Brand Spotlight: Penguin Magic

Posted by EndersGame Reviewer on

by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

Some brands are very well known to playing card aficionados, and have been around for many years, even prior to the playing card boom that Kickstarter produced a little over a decade ago. Ellusionist and Theory11 are two of the more well-known and respected brands that have made their mark on the playing card industry, and both have been producing high quality luxury playing cards for around 15-20 years. Other familiar brands include Art of Play, which was created by Dan and Dave Buck, the magician twins famous for their cardistry skills and decks.

But in more recent times we've seen the arrival of many new players and producers in the playing card industry. One of the newer creators that has been producing a steady stream of custom decks over the last year is Penguin Magic.

Penguin Magic's fun custom decks

Penguin Magic was co-founded in 2002 by Acar Altinsel and Maxwell Murphy, and today they have a warehouse in California, while most of their production team is in Ohio. Their first claim to fame is that they are one of today's biggest and most reputable online magic retailers. As an amateur magician, I've personally used them for over 15 years as my main source for buying magic products (e.g. instructional videos, books, gaff decks, and more). According to the order history in my online account, my first order with Penguin Magic was already back in 2008. I won't confess how many times I've placed an order with them since. It's probably more than what I should be spending. In my defense, however, I have a long time interest in card magic that dates back to my childhood. And they are one of the best magic retailers in the business, with an excellent range of all the latest and classic magic products, all with many helpful customer reviews.

For many years already Penguin Magic has been created their own magic products, many of which require specialized decks of cards, and their marked Bicycle Maiden Back decks are regarded as one of the best openly readable decks in the business. They already have a lot of experience with producing playing cards, and have been creating multiple decks each year already since 2015. But in recent times their production of novelty playing cards under their own brand name has gone into overdrive, and in the past year alone they've been rolling out a brand new custom deck every single month! My first experience with a Penguin Magic produced custom deck personally was their Honeybee V2 deck, which they crowdfunded with the help of Kickstarter in early 2017. This delightful deck of playing cards has a classic look, but includes tweaks to the artwork to reflect a bee-keeping theme. I received mine as a gift from a family member, and it still has sentimental value for me since it was one of the very first custom decks I ever acquired.

But the Honeybee deck was simply part of a larger development within Penguin Magic. Their playing card division is headed by the very experienced Kevin Reylek, and over the last year their production of custom decks has intensified, with a new deck appearing on a monthly basis, according to a planned schedule. As you'd expect from a magic retailer, some of the playing cards they release are geared especially towards the magic industry. But most of them are simply quality playing cards and novelty decks that look terrific, and are just as suitable for card games as they are for card magic. And so these decks have typically had a wide release, and you'll find them available from a variety of playing card retailers. In this review I'll cover a selection of the practical and novel decks that have appeared on a monthly basis over the last year under the Penguin Magic brand.

penguin magic

Jellyfish deck

Jellyfish aren't exactly common subject material for anything really. All kinds of products are themed around rainbows, space, unicorns, or wildlife. But not jellyfish. And that's what makes the Jellyfish deck both brave and beautifully unique.

The designer of this custom deck is Drew Hughes, and the jellyfish theme dominates every aspect of the deck and is thoroughly immersive - appropriate given that it pictures an underwater creature.

The tuck box gives us the feel that we're in the ocean depths, with the gelatinous ghostly shapes of jellyfish floating all around. There's an immediate indication of the style of art that we can expect to find inside, courtesy of the creative jellyfish-inspired letter Y in the deck title, and the jellyfish artwork on the custom seal.

jellyfish playing cards

The card backs pick up the ocean blue-green colour we've already seen on the tuck box. I live near the ocean, and this is a colour I see on a regular basis. So it immediately makes me feel at home, much like the jellyfish that inhabit these card backs. The symmetrical two-way design features two jellyfish with their distinctive umbrella shaped bells and trailing tentacles, which extend into the white borders for added detail.

