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Here are two short video clips that feature Dan and Dave Buck, and show some fantastic examples of cardistry.

The first video is called "Avant Card" and was produced by DTS.  The soundtrack will best be appreciated with headphones/earbuds, because this video was mixed/delivered in fully-immersive DTS Headphone:X technology.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo0XKirhXs0

The second video is called "The Art of Cardistry", and is a feature produced by Cool Hunting Video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBJbffH04QI

They're great to watch, and will give you a good idea of Dan and Dave's skills, and how impressive and entertaining cardistry can be.  Enjoy!

NB: Is there a way to embed youtube videos in forum posts here?
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JAMES SQUIRE: THE BEER

Beer and playing cards.  It's not the most unlikely of combinations is it?  Especially given the historic connection that cards have with gambling!  The Malt Shovel Brewery is an Australian brewery in New South Wales, and is best known for its James Squire range of beers. For the record, I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with the brewery or the beer.  In fact I don't even drink beer.  But I do own a couple of decks of James Squire playing cards that I acquired as a result of a yard sale some time ago. I'm glad to say that they were unopened and in shrinkwrap at the time, and hadn't been doused in beer.  No drunkenness was involved in the making of this review.

So who is the man James Squire?  Well he's a convict who is credited with being Australia's first brewer.  The modern day brewery that makes James Squire beers takes its name from the Malting Shovel Tavern, which Squire built between Sydney Town and Parramatta.   Transported to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788, Squire was a very colourful character, famous for being a convict, thief, a rogue, and a womanizer.  But despite his criminal background, he later became an important member in the community of the colony.  He fathered 11 children, was successful as a businessman, and even became part of the local police-force, serving as one of the governor's guards.  As an indication of his success by the time of his death, his funeral held in 1822 was the biggest funeral ever held in the colony.

The range of James Squire beers all capture aspects of Squire's life and character, with beers named "The Stowaway" and "The Swindler" referencing aspects of his early life, "Jack of Spades" referencing his love for gambling, "The Chancer" and "Hop Thief" referencing his beer-making venture, "Four Wives" referencing his personal life which included a wife and three mistresses, and "The Constable" referencing his transformation from convict to cop.  There are more beers besides these in the James Squire range, which also includes the "Orchard Crush" Apple and Pear ciders that are featured on the playing cards tuck-box.



Although Squire's original corn-based beverage doesn't quite meet the modern day definition of beer, clearly he loved liquor enough to become an ideal and colourful figure to use for the Malt Shovel Brewery's range of beers.   But it's not hard to see that all of this makes excellent material not just for labelling and marketing a range of beers, but also for capturing in the artwork of a deck of playing cards.  Christopher Nielsen is the illustrator of the deck, and was commissioned by Extrablack design and Lion to design a set of playing cards for the James Squire range of beers, and it's this deck of cards that is the subject of this review.

Nielsen adopted a thematic approach to the court cards. The four Kings represent James Squire's various occupations, the four Queens represent the women in his life, while the four Jacks reference his younger and wilder days.  Meanwhile the Aces capture James Squire's unique character traits, and the Jokers show some other amusing Squire-related elements.  In Nielsen's own words, "I am fortunate that the James Squire story is jam packed with juicy details to populate the imagery with."

So let's find out more about the story behind this deck!  These playing cards were one of the first decks I ever acquired that had custom artwork. While I've seen better custom decks since, I was and still am fascinated with the novelty of a deck which cleverly told a story, as these playing cards so very thoughtfully do.  In this review, I'll tell you a little about the man that James Squire was, including the surprising, thrilling and adventure-filled story of his life, and then I'll show you some of the cards.  Sorry, this review isn't being sponsored by a beer company, so no alcohol is provided - you'll have to provide your own (in moderation)!  But first, here's a sneak peek of the deck, and some of the beautiful cards:




JAMES SQUIRE: THE CONVICT

You can skip over this next section if you want to get straight to the playing cards, but the story of James Squire is an interesting one worth reading, and the narrative of his life provides some context for the design of the deck.  For this section I'm indebted to the brewery's own account about Squire, which they re-tell under the title "Cheers To Australia's First Brewer" (link).

"The tale of how James Squire became Australia’s first brewer is a cracking yarn, a journey full of thievery, dishonesty and, above all, flavour. Best of all, it’s completely true.

Born in 1754 in Kingston-on-Thames, James Squire’s story has an inauspicious start. A risk taker and a scoundrel, he was arrested for highway robbery at the tender age of 20. He tried to go straight, but by 1785 a few stolen chickens landed him a berth onboard a convict ship with the First Fleet. James was headed for Australia.

