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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The Card Studio » » The Top 20 Most Funded Decks of Playing Cards of All Time on Kickstarter (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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Popularity doesn't necessarily equate to quality. But certainly when something is extremely popular, it is a reliable indication that something about it has a real appeal. Over two articles, we'll take a look at the 40 most funded decks of playing cards of all time on Kickstarter. This is effectively a "greatest hits" compilation, and is a showcase of the custom decks that have been the most successful on this crowdfunding platform over the last decade.

When Kickstarter first emerged as a viable platform for crowdfunding around 2009, few could have anticipated its remarkable success. According to Kickstarter's official stats from early June 2021, it has been used to successfully fund over 200,000 projects, to the tune of almost $6 billion raised. Just to be clear, that is a 6 followed by nine zeros. In other words, Kickstarter has helped raise a million bucks nearly 6000 times over. And it has accomplished that with the help of nearly 20 million backers and over 70 million total pledges. Those are extraordinary numbers! Over 500 of these projects have single-handedly brought in over a million dollars' worth of funding each, which is an indication of Kickstarter's remarkable popularity. One project, Pebble Time, even brought in a cool $20 million all by itself, making it #1 in the official list of Kickstarter's most funded projects of all time. Admittedly there are crowdfunding platforms that have generated even bigger numbers (see this list of examples), but most of them are blockchain related, so Kickstarter remains the platform of choice for the average creator and consumer.

There is no doubt that Kickstarter has had a huge impact on the custom playing card industry as well. Collectors of custom playing cards in the 1990s and early 2000s typically found themselves relying on big publishers like Ellusionist and Theory11 to provide them with new and interesting custom decks. But Kickstarter has changed all that. We now live in an era where the enterprising designer can create an original and attractive deck of playing cards on his personal computer, partner with a reputable printer like USPCC or Cartamundi to produce a quality product, and fund the whole endeavour through Kickstarter. As a result, the custom playing card industry has exploded. In any given week there is a brand new crop of custom decks seeking funding on Kickstarter, often with original features and creativity the likes of which have never been seen before. Some big name playing card designers owe their success almost entirely to this platform, after attracting a loyal following of appreciative supporters who are willing to support their creativity in return for getting beautiful custom playing cards.

So let's have a look back over the last decade, and take you on a tour of the forty playing card projects that have reached the greatest heights of support on Kickstarter. In this article we'll start with the top 20 most funded playing cards of all time on Kickstarter, listed in order by the total amount of funding, based on the numbers from early June 2021. In a follow-up article, we'll list the next 20 highest projects and come to some conclusions. So without further ado, here are Kickstarter's top 20 heaviest hitters.

== The Top 10 ==

1. The Name of the Wind Art Deck - $630,300

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Deck: The Name of the Wind Art Deck by Elodin Enterprises
Funding: $630,300 raised by 10,090 backers
Year: 2017

The remarkable success of this Kickstarter project was due in no small part to the fact that it was based on the popular novel of the same name by Patrick Rothfuss. The project had his blessing, and was a collaboration with fantasy artist Echo Chernik. The deck featured characters from The Name of the Wind, which is the first book of Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles series. The cards were beautifully illustrated with a colourful and classic style. It is not hard to see how this became a runaway success for the legions of fans who were devoted to the series, and for playing card enthusiasts generally.

2. The Name of the Wind - $589,660

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Deck: The Name of the Wind by Albino Dragon
Funding: $589,660 raised by 11,334 backers
Year: 2013

Somewhat surprisingly, the deck in the #2 spot is based on the same book, and goes all the way back to 2013. But this project was produced by Albino Dragon, a publisher that specializes in creating licensed playing cards, and has been responsible for creating a significant number of lovely custom decks. The wonderful illustrations were by a different artist than the later Art Deck. What makes this project notable is that no single deck in this top 40 list has had as many backers, with a massive 11,334. The reason for its success is much the same as with the previous project, namely that it was wedded to a successful novel, and had the support and involvement of the author.

3. MINT 2 - $564,558

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Deck: MINT 2 by 52Kards (product page)
Funding: $564,558 raised by 5,671 backers
Year: 2018

52Kards is the brand of Asad Chaudhry, a popular youtuber who has been producing helpful magic tutorials for over a decade. He now has over 1 million subscribers, so he could tap into a strong existing support base when producing his own decks. This project was a follow up to his first MINT deck, which proved very popular. The back design had a very appealing look, and incorporated a clever coded marking system, making it an attractive choice for magicians wanting a good marked deck. MINT 2 saw the original design tweaked and improved, plus new colours: Blueberry Mint, Cucumber Mint, and a limited edition Frost Mint.