Although the pips and court cards have somewhat of a familiar look, they have undergone a real transformation to make our jellyfish experience more immersive. The pips look very stylized, and especially the points at the bottom of the hearts and at the top of the spades are sharper, and bring to mind some of the shapes you might associate with jellyfish.

More importantly, selected pips have undergone a more radical transformation, and been turned into miniature jellyfish - an effect I really like. This also adds extra interest to the number cards, which otherwise tend to be somewhat neglected in a custom deck.

These custom pips are best enjoyed on the oversized Aces, which really emphasize shapes composed of umbrella-like bells and floating tentacles. The Ace of Spades is an exception, with a giant pip incorporating a single large jellyfish - a design that is reprised on the custom sticker that seals the tuck box.

jellyfish playing cards

The court cards are also very memorable. They depict the kind of legendary characters that we might expect to find underwater in tales about the sea. They are appropriately armed with tridents like the mythical Neptune, and dressed with shell hairpieces and necklaces. They all lack arms and hands, and their ghostly white shapes initially gave me the unfortunate impression of multiple amputees. This is undoubtedly not the intent, since they are designed to be merfolk. Certainly the colours used for these cards are vibrant and striking. Along with the aquatic blends that occur throughout the deck, the blacks and reds are accompanied by yellows and oranges.

There's a nice touch with the Jokers, which both feature a single large jellyfish. At first glance the Jokers seem identical, but closer examination reveals that the trailing tentacles of one make up a 2 of Hearts reveal - something that magicians can take advantage of. The two gaff cards included are the standard double backer and blank facer, while USPCC printing with thin-crush stock and a traditional cut ensures good handling.

In the real world, many jellyfish are equipped with stingers, and aren't the most pleasant sea creature to encounter. Thankfully my experience with this deck proved quite the opposite. This is a novelty deck that would work great for card games, card magic, or even just for collectors who are drawn to the theme.

playing cards

Retro Rocket deck

The Retro Rocket deck is a space-themed deck, combined with a strong retro red vibe. It is effectively a tri-coloured deck, with a colour palette made entirely from shades of red, along with shades of black, and of course plain white.

The front and back of the Bicycle branded tuck box do a good job of introducing us to the style of artwork that we'll find throughout the playing cards themselves. The colours red, black, and white combine to bring us a space-scape as it might have been imagined with the stereotypical illustrations from the 1960s or earlier. It captures something of the era before the first moon landing, when space travel and visits to distant planets captured the imagination of sci-fi writers and artists.

I like the humorous touch on the sides of the tuck box, which read "Designed and printed on earth" and "for exciting interstellar adventures". A seal that pictures a planet in space completes the completely custom look.

retro rocket playing cards

The ad copy sums up the overall concept of this deck nicely: "Buckle up for a blast from the past with Bicycle Retro Rocket Playing Cards! These cards celebrate a time when space travel was the stuff of dreams - zipping off to worlds unknown to create vast floating cities in the skies."

The card backs reprise the artwork from the back of the tuck box, and feature another cityscape in space, with a booming metropolis set amongst planets, stars, and comets. Blasting off from the middle of the artwork are retro rockets in opposite directions, their fiery clouds of smoke forming the center-point of the card. The control panels and tech-style graphic design on the borders will remind some of the Bicycle Robot deck, which was created by the same graphic designer, and was also created by Penguin Magic in the past year.

The faces emphasize the pips, courtesy of the shades of red and black that dominate all the artwork. All the pips are pleasantly oversized, like plump space fruits ripe for the picking. The fattened pips are especially oversized on the Aces, which incorporate within them buildings and features from the space-scape. The pips used for the indices are also very distinct, although the values on the indices are somewhat less so, but the shaded futuristic style of font used for these certainly gives them a very custom feel.

retro rocket playing cards

The court cards are fully and individually customized, with 12 different space figures in red or black space suits depending on the suit. The design still has traces of traditional courts, as is evident for example in the direction that the characters face. But the classic swords and axes are nowhere to be seen, replaced by more appropriate ray guns, antennae, flags, and astronaut gloves.