Even then he couldn’t stay out of trouble and just a year after his arrival in Port Jackson he was hauled in front of the magistrate for theft. This time we like to consider it a crime for the greater good: James had been stealing hops to brew Australia’s first beer.

And it must have been something special, because he managed to escape execution. Instead he was fined five pounds and sentenced to 300 lashes, 150 lashes now and 150 when he could bear it. Does that number sound familiar?

By 1795 James was a free man and was granted a 30 acre plot of land. With a little skillful swindling, he managed to build up a 1,000 acre estate – the perfect place to grow Australia’s first hops. A decade later, Governor King was so impressed with his work that he gave James a cow and the title of Australia’s first (and finest) brewer.

Now a successful man, James built his brewery and Malting Shovel Tavern on the shore of the Parramatta River at Kissing Point, halfway between the settlements of Sydney Cove and Parramatta. Many a sailor sought refuge here over a refreshing ale while they waited for the tide to turn.

And he wasn’t done yet. In a delightfully ironic contrast to his convict past, James eventually became a district constable.

When he passed away on May 16, 1822, at the age of 67, James Squire was honoured with the largest funeral in the colony’s history. We like to think his friends would have toasted his extraordinary life with a glass (or two) of his finest brew.
"




JAMES SQUIRE: THE CARDS

So now let's get to the playing cards themselves, and see how this story gets captured by Christopher Nielsen in the clever artwork and design of this James Squire deck.


BOX

Here's the deck tuck-box, showing the front and back.  Notice how the cover artwork on each sides is inspired by the graphic design used for the apple cider and perry (pear cider) that the brewery produces.  Aside from that, this is actually the only direct reference to the modern day company in the cards.  From here on in, it's all James Squire the convict!




JACKS: James Squire's EARLY LIFE

Let's start with the Jacks.  These capture elements of James Squire's early life: Rogue, Convict, Womaniser, and Thief.

The Jack of Clubs represents Squire as Rogue, and says "Born Rogue 1754", referring to his birth, and adds "Gypsy Blood", with various images depicting a gypsy lifestyle.

The Jack of Diamonds represents Squire as Thief.   Squire was first arrested for highway robbery at aged 20.  This card says in small print "Front Door" and "Highway Robber" at the top, which alludes to the fact that at the time of his arrest he had fled through the front door, thus avoiding a more serious charge of stealing.  At aged 30, he was found guilty of stealing five hens and four cocks from his neighbour’s yard.  The left of the card pictures 5 hens, and the right of the card the 4 cocks. The bottom of the card also references one of his later crimes in Australia where it states: "1789 Stealing Medicines from the Hospital Store 1lb of Pepper & Horehound for my Pregnant Girlfriend."  At the time, Squire claimed that the horehound (a herb that imitates the tangy flavour of hops) was for his girlfriend, but in reality this theft might well have been alcohol related, since later he admitted that he actually began brewing beer upon arrival in Australia.



The Jack of Spades represents Squire as Convict.  After his conviction for theft, in 1785 the British government decided to include Squire in the transported convict program. He was sentenced to two years in Southwark Gaol, and was then to join the First Fleet to Australia.   This card mentions both Southwark and Botany Bay, the location of the first colony.  It also makes reference to two of the ships of the first fleet, Friendship and Charlotte, one of which was used to carry female convicts.  In small text this card says "The Friendship, transferred in a reshuffle with the female convicts to The Charlotte at the Cape of Good Hope", which refers to the fact that during a reshuffle of the female passengers, Squire managed to transfer himself from the Friendship to the Charlotte.

The Jack of Hearts represents Squire as Womanizer, and includes several images that represent temptation.  All four of the women in his life are mentioned: Lucy, Mary, Martha, and Elizabeth.  These figures will come back in a moment, because they are expanded on with the four Queens.




QUEENS: James Squire's WOMEN

The four Queens capture something of each of afore-mentioned women, his wives, girlfriends and mistresses, including the names of the children that Squire fathered with each.

The Queen of Hearts depicts Martha Quinton, described here as "Local Sweet Heart", and the first woman in Squire's life.  It mentions the date 1776, which is the date of their marriage.  James had three children with her, whose names are all listed: James, Sarah, and John.  The card also says "Left Behind Fend For Yourself", because when Squire was shipped off to Australia, Martha and the children were forced to remain in England, and literally left to fend for themselves.

The Queen of Spades depicts Mary Spencer, described here as "Thief", and the second woman in Squire's life.  She was a fellow convict, who had been sentenced for theft of a number of items, which are mentioned on the card in small text: "Black silk handkerchief, green quilted petticoat".  One of her arms is tattooed with the word "Francis", which refers to her son Francis, who was enrolled in the British army at just over year old, and later enlisted into the NSW Corps as a drummer - details referenced by her other tattoos.



