 4,000 being produced for worldwide distribution."





Here's my Allure deck with my antique Cribbage board:



Gg
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30. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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Steve Minty's Dia de la Muertos deck! One of his best, IMO.
These decks come in Love Deck, Celebration Deck, Sun Deck, Night Deck, and Mourning Gold Deck versions. This is the night version.



More detail:
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31. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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Alice in Wonderland deck by Steve Watson!
These are great because three suits have a different solid background, and the numbered cards have playful color changes.

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32. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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Pocono Retro deck!
By Joe Morelli, there are a couple other Pocono decks out there. All pretty cool and geometric.

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33. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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Joe Doucet's Minimal deck!

Difficult to actually play a game with these, but a great graphical study on why decks of cards need faces and variety.


Found the black set, too. I think they're plastic, no white fraying, but fingerprints show up on them easily.
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34. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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And finally the Brosmind deck, by Alejandro and Juan Mingarro. Whimsical, different illustrations on every card. (Oops, looks like I shot this with a couple cards upside down.)



Here's a better shot depicting the illustrations:
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35. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Adam P
United States
Renton
Washington
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Almost forgot, Steve Minty's Olympia set! This is the Underworld set from the collection. Looks great.


Card back and the jokers for this set:
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36. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Luke Heineman
United States
LaCrosse
WI
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Hylian Court Deck



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37. Board Game: Sleepy Hollow [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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This is one of my recent favorites. I have an uncut sheet on my game room wall.

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38. Board Game: Spades [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1500]
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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My all-time favorite ace of spades, from Bone Riders by Bicycle:

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39. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Clay Blankenship
United States
Owens Cross Roads
AL
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Seven Seas Playing Cards
by Brain Vessel Creative





(Old) Kickstarter link:
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40. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Jeff M.
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
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I'm not so sure that these are "the most amazing," but I thought some folks viewing this list would find them interesting (if not amazing).

I got these while serving in the U.S. Army when I was deployed to Iraq. The backs have the "Danger IED" text with the skull and bones image. The fronts all have images of various IED (improvised explosive device) parts.
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41. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
MyO the HedgeFox
Russia
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The Golden Russian Deck

Russia has plenty of really well-drawn decks, but this is probably the most notable of them -- the 1911 design where the Kings, Queens and Jacks are designed after the tsars, tsarinas and brave young warriors:



A smaller picture that shows the aces, designed as the shields surrounded by items of traditional Russian crafts -- hawk hunting, bow hunting, forestry, and military art:



The deck back and name heavily varies from publisher to publisher, but you can certainly distinguish it by the aces.

I believe Piatnik should be selling them. Do be mindful that there’s also a 36-card version of the deck, as they are popular in Russia.

EDIT - found the bigger image for the aces. ANOTHER EDIT: Photobucket source is down, so I uploaded the image to my gallery.

Notice that the Russian deck has a better decorated Ace of Diamonds rather than Spades -- also a Russian tradition that I believe slightly follows the fortune-telling custom.

The print on the stamp reads "На пользу императорского воспитательного дома", loosely translated into “For The Good of The Emperor’s Orphanage” -- a portion of the money earned through sales of Russian playing cards (Atlasnye and these) was donated to the largest orphanage in the country. Pretty thoughtful of Alexander I.
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42. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
MyO the HedgeFox
Russia
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The Palekh Deck



Originally created by Pavel Bazhenov, the renown Soviet/Russian master of Palekh miniature, these cards are made in the traditional tempera-on-black-varnish style that came from the local tradition of icon painting and made the small vilage of Palekh known throughout the world.

The cards are decorated with various shades of gold and warm colors, and you can feel the cards warm you up with their hues.




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43. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Joel Pettit
United States
Gardner
Massachusetts
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I really like the decks by uusi, but in particular I like the classic deck which looks like it's straight out of the renaissance.

I've been looking to buy this deck for years and haven't gotten around to it.

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44. Board Game: Jacob's Ladder [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Crazy Adam
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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I found this box of two decks for 'Jacob's Bible Decks'. Made in Tel Aviv, Israel. Nice backs and standard fronts, but the face cards are excellent works of art and done by the preeminent Israeli artist of his time, Ze'ev Rabin. One Internet date points to the 1950s, but these could be a decade or two later than that. I'm attaching a few examples here:







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Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
Singapore
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小富靠勤,中富靠智,大富靠德。
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Romance of the Three Kingdoms deck

My set of Romance of the Three Kingdom playing cards, a gift from
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What makes it special:

Each card is a character from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story.

