Hi Folks... It's me, John Hinnen.  I'm a 60 something husband, dad, grandpa and designer/inventor of stuff.  You may know of me from The Bandit Ball Project, a start up in Peoria, Illinois.  We market the Bandit Ball... a shape changing toy ball which can be shaped and thrown in 3 different ways.


People are having fun with the toy and we're so glad!  You can learn more about it at

I'm here to tell you about our next product!   It's called Holiday Circle and it's just a cute, simple and fun new deck of playing cards.  But it's got a history... and since this is a blog post, I need to tell you the story.

There's a reason this is my license plate.  Well, a couple, actually.  One is because I love ideas and I'm a little bit out there. The other is because this is the year I was in my prime as a young inventor.  In 1983 I introduced our learning environment, the "Sundawg Discovery Center", at the N.A.E.Y.C., a national educational conference in Atlanta.  I had my "Heart Eggs" for sale at Marshall Fields in Chicago. And I dreamed up the idea for Holiday Circle.   You can see what happened to all that by reading my blog at This is about 1983, however, and my aha holiday moment.

It was October. I had been playing poker with some buddies and had gone home earlier than the rest of them.  My drawing table was in my bedroom and as I sat there before going to sleep, an idea hit me. Why couldn't card suits be themed around the holidays?   Yes!  Bunnies, Jack-o-Lanterns, Turkeys and Santas could represent Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas!

I actually drove back to my friend's apartment right then to pitch them the idea. It was probably two in the morning and they thought that it was cool and I was nuts!  Over the course of the next few days I drew out the artwork for what would become the "Holiday Playing Cards" concept.


At my drawing table in the 1980's

Our family, like most, was steeped in tradition when autumn rolled around. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas were always celebrated times.  The candy and costumes, the turkey, family and football, and the magical spirit of Christmas.  We were all about all of it!

I made a few prototype decks of this new playing card idea and began to think on what to do with them. I sent the art in to the U.S. Copyright Office and got an Illinois trademark on the name. 

 First  Art for Holiday Playing Cards

Back then, about the only manufacturer I could find was the U.S. Playing Card Company. I got quotes from them and considered making and selling the cards at that time.  

 Prototype Card Back

I also sent out several licensing mailers and got some feedback.  Folks said that Holiday Playing Cards would have to have some original games.  So I went to work... writing out and testing quite a few games to go with these colorful characters.

Then life happened.  On Friday May 13,1988, we won a trip to Hawaii from local radio station WIRL.

 John & Nancy on Oahu in 1988

Much fun and adventures were had... the Royal Hawaiian, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Maui and we came back expecting our first child!  Daughter Kailee was born on May 2, 1989. I had started work at Diamond Star Motors in Normal, Illinois the day before.  Being a supportive family man took over and I worked at the car factory until it closed in November, 2015.

Good ideas may fade but they never go away.  Every year, when autumn rolled around, I've been reminded of  what might have been with the cards. There was always a bit of regret that I'd never fully pursued this concept.

I kept doodling, however, over all those years.  In 2013 we were on a family vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  I had been thinking of the holiday characters in a  circle, and spent time sketching out my thoughts. And "Holiday Circle" was born.

I spent time over the next couple of years updating the imagery of the cards.  There was still much of the original fun, with improvements as you can see below.


ACE of the Santa Suit, aka RUDY, past and present

So in 2019, we decided to go for it. I found a manufacturer in China to make the card decks and we went to work on making two original games.  "Jack Stacks" and "Happy Holidays"  were tested vigorously be family & friends.  Instructions are included in our package, as seen here.

 Well this all leads to now... 2020.    Nancy and I had scheduled to go to the Transworld Christmas Show in St. Louis in March to introduce Holiday Circle. It's the biggest Halloween and Christmas vendor show in America.  It was cancelled. 

I had done a lot of work in making banners and other support stuff for the show and we are using most of out... starting out now at a smaller scale.

This is art for our banner, which worked out well.  We received a full credit to attend the Spring 2021 trade show, and we are looking forward to that.

As of now, our cards are at Kay's Hallmark store in Peoria and available online at 

We hope to be in more area stores as the fall progresses.  Everyone thinks Holiday Circle is cute... and that's good!  This ain't  a world changing idea... just one that might bring some joy to family and friends on game night or any time people are gathered.  And that is our mission... Joy! 

Thanks for reading... and watching!  You can learn more about our products and Sundawg Design right here: