Something very cool arrived in the mail recently: The Alchemy II deck of playing cards from the Bicycle card company. I had no idea that these and other artistic Bicycle decks even existed until Dex clued me in. He directed me to the Alchemy II deck and right away I knew it was something I liked. I headed over to ebay to see if it was available and it turned out multiple people were selling the cards.
If you search for "Bicycle Alchemy II playing cards" on ebay, you'll find quite a few decks for sale. They're also available on Amazon. I'm not pointing you towards a specific seller because the prices seem to change by the day. I paid a little over $4.00 with free shipping, which was a phenomenal deal. I hope you can find as good a deal as I did! Searching ebay for "Bicycle cards" in general will give you lots of cool results.
I really recommend buying this deck if you're a collector or just like playing cards. You get a lot of artwork for your buck! All the face cards are printed with characters in a fantasy illustration style and even the numbered cards have some great design elements. Here's the box the cards come in:
At first you will probably see the skull and then notice that it is composed of a beautiful woman holding a rose in her hands. I love skull art with hidden images like this. The back of every card has this same design.
Here are the Aces:
I love the Ace of Hearts and Ace of Spades. By the way, I hope you are clicking on these images to enlarge them. There is a lot of detail hidden in these designs!
The King of Clubs has this sort of Jack the Ripper thing going on and is one of my favorite cards in the deck. The King of Spades is pretty slick too. That one has a Steampunk skeleton vibe.
The Queens are all beautiful:
Those are some of the best cards in the deck. I'd say the deck has an overall fantasy art/sexy woman/biker skeleton theme happening. Some people have described it as "retro tattoo art".
How cool is that Jack of Diamonds? She's kind of a Ren Faire, raven woman.
Some of the most striking art comes on the Jokers and the Extra card:
The extra might be my favorite card in the deck. She's like a Voodoo Priestess:
Here are some of my other favorites close-up. The wonderfully detailed Steampunk/Circus woman who is on a gear covered bicycle contraption. Fitting for the "Bicycle" brand of cards.
The "Bare Knuckle Betty" Joker is a bit of a Betty Page tribute in Rockabilly form. I like the heart shaped brass knuckles in the background.
The mysterious woman with the skeleton tattoo. You'll see the skeletal hand again on one of my favorite numbered cards. I really like the art deco background on this card.
The Queen of Clubs looks like it was influenced by Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. There are some changes with the wicked looking sea creatures. She's more like a siren.
A close-up of that Steampunk skeleton I liked so much.
A cute little fairy that reminds me of Brian Froud's illustrations:
A closer look at the foggy scene with the Jack the Ripper type character. This one sets a mood.
Even the numbered cards in the deck offer a lot of layers and details.
There's that skeletal hand again:
As you can see, there's a lot going on in these designs. Before buying the deck, I watched a few video reviews of the cards on YouTube. People were talking in great detail about how the cards handle and what they thought of the designs. I guessed some of the reviewers to be magicians or professional poker players. I suggest watching video reviews of playing cards before buying them, because you'll get a good idea of the product. Here are a few of those videos that give another perspective:
This reviewer seemed to have some of the same favorites as I did. He shows some cards that aren't pictured in this post. The next review shows every card in the deck. This is one seriously thorough review and I had to smile at a few of the comments he made.
So, now you have a really good idea of what's going on in the Alchemy II deck. I'm still trying to decide what to do with mine. I'll probably just use it as a regular playing card deck. Hopefully the images won't be too much of a distraction. I had considered using it as a Tarot deck, since I have interpreted playing cards before. I decided not to because of all the skulls and scary images. I'd probably somehow convince myself that the future was going to be scary if I used this deck for that! It's neat as a collectable anyway. Just think how many little pieces of art come packed in this deck!