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Dan and Dave Buck's Art of Play

Art of Play is the online home of Dan and Dave Buck, twins who first made a name for themselves as magicians. They subsequently branched out into the world of cardistry (i.e. card flourishing), and are widely regarded as one of the top pioneers and innovators in this relatively new art-form, playing a major role in its growth and development.

Their interest in the world of playing cards also led to the establishment of Art of Play as their own brand and online retail outlet. Since 2013 they have been selling a range that includes hundreds of different decks of quality playing cards, as well as unique games and puzzles. And besides carrying a large inventory of luxury playing cards, Dan and Dave have also been contributing to the custom playing card industry by producing decks of their own, under the Art of Play label. Over the last couple of years alone, they have been producing well over a dozen different decks of custom playing cards every year, with many wonderful and popular designs.

In this article I'd like to focus on some of their newest releases which have just hit the market in the last six months or so.



Card flourishing is the speciality of Dan and Dave Buck, and cardists look for a very different set of characteristics in a deck of playing cards, notably the aesthetic appeal of cards in motion. As such, the cards need not necessarily be very functional for playing games or card magic - although often they can serve a dual purpose of being used for these purposes as well. But of primary importance in card flourishing is the visual appeal, and having a design and pattern that looks great when the cards are being handled. And where better to turn than to the legendary card flourisher Cardini, who the Peau Doux deck pays homage to.

Peau Doux

The name Richard Valentine Pitchford may not be familiar to most people, but perhaps his stage name Cardini might ring a bell. Cardini was an amazing magician whose sense of humour and skill in manipulations and magic earned him the well-deserved praise and respect from audiences and magicians alike.

In collaboration with Potter & Potter and Pitchford Entertainment, Art of Play has recently produced a beautiful deck to commemorate Cardini’s life and career, and that's the Peau Doux deck featured here.


This deck is a poker sized replica of an original deck of bridge sized playing cards that Cardini himself used in performance at his legendary nightclub act, "The Suave Deceiver". You can view one of the few recorded performances of Cardini here (link), which was filmed in 1957. I highly recommend watching the video clip, because you'll appreciate why his act was one of the most well-regarded magic acts of the time!

Cardini found this particular deck at a Walgreens Drug Store. He loved the design for fanning and manipulations (which he excelled at) so much that he is thought to have purchased the Walgreens entire stock of cards. He also received assurance from the company that they would not print the design again. He even purchased and smashed the printing plates used to make the deck, to ensure that he alone had the rights to this deck.

The tuck case largely replicates the original, featuring black with gold rectangles and the name of the deck in a beautiful letter-pressed font on the front. The seal is based on a vintage tax stamp that was used on older decks of cards. It also incorporates the likeness of Mrs Walgreen's pet dog Podo, whose face also appeared on the Ace of Spades of the original deck. Podo's name is also the obvious inspiration for the name of the deck Peau Doux.


The back design of the cards is a striking one-way design with vibrant colours. Set against a red background is a circular pattern in layers of black, white, gold and red, with a golden Pegasus emerging from the gold. Metallic ink is used for the gold colour, adding to the visual appeal, and making this design all the more amazing to enjoy and play around with.


This design creates beautiful patterns in fans, spreads and other manipulations, and this is exactly the reason why Cardini loved these cards so much.


The Ace of Spades is based closely on the original, but instead of featuring the dog Podo it reprises the Pegasus already seen on the back design. Cardini's name is also mentioned on the bottom of the Ace of Spades as a special tribute to him.


The court cards have a standard design, but limited to the same colour palette of red, black, gold, and white from the card backs. The use of metallic gold ink creates a thoroughly classy look, while ensuring that the court cards are also very recognisable.

The faces of the other cards are mostly standard, although the indices and pips are just smaller and more petite than a standard deck.


Also included is an extra card with information about Cardini, which is very nice to have with the deck. The two identical Jokers also show a silhouette of Cardini himself, since he is the person that this deck was intended to honour.


This deck was produced in a limited edition of 2,500 decks, and sold out within a very short time on Art of Play. An exclusive "White Glove" edition was also released. This ultra limited edition has a white tuck box, and was only available to those who purchased 12 or more decks from Art of Play.

The name of this edition (White Glove) also pays tribute to the fact that Cardini often performed wearing gloves, which in fact made card manipulations even harder. This would be a feat too difficult for most, but the reason he was able to master performing with gloves was due to the fact that he would practice his manipulations in the trenches during WWI wearing gloves because it was otherwise too cold. The photo below (source) is from 1968, and shows Cardini himself using one of the original Peau Doux decks, and wearing gloves.


