Modern offset presses are still kinda stupid

When I first engaged with United States Playing Card Company (USPCC) to print Singularity playing cards, they told me something that I already knew: Printing is still an imprecise business at scale.

Offset presses are the most efficient way to print a large volume of anything and they work by repeatedly applying ink to press plates custom-made for your job and then transferring that ink to sheets or continuous rolls of paper. They spin up. They wind down. They don't always have a consistent amount of ink to apply. The quantity you expect? You are never going to get it on the nose.

There are always extras. Or casualties.

I regularly work with print shops at my day job and it's generally the same. You can expect up to a 10% underrun/overrun. USPCC is no different. Shops print extra because you can't predict the attrition that will occur in other stages of the job--cutting, folding, embossing, foiling, etc. And if you don't have enough, it's not really an option to set the press back up to get the (relatively) small number of copies you want in order to make up the deficit. It is seriously cost-prohibitive. Plus, due to the imprecise nature of this (honestly, pretty old) technology, the colors on your separately-run batch may not be a match!

Bump your quantity strategically

If you are printing a deck and you've already sold around 90% of your copies, watch out! Contractually, they only have to provide you with 90% of the decks you ordered. Of course they'll give you more if they can, but it does happen. You may want to hedge and make your order more like 1100 decks if you're riding that line.


The flip side is that they can contractually fulfill 10% over and you are responsible for paying for those extra copies. I've seen this really burn some people. You have to balance your quantity needs against your ability to pay for the extras, should they exist.

And what if there are more than 10% extra?!

It does happen. There are two options at this point:

Buy them!

Extra product can be a sweet little boon. You've already paid the big expense to get this far, presumably with profit lying somewhere ahead of you, so why not take on a little more expenditure for a little more profit? It's not always an option in every circumstance, but it is worth considering. Plus, they will often put some kind of discount on those extras because...


USPCC will destroy them for you. I haaaate that this is a thing. Waste is a problem in our modern world and I'd rather not contribute willfully if I can avoid it. There's maybe no reason they couldn't just give them to you, but I have zero insight into their business, really, so I can only speculate. But they do have my number: I'll buy the extras instead of trashing them as long as I can afford it. But I recognize that not everyone feels that way, and so be it.

1,000 decks is the baseline, but only for offset...

If you're working with USPCC, as of this writing they are strictly offset printing. Make Playing Cards (MPC) has certain card stocks that are only available on offset printing. Cartamundi majors in offset printing and some of there cooler options are only available on offset--as far as I know. They all have minimum quantities of 1,000 decks for offset printing, so you'll have to plan accordingly. You can't pull your order down to 900 if you're afraid that the final quantity will be closer to 1,100.

Digital printing closes the gap

Cartamundi and MPC both offer digital printing options, with varying minimum quantities. You're going to pay significantly more per deck so it may not always be worth it, but it is helpful if you are targeting a very small or very specific run size.

What about all of the decks that say they are a limited edition of [X] amount?

It's a rounding game. In a lot of cases, those extra decks are given away to friends and family or stashed away for the creators to use personally. They potentially burn through some in promotion as well between filming difficult moves, throwing them in paint, etc. Maybe they sell the extra and call it a wash.

Or they're tossing them in the dump. Let's hope not!

Let's play a game...

Instagram giveaway time!

Ends 11/25/2019 @ 9pm Pacific

I'm giving away a signed deck of Singularity: Black to at least one winner!

How to enter:

Surprise! There were not exactly 1,000 decks of Singularity: Black printed. How many do you think were printed? What am I going to do about it?

  1. Head to Instagram and follow me @relativitycards
  2. Head to this post
  3. Like that post and comment, tagging 3 friends (No bots or celebs!) and guessing how many decks were actually printed.
  4. One entry only, but please feel free to tag more friends because for every 100 followers I gain, I will give away an additional deck to another winner!


  • 5 extra entries: Comment on this blog with your Instagram handle and tell me what you think I'm going to do about the actual quantity of decks I am receiving.
  • DOUBLE ENTRIES if you guess the number of decks correctly
  • DOUBLE ENTRIES if you are a Patron. So yes, if you guess correctly and are a patron, you will have quadruple entries! Patreon link is in the footer ;)

Good luck!

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