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What are your thoughts on 'vanity cards'--ungimmicked cards with fancy designs?

Asked at 10:41am on November 8th, 2013 by ricklax1 (100 karma)
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The idea that “vanity cards,” more commonly called custom cards, are bad for magic because spectators will think they are trick cards is a myth that got perpetuated by a very well reasoned essay written by Jamy Ian Swiss several years ago. What people forget, or never knew because they never read the actual essay, is that he was referring specifically to “Black decks,” that at the time were the most common custom cards on the market. The modern custom card market has a relatively small number of “Black Decks,” and so the original basis for this myth has lost a lot of its steam. I haven’t actually performed with a Bicycle deck in over seven years and yet in that time the one and only time my deck ever aroused suspicion was one of the few times I used a Black deck!(Which is pretty much limited to Halloween these days;)

The people who keep this myth alive miss a key point. We do not refer to our spectators as laymen for no reason! They really DON’T know what a trick deck looks like! They DON’T know that a Bicycle deck is the most commonly gaffed deck on the market. In fact…most would not even notice the difference between a “Red Backed Bike” and an Ace Fulton Casino Deck. The key thing to consider is the white border. As long as your deck has that white border then your spectators will be unlikely to assume anything suspicious about your deck. The best defense, of course, is reality. There are just not a lot of gimmicks available for custom decks. So at anytime, if someone does seem suspicious, you are free to toss your spectator your deck, let them shuffle it to their hearts content, and go right into Oz Pearlman’s “Clutch!” http://www.penguinmagic.com/p/1875

Those are the reasons not to worry about Custom decks…but what are the advantages? Other than being a collector or liking a pretty new design, not much. That is, unless you are really concerned with the quality of that card. For most magicians the quality of the average Bicycle 808 will be just fine. For other magicians you might find high quality cards will perform difficult sleights or flourishes better and there are many custom cards, though not all, that tend to last longer. The details of which custom cards are worth the extra money and which custom cards are a waste of money, is beyond the scope of this question but trying out the feel of different stocks and finishes is part of the fun of discovering custom cards!

To learn more check out the tag for “Premium Decks.” http://www.penguinmagic.com/tricks/tagged/premium-deck

Answered at 07:15am on November 13th, 2013 by eostresh (192 karma)
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They're great for collectors and those who like to do cardistry (card flourishing/acrobatics).

Sometimes there's a certain theme to a performance that a performer wants to convey. A performer's vibe can determine the environment the audience feels like he/she is in. Some of these cards would be useful for that purpose.

Other times, it's just to catch other people's eyes. "Oh that's just a regular deck of... wait a minute... what kind of design is that??"

As for magic, I've never ran into any problem with the audience thinking they're gaffed. However, I introduce them in a way that takes away the suspicion. I pull them out and just stand nearby, doing some basic cardistry moves. I might escalate the complexity of the flourishes if I want to show off.

In most cases, people will approach me and ask if I do magic and my response is, "I can," as in 'it's not my main purpose but I can show you some if you like to see'. That usually takes away the suspicion, especially if I follow up with doing cardistry for my own entertainment.

If you're unsure of what to think about vanity cards, consider looking up Jackson Robinson's Federal 52 series of playing cards. They're Casino Bee quality with artwork influenced by the American currency. Highly successful and highly praised so much so that he's been hired by USPCC if I remember correctly.

Answered at 04:29pm on March 5th, 2014 by ahuynh11 (3 karma)
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They are fine for collecting. I think if you want to perform for the "real world", you should use cards that they are used to seeing. I hate to perform some killer effect only to have them say "are those magic cards?"

Answered at 12:20pm on November 8th, 2013 by s_branham (148 karma)
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