The two Jokers each depict a different retro rocket blasting off, which fits well with the design of the card backs. The two gaff cards included are two double backers to help keep our magician friends happy, the second of these being blue on the other side, giving potential for tricks involving colour changes. Perhaps Penguin will bring a companion blue-backed deck to planet Earth in the not too distant future.

As with all their custom decks, Penguin is targeting collectors, but has made playability and functionality a big factor in steering the direction of the design. So despite the heavy customization, when holding a fan in your hand, they still work fine for card games. The cards are printed by USPCC, and are traditionally cut on thin-crush stock, to ensure that these playing cards handle smoothly and consistently as soon as they blast off out the box.

retro rocket playing cards

Ace Invaders deck

Plenty of space-themed playing cards have hit the market in recent years. But the Ace Invaders deck is probably the best one yet - at least if you have a sense of humor.

It's an amusing take on space themes, and is full of parody, clever jokes, and creative artwork. You only need to take a look at the wrap-around artwork on the tuck box and the name of the deck, which bring to mind the classic space invaders computer games from the 1980s. There's no `beam me up Scotty', but we do have some dancing alien pips, which have apparently been `beamed down' from their spacecraft.

Yes, the aliens have landed and taken over our playing cards. I also like the clever one-liner on the back of the box, where the classic "Take me to your leader" catchphrase popularized by sci-fi cartoons has been adjusted to "Take me to your dealer."

ace invaders playing cards

The court cards feature classic artwork, but our kings, queens, and jacks have been completely reinvented in line with the space theme. The Hearts and Diamonds feature somewhat regular looking human characters, although they're all wearing space helmets, and traditional weapons have been replaced with lightsabers.

The Spades and Clubs also get space helmets and lightsabers, but represent an alien race that helps distinguish the black suits from the red suits more clearly. If these are any reliable indication, Martians are green after all, and some of them do really have antennae. I always thought as much. A pleasant blue background with a black border helps enhance the custom look.

But the real stars of this deck are the pips on the number cards. The indices all have a standard look, and although the pips have some slight adjustments to standard ones, the suits and values are very clear, so that the deck is still very usable for a card game or even a card trick. But each number card features one or two pips that have been transformed into miniature alien creatures, complete with eyes, legs, and antennae. Enlarged versions of these inhabit all four Aces, which perhaps serve as Generals of these alien armies.

ace invaders playing cards

The light-hearted fun continues with the almost matching Jokers, each of which features a spacecraft and stereotypical looking alien creature - again in green. One of our alien Joker friends is holding a Two of Hearts, which can be used by magicians as a card reveal. Two gaff cards are also included for magicians - a double backer and a blank facer.

Instead of a brilliant white, the colour used on both the card faces and card backs is a vintage beige, which adds to the retro feel. The card backs also emphasize this look, and feature a borderless design filled with yellow, red, and blue flying saucers. It is a mirrored two-way design, but the full-bleed design helps accentuate the sense of something original and fun.

Unlike most of the other custom decks from Penguin Magic, while this deck does have a traditional cut, instead of using thin-crushed stock it is printed on Classic/Bicycle stock, so it is slightly stiffer, and it handles more like a standard Rider Back deck.

Whimsical and witting, everything about this deck is playful. And yet it remains fully usable, making it well suited for enjoyment while playing a game of cards. Your game experience may be infiltrated by aliens, but anyone with a sense of humor and an appreciation for classic sci-fi will find a lot to like here.

ace invaders playing cards

Wranglers deck

I've always enjoyed the genre of Westerns, and recently even found myself listening to some old time radio dramas set in the old West. The late 19th century may not have been a particularly safe one, but it was certainly one filled with excitement and drama. The Wranglers deck evokes some of the vintage feel from this era.