4. Jerry's Nugget - $477,229

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Deck: Jerry's Nugget by Expert Playing Card Company (product page)
Funding: $477,229 raised by 4,094 backers
Year: 2019

The story of the legendary Jerry's Nugget decks is a fascinating tale, which even has aspects of mystery about it. These iconic decks were originally produced in the early 1970s. Over the last couple of decades they have gained a holy grail status due to their popularity, and an original deck now typically sells for $500. Cardists have praised the legendary handling of the unique stock used for these cards. Expert Playing Card Company partnered with the Jerry's Nugget Casino to bring these back to modern collectors, in the original blue and red colours and in a range of further colours, albeit with modern stock.

5. The Eye of the Ocean - $393,000

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Deck: The Eye of the Ocean by Stockholm17
Funding: $393,000 (€323,377) raised by 2,217 backers
Year: 2021

Lorenzo Gaggiotti, more commonly known in the world of playing cards as Stockholm17, is one of the most sought after playing card designers today. His previous decks have won numerous awards in playing card circles. This most recent project only just finished funding in May 2021, and is perhaps his best yet. It has stunning custom artwork on the cards, a unique tuck box the likes of which we've not seen before, and add-ons that include a novel, a metal astrolabe, and an inbuilt puzzle.

6. The Photography Deck - $364,000

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Deck: The Photography Deck by Travel9to5
Funding: $364,000 (€309,119) raised by 10,736 backers
Year: 2020

This is one of only three decks on the top 40 list which have had over 10,000 backers. The man behind the project, Eric Bohring, is a creator and adventurer behind the brand Travel9to5, and specializes in travel, film, and photos. These cards feature camera and photography tips and tricks, hence the deck's subtitle: "Camera Cheat Sheet Playing Cards". The fact that it effectively doubles as a camera reference sheet with rules and techniques about photography was a big factor in its high level of support. Unsurprisingly it was featured in a lot of photography websites and had a lot of positive press generally.

7. Anubis & Osiris Shadow - $321,052

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Deck: Anubis & Osiris Shadow by Steve Minty
Funding: $321,052 raised by 3,617 backers
Year: 2021

Steve Minty is one of the rock stars in the world of playing cards. The stunning Egyptian themed Anubis and Osiris decks that he first created in 2016 were a huge hit, and are still highly sought after by collectors. The beautiful design and gold foil on the back of all the cards and on the tuck box makes them a work of art and luxury, and they can reach prices of well over $150. With the Anubis and Osiris Shadow decks, Steve Minty reprised the originals in updated colours of purple and green, along with some small changes to the design, and the luxury of foil on both sides of all the cards.

8. The NOC Luxury Collection - $287,813

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Deck: The NOC Luxury Collection by Riffle Shuffle x House of Playing Cards (product page)
Funding: $287,813 raised by 2,038 backers
Year: 2020

NOC was originally conceived as an acronym for Nothing Only Colour. It represented an approach of sheer minimalism towards the backs of playing cards, which consisted simply of a single block of colour within white borders. The concept proved surprisingly popular with cardists, and spawned a large series of NOC decks in different colours and styles. In this collaboration between Riffle Shuffle (Kevin Yu) and House of Playing Cards (Alex Pandrea), the NOC decks get the most luxurious treatment imaginable, with holographic foil on all the cards, in three different decks: Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

9. Arrow & Shield Playing Cards - $265,200

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Deck: Arrow & Shield Playing Cards by Card Mafia
Funding: $265,200 (HK$2,056,227) raised by 2,484 backers
Year: 2020

If you need evidence that supporters are willing to pay for an extravagant and creative tuck box, this project is all the proof you need. Creator Kevin Yu from Card Mafia had already produced a stunning tuck box with his Trident & Sword project, which appears later on this list. The Arrow & Shield project capitalized on that earlier success with a new pair of decks, this time inspired by Apollo, the Greek God of the Sun. While the cards themselves are beautiful, the chief attraction here is the deluxe tuck box, which features a magnetic opening and closing and self-locking system.

10. Kingdom & Kinghood - $250,887

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Deck: Kingdom & Kinghood by Artisan Playing Cards
Funding: $250,887 (HK$1,947,197) raised by 727 backers
Year: 2021

This is the third project from creator Artisan Playing Cards (better known as Ark Playing Cards), following their debut Card College and Tempo projects, both of which also appear in this top 40 list. They already showed what they could do in the area of innovative tuck boxes and packaging with those previous efforts. But they've really outdone themselves with the Kingdom and Kinghood project, which features box sets presented as luxurious gift boxes, glamorous foiled tuck boxes, and playing cards the likes of which have never been seen before.