The Queen of Clubs depicts Elizabeth Mason, described here as "Convict Servant" because she was his live-in convict servant, and the third woman in Squire's life.  It mentions the names of the 7 children Squire had with her: Priscilla, Martha, Mary Ann, Elizabether, Timothy, James, and Sarah.

The Queen of Diamonds depicts Lucy Harding, described here as "keeping house 1816", and the fourth woman in Squire's life.  Lucy was the live-in housekeeper that Squire began an affair with after his relationship with Elizabeth.  He eventually moved into her private residence at "Castlereagh St", an address which is also mentioned on the card.




KINGS: James Squire's OCCUPATIONS

James Squire did seem to turn his life around despite his inauspicious beginnings, and the Kings capture something of the success he enjoyed in his later years.

The King of Clubs represents Squire as Landlord.  The top of the card mentions "Land Grant, One Shilling". This refers to the fact that around 1791, Squire had completed his sentence, and as a free man was granted 30 acres of land at Eastern Farms (Kissing Point).  He shrewdly then purchased nearby land that other freed convicts hadn't claimed for 1 shilling each.  I haven't been able to figure out what the number 9 on his hat refers to, but below this are small details I can just make out: 10 sheep, 18 pigs, 5 acres of wheat, 35 goats, 45 barley & Maize, Kissing Point, Eastern Farms.  This is a reference to Squire's success as a farmer and landowner, and describes what the historical record attributes to him in mid-1800.

The King of Diamonds represents Squire as Banker.  The bottom of the card reads "The Patriarch Of Kissing Point Credit Union", while the center around his portrait reads "Fair Play Veneration".  This refers to the fact that for a time later in his life he worked in a credit union style of bank, and was well known for being very fair as a lender, and a help to poorer neighbours.  Kissing Point has already been mentioned as the location of Squire's land.  Due to his generosity, James was in fact known and nicknamed as "The Patriarch of Kissing Point".



The King of Spades represents Squire as Constable.  It has a subtitle "Resident District" and the date 1803, and mentions the kinds of convictions he would have issued, including "Trespassing" and "Notice of Theft of Boat" - the latter being recorded in an issue of the Sydney Gazette in 1803.  His move to this position was the result of trespassers on his own property, and theft of his belongings.

The King of Hearts represents Squire as Brewer - clearly his biggest achievement as far as The Malt Shovel Brewery is concerned.  The top of the card reads "150 lashes now and the remainder when able to bear it 1789", which references the fact that Squire was first sentenced to 300 lashes for stealing the "medicines" and horehound (claimed to be for a pregnant girlfriend, but more likely used to make beer).  This sentence was later reduced to 150, and is memorialized in the Malt Shovel Brewery's "One Fifty Lashes" beer.  The text on the barrel reads "4d per quart", which is the price that Squire first sold his beer for.




ACES: James Squire's CHARACTER

The Aces sum up some of James Squires' character, and capture something of the man that he was.

The Ace of Clubs represents Squire's Charm.  It mentions the women in his life (Martha, Mary, Elizabeth, Lucy), and his final memorial (Biggest Funeral Ever Held in The Colony).  It further states "Lieutenant Francis Grose Brewing" - the Lieutenant being one of the persons that Squire was brewing beer for personal consumption for, and possibly the result of which he received a more lenient sentence when charged with stealing horehound.

The Ace of Diamonds represents Squire's Luck.  Like the Convict card (Jack of Spades), it pictures the ships Friendship and Charlotte, and reads "Seven Years Beyond the Seas", which refers to the term that Squire was sentenced to as part of his mandatory trip to Australia.



The Ace of Spades represents Squire's Craft.  His skills included being a Butcher, Baker, and Brewer.  Around 1808, he took up work in a bakery in Kent Street, and as a butcher also often supplied meat to the colony.

The Ace of Hearts represents Squire's Heart.  The central and largest text reads "Live Respected Die Lamented", while two small tombstones read in tiny print "Beneelong Barangaroo" (an Aboriginal husband and wife who were important in early British relations with the natives).  The text on the scroll reads "Had he not been so generous, James Squire would have been a wealthier man - Joseph Lycett."  Lycett was one of the artists in the first colony, and in addition to this statement, also said about James Squire: "Universally respected for his amiable and useful qualities as a member of the lower class of settlers... his name will long be pronounced with veneration by the grateful objects of his liberality".  According to one source, the headstone at Squire's grave-site reads: "In Sacred Respect to the Loving Remains of Mr. Jas. Squire, late of Kissing Point who departed this Life 16 May 1822 at the age of 67 years. He arrived in the colony in the First Fleet and by Integrity and Industry acquired and maintained an unsullied reputation. Under his care the HOP PLANT was first Cultivated in this Settlement and the first BREWERY erected which Progressively matured to Perfection. As a Father, Friend and Christian he Lived Respected and Died Lamented."  It's this last phrase that is featured as the main text on this Ace.