This Bicycle branded deck immediately introduces us to the theme that inspired it, with artwork from the Ace of Spades that is on the front of the box. It features the silhouette of a cowboy inside an ornately decorated giant Spades pip.

The back of the box has the design from the card backs. Here our silhouetted cowboy figure returns, but in a two-way design that is loosely reminiscent of the twin circles of a standard Bicycle Rider Back. The card backs have an ornate border, and include various iconic images that we tend to associate with Westerns, such as stars, wagon wheels, longhorns, and rope lassos.

wranglers playing cards

The court cards are a real highlight, and feature heavily customized characters, holding various items like a horseshoe, rope, branding iron, or sheriff's star. The Jack of Hearts seems the odd one out, with his ancient leaf, but perhaps in this deck it is intended to represent a feather pen. All the characters have appropriate garb, including the expected cowboy hats, and look terrific. Muted colours dominated by browns and oranges make a fine choice, and a rope border completes a very satisfying look. The card stock is beige/off-white in colour, which adds to the vintage feel.

The indices and pips are highly stylized, and the font used for the indices matches what I'd associate with the Western genre. I especially like the way that selected pips on the number cards have been given a rope border. This effect looks especially lovely on the giant pips used for all the Aces. Yet the pip shape remains close to standard, with some small adjustments.

Two identical Jokers round out the deck, featuring a cowboy with a whip. You also get a double backer and a blank facer. Printing is by USPCC using their thin-crushed stock and with a traditional cut, so the cards feel very soft straight out of the box, and handle very smoothly.

wranglers playing cards

But there is one other important secret that this deck holds. Given the prominence of gambling in the Wild West, it will come as no real surprise to discover that this is a marked deck. It uses a reader system, which was created with the involvement of Phill Smith, the guy behind the DMC Elites. If you're familiar with that marking system, and can visualize a digital clock, you'll have some idea of what to look for in the ornate borders.

The marking system is clever and very intuitive, but it does take a bit of getting used to it. It's initially somewhat difficult to distinguish between some of the suits and some of the values, so it will require some practice. I also found that I could read the markings only when looking directly at a card, and from a slight distance away. So you need an optimal viewpoint to read the markings quickly, and when the cards were viewed from an angle on the table during a card game or magic trick, it proved far too difficult for me to read consistently.

I ended up giving up on the markings and just using the deck for card games, and could do so guilt-free. It is after all a delightful custom deck to use for gaming, and don't let the fact that it's marked stop you from doing so. It would be especially well suited for magicians doing gambling routines.

wranglers playing cards

Roasters Coffee Shop deck

At least ten different coffee themed decks have appeared on the market in the last number of years. A lot of people like coffee, so we can never have too much caffeine. Plus the more choice we have, the better - just like different brands and styles of coffee.

The Roasters Coffee Shop deck is a fine addition to the existing line-up of custom caffeine-inspired decks. Rather than focusing on the brewing process like some other decks, it focuses more on the coffee drinking experience, with a lot of the artwork drawing attention to the kinds of drinking receptacles we might use for downing our favourite coffee fix.

The tuck box will immediately grab the attention of aficionados of this classic beverage, courtesy of its coffee-coloured look. The "Roasters" title has a flashy flourish that brings to mind the aroma of fresh coffee steaming from a hot cup. A cup of this delicious dark liquid has even been poured for us, with a saucer and tea spoon also provided to ensure we consume it in a cultured and civilized way.

roasters coffee shop playing cards

There's freshly poured cups of coffee almost wherever you look, including on the custom seal. One exception is the back of the tuck box, which has artwork that matches the card backs. These instead picture half a dozen rows of cups, mugs, and even travel mugs. Just like real world coffee, a deck of playing cards isn't just designed to be enjoyed while staying at home, but is something we can take on the road. The bright colours of this cheerful line-up provide a unique take on the coffee experience, ensuring that this deck has a fresh take on the concept of a coffee themed deck of cards.

