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Guide to Marked Playing Cards for magic

A 'marked' deck of playing cards has hidden marking on the back which to the trained eye reveal the face value of the card.

Using a marked deck can help you create miracles that would otherwise not be possible or requiring a lot of skill. They are also a great 'get of jail' should you make a mistake and need to recover somehow, as you will at least know the name of the card.

Here's a straightforward guide on choosing marked playing cards for magic:

There are two styles of marking system, the most popular is what I call 'readers'. This to me means the backs of the cards show both the value and suit. These are easy to interpret at a glance. Readers are great for quick glances and are easy to use. The alternative method is a 'coded' marking system. This involves marks which indicate the value and suit but via a hidden code which isn't obvious to anyone else, even if they saw the marks. This is by far the safest option as you are much less likely to get caught, but the downside is a small amount of mental effort is required to decipher the marks.

The marks can either be hidden in an existing back design which is great if it is a recognised brand, or the design can be specially printed. 

A few beginner magicians fear using marked cards, worried about being caught. However, the reality is, no one is caught due to spectators spotting the marks; rather, it's when magicians dwell on them excessively. Therefore when choosing a marked deck it is important that it is one you can quickly read the markings at a glance, no double takes. It may well be that the bolder the marks the better.

Penguin Marked Playing Cards

The Penguin Marked cards are now crafted using the U.S. Playing Card Company’s Elite card stock. This guarantees flexibility, a satisfying snap, and lasting durability.

They have the Bicycle brand Maiden back design which helps keep them above suspicion. They are marked in a reader style in several places, ensuring you can read even if the card is partially covered. The markings are quite bold for a quick read but well incorporated into the design to be close to invisible unless you know the secret.

Penguin Marked Cards are top quality and at a great price, they could be the only deck you use.

DMC Marked Playing Cards

DMC Elites have been design from the card stock up by DMC and top card designer Phil Smith the mastermind behind the groundbreaking Optical Marking System.

Aside from the marks, the DMC elites are beautiful and of the highest quality, ensuring exceptional durability for extensive professional use.

Due to the back design being unique a double backer is included for various magical applications.

The OMS features a cleverly concealed marking mechanism that allows rapid reading, even at a distance and in low light conditions. It ingeniously displays the card's value and suit discreetly on the back, eliminating the need for decoding. Despite this, you can confidently hand the deck to an observer, knowing that even the most discerning eye would not suspect, let alone detect, the secret markings.

Key Features:

  • Unique optical marking system—no decoding required, rapid readability at a distance
  • Four corner markings readable from left and right hand spreads
  • One-way backs and fronts enabling other effects
  • Double backer included
  • Two silhouette Jokers with a built-in card reveal

    All this brilliance does come at a price, but it is the safest marked deck ever.