Released in 2010 by USPCC Bicycle, the Bicycle Expert Back pays homage to one of the first ever back designs ever created by the company in 1895, also called the Expert back. The design is extremely similar and often times confused with another back design called the Old Fan back. According to jimknapp.com, "USPCC itself misidentified" the two on another release the same year. The Old Fan back was also re-issued in 2010 on another "tribute" type deck called the 125 Years Anniversary Edition deck.
Name: Bicycle Expert Back (2010 Heritage Series)
Release Date: 2010
Stock: Standard Bicycle Stock
Finish: Air Cushion Finish
Colors: Distressed/Red Back
The tuck case features a vintage or early USPCC issued Ace of Spades with the "Statue of Freedom" design on the front of the tuck. The entire tuck case has a distressed overlay with rustic coloring. This creates an old or worn look as if it were an actual Expert back deck from the late 1800's. From a far this can be taken as such but on close inspection this is clearly identified as artificial and an intentional design element. The distressing looks like a brown tie-dye or marbling up close. Some may even say it looks like coffee spilled on the deck. The distressed tuck case gives the deck a very distinguished look from other standard Bicycle decks. If it were a simple red on white, or off white even, design the vintage or heritage aspect might end up being lost.
On breaking the seal, we are met with 56 cards in total, which includes the standard 52, 2 Jokers and 2 ad cards. The entire deck comes with the same distressed look found on the tuck case. This was predictable. The look is consistently one-way on the backs of the cards (seen below), meaning the distressed patterns that overlay the original two-way back design only go in one direction. This makes the complete back design one-way even though the original Expert back was a two-way design. This is disappointing but it makes sense why USPCC did this as true aging never mirrors itself.
Here you can see the new Expert back with the distressed overlay:
Seen here we can compare the original 1895 Expert back design with the new and "distressed" Expert back:
|Photo courtesy of www.jimknapp.com|
The Ace Of Spades continues the theme of bringing back the old design as it features the "Statue of Freedom" design found on earlier decks. It is refreshing to see USPCC keep the vintage theme going beyond the back design. Indices are smaller on the Expert back decks when compared to standard Bicycle decks. Reading these cards can be difficult for some that are used to the larger indices or those with bad eyes. Add the smaller indices plus the weathered and faded distressing together and it can cause even more reading difficulty. One thing to note that is different on the face and number cards is that the distressed element is different on each card. This is a tremendous bonus and shows that the design is not limited by lazy design.
Moving on to the court cards, we are greeted with standard Anglo-American royals with more of the older characteristics found on earlier cards. Once again we see USPCC carry over the old school theme. One disappointment with some of these cards is that the distressing is sometimes too much. It would have been acceptable to tone down the number of "coffee stains" or dirt on these cards as it overtakes some card designs to the point of distraction.
Number cards come with smaller indices but the center pips are fatter and boxier than what you get in a Bicycle Standard deck. These fonts and design styles are reminiscent of design capabilities in the late 1800's. The distressing is carried throughout as well.
The Jokers feature black lined playing card kings on bikes with the 808 milestone. A warranty is included on one of the Jokers.
These decks come with standard Bicycle and the embossed air-cushion finish printed in Kentucky. The stock and finishing process has since been updated since 1895....obviously! ;) Handling these cards is very similar to what you expect from a Bicycle Standard. With that said, you may feel as though two standard decks feel different and you would not be incorrect. Bicycle has a range of acceptable paper thickness per stock that they use, which are currently the Bicycle stock and the Bee stock. It is possible that two decks labeled as standard Bicycle stock have slightly different thicknesses. This thickness may not be noticeable to the eye but it is measurable and some with a good touch can tell but overall it is minor.
To show you the Old Fan Back design similarities noted in the beginning of the review, here is the 125 Years Anniversary Back:
Along with the original Old Fan back:
|Courtesy of www.jimknapp.com|
Can you spot the differences?
Notes on the Bicycle Expert Back Playing Cards:
- These cards were not a one time production. In Fact, Bicycle still produces these decks and sells them on their website.
- The deck used for this review is dated 2012.
- Theory 11 sells a Heritage Series set that included 4 non-distressed decks that do not include the Expert Back.
- Ellusionist sells a Vintage Series 1800 deck that comes with a distressed look.
Final Assessment: USPCC Bicycle does a good job keeping this deck with the vintage theme. It practically screams old, worn and vintage. From the early design elements of the Ace Of Spades and court cards to the original back design that gives this deck purpose, the Expert deck is great for anyone looking to dive deeper into the history of this 100+ year old company. The deck has a few downsides in mainly over distressing or "coffee spilling" that make it too much to take sometimes. The design shouldn't get in the way of practicality. It is definitely something a magician probably won't use too much but it can be a fun deck to break out on a Saturday night game night....As long the distressing isn't too annoying. If it gets to be a lot, switch this deck out with a Theory 11 Heritage deck and shelf this one for the collection.