== The Top 20 ==

11. Trident & Sword Playing Cards - $238,600

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Deck: Trident & Sword Playing Cards by Card Mafia (product page)
Funding: $238,600 (HK$1,852,031) raised by 2,946 backers
Year: 2020

This is the project from Kevin Yu's Card Mafia that preceded his Arrow & Shield decks that are in the #9 spot, and was inspired by the god Poseidon from Greek mythology. With Trident & Sword he debuted his magnificent tuck boxes, with their unique magnetic open and closing system and a self-locking system. Besides these Deluxe editions, the two decks also had a Classic edition. But we all know that the more complex tuck box for the Deluxe edition is easily the star attraction here. Each tuck box required eight times more paper than a standard tuck box, and when fully opened it spreads out into a 145 degree angle.

12. Butterfly Black - $219,800

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Deck: Butterfly Black by Ondrej Psenicka (product page)
Funding: $219,800 (SEK2,117,815) raised by 1,466 backers
Year: 2019

Ondrej Psenicka has enjoyed success as a magician, fooling Penn and Teller twice on their show Fool Us. His innovative Butterfly Playing Cards were originally crowdfunded in 2016, and came with an ingenious marking system that was truly ground-breaking. Not only could these escape detection from many magicians, but they could also accomplish things not possible with other marked decks. Building on this success, this more recent project presented the most luxurious versions imaginable of the Butterfly decks. They include gold and silver foil, gilded edges, and the option of unmarked versions.

13. The Tale of the Tempest - $194,187

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Deck: The Tale of the Tempest by The Gentleman Wake.
Funding: $194,187 raised by 1,235 backers
Year: 2020

Many playing card collectors will be familiar with The Gentleman Wake, courtesy of his superb skill as a videographer and reviewer on youtube. In 2019 he teamed up with popular playing card designer Stockholm17 to create The Parlour Playing Cards. The Tale of the Tempest was his follow-up project the next year, this time in tandem with Lotrek, who is arguably today's #1 designer of luxury playing cards. Even though this more recent project didn't have as many supporters as the previous ones (1235 compared with 1697), the playing cards were more customized and luxurious, and so the overall level of support was considerably higher.

14. Arcana - $190,592

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Deck: Arcana by Chris Ovdiyenko
Funding: $190,592 raised by 3,199 backers
Year: 2015

There is a huge demand for Tarot cards, and the Arcana deck bridges the gap between standard playing cards and the traditional Tarot. It serves as a regular deck of cards, while still drawing on the imagery and symbols from the world of Tarot, particularly the popular 1910 Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck. The cards incorporate regular pips along with the wands, swords, cups, and pentacles familiar from Tarot, and four Major Arcana cards (Fool, Lovers, Death, Tower) were included instead of Jokers and ad cards. It is first and foremost a deck of playing cards, however, rather than a full 78 card Tarot deck, and the engraved style helped make it a winner.

15. Federal 52 Part 2 - $188,005

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Deck: Federal 52 Part 2 by Jackson Robinson
Funding: $188,005 raised by 2,705 backers
Year: 2013

Jackson Robinson from King's Wild Project has the unique achievement of being one of the world's only full-time professional playing card designers. His original Federal 52 project in 2013 was a deck of cards inspired by currency, and featured a style that reflected the traditional engraving designs of bank notes. It was an instant hit with nearly 3,000 backers, and Jackson's work was soon in high demand from collectors. This follow-up from the same year featured a Reserve Note deck and Silver Certificate deck. It continued the same successful formula, including embossed tuck cases stamped with foil.

16. The Apothecary 2 - $184,339

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Deck: The Apothecary 2 by Alexander Chin (product page)
Funding: $184,339 raised by 2,348 backers
Year: 2018

Alexander Chin is one of today's hottest playing card designers, and has won numerous industry awards in packaging for his designs with Seasons Playing Cards, and Deck of the Year Awards for his NPCCD decks. This pair of Apothecary decks were entitled Seronda Sentiments (Fall) and Verana Virtues (Summer), and were a sequel to his earlier release, Primavera Ponderings (Spring) and Inverno Insights (Winter). The series of Apothecary decks explores "intangible curiosities from the other side", and wants us to focus on physical things that can be touched, felt, and held. The White Label edition is the highlight, with gilded edges, and a colour changing tuck box that responds to heat and touch.