Just as you'd expect, the colour brown dominates the court cards, to continue the coffee-inspired feel. While the artwork here is very much in a traditional style, each court card is appropriately given some coffee related item, such as a coffee cup or spoon, as a fun novelty touch.

Customization has cleverly been applied to the number cards too, which typically see less love in a custom deck. Each card has at least one or two pips that have been individually redrawn or resized to become a decoration on a coffee mug or cup. It's an original idea that adds warmth and helps give a playful feel to the deck.

roasters coffee shop playing cards

But my favourite cards from the Roasters Coffee Shop deck are unquestionably the Aces. Each of these depicts a cup of coffee on a saucer, with latte art making the shape of the appropriate pip. I like to call them `caffeinated pips', and they are brilliant!

The custom Jokers also don't disappoint, and both depict a large sack of coffee. It goes without saying that all coffee shops need to be well-supplied with coffee beans. One of these bags will also supply magicians with a bonus to take advantage of, with a carefully placed 10 of Hearts sticking out of the bag and functioning as a novel card reveal.

Anyone who appreciates coffee will find much to like about this delightful custom deck. As with so many of Penguin's custom playing cards, it hits exactly the right balance of combining novelty with practicality, to ensure that this deck can be enjoyed as a fun addition to a playing card collection, or in a card game.

roasters coffee shop playing cards

Composition Deck

I'm a sucker for novelty decks, and the fun with the Composition Deck begins with the tuck box. It's deliberately designed to look like the composition notebooks many of us used as kids. The iconic artwork on the front and the back will look instantly familiar to a lot of us. You'll almost be tempted to grab a marker and write your name on the front, just like you did in school.

To make the visual impression even more effective, the spine is black while all other flaps are white. A close look at the white edges shows that they consist of multiple lines, and have been designed to look like they are made up of a stack of paper, further adding to the illusion that this is an actual note book.

That doesn't end the surprises that the tuck box has in store for us. It's a side-loading box, which adds to the overall feel of creativity and uniqueness. After all, if it was an actual notebook, that's the side which you'd use to open the book!

Composition playing cards

The concept of this mini-composition notebook deck was the brainwave of Penguin Magic's Kevin Reylek. James Howells was the graphic designer who helped make his vision a reality, and the two have teamed up to do a great job.

The scattered black and white pattern from the tuck case returns on the card backs. The borderless look is especially effective in fans, where the cards blur together in a seamless pattern. Close observers will notice a one-way design, which is something magicians can take advantage of, but it's very subtle so that reversed cards won't in any way look obvious.

But I'm especially smitten by the face cards. These have the look of ruled or lined paper with hand-drawn artwork - exactly what you might expect from inside a composition book. The cards are still instantly recognizable, and everything about the court cards is modelled closely on traditional artwork, which ensures that the cards are still very practical and functional.

Composition playing cards

It's usually challenging to make the number cards in a custom deck look interesting, but this is one of the best examples I've seen. Every pip has an individually hand-drawn look, just like you'd see if they were sketched in a notebook with markers. Not one single pip is exactly the same as another. The Aces all have giant pips in this same style, while the Jokers feature two colourful Jester hats.

Unlike the more recent custom decks produced by Penguin Magic, the Composition Deck already appeared in 2019. Just like their Emperor deck which came out the same year, it was printed in Taiwan by Expert Playing Card Company in their Classic stock and has a traditional cut. But the feel and handling is quite similar to a standard Bicycle deck, albeit with some increased stiffness and durability.

All round this is an extremely fun novelty deck that performs well and looks great. It was printed in limited numbers, and won't be reprinted - so if you like what you see, pick one up while you can!

Composition playing cards

Honeybee V3 deck

Arguably the most practical of Penguin's custom decks are the Bicycle Honeybee deck (Yellow & Black).

This delightful deck is the third version of the Honeybee deck that was actually Penguin Magic's first ever custom deck produced in 2015. It's since gone through several editions, as well as some changes. Now it also has a new name: Bicycle Honeybee (No. 20).