Printed by the USPCC on Art of Play’s usual crushed stock, these cards handle amazingly and are great to fan and spread with their amazing design. They are great for magicians and collectors who may have an interest in Cardini and can appreciate the fascinating history behind this deck. This is a beautiful deck that functions both as a stunning cardistry deck, but also as a historical curiosity. Having this deck in your hands makes one feel that you're handling a piece of history from one of the most amazing magicians of all time.



Art of Play offers a lot more than just luxury playing cards. Below I'll cover just one of these items from their carefully curated collection of curiosities, which they describe as including the following:
- Puzzles: Clever conundrums with brilliant solutions cloaked in elegance.
- Amusements: Stimulating diversions to inspire creativity, curiosity, and joy.
- Games: Luxurious versions of classic tabletop contests and bar-room recreations.

Red Goose Puzzle

The Red Goose Puzzle is a clever disentanglement puzzle, where the aim is to help the goose escape the noose. This puzzle is quite a classic, and has been around for a while, but this is one of the nicest productions of it you'll find anywhere, with attractive laser-cut wood and a quality cord.


The puzzle is made up of a rectangular shaped alder wood, which has been laser engraved to depict a goose with a twisted and knotted neck. Four holes have been strategically placed in the wood, and through these holes is a black nylon cord, twisted through the holes and around itself. Attached to the end of the cord is a red wooden bead, which is larger than the size of the holes.

The aim? Get the cord off the wood and help free the goose! To do this, you'll have to employ some lateral thinking, combined with some trial-and-error. When you pull parts of the cord through the holes, you can start pushing other things through or around - but that's for you to figure out!


How difficult is it? Fortunately it's not too impossible. It does require some thinking and fiddling to be able to solve, although some are able to solve it fairly quickly, while others will get frustrated that it proved harder than they thought. It really is a neat little puzzle that has just the right amount of complexity, and most people should be able to solve it within 10-15 minutes or so.

This is a great little puzzle that is small enough to easily fit in your pocket, so you can take it with you and challenge your friends and family to solve it. Alternatively, you can leave it sitting on your coffee table as a curiosity or conversation piece, and for visitors to try. Considering that it sells at a reasonable price, the Red Goose Puzzle is a very attractive and well-made puzzle that looks elegant and nice, offering a good challenge without being too difficult, and is a great and unique gift idea as well.


Other Puzzles

Art of Play also has a wide range of other high quality puzzles as well, which should especially appeal to people who enjoy games and brainteasers.

You can browse their site to see the large selection that they have on offer - here's a composite image showing just a few of the curiosities that they have available.



So are decks from Art of Play something for you? I've sourced playing cards from Art of Play previously, and continue to be very impressed with the custom cards that they produce, along with their other products.

With their background in cardistry and magic, Dan and Dave Buck know exactly what good playing cards are about, and they demand exacting standards of quality that ensures that they make and sell only the very best. They understand what kinds of patterns, colours, and aesthetic designs are appealing and functional, and they also have good connections in the playing card industry to ensure that the cards they produce are of the highest quality, prove durable, and handle smoothly. As such, those with an interest in card magic or card flourishing are sure to appreciate the custom playing cards that they have contributed to the market.

But there's also a lot of other fantastic material over at Art of PLay for those who enjoy card games like poker or other traditional card games. Some of their decks are creative, or opt for a more classy and sophisticated look, while they still look familiar and recognizable enough to be very usable and practical. With fresh designs, as well as carefully placed details on the tuck boxes like foil accents and embossing, these are exquisite and high class products that are certain to please the discerning buyer.



Whether your interest is in card magic, card flourishing, or card games, or even just card collecting, you're almost certain to find some treasures in Art of Play's growing collection. For anyone who enjoys quality playing cards, puzzles, or games, this is definitely a site I recommend you check out!


What to learn more? Check out Art of Play:
- Official website:
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest
- Youtube channel: DanAndDave

Direct links for items featured in this review:
For the Card Gamer or Magician: MAKERS: Blacksmith Edition, Antler: Tobacco Brown
For the Collector: Into the Weird, Seekers
For the Cardist: Peau Doux
For the Clever: Red Goose Puzzle


BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==

Want me to write a review of your playing cards or magic? Contact me via Private Message.
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