The Classic Bee deck, is there anyone who doesn't recognize the name or the all to familiar logo, probably not. A staple in the Playing Card Industry, the Bee stock and finish is second to none. Over the years there have been small variations of the Bee deck, but most recently, there have been a few exclusive releases by The United States Playing Card Co. to its Asian market in the form of a more custom release, but holding itself pretty close to the original Bee design.
Recently USPC released a new homage to the classic deck, the Royal Bee Premium Back No. 168. Designed by Fin Studio's, this version pulls it's inspiration directly from Asian culture with the subtle woven look of the soft tuck to the design and line work that cover both the front, back and interior of the tuck case. A Bee deck wouldn't be complete without it's Iconic insect hovering around the circular design on the front of the deck and also makes an appearance on the back, beautifully framed in gold foil lines and hovering over the text "Premium Back No. 168"
As mentioned, the tuck is adorned with gold foil that just jumps off the dark blue stock of the tuck case, the beautiful pattern and design carry into the tuck's interior to give it a nice touch and visual appeal. The usual ad copy can be found on the tucks sides, bottom and top, all in brilliant gold foil.
The decks design, line work and look continue onto the back design. Keeping the dark blue palette, the back design features the same woven pattern from the tuck, and also features a tandem variation of the circular pattern from the front of the tuck utilizing USPC's new Metalluxe Technology bringing a bit more shine to the dark backdrop. The gold foiling stands out really well and there is no hint of the foiled design element carrying through to the face of the cards.
The deck has standard courts, the familiar Ace of Spades and of course my favorite Bee riding Joker. The added eye candy to this "Standard" offering is the embellishment of 55 of the 56 cards with gold foil. The Ace of Spades gets some nice gold outlining to the design as well as a fully foiled logo. The gold against the black line work pops in amazing contrast.
The Jokers split the foil duties between them, with one standard black ink Joker and the other presented completely in gold foil. To round out the bling factor, the courts get a really nice dose of gold framing themselves accentuating the line work of the classic court design, lines and clothing elements. Even the pips get a treatment of gold framing making them pop when the light hits them just right. To ensure a bit of standard playability, the indices remain untouched.
If you're a fan of Bee Decks like I am, the Premium Back No. 168 won't disappoint you in any way but one, the price and availability. You'll need to go the 3rd party route to track these down and they will command a premium price. If that price is reasonable is a choice we all need to make on our own. If you do take the plunge, I recommend opening this beautiful revamped classic and enjoying the work that was put into it. Too often we as collectors get caught up in the chore of keeping pristine sealed decks, but honestly, there is no bigger joy than to appreciate and get a bit excited seeing a desk in its entirety, outside and in. I don't often tell readers to part with there hard earned cash on my recommendation, but this is one of those times I would encourage most collectors to pick up at least one and share it with as many friends as you can. Premium it is, and its subtle, yet effective, "Shine" makes it a nice standout.