17. Tempo - $175,100

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Deck: Tempo by Ark Playing Card Co
Funding: $175,100 (HK$1,358,230) raised by 1,033 backers
Year: 2021

This isn't the first entry from Ark Playing Cards on this list, with their Kingdom & Kinghood project appearing already. It's not surprising given their focus on pushing innovation to the extreme. Tempo was their sophomore effort, and followed their successful debut Card College release. Several decks were part of the Tempo project, including a telescopic and a mechanical flip box design at the entry level. In addition they produced a UV electro-optic box set that came with a UV torch and that made use of UV light fluorescence technology on all the actual cards. Also available was an edition with a sunlight colour-changing tuck box.

18. Air Deck 3.0 - $164,100

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Deck: Air Deck 3.0 by TipTop Things (product page)
Funding: $164,100 (HK$1,275,853) raised by 6,690 backers
Year: 2020

People like novelty, as the Air Deck 3.0 project demonstrates, with the healthy support of nearly 7,000 backers. The creator Tip Top Things was able to capitalize on earlier successes that included three versions of their clever Nanobag shopping bag, and two previous versions of their Air Deck. Marketed as "cool playing cards for travellers", the Air Deck 3.0 offered more of the same, but with seven new designs. Their successful travel-optimized deck was billed as waterproof, compact, lightweight, and durable. Its small size and waterproof PVC card stock certainly made it eye-catching and popular.

19. Muertos Day of the Dead - $159,706

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Deck: Muertos Day of the Dead by Steve Minty
Funding: $159,706 raised by 2,793 backers
Year: 2014

The Muertos collection was inspired by the Mexican holiday that celebrates life and death: Dia De Los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead. Produced in 2014, it was one of Steve Minty's first deck designs, and had a modest funding goal of $13,000. This was absolutely blown away when a staggering $159,706 was raised. Steve tried to capture and convey the combination of sorrow and laughter that the Day of the Dead is about, with a blend of the sombre and the playful. Classical aesthetics were combined with a style that respectfully honours the traditional message of Dia De Los Muertos, and several different colours gave consumers plenty of choice.

20. Royales - $158,200

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Deck: Royales by Lee McKenzie
Funding: $158,200 (£118,466) raised by 1,713 backers
Year: 2020

Playing card designer Lee McKenzie from Kings and Crooks doesn't nearly get the credit he deserves. He designed decks for Ellusionist at the time they were one of the biggest players in the custom playing card industry, and had a big hand in their popular decks like Arcane, Artifice, and Infinity. He embarked on his own with the launch of his popular Empire decks in 2013. But the tremendous success of Royales has proved that he's finally emerging into his own right as an elite designer. This luxurious Monte Carlo styled deck is available in several versions, and the gorgeous card faces are a real highlight.

== The Top 40 ==

In the next article, we'll showcase the remaining decks from Kickstarter's top 40 most funded playing card projects, by taking a look at the projects ranked #31 through #40.

So are there any conclusions we can draw from all of this? For sure, but we'll save that for the end of the next article, after we've completed our tour. Meanwhile, enjoy the creativity and beauty of these wonderful projects, which represent the 20 heaviest hitters produced with the help of Kickstarter. But there's plenty of more good stuff to come!

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Notes about the statistics:
1. This list was compiled on 14 June 2021, and doesn't reflect Kickstarters that were launched or funded after this time.
2. Determining the most funded Kickstarters for playing cards is not as simple as looking at the Most Funded Projects in the Playing Card category. A number of earlier projects weren't categorized as Playing Cards, or were categorized differently, and thus will be missing from that list. Besides some important omissions, a list generated in this way also includes card games and some other projects that aren't directly playing card related.
3. I've not included projects like Iron Clays & Spades by Roxley Games, since the bulk if its funding was for gaming counters (over 3500 backers) rather than for playing cards (only 175 backers).
4. Some of the projects used foreign currencies. I have converted these into the equivalent amount in US currency for the date when they were funded. This is also what Kickstarter platform appears to do when ranking the most funded projects in order.


Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
EndersGame
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Kickstarter Rockstars, Part 2: The Top 40 Most Funded Decks of Playing Cards of All Time

So now that we've finished examining the top 20 decks, let's take a look at the heavy hitting decks that wouldn't quite make the top 20, but would qualify for the top 40 most funded decks on Kickstarter. And there's still plenty of high quality projects to be found in this next tier of projects that rank from #21 through #40. In fact, nearly all of the next ten projects (ranked 21-30) generated around $150,000 each. By the time we get to the end of our top 40 list, this number dips to just under $120,000. That's still an extraordinary accomplishment for a project that is producing what essentially amounts to printed piles of cardboard. But we're willing to throw money at these projects, because we know that these are more than just piles of cardboard; they are miniature works of art!

