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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.

Pictorial

Pictorial Playing Cards - De Luxe - Fabric Finish - manufactured by Alf Cooke Limited (Universal Playing Card Co.)

Pictorial Playing Cards manufactured for F. W. Woolworth & Co, 1950s-60s

Alf Cooke Ltd, Crown Point Leeds factory seal

Alf Cooke's range of “De Luxe Pictorial Fabric Finish Playing Cards”, in their bright orange boxes with a triangle and crown logo, were manufactured specially for F. W. Woolworth & Co. during the 1950s and 1960s. The designs were an expansion from the earlier “New Bond” series with new designs reflecting the new era marked by the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In some cases the ‘Universal Playing Card Co’ Ace of Spades is found, and in other cases the new ‘Alf Cooke Limited’ Ace is found along with the newer Joker designs.

Above: Clan Tartan Pictorial Playing Cards - De Luxe Fabric Finish - manufactured by the Universal Playing Card Co., containing two Jokers and three-colour court cards. The name ‘Alf Cooke Limited’ is printed on the box. These cards were also sold with Alf Cooke Ace of Spades as "Scottish Tartan" playing cards in a special box for Pepys Games.

Alf Cooke Pictorial Playing Cards, c.1960

Above: Pictorial Playing Cards - De Luxe Fabric Finish - manufactured by Alf Cooke Limited (Universal Playing Card Co) containing two Jokers and four-colour court cards. The Jokers have been slightly simplified by the removal of the banderole at the bottom. The Hiawatha Indian designs, available in red or green, were carried over from the earlier “New Bond” series.

Pictorial Playing Cards manufactured by Alf Cooke Limited, c.1955-60

Left: Pictorial Playing Cards manufactured by Alf Cooke Limited, unopened in their original tax wrapper c.1955-60.


Above: New Bond pack with the crown motif on the box and Alf Cooke ace of spades, 1960s. Courtesy Matt Probert.

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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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Pictorial

Pictorial

Pictorial Playing Cards - De Luxe - Fabric Finish - manufactured by Alf Cooke Limited (Universal Playing Card Co.)