JOKERS
 
The Jokers both offer a more humorous take on aspects of Squire's life, his legacy, and his legend.  One pictures his tavern, the "Malted Shovel", and reads "Sailors could find their way to Squire's in a thick fog", while the other depicts a headstone with the date of 1822, corresponding to Squire's funeral, and reads "Ye who wish to lie here drink Squire's beer."  It isn't mentioned on the cards, but at the time of his funeral, the Sydney Gazette included the following statement in their published obituary: "He was the first that brought Hops to any perfection and hence was enabled to brew beer of an excellent quality. "Squire's Beer" was well known."




NUMBER CARDS

The number cards feature custom pips, a small image of the malted shovel in the indices, and also some thematic text corresponding to each number, some being regrettably a little risque: 2 = Two Up, 3 = Threesome, 4 = Four Play, 5 = Bunch of Fives, 6 = Six Pack, 7 = Lucky Seven, 8 = Pieces of Eight, 9 = Nine Tales, 10 = Ten Paces.







I particularly like the stylized clubs used on these cards.  However I really wish that they hadn't included sexual innuendo here, and also that the artwork on the court cards had been a bit tamer in some cases  as well.
 

ARTWORK FOR SQUIRE BARS

To coincide with the creation of this deck, a huge feature wall of these playing cards was created for The Curious Squire Bar in Adelaide.



In addition, Nielsen made a custom 8 metre banner that details the trials and tribulations with the ladies in Squire's life, and was created for behind the bar at The Squire's Maiden Bar in Newcastle.




CONCLUSION

Components: The artwork aside, the cards themselves are rather ordinary in quality. They are poker sized, but don't have a quality linen finish, feel quite thin, and don't handle as well as a quality deck like those from Bicycle.  The card backs feature James Squire's signature and a pattern that incorporates the image of a malted shovel, but it seems very plain and almost boring compared to the card fronts.  I wish that the designer Nielsen had been asked to do some more detailed pictorial artwork for the card backs to match the high standard and creativity evident on the face of all the cards.

The tuck box is fairly plain, but I like how it mentions different ciders on each side, and the James Squire signature.  I'm also glad that there's no real artificial references to beer or the brewery as such, and as a result this doesn't feel too much like a marketing and advertising gimmick, but rather as a custom deck of playing cards in the first place.



Artwork: Christopher Nielsen has done a splendid and clever job of capturing the core elements of Squire's life in this deck of James Squire playing cards.  Even though some elements are a little risque, which I find unfortunate and regrettable, at the same time I can understand that this is also simply telling the story of James Squire's life and a reflection of who he was, rather than an endorsement of his character.

All round, this is quite a fun deck, and The Malt Shovel Brewery has made a clever marketing move in commissioning the creation of these James Squire inspired decks to match and advertise their beers. Well done to Christopher Nielsen, and well done to the Malt Shovel for some creative thinking in initiating and completing this original project!

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Deck Reviews! / Pictorial Review: HANA Playing Cards (Steve Minty)
« Last post by EndersGame on Yesterday at 02:01:11 AM »
INTRODUCING DESIGNER STEVE MINTY

Steve Minty is a traditionally educated illustrator and designer, who previously did branding and design for major sport stars and celebrities.   He's even done scenic painting for theatre productions.  But like many artists, his soul longed to be set free from these well-trodden pathways, and he was eager to find other opportunities to develop his creativity.  So now he's doing freelance work of his own choosing, and making his own designs or projects. He's interested in a whole range of things, including photography (he's a creative and skilled amateur photographer) ... and playing cards.

I've seen some beautiful cards, but his decks stood out as being among the very best and most creative.  He has produced several artistic decks of playing cards, including the Muertos series (inspired by the Mexican `Day of the Dead'), the Olympia series (inspired by Greek mythology), and the Anubis and Osiris decks (inspired by ancient Egypt), and is currently working on a deck inspired by Japanese culture called the HANA deck - it has just completed funding on Kickstarter (here). 



THE HANA PLAYING CARDS (2017)

This is Steve Minty's current project, two beautiful decks that were inspired by classical Japanese culture, and capture something of its unique elegance.  Steve has tried to incorporate aspects of textile, art, and social structures into the design.

For this project, he spent time over three years doing research that included studying books on topics like Japanese society, samurai armor, and he even attended some museum exhibits for this purpose.  He even travelled to Japan to do research, as well as look for insights and inspiration! In his own words, "This deck is more art centric than the decks I have done previously. It draws upon the history of playing cards in Japan as well as the art that makes them special..  Aspects of Feudal Japan, Hana Fuda, Kimonos, Ikebana, Ukiyo-e among others are incorporated into the decks."