== The Top 30 ==

21. Bitcoin Puzzle - $154,611

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Deck: Bitcoin Puzzle by IP052 (product page)
Funding: $154,611 raised by 1,286 backers
Year: 2018

Cryptocurrency is one of today's hottest investments, and Bitcoin is the most well-known of all the digital currencies on the market. This project featured two wonderful decks that captured numerous aspects of Bitcoin currency in detail. In addition, it also offered the option of an unique acrylic puzzle box which visibly portrays Blockchain technology. To help design this puzzle, the creators engaged the services of Oskar van Deventer, a world record holder for the largest Rubik's cube. Artist Billy French did a splendid job in all aspects of the actual design. As an added bonus, and in keeping with the puzzle theme, the cards themselves are marked.

22. The Parlour - $151,484

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Deck: The Parlour by The Gentleman Wake (product page)
Funding: $151,484 raised by 1,697 backers
Year: 2019

This was the debut deck of respected playing card reviewer and videographer The Gentleman Wake. Besides the support of his own fans, a big reason for its success is that he engaged Stockholm17, one of today's most popular playing card designers, to create the actual design. The faces are semi-custom, with small adjustments made to the court cards. The card backs and tuck boxes show all the hallmarks of Stockholm17's signature design, and the deck is finished with glamorous tuck boxes. It is a very practical deck that understandably had a wide appeal.

23. The Origin - $151,200

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Deck: The Origin by Skymember Presents
Funding: $151,200 (S$99,755) raised by 755 backers
Year: 2021

Along with Kingdom and Kinghood, this is one of only two projects on our list which had less than 1000 backers, and yet had enough funding to make our top 40. That's an indication of how much the average backer splurged with this particular project. With original artwork from Austin Ho, the goal of The Origin (Genesis 3D) deck was to capture elements of the Genesis narrative. Besides super luxurious playing cards that had an intricate and original design, this project offered several remarkable editions, as well as other unique treasures closely tied to the deck.

24. The Woman Cards - $150,003

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Deck: The Woman Cards by Zach Wahls
Funding: $150,003 raised by 3,918 backers
Year: 2016

Sometimes a playing card project just needs a good idea and the perfect timing. In this case Zach Wahls struck gold with the help of nearly 4,000 backers, by creating a deck inspired by Donald Trump saying that the only card Hillary Clinton has is the woman's card. The fact that this coincided with the 2016 presidential campaign made the timing perfect, even if the looks of these cards can't compete alongside many others in this list. The deck features hand-drawn portraits of powerful American women, ranging from Hillary Clinton, alongside historical figures like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clara Barton, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, and others.

25. Federal 52 - $149,156

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Deck: Federal 52 by Jackson Robinson (V2 product page)
Funding: $149,156 raised by 2,798 backers
Year: 2013

This is the deck that may just have launched Jackson Robinson's career as a full-time professional playing card designer. It was cleverly inspired by bank notes, and is one of his most sought-after decks by collectors. His idea to use a graphic design that mimics currency turned out to be a brilliant move. This Federal 52 deck was crowned as United Cardists inaugural Deck of the Year in 2013, and went on to spawn others like it. Jackson has since produced several other versions, as well as many other designs under his successful label Kingswild Project.

26. Mechanical 3D Metal - $148,637

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Deck: Mechanical 3D Metal by Dale Mathis
Funding: $148,637 raised by 1,226 backers
Year: 2013

This was a deck of firsts, and was lauded as "the world's first 3D metal and mechanized playing cards". Dale Mathis set himself the goal of creating a Ferrari among playing cards, which he achieved by thinking outside of the box - literally. The deck itself is mostly standard looking, but let's be honest: this project is all about the tuck box and the accessories. A 3D metal card face mechanism attaches to the box, which then goes inside a 3D metal tuck box, complete with gears. This then fits inside a mechanical card frame, which engages with the gears on the box. Flipping a switch causes the gears to rotate, and turns on LED lights for additional visual impact. Wow!

27. Violet Luna Moon & Esther Star - $146,800

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Deck: Violet Luna Moon & Esther Star by Bocopo (product page)
Funding: $146,800 (HK$1,151,488) raised by 1,481 backers pledged
Year: 2018

The extravagant tuck box design of these decks will immediately look familiar from Card Mafia's Arrow & Shield and Trident & Sword projects. That's because the same person is behind it: Kevin Yu. Under the Bocopo label, he first produced the Luna Moon & Helius Sun decks, which featured the same basic tuck box, and became an instant hit at the time of their release. This later project from the same year took the same concept, using two new colours (purple and green), and proved even more successful than the original.

