Playing cards are the most popular bit of kit owned by every magician. 52 pieces of paper that produce more magic tricks that any magician could learn to perform in a lifetime. The most popular brand for magicians are Bicycle Playing Cards, although, can use any deck of playing cards for most magic tricks, but they all have one problem, they wear out very quickly. Here are 10 tips to make your decks last longer.
1) Wash your hands
They may not look grubby, but to the clean white edges of a deck of playing cards, your hands are the enemy. Grime and oil from your skin can turn the edge of your playing cards gray very quickly. Before you pick up your playing cards take a moment to clean and dry your hands.
2) Pick up your playing cards carefully
You may not be practicing the 52 card pick up, but chances are you are going to drop those playing cards on the floor a few times while using them. Don’t scoop them up, you will be scratching the surface of the cards and also coating them with tiny bits of gravel or dust, that will then sit between the cards in your deck and make mischief. Pick up each card individually. It takes time, but your cards will love you for it. Bicycle Playing cards have an air cushion finish that can help prevent this to some extend.
Looking at purchase data over a five year period, the average reorder time for playing cards by non-professional magicians is 3 months. Source – MagicShop.co.uk
3) Dry your hands
Skin retains moisture, but paper does even more. If you hands are clammy, your deck is soaking up that moisture. Moisture also can get trapped between the playing cards in the deck which can warp and ‘thicken’ the playing cards over time.
4) Store your playing cards in their card box
Leaving a deck of bicycle playing cards on the tabletop, out of it’s box is like leaving a sponge on the kitchen work surface. Moisture from the room will seep into the paper stock. If you have been using them, they will be warm, and some will be bent, keeping them in their box, or even a Card Clip can help prevent the deck expanding and also squeeze them back into shape.
5) Store your playing cards in the fridge
Many playing card collectors keep their playing cards in cooled storage. Although this may be ‘overkill’ you might want to try storing a deck in your fridge and see if that helps it keep it’s shape.
6) Spring or faro your playing cards
Springing playing cards looks cool, but it also has a purpose. The air will help keep your playing cards dry, and the action of the spring, will help iron out any warping, helping them sit together well.
On average, most professional magicians use one or two new decks of Bicycle Playing Cards each time they do a show or booking.
7) Don’t carry them in your trouser or jeans pocket
Heat from your body will expand and warp a deck of playing cards. Carry them in a jacket pocket instead. If you need to keep them in a trouser pocket, use a metal card guard to keep the deck tight.
8) Use fanning powder
As your playing cards get older they will spread well for a short time when you remove them from their card box, but will very quickly go ‘sticky’ and clump together. The coating on the surface of your Bicycle playing cards has degraded. You can greatly improve this by applying a little fanning powder to the deck when this happens. Some magicians use talc powder instead, with similar results.
Avoid damaging the edges of your cards when you pick them up: If you drop a playing card on the table or floor. Use another playing card to easily scoop under it.
9) Use cheaper decks of playing cards for practice
Many magicians recommend to use a cheap brand of playing cards for practice and save the more expensive bicycle playing cards for performances. We are not sure if this is a good idea, as it’s important to be totally used to the feel and control needed for a deck. Practicing with a low quality deck, doesn’t teach your hands, the level of touch and control needed when you switch to a higher quality Bicycle Playing Cards deck. Learning the ‘feel’ of a deck is an important part of your practice. If you are going to use a practice deck, make sure you change it quite often. You need to avoid getting used to working with an old deck of playing cards, so it does not feel strange when it’s time to perform with a new one.
10) Use a soft touch
When you begin practice, it can often be the case that you have a lot of tension in your hand. That can cause you to apply way too much pressure to the deck, bending it over time. Relax your hands while practicing. It’s not a battle between you and the playing cards. The playing cards are on your side! A light touch not only gives you a more professional image, it also stops your playing cards bending and warping as you riffle and shuffle them. Elegant displays of sleight of hand never show tension.
Looking after your Bicycle Playing Cards can save you a fortune over time as you train towards doing magic professionally. Commercial magicians can build in the price of their Bicycle Playing Cards, into their fee as an expendable. It you don’t perform for money, using these tips will greatly increase the lifespan of your playing cards.
Do you have any more tips we have missed out? Please share them in the comments section below: