Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards were originally manufactured in Cincinnati, Ohio, by the United States Playing Card Co. in 1970.
They were commissioned by the Jerry’s Nugget Casino, and designed to do the action on their gaming tables. But things didn't quite work out for the owners, Mr Lodge and Mr Stamis. Some time between when they came off the press and arrived in downtown Las Vegas, it occurred to them that the cards could easily be marked. I mean, you’ve got all those dots running down each side of the tower, the bracing inside forms neat little compartments, and you’ve got six letters to choose from. Really, the possibilities were endless. There was no putting them on your gaming tables. And not to mention the hit it must have been to their personal budget after manufacturing all these cards that couldn't be sold.
When those cards did arrive in truck loads in downtown Las Vegas, they never saw the light of day again. Instead, they were banished to storage, where they spent many many years.
They resurfaced some years later in the gift shop where they were sold one by one for 50c a piece. Nobody knows how many decks were run off in the first place, but as long as that was the only method of distribution, Jerry's Nugget had a lot of playing cards cheap.
Jerry’s Nugget are a single side embossed playing card. They were printed on some of USPCC's highest quality casino grade paper. This made them a stiff, strong card that holds its form and can endure hour after hour of play. In an almost old world art form, a cotton roller was used to press the emboss on the face side of the card. This made them slip and handle beautifully.
Magicians loved them! Guys like Dai Vernon, Larry Jennings and Ed Marlo swore by them. They were a tough deck to break in, but once you did, they lasted a long time. Card artists commented that they strengthened your hands as you practiced, and held their form time over time.
Meanwhile, through the passage of time, the process used to manufacture Jerry’s Nugget playing cards inauspiciously slipped into obsolescence. The old cotton rollers were decommissioned in favour of brand new steel ones, the chemical recipe for the varnish was abandoned, and that particular grade of paper, in production for only two years, was no longer manufactured. Times changed in the 80s and 90s, but Jerry’s Nugget still had a lot of playing cards.
It is hard to imagine that anyone would care that Jerry's Nuggets were slowly dwindling into oblivion. Ask Jerry whether he ever wanted to run-off another load of playing cards and it's not hard to imagine the answer. But however slowly they trickled out of the gift shop, it is true to say that that supply was only ever finite. That means there would come a day when there were no more Jerry's Nuggets.
In the Summer of 1999, that supply did run out. Up until mid 1999 you could still buy Jerry’s Nuggets from the casino in downtown Las Vegas, and then suddenly they were gone. That's right, there's no more Jerry's Nuggets. They're all sold out. The entire remaining stock, estimated at as many as 40,000 decks, vanished. No one knows where they’ve gone, who’s got them or how much they paid.
"They were purchased by a magician, from Europe, for his private use" That's it? That's all the information?
Well, it turns out it was true. You couldn't get Jerry's Nuggets anymore. They're all gone. Well, as long as they were available out of the gift shop, no one really cared but now you couldn't get them it was different. Now Jerry's Nuggets were highly prized and sort after cards that magicians really liked using. Whatever the anonymous buyer paid for them, they were worth a lot more now. Jerry's Nuggets trickled onto the market here and there, and starting fetching some pretty high prices. Still later there was rumor around that someone paid as much as $1500 for a dozen - and it's documented.
Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards were well on their way to infamy, a fairy tale for a playing card that started it's days in a storage repository. Things could only get better. Then, in 2008, a flood of counterfeits poured onto the market that just added fuel and intrigue to the tale. So many people got sucked in, it was a sad sorry tale of YOUTUBE video after video of fellow card enthusiasts lamenting they'd been had.
The imitations apparently look convincing from the outside, but once you open the box you will discover that you don’t have playing cards at all, but rather flimsy cardboard imitations. It’s not even card stock.
Jerry’s Nuggets were prized for their handling and durability, and it is particularly this authentic real life paper they are prized for. Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards are a modern day industrial artifact. For people who knew what Jerry’s were, this was a demoralizing rip off.
The counterfeiters have long since packed up their operation and moved on, but it still leaves a murky puddle to beware of. Jerry’s Nugget playing cards come onto the market here or there. That means if you're in the business of procuring a set for yourself, you want to be an astute buyer.
Apparently the anonymous trickster that took off with them in the first place doesn't just horde them for himself. Jerry's Nuggets do trickle onto to the market year after year. One reliable source, they can be found in the hands of noted card artist, Lee Asher, and are even sold with a Certificate of Authenticity.
Jerry’s Nuggets have come a long way since the days when they were banished from daylight, and sold out of the gift shop like souvenirs no one wanted. But today, Jerry’s Nugget’s Playing Cards have the proud honor of a WikiPedia entry, a few tales of intrigue, and even a Certificate of Authenticity. For more information riddles and stories, note these as reputable sources.