28. Misc Goods Co - $146,596

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Deck: Misc Goods Co by Tyler Deeb (product page)
Funding: $146,596 raised by 4,022 backers
Year: 2012

This has the unique distinction of being the first ever playing card project to top the $100k mark, already back in 2012. With over 4000 backers, it raised a remarkable $146,596. At the time, playing cards were still a novelty on Kickstarter, and many backers had never seen a custom deck before, and were blown away by the concept. On the back of this extraordinary result, the creator Tyler Deeb was able to finance and establish his own Misc Goods luxury brand company, which has produced several other versions of this deck, along with other luxury goods. You can read the entire story about this record-breaking project in my article "It all began with a deck of cards: A life-changing Kickstarter success story" (link).

29. Luminosity - $145,201

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Deck: Luminosity by Jody Eklund (product page)
Funding: $145,201 raised by 2,815 backers
Year: 2019

Jody Eklund is another of today's top playing card designers. He has a strong following of fans that appreciate his attention to historical detail, and his clean artistic design. He typically employs a trademark pen and ink style, but Luminosity is somewhat of a departure from his usual fare. It was inspired by Norse mythology, and behind the deck is a rich allegorical story about good and evil written by Ricky Cassford, which Jody has beautifully depicted with lavish detail and colour.

30. Air Deck 2.0 - $147,100

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Deck: Air Deck 2.0 by TipTop Things (product page)
Funding: $147,100 (HK$1,131,127) raised by 7,167 backers
Year: 2019

The original Air Deck was funded in mid-2017, and was advertised as a deck created by travellers for travellers: a portable and washable deck made out of durable premium PVC. Some 18 months later, the Air Deck 2.0 added new colours and patterns to the original red, white and black decks. In other words, it kept everything that made the original so popular, with a few small upgrades, and some new designs. Clearly the formula was enough to attract some previous backers, and to get a whole new crop of supporters.

== The Top 40 ==

31. Conjuror Community Club - $142,543

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Deck: Conjuror Community Club by Conjuror Community
Funding: $142,543 raised by 1,694 backers
Year: 2020

This deck was created by magicians for magicians, as the names of those involved indicate: professional magicians Aaron Fisher, Adam Grace, and Lee Asher. The Conjuror Community is an online magic club that was built by Aaron and Adam. It is much like a school for magicians, and offers training courses, coaching, and a community. The center of the project was of course a deck of playing cards, which was described as a premium performer's deck geared to the needs of magicians. The card backs reprise a lovely design from 1907. Besides the cards, backers could also get access to a four week live online training course at CC Club, making it very attractive for people interested in card magic to get behind this project.

32. Princess Bride - $136,009

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Deck: Princess Bride by Albino Dragon (product page)
Funding: $136,009 raised by 2,525 backers
Year: 2013

The Princess Bride is a film from 1987, and is a much-loved spoof on the fantasy adventure genre. This deck is a licensed product and serves as a wonderful tribute to this classic comedy. It's also one of Albino Dragon's great successes as a publisher of custom decks. Three different decks were produced as part of this project, each by a different artist, and featuring different characters and aspects from the story. These charming decks do a great job of capturing the magic of a wonderful story. The project could draw on the enormous popularity of the film, easily smashing its goal of $10,000.

33. Wicked Kingdom - $134,485

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Deck: Wicked Kingdom by Wylie Beckert
Funding: $134,485 raised by 3,637 backers
Year: 2016

This deck comes from fantasy artist Wylie Beckert. It features hand-painted artwork that captures a dark fantasy world which is inhabited with a variety of unusual and complex characters. The illustrations are lush and rich, and even the number cards feature ornate decorations and elaborate pips set against a watermarked backdrop. Wylie created a companion art book that was available as a separate add-on. It includes the illustrations used in the deck, and tells the backstories for each card. The hand-drawn artwork of the court cards is a real highlight.

34. Alpha & Omega - $128,400

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Deck: Alpha & Omega by Elephant Playing Cards
Funding: $128,400 (AU$166,237) raised by 2,021 backers
Year: 2021

Ben Jones is the man behind Elephant Playing Cards, home of the creative Pipmen decks. An experienced creator, with this project he took on more serious subject material. Each of the three decks in the series corresponds to a different significant period of church history: The Early Church, The Protestant Reformation, and The Great Awakening. The artwork of the court cards is very detailed and presented in classic wood-cut style. The cards feature key figures from each historical period, including early church fathers like Augustine and Athanasius, and Reformers like Calvin and Luther.

