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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Crown Point Series

The Universal Playing Card Co., Crown Point Series,

“Crown Point” refers to Alf Cooke's printing works in Leeds (UK), Crown Point Works, which is now a listed building.

The Universal Playing Card Co's court card designs, although following traditional lines, are slightly idiosyncratic, particularly the heads and body positions. Earlier cards have narrow indices and margins and were produced in three or four colours. Over the years the printing plates were retouched or redrawn, providing minute clues for dating packs.

Click here to see Ace of Spades (enlarged). A Contact Bridge Scoring Card was introduced in 1935.

Crown Point Playing cards, c.1925-30

Above: one of Universal Playing Card Co Ltd's early brands, featuring the black & white Joker plus an extra advertising card promoting perfect dealing owing to the fabric finish.

Crown Point Playing cards, c.1930-35

Above: two further editions of Crown Point Series playing cards by Universal Playing Card Co. In the top row there is no shading on the inner part of the ace of spades, c.1930. The bottom row is slightly later and the company name is now 'Ltd', c.1935. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

Club De Luxe

Club De Luxe 601 Playing cards, c.1935

Above: early edition of “Club De Luxe” brand with number 601. Courtesy Matt Probert.

Club De Luxe Playing cards, c.1935-40

Above: Club De Luxe Playing cards, c.1935. The same motif of a hand holding cards is used on the box, similar to the earlier examples shown above. In this case the Joker is coloured and has been redrawn.

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

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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