The United States Playing Card Company
, started in 1867, produces and distributes many brands of playing card
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games...
s, including Bicycle
, and others, plus novelty and custom cards, and other playing card accessories such as poker chips. The company was once based in Cincinnati, Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...
, but is now headquartered in Erlanger
Erlanger is a German surname derived from the city of Erlangen. It may refer to:* A. L. Erlanger* Camille Erlanger, French composer* Carlo von Erlanger, German Baron and African explorer* Joseph Erlanger* Steven Erlanger, American journalist...
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...
. It has been a subsidiary of Jarden Corporation
Jarden Corporation, is an America conglomerate of many well-known consumer product brands in the areas of kitchen electronics, kitchen cookware, kitchen tools, gaming, arts & crafts, home storage, and clothing. In 2006, it was ranked #585 on the Fortune 1000...
United States Playing Card Company should not be confused with US Games Systems, Inc., the producers of many varieties of Tarot
The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...
The company was founded in 1867 as Russell, Morgan & Co., a printing company. They began printing playing cards, with the "Congress No. 606" line being the first, in 1881. They began printing Bicycle cards, which would become their most popular line, in 1885. The playing card business was successful enough that it was spun off as a separate business in 1894, as The United States Playing Card Company.
USPCC has owned Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...
playing card manufacturer Heraclio Fournier since 1986. In 2004 they acquired Kem Playing Cards, makers of plastic playing cards.
Introduced in 1927 in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...
's trans-Atlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis
The Spirit of St. Louis is the custom-built, single engine, single-seat monoplane that was flown solo by Charles Lindbergh on May 20–21, 1927, on the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris for which Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig Prize.Lindbergh took off in the Spirit from Roosevelt...
, Aviator playing cards feature a bordered, monotone back design of predominantly circles. They are comparable in quality to Bee and Bicycle cards and are available in the same general assortment of back colors, card sizes, and card configurations. It can be noted that the cards possess a smooth finish unlike the air-cushion style finishes used in other playing cards like Bee, Bicycle, Tally-Ho, etc.
Bee Playing Cards
are a casino card brand. They were first manufactured by Consolidated-Dougherty in 1892, hence the number "92" on the Ace of Spades (the standard poker deck is now known as deck type 92); the USPC acquired the company soon after. Standard Bee playing cards have a diamond back, typically blue or red, though casinos frequently use customized Bee cards featuring a logo added to the backs. Unlike Bicycle cards, Bee cards usually have borderless backs, making the facing of any card that is even partially revealed clearly visible. However, the standard diamond back of the card is very regular and low-profile compared to other back designs, which simplifies "bottom-dealing" and other forms of sleight-of-hand. For this reason, the USPCC has responded by producing Stinger back Bees for casinos and the website Theory11; the design constitutes a white border, achieved by a slow fading of the diamondback design into the paper.
Bee Playing Cards are comparable to Bicycle Playing Cards in stock and finish, which are not as frequently used in casinos. To this extent, Bee Playing Cards are often found in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...
movies and are the standard brand for usage in casinos in Hong Kong and Macau
Macau , also spelled Macao , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China...
Bicycle Playing Cards
are a popular brand of standard playing cards, and are the USPCC's original brand and product. Since 1885, the Bicycle brand has been manufactured by the United States Printing Company, which, in 1894, became the United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati. "Bicycle" is a trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...
of that company. They are popular with magicians and other card enthusiasts.
The typical Bicycle deck (Poker-standard Type 808) is a standard issue deck of cards consisting of 52 traditional Anglo-American playing cards, two jokers, an information card, and a card describing poker ranks. As with most decks, the first standard card of the deck is the uniquely-stylized Ace of Spades. The Bicycle trademark is usually also printed on the Ace of Spades. The type number of a Bicycle deck can be found both on the bottom of the deck box and on the stone of the Joker artwork.
Bicycle playing cards are sold in a variety of decks featuring different cards (such as for use in pinochle
Pinochle or Binocle is a trick-taking game typically for two to four players and played with a 48 card deck. Derived from the card game bezique, players score points by trick-taking and also by forming combinations of cards into melds. It is thus considered part of a "trick-and-meld" category...
), back designs (including the traditional rider back and older Vintage backs), face designs (including Jumbo Index and Lo Vision cards for the visually impaired, and a "PokerPeek" design on their Pro series decks that simplifies looking at hole cards), and sizes (such as narrower bridge decks, thicker Masters Edition cards designed to last longer, and Big Bicycle cards that are four times the normal card size). Any of the aforementioned are traditionally available with red and blue backs, but other back colors (including black, silver, and even pastel colors) are also available. There is even a "Ghost" deck that is entirely black and white except for red hearts and diamonds on the corners of appropriate cards. Consumer paper versions of the plastic KEM type WSOP decks are sold under the Bicycle brand. In 2010, Bicycle Playing Cards released special 125th anniversary decks which include a redesigned rear side, redesigned Ace of Spades, and 1885-2010 written under the numbers on the corner on each card.