Why is it Bicycle branded rather than Bee branded, especially if it is inspired by the classic Bee deck? The reason is simple: USPCC has made some internal policy changes, relating to which of their decks are allowed to be Bee branded and which ones are allowed to be Bicycle branded. Since it was a custom deck, USPCC didn't allow it to be Bee branded, but did allow it to be Bicycle branded. The result is that these are the first Bicycle-branded Honeybees.

Honeybee Bicycle Playing cards

The Honeybee deck is a delightful deck of custom playing cards that retains a classic look, but includes many tweaks to the artwork throughout to reflect a bee-keeping theme. This is evident already from the tuck box, which has a glossy finish and is not embossed, but features a delightful beehive, drenched with the black and gold colour combination that we're going to be seeing a lot of in this deck.

The face cards have a classic look much like you'd expect in a traditional deck of playing cards, but with some important differences. Instead of the usual blue, red, and yellow, the court cards have a more subdued colour scheme that simply employs yellow, black, and grey. The result is a look that is instantly more professional and classy - and of course a perfect fit with the beekeeping theme. Even the red for the Hearts and Diamonds pips has been toned down to give the overall impression of increased elegance.

There is also a beehive themed Ace of Spades and two beekeeper Jokers, which look truly terrific. These provide further elements of thematic flavour, and are easily my favourite cards in this deck. Each deck also comes with two extra cards, a double backer and a blank faced card.

Honeybee Bicycle Playing cards

But as pretty as some of the face cards are, the card backs are the real highlight of this deck. The design seems to draw on the diamond back pattern of traditional Bee decks for inspiration, and features a rich honeycomb pattern that goes all the way to the borders. This hexagonal-shaped pattern looks as if it is actually filled with honey. I love this honeycomb design, which in my opinion looks even better on these full-bleed borderless card backs than it did on the white bordered cards of the V2 version.

Meanwhile two realistic bees on the card backs add extra interest and customization, and are a classy touch to help these lovely decks stand out from more mediocre offerings on today's market. I loved the look of this when I first saw photos of them online, and they're even better when you're holding them in your hands.

The black deck is identical to the yellow deck, the only difference being that the card backs employ a grey rather than a honey gold colour. While both are pretty, I'm especially partial to the yellow deck, because the gold colours really evoke a "dripping with honey" feel, and I don't easily tire of admiring the honeycomb design on the card backs. But the two decks make a great matching set.

Honeybee Bicycle Playing cards

The cards not only look as sweet as honey, but they handle sweetly too. The decks I have seem to match the thin cards and soft handling of the Elite Honeybee decks that Penguin produced a few years earlier, so I suspect that although the Bicycle Honeybee V3 deck is advertised as having Premium stock, I suspect that it may actually be crushed Premium stock.

Together the stock and design combine to make a sweet deck that is well suited to be a worker deck especially for anyone that enjoys using borderless cards, and likes the idea of adding a touch of honey to their playing cards. They have enough classic elements to pass muster for card magic or card games. But they combine this with good looks, smooth handling, and are excellent value for the price.

There is also a luxury upgrade available if you are looking for something with extra bling, namely a gilded version in each of the two colours, Yellow and Black. Each of these is basically the same as the corresponding standard deck but is an ultra-limited version of just 500 each. It comes with gold or black foil edges, plus an individually numbered foil seal for an added touch of grandeur.

Honeybee Bicycle Playing cards

Impressions

So are the custom decks of novelty playing cards produced by Penguin Magic something for you? Penguin has already established themselves as a legitimate player in the playing card industry for some years already, but have really raised the bar in the past year with a new custom deck appearing on virtually a monthly basis. That's an impressive output. And fortunately the amount of their output is matched by quality.