35. Black Mint - $125,808

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Deck: Black Mint by 52Kards
Funding: $125,808 raised by 2,140 backers
Year: 2016

This was the original project from Asad Chaudhry's 52Kards, a popular youtube channel providing tutorials in card magic. The goal was to produce a deck that combined the best of form and function, and would serve as a worker's deck for modern card magicians. The faces all have a relatively classic appearance, with subtle changes to ensure a custom look. The backs are marked, with an easy to use coded marking system. The classic look of the striking back design proved very popular. The two colours offered were Black Mint and Raspberry Mint, along with a limited edition borderless version and a stripper deck.

36. Sovereign - $125,681

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Deck: Sovereign by Jody Eklund (product page)
Funding: $125,681 raised by 1,798 backers
Year: 2020

This is the second deck by Jody Eklund that appears on our top 40 list. He describes it as "a homage to some of the most well-known Kings and Queens of the greatest European empires of all times." The court cards depict historical personages, as reimagined by Eklund, but without their flaws, in order to honour their sovereignty: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I, Mary Queen of Scots, Phillip II, Isabella I of Castile, Louis XIV, and Marie-Antoinette. Besides the two main decks in blue and red, a beautiful white Exquisite Edition featured MetalLuxe foil on all the card backs.

37. Vengeance of Witches - $121,300

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Deck: Vengeance of Witches by Nicolai Aarøe
Funding: $121,300 (DKK 797,834) raised by 1,800 backers
Year: 2020

Danish artist Nicolai Aarøe specializes in creating fine art decks. Notable examples of his work are his Light vs Darkness series (Indictus, Dominus, Culminus) and his Florus Drama series. Vengeance of Witches is a dark occult themed deck based on the 17th century witch hunt, and thus picks up the darker tone of the Light vs Darkness decks. Like his other decks, it was published by Noir Arts (NPCC), and had special features such as metallic inks on all the cards, and numbered seals for both limited editions, Caccabus and Hagazussa.

38. Card College - $120,900

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Deck: Card College by Artisan Playing Cards (product page)
Funding: $120,900 (HK 937,610) raised by 1,030 backers
Year: 2020

Better known as Ark Playing Cards, Artisan would achieve even greater heights with their next two projects (Tempo, and Kingdom & Kinghood). But already in this first project they showcased the luxury of their extravagant tuck boxes. The project was named after master magician Roberto Giobbi's monumental Card College series of books about card magic. The standard decks are quite normal, but Ark really pulled out all stops with the limited edition decks. These came with incredibly creative packaging, and the Black Gold Box Set, Walnut Deluxe Box Set, and Luxury Acrylic Box Set are truly special collector's pieces.

39. War in Heaven - $119,300

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Deck: War in Heaven by Temma&co
Funding: $119,300 (CA$143,884) raised by 1,955 backers
Year: 2021

These fine art playing cards from Temma&co depict a war in heaven between angels and demons. The artist acknowledges Nicolai Aarøe's work as an inspiration, and the dark tone and artwork is reminiscent of Nicolae's distinctive style. The Biblical prophecies from the book of Revelation about a war in heaven form the basic setting. The two decks that were part of the project reflect the two sides of this spiritual war between angels (Lux Bellator deck) and demons (Gehenna deck). Each suit corresponds either to a specific angel or demon.

40. Ornate: White Edition - $118,111

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Deck: Ornate: White Edition by House of Playing Cards (product page)
Funding: $118,111 raised by 1,094 backers
Year: 2014

Randy Butterfield is a prolific designer with more than 40 designs and over 200,000 printed decks to his credit. The original Ornate deck represented the beginning of his career as a playing card designer, and was published by House of Playing Cards in 2012. The White Edition was a definitive and improved version from 2014. It marked his final project for HOPC before launching his own brand, Midnight Cards. The four main decks were Amethyst, Emerald, Sapphire, and Scarlet, and were accompanied by a special limited edition Obsidian.

Final Thoughts

Now that we've arrived at the end of our top 40 most funded decks of playing cards on Kickstarter, are there any conclusions we can draw from all this? Absolutely. Here are some of my reflections:

1. Kickstarter works. Anybody who dismisses Kickstarter too easily, and thinks it is not a viable tool to help creators and consumers is crazy. You'll always come across stories about the occasional Kickstarter failures, where creators didn't follow through on promises, or where communication was poor and delays were unreasonable. But on the whole, good things can happen with the help of Kickstarter. It's good for consumers, especially if they're working with a reliable and proven creator. And it's good for creators, especially if they have an original and excellent project and put in the hard yards with their marketing and promotion. The big numbers that some of these projects are bringing in prove that there's real potential for regular success stories.

