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10 Top Information Videos About Playing Cards

Mar 15, 2018
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So you like playing cards. So do I. But how much do you actually know about them? When I first started getting interested in playing cards, and started learning more about them, I was amazed by how much I didn't know. Fortunately, with the help of some good books, reliable articles, and helpful videos, I found myself learning more. I'm naturally curious, and that holds me in good stead when doing research, because I want to get to the bottom of things, and I want to learn all that there is to know about something. And I want to share something of what I've learned with others. This time I'd like to share some top videos which give useful information about playing cards.

I personally find that the more I learn about playing cards, the more I appreciate and enjoy them. Whether it's learning about their history, their production, or exploring their many uses, it all results in an enhanced appreciation and helps keep my passion alive. These are some of the top informational videos about playing cards that I'm aware of. If you're aware of others that are at least as good or better than these, by all means share them by posting a comment on this article. I'm always keen to learn more!

1. The Secret History of Playing Cards (Magician DMC)

This video has been put together by magician Drummond Money-Coutts, the English magician and card handler familiar from several TV specials including the Netflix series "Death by Magic", and more commonly known as DMC. It's been put together brilliantly, with fine visuals and editing. And the content is excellent, as DMC covers the complete history of playing cards, starting with their apparent birth in the far East.

Even though it runs for nearly 20 minutes, it is not only factual but very engaging and entertaining, and DMC will keep you enthralled as you learn about how playing cards developed into the form that we know them today, and also uncovers some of the lesser known stories about their history. How did Aces become the most powerful card in the deck? Why does the Ace of Spades have extravagant decoration, and was a man hanged in 1805 for forging fake Aces of Spades? Even if you've heard those stories before his fascinating anecdote about the Earl of Sandwich is one you're almost certain not to have heard before.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: The history of playing cards.

2. Secrets of the Playing Card (History Channel)

This documentary was produced in 2006 by the History Channel as part of their "Decoding the Past" series, and does a very good job of bringing a very fair and objective account about the origin of playing cards, particularly in relation to the question of whether they have demonic origins in the occult, and it's a very fine production that runs for 45 minutes. The video is well researched, and numerous historians and experts on the subject are consulted along the way.

The first part of the video documents the origin of playing cards, acknowledging that their apparent origins in China are in fact debatable, and that a case can be made for other sources as well. The evidence becomes clearer once playing cards spread through Europe, and this video does a good job of hitting all the main points of the development of playing cards in the 15th and 16th centuries, including cultural and geographic variations, and the origin of the four different suits. Coverage is also given to historical points of interest, such as taxation in England which led to stamping duty paid on the Ace of Spades.

The final part of the video is a lengthy excursus about the origin of the Tarot deck. A compelling case, carefully documented from history, is made that tarot cards first existed as trump cards for a regular deck of playing cards used for gaming purposes. Occult meanings and the use of these cards for fortune telling were all later developments, quite distinct from their original usage for card games. Video footage includes lots of wonderful images of antique playing cards to complement the well-informed and educational audio narrative.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: Debunking the myth that playing cards developed from tarot cards.

3. Things You Don't Know About Playing Cards (Be Amazed)

This is a superbly produced video, and there's good reason it has chalked up over 3.5 million views. The presentation and edition is really well done, and the content is pretty solid too. At times it tends to be somewhat speculative rather than factual, and presents theories as actual facts. But overall it's informative, interesting, and very well put together.

Over the course of ten minutes, we get to run through a list of 10 facts about playing cards that aren't commonly known. These include these topics like the many sayings inspired by playing cards, the origin of the four suits, the origin of the Joker, why the King of Hearts has no moustache, the origin of the suicide king, the significance of 52 cards and other number patterns in a deck, some historical personalities that have been featured on court cards, why the Ace of Spades is unique, the amount of shuffles needed for randomizing a deck, and some Bicycle brand design secrets.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: Interesting facts about playing cards.

4. How Playing Cards Are Made (Official Bicycle)

You use them all the time, but have you ever wondered how exactly playing cards are made? The makers of the Bicycle brand, the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC) protects their secrets very carefully, and it's rare to be allowed inside their factory. But in this video we actually get a quick tour of the entire production process from start to finish. More technology goes into printing playing cards than you might think, and to produce a quality deck of printed playing cards involves numerous important steps.