This project is currently on Kickstarter and funding ends very soon on 18 March, so if this appeals to you, you can't wait too long - although it is already more than 200% funded.

 The HANA deck comes in two colours/styles:
- a Gold themed red deck
- a Silver themed blue deck



The deck contains a cast of characters from a range of occupations and classes, such as an Artisan, Farmer, Merchant, Samurai, Ronin, and on the feminine side of things, a Geisha, and an Onna Bugeisha.

Here is the Merchant (Jack of Diamonds) from both decks.  If you look carefully, you'll see very small differences in detail (e.g. glasses).



The card-backs of the Gold deck and the Silver deck are different, with one featuring the sun and the other the moon.



HANA Silver

To give an idea of what the Silver deck is like, here are some of its beautiful court cards, clearly Japanese inspired: the Queen of Hearts (Geisha), and the Queen of Clubs (Onna Bugeisha).



The number cards are basically the same as those from the Gold deck, but using a different colour scheme, and equally beautiful.



Here's two more court cards, the Jack of Clubs (Farmer), and the King of Diamonds (Samurai)



HANA Gold

As an example of beautiful court cards from the Gold deck, here's the Geisha (Queen of Hearts) and the Onna Bugeisha (Queen of Clubs) from the Gold deck.



The Aces from the Gold deck feature intricate Japanese-themed artwork, and I think they look especially exquisite and terrific.



The intricate borders are used on all the cards, including the number cards, as seen here.



Because of the high level of funding, all the cards will be printed with Gold and Silver metallic inks; the tuck-boxes will be embossed and foiled, and seals will be printed on gold foil.  In other words - luxury all round!

CONCLUSION

I'm extremely impressed with this project for several reasons:

I love the artwork:  Everything about these cards is stunning, from the back designs to the artwork on each card. They really do look beautiful.  In fact, they are probably the most beautiful decks of playing cards that I own.  I have other decks that are truly unique (like the Pipmen decks by Ben Jones), and classy (like the Omnia/Dedalo decks by Giovanni Meroni), but in my mind the Steve Minty decks have to take the prize for being the most beautiful. I own four of his other decks, and these look just as amazing.  I just love the way all the aesthetics come together in a wonderful package.

I love the themes: One things I love about all Steve Minty's decks is how has worked with different cultures and ideas (and even done some research in the process), and how he's found ways to reflect this in the themes.  As a result, each deck has its own very distinct flavour, in reflecting either classical Japan, ancient Egypt, mythological Greece, or traditional Mexico.  Going back to ancient times also gives you a sense that these playing cards are steeped in a long and rich tradition, and make one feel some connection with the past.

I love the variety: Even though there is superficial similarity between some his decks (e.g. both the Anubis deck and the Muertos Night decks rely on a black and gold colour scheme), all his decks have a unique flavour.  This isn't just a reflection of Steve's creativity, but more importantly it reflects the fact that he has been drawing on the unique elements of different cultures, and this comes to fruition with decks that look quite different from each other.  These Japanese themed decks offer nice variety from previous decks he's created.

I love the style: They  just have a luxurious look and feel about them.  The style and class is immediately evident just from looking at the box.  Three of the four Steve Minty decks that I have have gold foil printing on the tuck boxes, and come with a gold seal.  From the moment you first set your eyes on these deck boxes, they look stunning, especially when held up to the light.  I was just blown away by them when I first saw them, because they look even more amazing in real life than they do on photos! This positive impression remains when you look through the cards.  So his decks are typically very stylish and have a great deal of character and class.



I love the quality: Although one of the primary points of attraction with these cards is their visual appeal, they are made from good quality card stock, and handle and shuffle well.  People who enjoy playing card games will appreciate the quality of the card-stock and printing.  His most recent decks were printed by Expert Playing Card Company, and seem to be of an even higher quality than the earlier decks printed by US Playing Cards.  I have given them to an accomplished magician to get his thoughts, and he said the cards handled amazingly well, very smooth, and he just loved them.  The sense of quality and luxury begins with the tuck boxes, where there are tiny details on everything (even the flaps), and the cards on the inside match this high standard.

I love the playability: Despite the wonderful aesthetics, the numbers and suits are still clear enough that you can actually use them in a game, without the artwork getting in the way of game-play and functionality. While decks like these have value for collectors, in the end I don't own cards to look at them, but to play games with them, and these do that job nicely, while at the same time giving players something beautiful to look at during moments of down-time.  My only concern is whether the red and black suits of the HANA Gold deck court cards need to be differentiated more clearly, but perhaps you'd quickly grow to recognize the difference in the shades of red used for this.