2. Crossover appeal works. There are a number of projects that owe their success in part to their appeal to a different market besides playing card collectors. The Name of the Wind decks were able to draw on fans of the book, while The Photography Deck proved popular with photographers. Any project that has the potential to tap into another fan base outside of playing cards, has a greater chance of success, as long as it is done well.

3. Previous success works. There are quite a few repeat names on our top 40 list. That's because successes don't come out of nowhere. Occasionally an unheralded and unknown designer will strike it lucky by being in the right place at the right time. But that's rare. Typically successful projects are from experienced designers who have already established a presence in the industry, and have built up a large fan base. That's true even if their success comes from another niche. Examples of this include 52Kards and The Gentleman Wake, who were well-known for their youtube videos before entering the market as creators. Other creators build on their past Kickstarter successes by returning with new and better projects, such as Steve Minty and Jackson Robinson. Success breeds success.

4. The years 2013-2014 were big. It is clear that the years 2013 and 2014 were real break-out years for playing cards on Kickstarter. While the very first playing card project to top $100k was in 2012, quite a number of projects went on to achieve this feat over the next couple of years. Some of the projects from those years are still in our all time top list. While it did take a few years for Kickstarter to make inroads into the playing card industry, and turn naysayers into adopters, by 2013 it had most definitely arrived, and proved itself a force to be reckoned with.

5. The years 2020-2021 were big. It is astounding to observe that nearly half of the projects in this top 40 list are from the last year and a half. In fact, projects from 2020 and 2021 represent 11 of the places in the initial Top 20. That means that a list of Top 20 most funded playing card projects would have looked drastically different less than two years ago. That gives good reason to suggest that crowdfunded custom playing cards haven't peaked yet. If anything, we can expect this trend to continue, and can anticipate Kickstarter projects for playing cards to continue generating big numbers well into 2022. The playing card industry continues to generate momentum, and is attracting a large base of support with a growing number of collectors and enthusiasts. We've seen some top quality projects in recent times, and recent successes give us a reliable basis for predicting that we can anticipate more stunning projects with big support figures in the next year or two, which will knock many entries off this list.

6. Quality has increased. Increased use of Kickstarter's platform over time has forced creators to come up with original and innovative ideas, and better designs. With an increasing number of projects hitting Kickstarter all the time, it is not as easy for a project to be funded as it once was. Some of the projects that were successes in the early days of Kickstarter, would not make it today, given the increased competition and the higher expectations of backers. This forces creators to improve the quality of their product, and means that mediocre designs are less likely to succeed. If you're going to be successful in funding your project as a creator, in most cases you're going to have to work very hard, and have a genuinely good product. But this is good news for consumers, because it means that we are living in an unprecedented era, where an astounding range of new custom decks is constantly hitting the market with the help of Kickstarter, that are better and more beautiful than ever before.

7. Extras have increased. It didn't take long for playing card projects to offer extras like stickers and pins and coins. But that is small fry compared to what we are seeing offered as extras today. We are witnessing extravagant and creative tuck boxes the likes of which have never been seen before, such as Luna decks and the recent projects from Card Mafia and Artisan Playing cards. A lot of projects also come with unique custom items, such as special-crafted antique looking books, metal cards, and special options like gilding. These kinds of add-ons significantly ramp up the amount that backers are prepared to spend, and account for some of the large support totals. The large funds raised by the Conjuror Community's CC Club, for example, are largely due to the free online magic training resources by Aaron Fisher that came with it, thus adding to the appeal of the overall project for backers.

8. Support has increased. The reality is that there are backers out there willing to throw large amounts of money at projects that they like. Some of the extravagant creations, like The Origin Deck from Skymember Presents, are true works of art, and people are willing to pay big bucks to get it. In the last few months alone we have seen projects like The Eye of the Ocean (Stockholm17) and Anubis & Osiris Shadow (Steve Minty) raise funds well in excess of $300,000. Despite the misgivings that some cynics may have that Kickstarter has jumped the shark, the truth is that it is still proving to be a winning formula for enterprising and creative playing card designers.

Kickstarter is by no means the only viable channel for producing playing cards. But it certainly has proven a welcome ally for creators and collectors alike. I'm already looking forward to seeing what the next couple of years will bring!

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