Today we are going to speak about Erdnase 216 Bee Squeezers Playing Cards produced by the Conjuring Arts Research Center (CARC). The company produced these playing card in two different colours: tan and green. These two decks were printed by the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC) in 2013.
The Conjuring Arts Research Center is a not-for-profit organization located in Manhattan and dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of magic and its allied arts. It seeks to be an important cultural centre. Appealing to practitioners and performers of the conjuring arts, academic historians, collectors, writers and general enthusiasts, Conjuring Arts fills the gap between private collections of magic related history and information, and the public. In terms of a vault of magic literature it is like some kind of The Royal Library of Alexandria for appropriate target audience. But these guys are not only “librarians”. They are also producers of playing cards. Their decks of playing cards are mainly dedicated to magic needs and quite often have some historical roots.
These Erdnase 216 decks are the same design and similar feel as a rare Bee deck printed by the New York Consolidated Card Company in 1902. The Conjuring Arts Research Center in collaboration with USPCC created special Erdnase Finish for these playing cards to make them feel like the originals.
The deck: 52 playing cards + 2 identical Jokers. Poker size. Playing cards were printed on a special stock and have special Erdnase Finish (smooth). The only differences between these two decks are different colours of backs and tuck cases. There were used vintage court cards, indices and pips.
Tuck cases imitate vintage look of the original Bee deck from 1902 and look really nice. They don’t have any seals. It is a pity as the original had a vintage seal.
“Relatively recently one of our board members found what might be the only existing example of the Bee 216 deck. This was printed by the New York Consolidated Card Company for a period of time around the year 1900, and although the back design appears in catalogs and illustrations, no other complete deck is known. What is even more exciting is that our deck is in mint condition. What this means is that for the first time we can determine exactly what the cards that Erdnase used felt like!” ~ CARC
The New York Consolidated Card Company (NYCCC) was formed in 1871 by the merging of three earlier companies: Lawrence & Cohen, Samuel Hart & Co and John J. Levy. Firstly the company produced its “Squeezers” brand in 1876. And NYCCC’s “Bee # 92” brand was introduced in 1895.
What do those “squeezers” on both decks mean?
Old playing cards didn’t have indices and small pips in their corners. You could identify royals due to their pictures but you should count pips on number cards to identify them. The New York Consolidated Card Company decided to add indices and small pips to corners of playing cards and make them more comfortable for a play in that way. Those indices enabled the cards to be held in a fan or to be held “squeezed”. That is why they got the name “Squeezers”. The New York Consolidated Card Company patented this invention. The word was used for different playing cards and indicated that they have indices in their corners.
What should “Erdnase” mean?
S. W. Erdnase is a pseudonym used by the author (his identity remains an unsolved mystery) of The Expert at the Card Table (1901). This book is dedicated to detailing sleight of hand, cheating and legerdemain using playing cards. It is considered to be one of the most influential works on magic or conjuring with playing cards and is often referred to simply as Erdnase.
So these decks are some kind of a dedication. The Conjuring Arts Research Center produced several different “Erdnase” decks besides these two.
STOCK & FINISH:
“Conjuring Arts started some new experimentation, taking our research in a completely new direction. We did three major test runs at great expense which allowed us to successfully create what we proudly call our Erdnase Finish. This new finish is the thinnest and smoothest card that can be produced at US Playing Card Company. When measured by caliper a 52 card deck is merely 14.5 mm. This combined with a smooth finish (just as all the cards were in Erdnase’s time) creates a deck that feels as close to the 1902 Bee as is possible to make today. The only real difference is that our new reproduction is a bit slipperier than it’s 1902 predecessor. Today the manufacturing process uses a plastic material in coating the paper and 100 or so years ago this was more of a varnish that can no longer be used for cards.” ~ CARC
Aces of Spades have a variation of traditional modern Consolidated-Dougherty Bee picture. Even small pips under its indices have modern regular shapes as opposed to appropriate small pips on other cards from the suit. There are some differences in inscriptions on aces and fonts used for word “Bee” but they vary from one Bee deck to another and can be omitted in this case. USPCC don’t print a lot of “custom” Bee decks. But they use different font for “Bee” in case of such decks. Maybe they try to keep some originality of modern classic Bee decks in this way. Anyway a modern Bee Ace of Spades is a modern Bee Ace of Spades.
And it is a pity that the company didn’t use the original Ace of Spades from the vintage deck. This removed some historical authenticity from the deck and added some historical controversy to it as the New York Consolidated Card Company was merged into the Consolidated-Dougherty Card Company Inc. only in 1930 (the Consolidated Dougherty Company became a division of USPCC in 1962).
Erdnase 216 Bee Squeezers: the Ace of Spades
The Original Ace of Spades
Other aces are traditionally simple with one appropriate big pip in their centre.
Erdnase 216 Bee Squeezers: Aces
Jokers are also classic Bee Jokers. There were several variations of Bee Jokers in early 1900s. And these Jokers are one of them. Jokers are identical and both made black & white.
Erdnase 216 Bee Squeezers: Jokers