I love the service: When I received something from Steve, the decks were shipped very promptly, and in a package that included a box with soft padding inside, a business card and a Steve Minty sticker.  So even the packing materials used shows top quality service and thoughtful attention to detail.

I own a lot of different decks of playing cards, but the Steve Minty decks are easily among the most beautiful decks I own, and arguably they are my most prized decks of playing cards.  If you think they look good in the pictures you see here, just wait till you see them first-hand - they look even better.  So if you'd like to add some delightful decks like these to your own collection, you're in luck: while the the Kickstarter for these decks here has ended, you can pre-order at Steve Minty's website, and it appears that he also has a special version of these coming out next, or if you are interested in getting some of the other decks, head over to Steve Minty's own website here.



To find out more:

Steve Minty website: http://www.steveminty.com
HANA Playing Cards: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/steveminty/hana-luxury-playing-cards
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INTRODUCING DESIGNER STEVE MINTY

Steve Minty is a traditionally educated illustrator and designer, who previously did branding and design for major sport stars and celebrities.   He's even done scenic painting for theatre productions.  But like many artists, his soul longed to be set free from these well-trodden pathways, and he was eager to find other opportunities to develop his creativity.  So now he's doing freelance work of his own choosing, and making his own designs or projects. He's interested in a whole range of things, including photography (he's a creative and skilled amateur photographer) ... and playing cards.

I've seen some beautiful cards, but his decks stood out as being among the very best and most creative.  He has produced several artistic decks of playing cards, including the Muertos series (inspired by the Mexican `Day of the Dead'), the Olympia series (inspired by Greek mythology), and the Anubis and Osiris decks (inspired by ancient Egypt), and is currently working on a deck inspired by Japanese culture called the HANA deck - it was recently funded on Kickstarter (here). 



In this review, let's take a look at some of the other decks previously made by Steve, beginning with the Muertos decks.

MUERTOS DECKS (2014)



The Muertos collection was created in 2014 and was one of Steve Minty's first deck designs.  It was inspired by the Mexican holiday that celebrates life and death: Dia De Los Muertos, also known of the Day of the Dead. 

Funding for this deck was raised on Kickstarter.  To give you some idea of the popularity of this deck, and its enormous success, it had a goal of $13,000, but raised a staggering $159,706!  Wow, that's incredible!

Muertos Night

Steve grew up in Los Angeles, which is where he was exposed to many cultures, including Mexican traditions, and that's how he first became intrigued by Dia De Los Muertos.  He found its imagery and symbolism incredible beautiful, and despite the fact that it involved the sombre topic of death, it also had a lot of whimsy and playfulness; it is this combination of sorrow and laughter that he tried to capture and convey.



He describes his goal in creating the imagery for the Muertos deck as "to honor the message that Dia De Los Muertos celebrates. From Aztec influences to José Posada’s works and even the Mexican-American Wars, I aimed to capture the social classes and implications that are set within the history of the culture."



The aesthetics are classical and yet reflect something of the culture that the deck depicts.  The number cards have pips that still exhibit some of the traditional symmetry, but feature an updated design aimed to feel fresh.



While this deck has a somewhat macabre theme, in a remarkable way, Steve manages to depict The Day of the Dead in a beautiful way using just two colors - gold and black - to simultaneously capture the elements of celebration as well as of loss, a juxtaposition which is unusual and yet works.   



Other Muertos decks

Pictured above is the Muertos Night deck.  Given the enormous success of the Muertos project, it is no surprise that several other similar decks were made available.  So in addition to the Night deck that I own, which is the main deck in this collection, there are also the also four other Muerto decks which featured different coloured themes and back designs:



- Muertos Mourning Gold deck (white/gold) - This features the same designs but with a lovely combination of white and gold colors.

Muertos Love deck (blood red) - In Steve's own words, this deck is "based on the blood that runs in our veins. They say that Blood is thicker than water and so is the love of family. Dia De Los Muertos brings family closer together to honor the dead and I couldn't help but use that as my source of inspiration."

Muertos Celebration deck (purple/pink) - Steve explains that this deck is "based on the vibrant fun decorations of Dia De Los Muertos. From Papel Picado to Flower decorations, I looked to them all as a source of inspiration."

Muertos Sun deck (blue/orange) - According to Steve, this deck is "based on the gifts of Marigold and the sky. Also known as cempazuchitl, cempasuchil or zempasuchitl, Marigolds are used during Dia De Los Muertos so that your deceased loved ones can find their way back home."



Featured as court card characters in the Muertos decks are: El Padre, La Hermana, and El Soldado (Spades); El Catrin, La Viuda, and El Bandito (Hearts); El Caudillo, La Bailarina, and El Vaquero (Clubs), El Azteca, La Catrina, and El Ranchero (Diamonds).