Bicycle playing cards are commonly used in card magic and flourishes, and are generally considered by magicians as the best playing cards for most tricks, particularly those tricks where the facing of the card needs to be concealed (this is allowed by the white border on the back of the card). In addition to specialty decks specifically designed for card tricks (not to mention spinoff brands such as Arcane, Artifice, Sentinels and Propaganda), Bicycle also make other kinds of non-standard card decks, such as a "gaff" deck (contained in a mirrored-art box) with an assortment of unusually-altered cards that can be used with regular cards for tricks or jokes.
Magic with Bicycle Playing Cards
Magicians such as Daryl, David Blaine, Brad Christian, Cyril Takayama, Chad Nelson, Robby Arcane, and many others have all used and performed effects with Bicycle Playing Cards. Bicycle cards can have an 'air cushion' finish which improves the handling of the cards. Arrco's, Tally-Ho's, Alladin's, Dan and Dave's Smoke & Mirror cards as well as the other playing cards on this page are ideal for use with magic tricks.
Tally Ho cards are a set of decks that only recently have not been very popular. The cards are difficult to find today, and are mostly only sold in New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
(excluding online sales and of course magic shops). They come in the standard red or blue colors, just like the bicycle brand, but has two choices of back design known as the "fan" back or the "circle" back. Magic stores also have access to a black option, with two gaff cards in place of the typical advertising cards (one is a blank face, the other a double back). Due to the unique finish (linoid, no less), the distinct and beautiful designs and the unavailability of the cards to normal laypeople, they have become popular among card magicians/card flourishes. They were a favorite of famous magician Dai Vernon
Dai Vernon , aka The Professor, was a Canadian magician. His expert sleight-of-hand technique and extensive knowledge garnered him respect among fellow magicians. His influence was considerable in the magic world, and he was a mentor to numerous famous magicians...
, and are common in videos of him performing tricks. They also make a notable appearance in the famous card game scene of the movie The Sting
The Sting is a 1973 American caper film set in September 1936 that involves a complicated plot by two professional grifters to con a mob boss . The film was directed by George Roy Hill, who previously directed Newman and Redford in the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Created by...
as the preferred deck of Doyle Lonnegan.
The first brand of cards introduced by the company in 1881, when it was still known as Russell, Morgan, and Co., Congress
is currently the USPC's signature brand name for bridge
Contract bridge, usually known simply as bridge, is a trick-taking card game using a standard deck of 52 playing cards played by four players in two competing partnerships with partners sitting opposite each other around a small table...
cards and accessories (despite the name, it has no relation to the United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....
). Congress cards feature a wide assortment of colorful and artistically-inspired back designs. Each Congress deck consists of the 52 standard cards (the Ace of Spades design is the same as that on Bicycle decks), two jokers, and an information card describing bridge scoring. Congress cards are commonly sold in sets of two decks: each deck bearing art complementary to the other (to allow for the common bridge practice of pre-shuffling an alternate deck for the next hand while the one deck is in play). Both standard and jumbo index cards (for the visually impaired) are available.
are made from cellulose acetate
Cellulose acetate , first prepared in 1865, is the acetate ester of cellulose. Cellulose acetate is used as a film base in photography, as a component in some adhesives, and as a frame material for eyeglasses; it is also used as a synthetic fiber and in the manufacture of cigarette filters and...
, and are considered the "gold standard" of poker playing cards because they are considered the most durable cards available: able to withstand even washing and still be playable. Just about all USA casino poker rooms use KEM (bridge size) cards for this reason, leaving the traditional poker size Bee cards for the Blackjack tables. Since 2007, the official cards of the World Series of Poker
The World Series of Poker is a world-renowned series of poker tournaments held annually in Las Vegas and, since 2005, sponsored by Harrah's Entertainment...
have been plastic bridge size KEM cards (though they bear the Bicycle brand name). KEM cards are also available to the consumer (usually at specialty game shops) with various back colors and designs in both poker (wide) and bridge (narrow) sizes
USPC debuted a new line of plastic cards called "PokerPeek" at the 2007 World Series of Poker
The 2007 World Series of Poker began on June 1, 2007. The $10,000 no-limit Texas hold 'em Main Event began on July 6 and was completed on the morning of July 18...
. The face of each card has the rank and suit at all four corners, at a 45° angle to the card's edges, and the size of the traditional face designs are reduced and flanked by jumbo-index ranks. The design was an attempt to make it easier for players to read their hole cards, while at the same time making it more difficult for anyone but that player to discern their hand. However, the new cards were largely pulled from play and replaced with decks having a more traditional face layout due to complaints from players due to the tiny sized indexes and confusion with the "6" and the "9". The "PokerPeek" face design was integrated into the paper Bicycle Pro series of casino-quality cards aimed at the home market, and currently available at retail as of 2008.