TDmonthly Magazine!
September 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 9


Authoring a Solid Game Plan: U.S. Games Systems

“With the success of the first tarot deck, I decided to venture into the playing card and card game business.”Stuart Kaplan, U.S. Games Systems Inc.
Even tarot cards couldn’t have predicted the road followed by U.S. Games Systems Inc.´s (ToyShow) chairman and CEO, Stuart Kaplan. As a young man, Kaplan headed to the Sorbonne in Paris to be a writer. After a year, he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a marketing degree, concerned that writing wouldn’t pay the bills. Little did he know …

After two years of military service, he moved onto Wall Street. Then in 1968, “on a whim, I visited the Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany to explore what opportunities might exist, and I came across a tarot deck published by a small Swiss company, AGMuller & Cie, which I brought back and offered to sell to Brentano’s in New York, ” Kaplan told TDmonthly Magazine.

Brentano’s bought 100 decks and asked Kaplan to write a book about the imagery and meaning of the cards. In the first year alone, Kaplan sold 200,000 tarot decks nationwide and wrote the first of six books on tarot, “Tarot Cards For Fun and Fortune Telling.” In July 2005 Kaplan released his latest book, “The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume IV,” co-authored with Jean Huets. Stuart Kaplan had realized his dream of becoming a writer.

“My tarot books have sold over one million copies and have been translated into several languages,” Kaplan said. “With the success of the first tarot deck, I decided to venture into the playing card and card game business.”

Upon leaving Wall Street, Kaplan opened U.S. Games Systems Inc. Within a few years, the card business started picking up and U.S. Games expanded. The company currently has more than 400 proprietary items and is always looking for more. But through the years, Kaplan and U.S. Games have learned some important lessons.

“We accept the reality that one or two out of every 10 new products may not reach the market penetration and sales potential we expect. There is a sign that hangs in our corporate offices that reads: ‘We don´t look for people who never fail. We look for people who never give up.’”

Persevering through the changing times, only 25% of U.S. Games Systems´ trade business is now done with bookstores — down from 100%. Their products are now sold in museum and gift shops, game and toy stores, airport and hospital shops, luggage dealers, mail order catalogs and even gift shops at recreational vehicle parks.

If you look, you’ll realize that U.S. Games truly are everywhere, from their staple tarot cards to newer games such as Creative Whack Pack, Innovative Whack Pack, Rain Forest, People’s Choice: A Presidential Game, History’s Mysteries, and Time Travel.

“There are several lessons we try to follow,” Kaplan told TDmonthly. “The most important is the recognition that our company is no better than the collective quality and efficiency of the people working at USGS. The attitude and enthusiasm of each person … who responds to a customer´s request is just as important as the information the employee provides. We are all sales people and, as publishers of games and books, we are all proofreaders. Everyone needs to work together and cooperate.”

Kaplan’s positive attitude is sure to carry U.S. Games well into the future.


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