Microsoft’s Magical $800 Deck of Playing Cards

Posted on August 30, 2021 by Stephen Chapman in Microsoft with 9 Comments

What do Microsoft, magician David Blaine, and a deck of playing cards have in common? Better yet, what business does a modern-day deck of playing cards have being valued at $800 — especially if it’s from a print run of multiples as opposed to being one-of-a-kind?

Before we jump into the deep end, let’s start with pictures of my own sealed copy of the deck. Note the design of the spade insignia, which represents David Blaine’s initials.

If you would like to see some of the cards and other design elements, Conjuring Arts has some lovely pictures on their product page from when they had a few decks for sale (for $400) at one point.

The origin of this deck is a private event from 2014 known as the Microsoft Intern Signature Event. In addition to the all-day, part-night festivities, those in attendance were given some extremely nice swag — namely, a specially-emblazoned Xbox One and a deck of playing cards (pictured above) from David Blaine, who gave a stunning performance at the event.

Here’s a demo reel blasting through a summary of the day:

So, how do we get from there, to a deck of cards from 2014 that’s currently selling for more than the cost of a brand-new Xbox in 2021 (even at scalper prices)?

Order of the Spendthrifts

Welcome to the addictive and expensive world of collectible playing cards. In this world, many of David Blaine’s decks are highly-coveted, commanding some of the highest aftermarket prices in the niche.

The “Create Magic” deck — colloquially referred to as the “Microsoft deck” — is one of Blaine’s most sought-after. (Blaine also has an “ABC deck” circa 2016 and a “Dell deck” circa 2017. Though they’re also rare and pricey, they currently aren’t as valuable.)

As noted on the deck itself, it is a “Limited Edition of 2015”, meaning its print run was 2,015 decks. That might sound like a lot of decks, but let’s start chipping away at that perception.

1. These decks weren’t for sale to the public, so whatever ended up with collectors was from the very small quantity of attendees who sold theirs on eBay. As such, they were very difficult for collectors to obtain within the first year or two of circulation.

2. I can’t find the quote at the moment, but Blaine has publicly stated in the past that not every deck from the print run was given out at the event. He has proven this by making a very scarce number of these decks sporadically available over the past 7 years. Blaine’s personal injection of decks has only served to stimulate the marketplace, not meet demand (more on this in point #5 below).

3. This is anecdotal since there’s no reasonable way to proffer a representative sample size, but I would wager a majority of recipients probably thought of this deck as akin to cards you’d buy at the grocery store or some such. These were interns who, yes, got to see David Blaine perform (for whatever that was sentimentally worth as tied to the deck of cards), but they left with AN XBOX ONE! (Oh, and a deck of playing cards. Suuuper-exciting…)

4. How many attendees do you think tossed the deck in the trash just before hooking up their new, shiny Xbox One? For those who didn’t, how many unsealed it, unknowingly driving the value down? For those who didn’t unseal it, how many dropped it and dinged a corner? How many scratched the cellophane by keeping it that junk drawer we all have in the kitchen that inexplicably seems to hold more than Hermione Granger’s enchanted bag? Ad infinitum.

5. Enthusiast site Portfolio52, where users can catalog their decks, add others to a wish list, etc., has another anecdotal data point for us to glean: the “Microsoft deck” is in 54 collections and 62 wish lists. If we ignore all ancillary variables — like if someone is fibbing about having it in their collection, or how many deck owners even use the site in the first place — and simply take those numbers at face value, then we see demand being greater than supply. Also, even if we multiply 54 collections by 5, that would be a pool of only 270 decks total available for all collectors worldwide.

6. There is a seriously bustling community of card collectors clamoring to procure entire catalogs of works not only from Blaine, but also artisan deck designers who were already best-of-class in their respective professions before delving into card design: people like Jackson Robinson, Lotrek, Lorenzo Gaggiotti, and many others. The “Microsoft deck” is simple as compared to a true luxury deck like, say, Lotrek’s Arabesque deck. But once you delve into the Lotrek-end of the spectrum, you quickly end up in territory where decks like this one sell for $1,225.

And Now For My Final Trick of the Night

I know some of you are probably thinking there’s not a deck of cards on earth that will ever be worth anything even remotely close to $800. But why is any collectible worth its seemingly-exorbitant value? Put simply, something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It really is just that simple when you pare back every other reason — or so it seems for all of the collectibles I’ve been involved with over the years. People want what they want. Boom. Done.

As you can see, though, demand (from a swath of high-paying collectors, no less) for the “Microsoft deck” appears to have outweighed supply from the get-go — a trend that continues to this very day. In fact, legend has it that if you listen closely on a still winter’s night, you can hear the desiderate throes of David Blaine card collectors longing to add this deck to their collection!

“But what about your copy of the ‘Microsoft deck’, Stephen? Did you pay $800 for it?”

Well, the acquisition story is absolutely incredible, but I’ll have to save it for another post — just kidding; it was totally boring in that I traded something for it well before I became interested in the hobby of collecting playing cards.

Perhaps this deck of cards becoming more valuable than an Xbox in a 2021-scalper’s aftermarket is David Blaine’s final calculated magic trick from that fateful summer night in 2014. Probably not, but as with any good magic trick, it sure is fun to pretend.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-journey through an obscure Microsoft-related relic and the community that covets it the most!

Thanks for reading. =)


For a sneak peek into more of my collection and some of what’s to come, you can follow me on Twitter at @beta_collector!

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Comments (9)

9 responses to “Microsoft’s Magical $800 Deck of Playing Cards”

  1. johnlavey

    Very interesting piece. I hope this is just the beginning of some fun aspects of the tech-connected world.

    • Stephen Chapman

      Absolutely! I have quite a few neat little relics like this that spill over into seemingly-unrelated areas. I'm looking forward to writing about more of them!

  2. LT1 Z51

    Too bad my stuffed Window Me Beta "guys" are not worth anything (they are ballo shapped guys filled with sand for various things like OOBE or AutoUpdate, think there were 8 of them. Or giant MSN "award" it's a 1 foot tall pedestal like thing with a giant star on it.

    Come to think of it I have tons of random old Windows Beta stuff from 1998-2005 laying around.

    • Stephen Chapman

      Depending on what you have, there would be some sort of subjective value to me! Beta stuff is really the main thrust of my collection, so feel free to reach out; I'd at least love to see or hear about what all you have. =)

      • LT1 Z51

        I'll shoot you an e-mail with some pictures. The WIndows Me Stuff is likey the most interesting. I noticed too one of my ballon guys is starting to fail. I'm sure some enterprising person kept them in their little baggies. I'd displayed mine on a bookshelf for over 20 years.

  3. beckoningeagle

    Wow!! Very interesting bit. There are so many things I wish I hadn't gotten rid of. Anyway, keep this deck of cards until he expires on one of his crazy antics. Then the cash will come rolling in!

    (Social Network Disclosure: I do not wish for David Blaine or any of his assistants, producers or family members to die or have a misadventure. The comment is to be construed as a joke and should not be used as a means of cancelling me out of this or any other forum).

  4. starkover

    For that kind of money I half expected the cards to be in some way rigged, like the decks available with every other card the queen of hearts, or some other.

  5. Greg Green

    My first pc was an Goldstar 386 with Win 3 on it, for $1500. I knew nothing about PCs but figured the best way to learn was to dive in. After five days of confusion I told my parents the only thing I could reliably do was play solitaire and that I just spent $1500 on a deck of cards.

  6. chris.bridgland

    Great article! Very interesting. Keep them coming.