I have the Muertos Night deck, which comes in an impressive black box with embossed gold foil printing.  While the cards themselves don't have gold foil printing, it's certainly an unusual and creative deck that gets immediate attention, looks attractive, and handles well.



OLYMPIA DECKS (2015)




These two decks were produced by Steve Minty in 2015, and were based on a Greek mythology theme.  I'm a sucker for anything to do with ancient Greek and Rome, so this was always going to be a hit with me!  There is a white deck, and a blue Underworld deck, which is the one that I personally have.

Steve Minty describes his aim with these decks as  "to capture the beauty of Greek sculptures in a new medium of playing cards while simultaneously updating it with a graphic twist."  As a result, "Olympia blends the classical beauty of Greek Sculptures with the elegant and sleek lines of modern design."

This project involved two different decks:
- Olympia (white theme)
- Olympia Underworld (blue theme)



These decks were inspired by the gods and heroes of ancient Greece.  Like many of us, in his childhood Steve spent countless hours devouring their stories about love, betrayal, death, vengeance and the heroic deeds within Greek Mythology. 



Olympia

Pictured below as examples of the white cards from the Olympia deck are Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, Hera his wife and goddess of women and marriage, and Hermes the protector god.



The Greek gods featured as court cards in the Olympia series are: Zeus, Hera, and Hermes (Spades); Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus (Hearts); Hades, Artemis, and Apollo (Clubs); Ares, Athena, and Dionysus (Diamonds); Hestia, Persophone, and Cerberus (Jokers).  Shown here below is one of the jokers.



Olympia Underworld

This is the deck that I own, and is similar to the regular Olympia deck in terms of artwork, but with a turquoise colour.

Most of the artwork is identical to the Olympia deck, but there are a few small changes to reflect the Underworld theme: The King of Spades and Queen of Spades are now Hades and Persephone respectively, reflecting how Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and became Queen of the Underworld; while the Jokers combine to picture Cerberus, the "hound of Hades".  Depicted here is the Greek god Hades.



I'm especially fond of the artwork and design on the backs of these Underworld cards, which looks fantastic.



While not quite as successful as the Muertos series, the Olympia decks enjoyed good support, almost tripling the required level of funding on Kickstarter.

The style and colours of the two Olympia decks remind me somewhat of the Egyptian themed Anubis and Osiris decks featured next in this review.  As good as these Olympia decks are, in my opinion Steve was able to build on the designs and colours of these decks, and in his later work produce something even more beautiful by applying what he'd learned to ancient Egypt.

ANUBIS & OSIRIS DECKS (2016)



The following year, in 2016, Steve created the Anubis and Osiris decks, which were inspired by and depict ancient Egyptian culture.

They are absolutely spectacular, and the photos you see here really don't do justice to how impressive they look in real life.   They look stunning, from the moment you first hold them in your hand, as I'm doing here:



They are sealed with an impressive looking gold foil sticker.



Both the box back and the card backs feature an embossed gold foil design which just sparkles in the light - I did my best to capture it in a photo here, but it looks even more beautiful than what you see here!



Anubis

The cards of the Anubis have gold foil artwork on a black background.  I own a copy of both of these decks, and quite frankly these two are my favourites of all the ones I own, because they just exude class, elegance, and quality!



The court cards of the Anubis deck feature artwork that reflects the Egyptian era, and look luxurious and attractive.  The artwork here was inspired by the Egyptian gods and kings of the past, and incorporates into the design elements from the classical Egyptian era and from the Egyptian revival.



The court cards feature the following Egyptian gods: Amun, Mut, and Thoth (Spades); Osiris, Isis, and Khnum (Hearts); Anubis, Sekhmet, and Geb (Clubs); Ra, Hathor, and Horus (Diamonds).



Printed on black cardstock with gold ink etchings, they are designed to be bold and opulent, just like the Egyptian gods/kings that inspired it.

Osiris

The Osiris deck is the counterpart to the Anubis deck.  This deck has a similar style to the Anubis deck, but features a rich turquoise colour instead of black.



The number cards on both decks have a minimalist style that still reflects the Egyptian theme.



If you look carefully, you'll notice that three tones of blue are used on the card faces, making the details pop out even more than the Anubis deck.  I'm a huge fan of the turquoise color used here!



With a funding goal of $20,000, unsurprisingly this project enjoyed huge support, with over $93,000 raised.  As a result of this high level of funding, both decks were produced with metallic gold foil, which looks absolutely stunning on the background.  I really can't say enough about how beautiful these two decks are!