Practical: What I especially appreciate about their custom decks is that although many of them feature novelty, this rarely comes at the expense of practicality. As a result, these aren't playing cards that are so big on novelty that they become unsuitable for card games or card magic. With virtually all of these decks, the indices and pips remain clear and functional. So despite the customization in other areas, you can still easily hold a hand of cards, readily identify the suits and values, and use them for your favourite card games.

Affordable: A typical custom deck on Kickstarter nowadays tends to command a price of $15 and up. And that's because it often comes with a lot of bling, bells, and whistles. Penguin's decks represent custom playing cards that are in a more affordable price bracket, keeping their target audience in mind. As a result, their tuck boxes don't typically have embossing or metallic foils. But the price tag reflects this, and so most of their custom decks are in the $12 and under range. Compared with many other custom decks coming out nowadays, this is definitely on the `good value' end of the spectrum.

Magical: While Penguin Magic is clearly targeting collectors more than magicians with their novelty decks, they aren't departing from their roots, and they recognize that there needs to be crossover appeal in order to be successful. As a result, the gaff cards that are included are typically the kinds of generic gaff cards that are in the greatest demand from magicians: a double backer and a blank facer. So even though collectors will appreciate the novelty, there's enough that's practical and magical for magicians to appreciate and use these decks too.

Marked: The magical focus at Penguin Magic also explains why some of their custom decks have marked cards. Penguin's Kevin Reylek is an expert on marked cards, and they are a special passion of his. He's even delivered a keynote address on the subject at last year's 52 Plus Joker Convention. So it's not surprising that some of their new custom decks do feature marked cards, such as the Glider Backs, the Wranglers, and the Emperor deck. Besides these they have produced their very popular Marked Maiden Backs, and their Deland's Centennial Edition decks in two versions (Nifty Classic and Daisy Classic).

Quality: Most of Penguin's new playing cards are printed by the United States Playing Card Company, maker of the famous Bicycle brand, using their thin-crush stock for smooth handling straight out of the box, without compromising durability. It's the card-stock preferred nowadays by most card flourishers since it handles so well. It performs consistently and is very pleasant to shuffle and use. Their most recent Oaknut Playing Cards uses a new stock and finish called the UltraLux Finish. I've heard good things about it, and that it will be used on more projects going forward, including their two newest releases, Gingerbread and SpaceCraft, so I look forward to see how it holds up.

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Final thoughts

The decks covered above are only a selection of the fun custom decks that Penguin Magic has been producing in the past year. Besides these, the last twelve months has also seen the release of a Robot deck, Succulents deck, Glider Back deck (marked), Honeybee deck, and most recently for Halloween, a Room 237 deck.

The fact that Penguin has accelerated the output of custom playing cards can only be a good thing for the playing card industry. Giving buyers more choice, and having more contributors, is great for consumers. Under the leadership of Kevin Reylek, their playing cards production manager, Penguin is building on their growing experience, and making some fine contributions that are well suited to a variety of needs, and catering to collectors, magicians, and gamers.

Assuming they can continue to come up with new custom decks on a monthly basis, I look forward to seeing the next dozen decks of playing cards that Penguin produces over the coming year!

Where to get them? Penguin Magic's full range of custom decks, including the ones featured in this article, is available here:
● Tucan Playing Cards (Jan 2021)
● Robot Playing Cards (Feb 2021)
● Succulents Playing Cards (Mar 2021)
● Glider Back Playing Cards (Apr 2021)
● Ace Invaders Playing Cards (May 2021)
● Honeybee Playing Cards (June 2021)
● Jellyfish Playing Cards (July 2021)
● Wranglers Playing Cards (Aug 2021)
● Retro Rocket Playing Cards (Sept 2021)
● Room 237 Playing Cards (Oct 2021)
● Roasters Coffee Shop Playing Cards (Nov 2021)

penguin magic playing cards


About the writerEndersGame is a well-known and respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.

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Last update date: 12/16/21

1 comment


  • Great write-up! A big fan of their Succulents and Room 237 cards.

    Thomas Y on

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