A deck begins its creation with massive rolls of paper. Next these are run through the printing press as continuous uncut sheets. Next these are cut into individual cards, before being boxed and shipped. This particular video is short and sweet (little more than two minutes long), so if you enjoyed it and want to see more like it, I have a few more treats for you to check out: How It's Made by Cartamundi Playing Cards (quite a bit older and not the best resolution) and How It's Made by Theory11 Playing Cards, both of which offer further glimpses into the process of manufacturing playing cards.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: How playing cards are made.

5. A Tour of the United States Playing Card Company (Travel Channel)

This video features John Ratzenberger, and was produced as part of his "Made in America" show featured on the Travel Channel. The video pre-dates the USPCC's move across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio to Erlanger, Kentucky. So the facility you see here is no longer used for manufacturing playing cards, and has largely been demolished, with the site being converted to a mixed-use development. But the processes involved in manufacturing playing cards hasn't changed significantly, and USPCC still uses most of the same equipment. As a result, this video offers another rare look inside the walls of USPCC production, and we get to see how things actually work from start to finish, in a fast paced video that runs for just under 8 minutes.

We get to visit the inside boardrooms and meet the company's CEO of the time, and learn something about the history of playing cards and of the company. Some famous decks we get to see include the Airline Spotter deck and the Iraq's Most Wanted Deck. We also get to watch part of the process, including two sheets of paper glued together and laminated, then set to a predetermined thickness with the crusher. The paper is run through a printing press, and then cut into strips, and into cards. One stunning stat mentioned is that at that time the factory was putting out 20 million cards (400,000 decks) a day! Samples decks are tested before packaging happens. The segment ends with a fun game of poker with some of the company head honchos.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: The Bicycle brand.
 
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6. How Many People Does it Take to Make a Deck of Cards? (History Channel)

This video features film-maker Dave Holmes and was produced by the History Channel, and gives a much more detailed look of the process of making playing cards from start to finish. Like the previous video, this shows us the "old" plant in Cincinnati, Ohio. The video quality isn't ideal (a handheld camera was used to film the original TV program), and the sound is occasionally out of sync, but this is still a splendid video with a great insider perspective. In the course of just over 12 minutes, we also get to hear a few fascinating snippets of playing card history.

At the outset we quickly learn how secure the United States Playing Card Company is, because even the crew filming the documentary have to go through a series of security checks before they're allowed inside. In turn we get to meet some of the individuals involved with different parts of the manufacturing process, each of whom gives us a brief rundown of what they do: senior desktop operator, plate-making operator, paper input operator, laminator operator, paper operator, printing assistant, second pressman, first pressman, defect manager, stripper, corner puncher, deck inspector, packaging manager, floor-person, distribution specialist, and lead shipper.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: How playing cards are made.

7. How to Release Your Own Custom Deck of Playing Cards (Ekaterina)

Ekaterina is a well known and respected youtuber, whose main area of expertise is in the area of card magic and cardistry. She's put out over two hundred solid videos with magic reviews, and tutorials for both card magic and card flourishing. Unlike some well-intended people on youtube, she knows what she's talking about, and has good techniques.

But of special interest to us is that Ekat has also created her own custom deck of playing cards, called Fox Playing Cards. In this detailed half hour video she walks through the entire process of creating your own deck, with four main areas of focus: Design, Production, Marketing, and Fulfilment. She shares her own experiences, and explains many of the things that she learned along the way. There's also a couple of segments in the video where she interviews a couple of other creators, to see what we can learn from their experience. If you decide to print with MakePlayingCards, you may also find helpful the step-by-step video guides for using printing with MPC which have been produced by CardMechanic and by Rise Magic.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: How to create your own deck of custom playing cards.

8. Collecting Playing Cards (Tom & Judy Dawson)

This video is an absolute treasure, because it is a 40 minute interview with playing card collectors Tom and Judy Dawson. They authored a revision of the authoritative Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, and have both been heavily involved with the 52 Plus Joker collectors club, with Tom even serving as president for many years. Tom passed away in 2016, but Judy is still active in the world of playing card collecting. They are both considered legends among playing card collectors, and experts and authorities on antique playing cards.

This particular video dates back to 2013, prior to Tom's death, and features an interview conducted with Tom and Judy by Ben Train. It's a goldmine of information, as Tom and Judy speak candidly on all sorts of playing card related subjects, including the history of playing cards, various uses for playing cards, and advice for getting into collecting. Their passion and expertise really shines through, and in the process of learning from them you'll also get the chance to see some rare decks from the 19th and 20th centuries.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: An interview with veteran collectors Tom and Judy Dawson.

