My latest playing card deck purchase was Patrick Valenza's "Royal Mischief - Transformation Playing Cards", which proved to be true to their title: they are naughty, funny, creepy and absurd, making the deck a pleasure to look at. Due to the glossy cardstock, the cards were stuck together when I first opened the box, but as soon as I separated them they remained separate, and they now shuffle easily. The deck is edged in shiny dark grey, and comes in a nice sturdy lidded box (not the usual flimsy tuck box of most poker decks).
Royal Mischief is inspired by 19th century "transformation" playing cards in which the pips were depicted as parts of an illustrated scene. The first transformation cards appeared in 1801 in a German almanac, and the trend caught on in Europe and the US. The examples below come from the December 1910 issue of Strand Magazine which encouraged its readers to contribute their own designs.
The same cards in Valenza's deck feature Jail Birds and Oodles of Doodles.
Smokers, car drivers, oriental dancers, gossiping housewives, fish, dogs, bugs, in short, all kinds of people and creatures are presented in amusing scenes and arrangements.
Valenza is more widely known for his tarot and oracle decks, and especially for his Deviant Moon tarot. He has an affinity for the strange and the macabre, and Deviant Moon has been inspired by his visits to an insane asylum and graveyards, as well as by ancient Greek art stylization, historical tarot decks and his own dreams.
The Trionfi della Luna is his own twisted version of a Marseille tarot, but on his website he also offers faithful reproductions of two 19th century decks, the Kirchner Besançon and the Gassmann Swiss Marseille.
The Royal Mischief playing cards and the Deviant Moon tarot are mass market, and can easily be purchased from retailers internationally. Valenza's other tarot and oracle creations can be ordered from his Deviant Moon website.
Information on 19th century transformation cards and images have been taken from the Games et al archive.
The tarot images have been taken from the Deviant Moon website.