CONCLUSION

I'm extremely impressed with Steve Minty's playing cards for several reasons:


I love the artwork:  Everything about these cards is stunning, from the back designs to the artwork on each card. They really do look beautiful.  In fact, they are probably the most beautiful decks of playing cards that I own.  I have other decks that are truly unique (like the Pipmen decks by Ben Jones), and classy (like the Omnia/Dedalo decks by Giovanni Meroni), but in my mind the Steve Minty decks have to take the prize for being the most beautiful. I own four of his other decks, and these look just as amazing.  I just love the way all the aesthetics come together in a wonderful package.

I love the themes: One things I love about all Steve Minty's decks is how has worked with different cultures and ideas (and even done some research in the process), and how he's found ways to reflect this in the themes.  As a result, each deck has its own very distinct flavour, in reflecting either classical Japan, ancient Egypt, mythological Greece, or traditional Mexico.  Going back to ancient times also gives you a sense that these playing cards are steeped in a long and rich tradition, and make one feel some connection with the past.

I love the variety: Even though there is superficial similarity between some his decks (e.g. both the Anubis deck and the Muertos Night decks rely on a black and gold colour scheme), all his decks have a unique flavour.  This isn't just a reflection of Steve's creativity, but more importantly it reflects the fact that he has been drawing on the unique elements of different cultures, and this comes to fruition with decks that look quite different from each other.  His new Japanese themed decks (the HANA luxury decks) offer nice variety from previous decks he's created.

I love the style: They  just have a luxurious look and feel about them.  The style and class is immediately evident just from looking at the box.  Three of the four Steve Minty decks that I have have gold foil printing on the tuck boxes, and come with a gold seal.  From the moment you first set your eyes on these deck boxes, they look stunning, especially when held up to the light.  I was just blown away by them when I first saw them, because they look even more amazing in real life than they do on photos! This positive impression remains when you look through the cards.  So his decks are typically very stylish and have a great deal of character and class.

I love the quality: Although one of the primary points of attraction with these cards is their visual appeal, they are made from good quality card stock, and handle and shuffle well.  People who enjoy playing card games will appreciate the quality of the card-stock and printing.  His most recent decks were printed by Expert Playing Card Company, and seem to be of an even higher quality than the earlier decks printed by US Playing Cards.  I have given them to an accomplished magician to get his thoughts, and he said the cards handled amazingly well, very smooth, and he just loved them.  The sense of quality and luxury begins with the tuck boxes, where there are tiny details on everything (even the flaps), and the cards on the inside match this high standard.

I love the playability: Despite the wonderful aesthetics, the numbers and suits are still clear enough that you can actually use them in a game, without the artwork getting in the way of game-play and functionality. While decks like these have value for collectors, in the end I don't own cards to look at them, but to play games with them, and these do that job nicely, while at the same time giving players something beautiful to look at during moments of down-time.  My only concern is whether the red and black suits of the HANA Gold deck court cards need to be differentiated more clearly, but perhaps you'd quickly grow to recognize the difference in the shades of red used for this.

I love the service: When I received something from Steve, the decks were shipped very promptly, and in a package that included a box with soft padding inside, a business card and a Steve Minty sticker.  So even the packing materials used shows top quality service and thoughtful attention to detail.

I own a lot of different decks of playing cards, but the Steve Minty decks are easily among the most beautiful decks I own, and arguably they are my most prized decks of playing cards.  If you think they look good in the pictures you see here, just wait till you see them first-hand - they look even better.  So if you'd like to add some delightful decks like these to your own collection, you're in luck: head over to Steve Minty's own website here.



To find out more:

Steve Minty website: http://www.steveminty.com
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Introduce Yourself / Re: Greetings from reviewer EndersGame
« Last post by EndersGame on Yesterday at 12:55:04 AM »
Thanks for the welcome! 

I've posted a number of my pictorial reviews already in the Deck Reviews! forum - enjoy!
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Sorry, Don. 😔
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Thanks!  I saw that, but generally don't trust buying anything from Taiwan.  I'd imagine they pop out a bunch of fakes over that way lol
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Playing Card Plethora / Re: Pipmen: World - a real World First!
« Last post by Fud on March 27, 2017, 10:37:56 PM »
Thanks PrincessTrouble - always on top of the game!

If anyone has any questions about this project extension, check out this FAQ update I made a few minutes ago:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/585926215/pipmen-world-full-art-playing-cards/posts/1843338
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Playing Card Plethora / Re: The 2017 Release List
« Last post by PrincessTrouble on March 27, 2017, 02:50:21 PM »
Play Fair V2 by Kei Izumi
Released in March 2017
Printed by Bomber PCC
(Available in Red, Blue, Green, and Black editions.)

https://bombmagic.tw/store/product/playfair/

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