The deck, the myth, the legend. Jerry's Nugget playing cards were released for the namesake casino in Las Vegas back in 1970. They were printed on premium Bee stock, the highest quality casino grade paper of that time. Interestingly, the United States Playing Card Company embossed the faces using separate cotton roller, leaving only vertical lines (both faces and backs of any modern USPCC deck have both vertical AND horizontal lines, creating air-cushioned criss-crosses or squares). Cards were sturdy and felt unique.
However, there were some drawbacks. The back design was too detailed for a casino deck (JN towers, dots inside it and the letters). Also the paint on the backs was so plentiful that it took only a slight nail dig to chip it off. Fearing all these subtleties will be abused by card cheaters, cards have never been used at the gaming tables. They were sold for just 50 cents in Jerry's Nugget gift shop since.
The production of the finish (its chemical composition) turned out to be harmful for the environment and was abandoned thereafter. Old cotton rollers were replaced with steel ones, and that particular grade of paper was available for two years only. Lastly, USPCC moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Erlanger, Kentucky in 2009, followed by (rumour has it) selling the old printing press to a non-card company, with a guarantee it will never be used for playing card production.
These cards have been highly praised by world famous card practitioners including Dai Vernon, Larry Jennings, Ed Marlo, Lee Asher, Frank Simon, Chris Kenner, Earl Nelson, Dan & Dave Buck. Even though nowadays many people think Lee Asher and Dan and Dave were the first to popularize 'jerrys' among magicians and cardists, turns out it wasn't exactly the case.
'They became quite popular after being used in Frank Simon's book, Versatile Card Magic where they were in all of the photographs, and lots of card men would venture out to Las Vegas to buy them', recalled Allan Hagen, magician and card collector from Norway.
Hands down, it was Buck twins who sparked a real interest in these decks after a series of cardistry videos back in 2003. The first premise for the hype however emerged 3 years earlier. In 2000 a private collector from France named Dominique Duvivier purchased a final stock of these cards (rumoured to be as high as 40,000 although that is highly questionable), putting an end to the first-hand sales. This created more than enough room for the price to rise on the second hand market. Basics of demand and supply theory right there - simples!
Allan said he bought a brick of Jerry's for $15-$30 per deck back in 2005. Lee Asher, a credible American collector, used to sell his JN decks at his own intricate auctions with the cheapest decks priced at $75 back in 2010 and surging up to $375 in 2015. The scarcity of these cards at the moment is peaking, as they are completely sold out at Art of Play (were priced at $500 per deck) and there are less and less listings on eBay (sometimes they are non-existent). Some sellers even had the audacity to try and sell a used deck for... $3,999.
Even after paying top dollar, there is no guarantee you will actually get an authentic deck of Jerry's Nugget playing cards on eBay or anywhere else for that matter. In 2008 devious scammers glutted the market with fake Jerry's Nugget decks. Most often you could tell them apart only by tactile sense. The colours, the box, the edges, the seal, the cards, the fonts, and even the lot numbers all have been already replicated in the knock-offs. Luckily for you, our store has only real decks acquired from Lee Asher. Besides, in our Jerry's Nugget review/unboxing video above we provide you with the authenticity check. Counterfeits might look real, but sometimes even a couple of glances at photos would be enough to spot a fake.
'Funny enough, when we first started [cardistry], we were able to buy these for 5 dollars a deck', Dan Buck recalled during our Art of Play showroom tour.
'We bought many of them and just used them. We used them like nothing, we threw them away, we gave them away... If only we had known, they will be $500 a deck. Whatever, life goes on. Everyone asks, if it is really a good deck, and it is. The quality is very distinct, there is nothing else like it. If I had to give you a reason why, I think it's because, they were last printed in the 70s and they sat in the warehouse for 50 years now. So maybe that had something to do with it', Dan added.
We have been around when dananddave.com forums (community) were a thing (2010-2012) and saved some valuable Jerry's Nugget info and reviews from Allan Hagen, Chris Hestnes and Jordan Lapping, who were among the first cardists to possess and appreciate good old decks of Jerry's.
Allan stated that not only his decks have lasted him for 10 years, they also handled great after all they went through. Jordan wasn't impressed with fanning qualities, otherwise he thoroughly enjoyed his JN deck.
'Jerry's Nuggets have a really unique feel to them, it's actually very difficult to sum it up in just a few words. It would be like explaining how it feels to fly on an airplane; it's just like being on a train, but "different". The same thing is with Jerry's Nugget decks, they're just like any other pack, but have a "different" feel to them. They're thin, yet stiff, and have a tendency to have a slight 'bow' from out of the box (perhaps due to the extreme heat in the storage in Vegas). They fan to an extend and spread evenly, but maintain well in blocks for flourishing and multi-packet cuts', Jordan explained.
'Jerry's Nugget Buyers Club'. From left to right: Dan Buck, Chris Hestnes, Jordan Lapping
'I have used two decks of Jerry's almost daily for nearly two years... sometimes for hours at a time. I have pressured, sprung, bent, crimped, cut, and fanned the heck out of them. I have dropped them on many floors, the floorboard of my truck, in a wet bathroom sink, and even run over a few cards with my office chair . Through all that I can safely say that Jerry's are some of the longest lasting, highest quality cards I have ever handled (one of the decks is ready to retire, the other has plenty of life left). In the same amount of time, I have destroyed many, many decks of Tallys, Ghosts, RJs, S&Ms, Arrcos, Studs, ect. Just the standard Bikes alone that have been ruined probably add up to several dozen. Sure, I do things with Bikes that I would never do with my Jerry's but, the point is that I have spent much more money on those other cards than I have on the two JNs', Chris pointed out.
We at December Boys enjoy these cards as much. This deck is definitely more than just a mere collectible item, it's a piece of history. Controversial, notorious, but very exciting and mysterious one. What's more impressive, however, is that Jerry's Nugget playing cards will go down as an unparalleled deck in durability and feel. Exquisite.