A deck of playing cards is wonderfully versatile, whether you’re alone or with friends. If you’re an avid user of playing cards, then it might be time to step away from the standard decks you’ve been using and go with something more pleasing to the eye.
Playing cards, on the whole, are fairly standardized, so there’s not much to worry about quality-wise. The only thing really worth mentioning is the material the cards are made out of. Your most common materials are paper and plastic. Paper can be the cheapest option, and also the lowest quality, but there are also paper decks that use thicker paper, which will stand the test of time. Plastic decks tend to last longer, but many don’t like the feel compared to paper, so that’s really just up to you. We’ll make a note for each deck stating what the cards are made out of.
So, with that covered, let’s look at some cool and unique playing cards.
Update, 12/11/21: Verified content still accurate. Replaced Pipmen and Jurassic Park decks with newer options.
Minimalist's Delight: Areaware Minim Playing Cards
High Above the Rest: Peak Mountain Playing Cards
For Animal Lovers: theory11 Animal Kingdom Playing Cards
A Killer Deck: Ellusionist Killer Bees Playing Cards
Fancy Artistic Fun: Infinitum Black Playing Cards
The Higher Class: theory11 National Playing Cards
Under the Sea: Bicycle Little Atlantis Playing Cards
Two-in-One: The History of Space Travel Playing Cards
From A Galaxy Far, Far Away: theory11 Star Wars Playing Cards
Bitingly Fun: Fanattik Jurassic Park Playing Cards
If minimalism is your bread and butter, Areaware’s Minim deck does a great job of capturing that style. These cards were made to see how much of the classic playing card design you could take away while still being usable, this led to simple geometric symbols that replace the standard clubs, aces, hearts, and diamonds, and a simple diagonal line on the back of each card. While there’s not much here, that’s the whole point, and they’re striking because of it.
These cards are made out of PVC plastic and come in two variants: black or white.
MINIM Playing Cards, Black
For fans of the minimalist art style, this is the card deck to buy.
If you want cards with a bit more depth, the Peak deck is for you. Every card in this deck has a stylized depiction of a topographical map of a mountain in Colorado, with the name and elevation listed. Every mountain has an elevation of at least 14,000 feet, making this deck perfect for mountain or hiking enthusiasts. And, even if you don’t care about mountains, the cards look great regardless.
These cards are printed on high-quality casino-grade paper.
Peak: Mountain Playing Cards
Whether you love mountains, or just want a card deck with an interesting theme. This makes for a great deck.
For animal lovers young and old, the Animal Kingdom deck should delight you with its hand-drawn depiction of animals in place of the king, queen, and jacks cards. While this is a simple change, it does make for a fun and charming deck.
These cards are all made out of sustainably obtained paper and gorgeous (and unique) vegetable-based inks for a fun look.
This deck is sure to delight animal lovers young and old.
Based on the real-life story of the creation of “Killer Bees,” this beautiful deck keeps its theme true through every card. From the hexagonal design on the back of cards to smaller touches like the king’s crown being made out of honeycomb and the queen holding a flower, these cards look great. They’re made out of high-quality linen-finished cardstock paper, and even support a good cause with a portion of each deck sold being donated to the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN).
Ellusionist Killer Bees Playing Card Deck
A beautiful deck, with an interesting backstory.
Novelty can be a great thing, and the Infinitum Black deck demonstrates that perfectly. Already, you have the fact that each card has unique eye-catching art tending to the macabre, with hand-drawn details like skulls, clocks, magic symbols, and more. But on top of that, all of the cards are printed on a deep blue background with embossed gold and a teal foiled tuck box. Admittedly, you’ll likely only want to bust these cards out for special occasions, but that doesn’t take away the charm.
On top of the great aesthetics, the Poker-size deck is also made out of superior cardstock with durable aqueous coating, and precision-cut smooth edges, so they’re gonna last for a while. The deck is a fun choice for collectors, magicians, and casual gamers alike.
Infinitum Royal Blue & Gold Playing Cards, Deck of Cards with Free Card Game eBook, Premium Card Deck, Cool Poker Cards, Unique Bright Colors for Kids & Adults, Card Decks Games, Standard Size
This deck rules at being creative and novel.
If you prefer a classier style, plenty of decks try to capture that. Here, we chose the National for not going overboard, as a lot of decks in this style tend to do. On the face of it, the design of the box and cards are all very simple, with subtle elegant patterns and golden highlights, making it look premium. The actual cards use a great mix of modern and medieval design elements and, just like the Animal Kingdom deck, are made out of sustainably obtained paper and vegetable-based inks.
National Playing Cards
If you want a deck that gives off a premium feel, the National does that great without going overboard.
Bicycle is one of, if not the most iconic playing card manufacturers, and for good reason. It makes a lot of decks, ranging from cheap decks you’ll find at the dollar store, to higher-end stylized decks like this one—dubbed Little Atlantis. Every card in this deck has a unique design based on sea creatures, and they all have an air-cushion finish to make them smooth to the touch. There are even steps taken to tell a little story with the cards, with each suit representing a different undersea kingdom.
Unfortunately, the material the cards are made out of is not listed, but they are likely made out of the same high-quality cardstock paper Bicycle uses in most of its decks. There is also a night version available that uses black backgrounds on the cards.
GamblersWarehouse Bicycle Little Atlantis Day Playing Cards Deck Day Edition
A colorful deck with a strong theme.
This pack actually comes with two decks of cards, each covering a different side of space travel. The blue deck focuses on the various generations of astronauts, and the orange focuses on the various satellites used throughout the years. Both decks use the same pleasing art style and are great to peruse through for any space buffs.
The cards are made of cardstock and come in a nice and sturdy foldout box that would look great on a shelf or coffee table. There’s also an included booklet that teaches you various card games if you’re new to them.
The History of Space Travel Playing Cards: Two Decks of Cards and Game Rules Booklet with Space Trivia (Pop Chart Lab)
These decks are sure to bring out the space fan in anyone.
There has always been a huge selection of licensed playing cards, but theory11’s Star Wars deck stands above most for the intricate box design that fans are sure to find a few easter eggs in, and by having unique art for the cards. You’ll see your favorite Star Wars characters from all three trilogies faithfully represented, and there are even Mandalorian and Dark Side versions available if you prefer. (Note: this and the Dark Side decks feature the same cards; only the boxes are different.)
And to make sure they last a long time, theory11 made them out of high-quality sustainably obtained cardstock.
theory11 Star Wars Playing Cards - Light Side (Blue)
A great deck for any Star Wars fan.
Another themed deck that hits it out of the park is Fanattik’s Jurassic Park Playing Cards. The look of the cards is great, designed to look like it’s slightly aged. And, the cards feature great stylized depictions of things like “Dino DNA” or dinosaur bones, all looking worn-down like they were just dug up. This deck will delight both hardcore and casual fans of the films, or dinosaurs in general.
The licensed cards are made out of premium cardstock as well.
Fanattik Jurassic Park Playing Cards
Fanattik knocked it out of the Park when it comes to capturing the charm of Jurassic Park in this deck.