The Dead Man’s Deck – Vanishing, Inc. – 2017

Back in July 2019, I bought The Dead Man’s Deck on eBay. Trip On Magic was selling it for $12.95, free shipping, and I was super curious, so I bought one. Today, you can find this deck on eBay, new, for about $100, or you can buy from Canada for about US$40 (Listing 1, Listing 2, Listing 3, Listing 4). Pet peeve: listings 1, 2 and 3 are almost identical, even though they’re from different sellers.

I’ll get to the deck itself in a minute, and you can watch The Gentleman Wake talk about it. Check out the Portfolio52 page.

Why is there a big No. 10 on the tuck? All of these unfortunate events took place in the No. 10 Saloon which still exists in Deadwood, a town southwest of Sturgis. According to the good people at Wikipedia, No. 10 Saloon is a renaming of the Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon, which is where Hickok was actually murdered by a drunk Jack McCall. Waymarking has more information than you probably need about the evolution of downtown Deadwood.

Anyway, this is a prime example of why I find the playing card deck market so intriguing. Something I was able to buy for about $13, not even a year ago, now seems to be selling for ~7x that amount. Why? Is it just a weird Beanie Baby thing? In case anyone is worried, no, I’m not staking my financial independence on it, but it is fascinating. Note to self: I should do a write up comparing the two markets.

Back to The Dead Man’s Deck. Sure, there’s a limited supply. But, at least in this case, there are no visual indicators of rarity on the deck itself. And even brand new decks are shipped unwrapped, due to the manual finishing of the deck for the hole. A post in early 2018 suggests they were sold out in all but one online store at that time, and a post from 2019 suggests a limited release of 1,500. Web archives shows 14 in stock at PlayingCardDecks.com as late as August 4, 2020.

So, which do I have? The original? A reprint? I have no idea. I assume it’s the original, but there’s really no way to tell. And the idea that the producer, Vanishing Inc., put out marketing about the decks more than a year after their initial release is curiosity inspiring.

Anyway, the deck itself is pretty fun. The faux wear pattern on each card is nice, the decorative blood spatters are fun (“fun”? Yes. Fun.), the bullet hole and bullet are the stars of the show, and of course it will inspire a conversation among your card playing friends about whether Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill were the same person. They weren’t, but Google can add to your confusion if you let it. The tuck is pretty plain but, let’s face it, that’s not the reason I bought the deck.

It will, of course, force you to answer that unforeseen question: what do I do with the bullet while I’m playing with the cards?

And now I want to take a trip up to SD, once we get this pandemic under control.

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