Steamboat 999 Deck Review:
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Where to buy: 2.63 / pack http://www.penguinmagic.com/specialorde
Information about my reviewing methods: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=156760Initial Impression:
I have seen Steamboats on shelves of dime stores and gift shops for years but never bothered to pick a deck up. Boy do I regret that now. This is easily the best deck of cards USPC has ever produced! These things fan like a Bike and pop like a Fournier. I was amazed when I felt these cards. Amazed that they don’t have the same cult following as the Tally-Hos! In every single category they beat or matched the Tally-Ho. They fell just shy on a few categories vs. the Fournier but if you need a beautiful fanning deck and want the power the Fournier is touted for then this is the deck for you. Most decks need a bit of breaking in to hit an optimum but this one is ready to go out of the box. This is love at first site.The Look:
This is the Wild West baby! You won’t feel complete dealing doubles with this card without a derringer in a holdout and a stiletto in your boot. It’s a no boarder back with flowers centered in diamonds. The busy back will help hide any poorly pulled double when viewed from the back. The court cards are standard USPC art and the Ace of spades was fairly boring but the backs really make this card. There is one joker card with a fairly nice sketch of a steamboat and another card that says “can be used as a joker”….why not just print another joker? Anyways I think those of you doing a gambling demo might really appreciate these cards.Card construction:
This is a smooth finish card with a similar looking texture to the Aladdin cards. Basically, its has some feint texture visible but nothing like the defined dimples of the an 808. On the other end it is not as smooth as the Fourniers but overall I would class this as a smooth finish card. The stock is distinctly stiffer than an 808 but at the same time the overall deck is a bit smaller. The thickness was about 15mm which was 2 cards thinner than an 808.Handling: Fanning:
Easily as good as a bike coming out of the box. Smooth finish cards tend to lose their fan first so we will see how long this lasts.Spring Moves:
In blind fold tests testing for the thickness of a single card the Steamboat and the Fournier were almost impossible to distinguish. When blindfolded holding and entire deck the Fournier edged the Steamboat out but just barely. When flipping Diving Board doubles in the air the Fournier seemed a bit better but again a close call. Overall I rated it a hair less than a Fournier 605 but it was a really hard call. What you need to know is that this deck will out match both the 808(by a mile) , and even the UV 500 stock. Dribbles:
Not one of its’ strong points but it dribbles well.Crimp hold and recovery:
It would have scored a 9 if it had a boarder but for some reason the busy colors visible on the side of the deck made the crimp a little more difficult to detect.Single card glides:
Not quite as carefree as the Fournier 605 but a definite improvement over the 808s.2+Card Obfuscations:
If you perform high end DLs(one handed, push off, etc) and spin based obfuscations with Tally-Hos you will find similar performance with this deck.XCM cuts:
With a smooth fans and a stiff powerful stock this would seem to be a great deck for flourishers. Perhaps the only thing keeping this from becoming a favorite amongst flourishers in the back design. Unlike the bold designs of the Tally-hos and the various E decks the multi packet cuts will seem almost a blur with it’s borderless back. Never the less the deck should perform admirably if you like the look.Card Splitting and Gaff construction/availability:
TBDWho should not buy?:
I’ll defer to my recommendations for the Fournier 605. The stock may be a bit stiff for beginners or folks with weaker hands. You will need good strength to perform deceptive false riffle shuffles and spring flourishes.Who should buy these?:
Anyone who likes the UV500s and the Tally-Hos will probably love these cards provided they can get used to the smooth finish. People who have been interested in the Fournier cards but have hesitated because of the price will get a good idea of way a Fournier handles by using this deck.Final Thoughts:
This was definitely the surprise hit of the review. When I first decided to take on this project I was mostly interested in the Aladdin 1001s and the Massas. The Tally-hos and Arrcos were obvious choices as comparative decks. It was just on a whim that I decided to throw these in as well. Boy was I glad I did! I’ll admit to some bias towards these cards. Any card that handles similar to a Fournier and costs $3:50 will win me over quickly. Some people will never get used to a smooth card so perhaps that accounts for the scarcity of reviews and lack of interest in these cards among Magicians. It seems that antique collectors are the ones who know the most about these cards. Perhaps it was a reputation tagged to this card over 110 years ago that biased magicians against it? Back in the 1890s Russell, Morgan & Co.(that eventually evolved into The United States Playing Card Company) produced several cards in their inventory. The Steamboat 999s were originally their cheaply produced line, much as the Aviators are today. So from it’s early days it was considered a low quality card. The Steamboat 999s and the Russell, Morgan & Co. have gone through several changes in the last century. When exactly the processing techniques of the modern Steamboat was created I was unable to find out. What is sure is that at some point it went from a low quality card to a high quality card. As I said before I believe it to be the highest quality card in the USPC line.
Now the sad news. Rumors out say that the Steamboats are being discontinued from the USPC line. I assume someone pointed out to USPC management that they were accidentally producing a quality deck of cards so they needed to put a stop to that quickly! Furthermore, there have been rumors that the last run of Steamboats was printed on 808 stock. That puts buyers of Steamboats in a weird position. If you are buying in the hopes that they will become a collector’s item you want that 808 stock as it will likely be a very rare item. If you are buying to get some quality cards before they disappear for good you might wind up with a card that looks like a Steamboat but acts like a Bicycle. If you are interested in this card for either reason I would recommend get only one or two decks to be sure what you are getting and then order in the quantities you desire.
In summary, this is a unique deck of cards. I regret not having found them sooner and will regret seeing them go. With its discontinuation USPC joins the ranks of many other American corporate giants (Walmart, McDonnalds, ect) that continually seem to choose quantity over quality.