I recently posted a photo of a defective Bicycle playing card across my social media accounts and it got more attention than I expected. I noticed that most people were talking about the poor quality of Bicycle cards. So, for this blog, I’ll share with you what I’ve noticed after about twenty years of working with Bicycle decks.

Roughly twenty years ago, I used to buy Rider back Bikes exclusively from wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s. The quality was second to none. The decks were traditionally cut and they were consistently awesome decks of cards. Then, as we all remember, the USPCC changed to the Standards we see today. The box design changed, the card stock got thinner, the finish changed, and the feel and overall quality of the cards diminished. And, wtf happened to the pull tabs on the shrink-wrap?!

This didn’t mean that the cards were unusable. It just meant that every so often there was a deck that was a little rough around the edges. Or, perhaps a deck felt considerably thinner. These weren’t defective decks. I could still do faro work and estimation just fine. The biggest problem for me was the new design on the back of the card case. So, I printed my own stickers of Rider back back designs and solved that issue. Life moved on.

Over the next few years, I noticed more and more that the quality was inconsistent. The decks were mostly still useable, but I noticed that I was opening a deck before a show to make sure they were okay to use. Some decks simply would not faro due to the poor edges. I opened one deck and found that there was no finish on any of the cards. Tabled doubles were a dream. That’s the only thing I could do with that deck. There was a day when I could open a deck right from the shrink-wrap during my act. Those days are gone when it comes to the Standard Bikes.

Then, along came the Cadillac of quality playing cards: Richard Turner’s Gold Seals. This deck was everything that the old Rider back Bikes were and more. They’re traditionally cut, great card stock, and consistently above par with the quality control (…except for that damn gold seal sticker that’s stuck to the box with the strongest glue on the face of the planet.) They’re about $3.50 a deck but they’re worth it. So, now Turner decks are what I use most often. Pro tip: If you use Gold Seals, remove the gold sticker. Lay people read this and think, “Oh I see… he’s using specially cut playing cards. That’s how he does it!”

On average, I buy around 7-800 Turner Gold Seal decks of cards a year. I just started doing my 2018 taxes and noticed that I bought eight cases of Turner Gold Seal playing cards this year—not eight bricks, eight gross! That’s over 1000 Turner decks. Out of thousands of decks, I’ve only come across two decks of cards that were unusable. One deck was missing the Ace of Hearts. The other deck had a defective Six of Clubs. The card had a severely offset cut. Every other deck was fine. That’s not a bad track record. In probably close to 10,000 Turner decks, these were the only two bad decks I can remember. (If you’re wondering why I use so many decks, in one walk-around gig, I’ll burn though about 10 decks between MCF effects, tearing, signing backs, and giving away cards as souvenirs. In a formal show, I usually use 2-3 decks and I always give the cards away. Between practicing and performing, I usually go through 7-800 a year.)

That doesn’t mean I don’t still use the Standard Bikes. This year, I bought 15-20 bricks of Standards from BJ’s. Only a handful of these cards had rough corners or the registration was a bit off. All the decks were usable. Although the quality control has lessened with these cards, they’re still worth it to buy at about $1.25 a deck. So, if you don’t buy Standard Bikes because you think the quality is bad, consider that 98% of the time, the cards will be fine. For my formal shows, or a television appearance, I’ll always use Turner Gold Seals because I have 100% confidence in those decks. However, for walk-around gigs where I’m ruining cards, I’ll usually use the cheaper Standard Bikes. When practicing things like centers, MCF, palming, and sleights that are hard on the cards, Standards are my go-to deck. Also, if a deck is so poorly cut that you can’t do faro work, you can still practice plenty of other sleights with these cards. The same goes for a deck with bad registration. Don’t perform with them. Just set it aside and use it for practice.

Other decks that I use that have consistently high quality are: Bee’s, Steamboats, Aristocrats, Tally Ho’s, and Penguin Elites. These are really the only cards that I work with. I mainly perform for lay audiences and I want the cards I use to be recognizable to them.

 

12 Comments
  1. Mike Mcberman 5 months ago

    I can now understand why I could not produce Faro movement after only a few blends.

  2. Ken 5 months ago

    Thanks, good info.

  3. Sacha Torresan 5 months ago

    I thought you said in one of your videos you use Tally Ho’s?

    • Jason 5 months ago

      I do use Tally Ho’s! https://youtu.be/AitHOtRsJFE

      Just not as often as the Bikes. Tally’s always have an exceptional feel and I enjoy the fresh back design. However, for gigs, I mainly use Bikes.

  4. Eric 5 months ago

    Where do you get your Turner decks in bulk? $3.50 a deck is a great deal for them.

    • Author
      Jason Ladanye 4 months ago

      Penguin is where I get my Turners.

  5. Michael friedland 4 months ago

    My opinion is that Jason is totally on point here. I’ve tried them all, and the Turner’s are head and shoulders above the rest in feel, performance, and consistency. Also, the trouble with using many different back designs is that it requires matching gaffs. Like Jason, I use gaffs rarely, but used at the right time they’re indispensable. The whole point of practicing is to hone in on techniques and routines that work perfectly for you. That’s the goal. So having a consistent deck feel is important.

  6. Coastal Cardician 4 months ago

    Jason, considering you basically own stock in Turner Bikes you may have some insight…lol…

    Way back when I didn’t know how the custom card world works, I bought a deck of Turner Bikes for $8. One of the Aces had a split in the card, so I used USPCC’s guarantee. I received back 2 regular Bikes. So I called and was informed the turner Bikes were custom decks that they didn’t actually hav stock of, but they cut me a check for the amount I paid (gotta love that service). Fast forward some years and multiple Penguin orders later…

    I wonder who the “custom customer” actually is. Is it Richard himself? Maybe someone at Murphy’s? Any insight? I hope they keep printing them for a long time. Thanks brother!

    • Author
      Jason Ladanye 4 months ago

      I was worrying about the same thing regarding running out of Turners. I can assure you that you have nothing to worry about. That stock will always be available.

  7. Tom Kracker 2 months ago

    I love bikes too, but I also like using Aviators. They are also recognized by typical lay people. I understand they might not be as durable as the other decks you mentioned, but does it matter much if you give them away or blow through several decks each performance? A brand new Aviator deck fans very nicely and faros nicely. I have a 20year old Aviator deck that still faros nicely and fans smoothly. They we’re custom marked by me which is why I keep using them. They also have the nice dirty edges that people are used to seeing on their decks in their kitchen drawers. I don’t perform as often as you, but I understand why you would want to use nice decks. You are a very accomplished and polished performer.

    Anyway, just my $0.02

    Tom

  8. TerryQ 2 months ago

    Wouldnt it be much more cheaper if u get directly form Turner ? i mean, over 1000 decks a year, i dont think many magic shops could sell that much in a year !

  9. PedroP 1 month ago

    Big night in Toronto, so I put on my Calvin Clones, looked at my fake Rolex which had stopped and thought, “Don’t want to be late for the Jason Ladanye lecture! (I was).” Dropped off a fake Louis Vutton purse to my girl, ate a sushi dinner which was Salmon NO it was tilapia died pink. Went to the dollar store and bought a Mers chocolate bar, but they said my money wasn’t real.
    Oh well at least I can buy bikes and not worry about counterfeits 🙂
    Amazing lecture in Toronto was the only real thing that night 🙂

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