Set 1 of 2
Jokers: Emperor Ling, Emperor Xian
(read in order of spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds)
A: Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Ce, Zhuge Liang
2: Yang Xiu, Liu Feng, Ma Dai, Jian Yong
3: Lu Xun, Jiang Wei, Zhong Hui, Deng Ai
4: Xiao Qiao, Diao Chan, Lady Zhurong, Gu Yong
5: Zhang He, Zhu Ran, Meng Huo, Wang Pin
6: Cheng Yu, Ma Liang, Lu Fan, Deng Zhi
7: Dong Xi, Guan Ping, Zhou Cang, Ding Feng
8: Yan Liang, Wen Chou, Ji Ling, Hua Xiong
9: Yan Yan, Xu Huang, Zhou Tai, Zhang Liao
10: Xu Shu, Guo Jia, Zhuge Jin, Xun You
J: Huang Gai, Lu Bu, Xu Chu, Xiahou Dun
Q: Sima Yi, Sima Shi, Sima Yan, Sima Zhao
K: Guan Yu, Zhao Yun, Zhang Fei, Zhou Yu




Set 2 of 2:
Jokers: Emperor Xian, Emperor Ling
(read in order of spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds)
A: Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Ce, Zhuge Liang
2: Zhang Song, Mi Zhu, Jiang Gan, Wang Shuang
3: Gan Ning, Zhang Bao, Ling Tong, Guan Xing
4: Lady Gan, Lady Mi, Huang Shih, Lady Sun
5: Lu Meng, Taishi Ci, Pang De, Liao Hua
6: Hua Tuo, Kong Rong, Chen Gong, Zhang Hong
7: Wei Yan, Xu Sheng, Ma Su, Yu Jin
8: Han Dang, Li Dian, Yue Jin, Cheng Pu
9: Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu, Cao Hong, Cao Ren
10: Pang Tong, Xun Yu, Zhang Zhao, Lu Su
J: Huang Zhong, Ma Chao, Dian Wei, Xiahou Yuan
Q: Sun Quan, Cao Pi, Dong Zhuo, Liu Shan
K: Guan Yu, Zhao Yun, Zhang Fei, Zhou Yu



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46. Board Game: The Badger Deck [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked]
M. C. DeMarco
United States
Boston
Massachusetts
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The Badger Deck is an extension of a regular deck to up to 10 suits and up to 20 numbered cards, along with a bevy of additional face cards, with gorgeous art by Dennis the Badger. (Edit: The base deck is the traditional four suits with just a few extra cards, so I figured it was appropriate for the list, but YMMV.)

Spades:


Faces, old and new:


Aces:


The coins suit:
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47. Board Game: Dicecards [Average Rating:7.60 Unranked]
Donald Dimitroff
United States
Beltsville
Maryland
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Right now I am feeling very: turbed, pirited, heveled, combobulated, and not tinguished, so don't you dare "dis" me!
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This is a standard deck of cards, but also contains images so that a variety of dice rolls and games can be played using this deck. I have sleeved these cards in order to protect them.

For example, look at the detail on the five of clubs, it contains "heads" when you look at the quarter, or it is a four on the d12 die, a nine on the d10, and so on. The deck comes with a booklet explaining how to use the all of the images and a list of games that can be played with the deck. The card with the two black "stars" in the top left corner is one of the two jokers. The other joker has two red stars.

There are more than 40 different symbols that can appear on any one card. The "Fortune Cookie" slip has several symbols on it. Not all symbols are on all cards. If a particular card does not have the symbol you are looking for, then just draw another card.

Close-up of one card


Sample of several cards


Index of different symbols
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48. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
Donald Dimitroff
United States
Beltsville
Maryland
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Right now I am feeling very: turbed, pirited, heveled, combobulated, and not tinguished, so don't you dare "dis" me!
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I own this deck of round cards and I have had them for many years. In the photo I have included: the back of one card, two jokers, and a sample of three of the other cards. I have actually played games like "Hearts" and "Poker" with this deck, but after a few uses, I retired the deck, since I did not want to damage the cards.

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49. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2726]
MyO the HedgeFox
Russia
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The Verse flows throughout Aquaria. Through each ripple and wave, through every living being, The Verse binds us all as one.
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Motion / Hologram / 3D Playing Cards

Each card is a 3D hologram that creates a moving illusion as you tilt it.




Would be glad if anyone could supply better images.

EDIT: Turns out there are quite a few hologram card decks, such as this cute one provided by looleypalooley:

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Rick Sheppard
United States
Des Moines
Iowa
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It was a kickstarter for "Mazing Deck Playing Cards"
Every card has a mini maze on it.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teachbymagic/mazing-dec...



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