I really went out of my way in 2019 to find and back some great decks on Kickstarter. Although a lot of them ended up being delayed by the covid-19 pandemic, the Bicycle City Skylines Los Angeles decks were not, arriving right on time in January, 2020.
These decks have a decent design, but they’re really all about being a high quality, limited edition first run. For example, I have first edition numbers 93 (opened), 17, 26, 27 and 101 out of 1,000. I love that 17 and 101 are prime numbers. The final number I received as part of my pledge was 24 — I shipped that out to some friends who live in LA, just for fun. Irritatingly, I missed the Chicago run.
The Bicycle branding is really interesting. It’s a trademark of the United States Playing Card Company, but you can apply it to your custom cards for an extra fee. I’m unclear on all of the restrictions that come with applying that brand as part of your production process, but Bicycle cards definitely feel and play great. Check them out.
The tuck has a great, foil embossed skyline, the backs feel very art deco LA, and the front of the cards has a lovely ivory finish. The face cards themselves, however, are very similar to what you would see on a standard rider-back deck, albeit with a more muted color scheme and some enhancements to the suit, framing and font. The framing on the face cards, incidentally, it repeated on the back of the deck.
The result is a great deck that plays very well and feels unique, without being super pushy about it. More on that in a minute.
The cards were designed by Johnny Whaam and produced by Mike Guistolise of CollectiblePlayingCards.com. I can’t find much about Whaam, but Guistolise looks to be deep in the world of cards and magic etc. Looks like you can still buy these over at his website as well.
In a lot of industries, and I bet playing cards are no exception, the players have long standing relationships with each other. I’m very curious about what web of relationships has built up over the years and resulted in the surprisingly robust card economy we see today. I’m poking around the internet for details on Guistolise, for example, but there’s nothing in LinkedIn at all. (My first question was, given the geographic proximity, did he work for USPCC at some point?)
Coming back to the question of pushy custom card design: when is more design too much design? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but there are a number of questions worth asking IMHO:
- Can you read the cards in most light conditions?
- Do the suits still look like suits?
- Are the suits easy to differentiate?
- Do the pip-cards have a good balance between simplicity and being overcrowded?
If you’re interested in any of the specific numbers I have, drop me a line.