9. Why These Cards Are Worth $500 (Chris Ramsay)

If you spend any time with playing card collectors, you will quickly come across the name "Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards". This is an iconic deck prized by collectors, and a sealed deck typically fetches around $500 on the secondary market. Seriously? Yep. This 10 minute video takes the time to tell us the story about these decks, why they are worth so much, and also shares something about a modern reprint. The video is made by Chris Ramsay, who is a magician who has achieved success as a youtuber, and runs a very popular channel.

Chris gives an overview of the Jerry's Nugget decks, which were first produced for the Jerry's Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. They were printed in the early 1970s, and were originally sold in the casino's gift shop for around a dollar or so. Demand for them increased after they were popularized by cardists in the 1990s, and when French magician Dominique Duvivier purchased the remaining supply from the casino (the video is wrong about the figure: it was 14,000 not 40,000 decks). And because they were printed with methods no longer possible for environmental reasons, they couldn't be replicated, and prices started skyrocketing. The video also covers a recent reprinting of the iconic Jerry's Nugget decks with a modern stock and a modern finish.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my articles: The legendary Jerry's Nugget playing cards and The case of the missing 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks.

10. A History of Marked Cards (Kevin Reylek)

This lecture was first presented at the 52 Plus Joker convention in 2020, and was prepared and delivered by Kevin Reylek. Kevin is the production manager for playing cards over at Penguin Magic, and an expert on the subject of marked cards. His presentation runs for just under half an hour, and begins by examining the history of marked decks, with factory produced marked cards only appearing for the first time in the 19th century. He also covers some key terminology, notably the difference between coded systems and readers systems.

Next comes an overview of big and influential names in the world of marked decks, notably Theodore DeLand (1873-1931), whose influence is still evident in several factory-printed marked decks produced today. Other important figures from the past include Al Baker, T. Page Wright, and more recently Ted Lesley, whose work helped pioneer the current generation of modern decks with openly readable marking systems, like the GT Speedreaders and Penguin's Marked Cards. The final part of the lecture points to some interesting marked decks from the present, and some good resources for further study. Kevin is very well-informed and well-studied, and you're guaranteed to learn a lot from this. Once you've viewed the presentation and want to learn more, you can also watch the separate Q&A session that followed.


Want to learn more on this topic? See my article: Why do magicians use marked cards?
 
Mar 15, 2018
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Honorable Mentions

As mentioned at the outset, this isn't an exhaustive list, although it is not easy finding genuinely interesting and informed content about topics like these. There's plenty of videos about card magic, cardistry, and reviews about specific decks of playing cards, but it's much harder to find reliable videos about topics like the history of playing cards, production of playing cards, and similar topics.

So I'll leave you with a few other videos that didn't quite make this list, but are still worth watching:

Unusual types of playing cards (Grand Illusions)
Tim has been collecting toys and cards for over 30 years, and shows some fascinating types of playing cards in his collection.

Antique playing cards (Jason McKinstry)
A playing card historian and expert shares stories about some of the biggest names in playing card manufacturing.

The United States Playing Card Company (Michael Slaughter)
USPCC's president at the time, Mike talks about plans for the site of USPCC's old facility, and his vision for USPCC's future.

Exploring the abandoned historic Bicycle playing card factory (RnK All Day)
Robb specializes in exploring abandoned buildings, and visits USPCC's old factory in Norwood.

How to make someone pay $400 for a deck of cards (Huron Low)
A TEDx Talk with one of The Virts, who explains the thinking and marketing that made the Virtuoso decks so successful.

So I designed a deck and made $1.5 million on Kickstarter (Ten Hundred)
Artist Ten Hundred documents the complete process of designing his custom deck, the first ever to hit $1 million on Kickstarter.

How to break in a deck of cards (December Boys)
An experienced cardists runs through what to do first every time you open a brand new deck, and how to break it in.

How to keep your playing cards fresh (Rise Magic)
Some tips for playing card enthusiasts about how to look after and extend the life of your playing cards.

Card counting and casino scams (Sal Piacente)
A consultant in casino game protection and expert in casino cheating offers fascinating insights as he covers movies on the subject.

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Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
 
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