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Posted | Last Updated July 13, 2014 at 08:48pm | Share this page on Facebook

Brief History of Alf Cooke's Playing Cards

British Playing Cards • Universal Playing Card Company Limited • Alf Cooke Limited

Alf Cooke 1866 - 1970

Above: a selection of Alf Cooke's playing cards ~ click any card to see more.

Alf Cooke was an important producer of playing cards and card games in the UK during the period 1920-1970. The company had been founded in 1866 by Alf Cooke, in Leeds, as a general printer. During the years 1920-25 playing cards were produced under the name of ‘British Playing Cards’ with unusual court card designs which may have been a forerunner of ‘Universal Playing Card Company Limited’ who commenced producing playing cards in c.1925. There is some stylistic similarity between the two.

With a growing range of products including ‘Crown Point’ and ‘Club De Luxe’, the Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd became the sole supplier of playing cards to Woolworths under the ‘New Bond’ and ‘Pictorial’ brand names. They also produced standard and luxury sets with gold edges for the stationery and cigarette card markets, including the stationer and importer L.G. Sloan. The court cards were printed in either 3 or 4 colours, red, yellow and black, or with the addition of blue,  see example →

During the 1930s an attractive range of cards was produced for Scandinavian countries including Denmark, Iceland and Romania.

Warburg's Luxus Bridgekort designed by Barbara MacDonald and printed by Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd in c.1930.

Left: four court cards from A/S Emil Jensen's “Warburg's Luxus Bridgekort” designed by Barbara MacDonald and printed by Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd in c.1930.


Alf Cooke Ltd, Crown Point Leeds factory seal

Alf Cooke Limited’, with ‘Universal Playing Card Co’ as a subtitle, appeared on the Aces of Spades from around 1955 onwards, until the business was taken over by the Amalgamated Playing Card Company Ltd, that was then a subsidiary part of Waddingtons, in 1971. The stock and machinery were transferred to Waddingtons and the production of Alf Cooke playing card brands and court card designs ceased. Over the years, Alf Cooke Limited produced a colourful range of standard English playing cards with many art-deco style pictorial back series, fortune-telling and tarot cards, as well as card games for children and adults.

Crown Point Works, Leeds

Above: Crown Point Works, Alf Cooke's playing card factory in Leeds (UK) which is now a listed building.

General view of the Playing Card department

Above: general view of the Playing Card department.

Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd also published packs specially prepared for magicians and conjurers. These packs included cards of slightly different sizes, packs with multiple copies of the same card, cards with backs or faces on both sides, etc.

special pack of playing cards for magicians

Above: special pack of playing cards for magicians in which half the cards in the pack are identical Sevens of Spades.

1930s belle New Bond Playing cards, c.1936
New Bond Playing Cards, c.1965 Pictorial Playing Cards, c.1965
Coronation Souvenir, 1953 De Luxe Quality Playing Cards, c.1935

Aces of Spades 1925-1970

Aces of Spades, c.1925-1970

Above: the four commonest Alf Cooke Aces of Spades: 1. Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd (1925-30); 2. Universal Playing Card Co. (1930-50); 3. Alf Cooke Limited (1950-70); 4; Special Ace for L.G. Sloan Ltd, London (1930s). There were other variants of these Aces, and some anonymous Aces  see example →


Jokers

Other Productions

Romany Fortune Telling Cards, 1935 Romany Fortune Telling Cards, 1935 Thomson-Leng Tarot Cards, 1935

References:
Goodall, Michael: ‘Alf Cooke Ltd: Printer and Playing-Card Maker’ in The Playing-Card, journal of the International Playing-Card Society, Volume 31 No.4, Jan/Feb 2003, pp.157-170.

Lodge, Ken: The Standard English Pattern (second revised and enlarged edition), Bungay, Suffolk, 2010

Universe No.100 Playing Cards Five 'O One Playing Cards Romanian Playing Cards Icelandic Chess Playing Cards Danbrit Playing Cards

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