Bicycle Comic Playing Cards from Home Run Games – 2014 (Including some USPCC History)

I originally purchased these decks on eBay from PlayingCardDecks.com in October 2019, net price of $12.63 each. It was a great price, and these are fantastic cards — just super fun. I’ve never gotten into collecting comic books (except for a brief phase of obsessing about Groo the Wanderer) but I enjoy those comics that bring a little light-hearted nonsense into the world.

Bicycle Comic Playing Cards from Home Run Games do just that very well. The pips are non-standard but recognizable, the indices are all custom, and the court cards feature hilarious villains or heroes saying things like “Blast! I locked the keys in the ship again!” Even the back of the cards have some enjoyable quips on them, well worth the effort of getting your magnifying glass out if your eyes are like mine.

These are high-quality cards, a great gift for anyone in your life who enjoys the Venn diagram of playing cards and comic books.

Part of the fun of this particular deck is that it was made when USPCC was still part of Jarden Corporation, which had purchased it in 2004. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Jarden, a spinoff of Ball Corporation originally focused on the canning supplies business, would buy a playing card manufacturing company. In a New York Times article about the acquisition at the time, CEO of Jarden Martin E Franklin (39 years old at that time!) calls USPCC a high cash flow company that dominates it’s market. The article also points out that USPCC was once owned by his father, Roland Franklin, and I can’t help wonder if there isn’t a father-son thing going on. The Wikipedia articles are definitely worth a peek if you’re interested in hostile takeovers and other interesting bits of business history. The strategy apparently worked as younger Franklin is now a knight.

Fast forward a few years. Cartamundi bought USPCC for $220M in 2019, which is noteworthy as Jarden had paid $240M (or $232M) in 2004. Adjusted for inflation that’s a drop in value of almost $80M. WOW! I’m guessing the drop in value can be attributed to the large increase in quality manufacturers of playing cards around the world, but that’s a guess. Abundant cash flow attracts all kinds! Here’s a much more detailed and amazing history of USPCC that’s worth a look. Also the United Cardists post is great.

The Jarden purchase inspired a question: who did they buy it from? They bought it from local private investors who had paid $140m for it in 1994, acccording to a note in the 11/23/94 edition of the New York Times (D4). Inflation adjusted, that’s $178m in 2004 dollars, which means an ROI to the original investors of about $54m or roughly 30% over 10 years. What this equation misses is any cash the business generated during that time.

I’m also super curious about Home Run Games, the producer of these cards. There’s not an about section on the website, so it’s hard to even get some basic details, but with a little sleuthing you can find them on Kickstarter, Etsy and, of course, in the public records section of the Arizona Secretary of State. In my 2020 gift guide, I called out the Premier League cards on PCD as maybe being imported, and with a little research to HRG, I’m now guessing that’s not the case. Can I also just say how much I love the Cthulu Buddies, over on their IG???

The business of playing cards continues to fascinate me almost as much as the decks themselves. Super interesting to keep digging just a little bit more.

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