Playing cards from Australia
At first cards were exported to Australia from England and newspaper adverts for cards being imported exist from as early as 1803. Belgian manufacturers also exported cards to Australia during the 19th century and American cards influenced the local cardmakers. But there is not a long history of local manufacturing and there has probably never been a company in Australia whose sole business was making playing cards. The advent of television and more recently computers and the Internet have diminished the popularity of playing cards as a leisure pastime and as a manufacturing proposition. Most cards today arrive in ships from Shanghai.
The earliest known manufacturer was C. Troedel and Co. who were printing cards in the mid-1880s. Before the 1920s it seems that most Australian cards were made by small local enterprises producing small editions. It was not uncommon, especially in more remote parts of the country, for local newspapers to be involved in the production of playing cards because they had the resources. Usually these cards showed local scenes on the back or advertised local companies. In 1922 the Australasian Publication Company were given the sole rights for a three year period to sell Waddington’s playing cards in Australia and New Zealand, and in 1930 Waddington’s unsuccessfully tried to establish a manufacturing branch in Sydney. It is also recorded that there had been a dispute with Chas Goodall & Co regarding the use of the word ‘linen’ in connection with playing cards which was settled amicably. The brand name ‘Silkette’ was also used by Waddington in the 1920s & 30s.
The heyday of Australian playing card manufacture is roughly between 1930-1970, with several companies reaching their peaks during the 1940s and 50s. Alongside the more prestigious brands, most manufacturers also produced ‘budget’ decks in the 1930s to WWII era - possibly due to the early 1930s depression and then paper restrictions during/just after the war. Tax was levied on cards in Australia from 1932. From then onward all Australian manufacturers were required to have their code number printed on each pack, as well as ‘Made In Australia’.
Perhaps the most productive company was Paper Products Pty Ltd of Sydney which commenced in 1929. Brand names include Pompadour, Silkette, Silver Cat, Silver Belt, Golden Eagle, Top Hat, Two Hundred, Royal Charter, Queen’s Slipper, Cambric, Chevalier and Canberra. However, by the late 1970s all the local manufacturing companies seem to have disappeared, or manufacturing was outsourced to Singapore or China.
Standard Playing Cards & Manufacturers
Towards the end of the 19th century playing cards were the most popular sedentary leisure pursuit in Australia after reading. There was no TV, radio or Scrabble. Large numbers of packs of standard playing cards were imported each year, chiefly from UK. Belgian manufacturers also exported their wares to Australia during the 19th century.
Standard playing cards made in Australia tend to have court cards based upon American designs, even using American registered brands such as ‘Squeezers’. Very often the early packs and boxes are anonymous, hard to identify (maybe to avoid paying taxes), with the only clue being the courts and/or joker.
Member since February 01, 1996View Articles
Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
Bosch Puzzle Playing Cards by Sunish Chabba, 2020.
Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia and is the world's third-oldest airline still in operation, having been founded in November 1920.
I collected playing cards when I was in primary school, by Jan Walls.
A Motley Pack - transformation playing cards & ‘On The Cards’ book facsimile published by Sunish Chabba, 2019.
Billabong Dual Deck by Hudson Industries, 1950s.
Kalevala playing cards by Sunish Chabba and Ishan Trivedi inspired by ancient Finnish mythology.
Adelaide Casino by Spicers Paper Ltd, 1987.
Erlenmeyer City Sights hand-illustrated playing cards by Stephanie Gray, 2015.
Estate Playing Cards with five suits designed by Keith Wilson
Vizaĝo playing cards created by Annette Abolins, 2017.
Advertising backs by William Detmold Ltd (Australia) c.1910-1920s.
Nine Lives Playing Cards designed by Annette Abolins, 2016
Nine Lives Tarot by Annette Abolins, 2013.
Australia souvenir deck with photography by Steve Parish
A book titled “On The Cards” or “A Motley Pack” by Garnet Walch (1843-1913) was published in Melbourne (Australia) and illustrated by George Gordon McCrae in 1875.
Lonely Planet Playing Cards feature amazing images from all over the globe
Flinders playing cards manufactured by Hudson Industries Pty Ltd (Australia).
Two early makers, Thomas and Sands & McDougall, used courts copied from those of the New York Consolidated Card Co.
Hudson Industries Pty Ltd of Carlton in Victoria was first registered as a printing company in 1920. In the 1940s they registered their own distinctive ace of spades and joker.
Formerly part of Singapore National Printers (SNP), the company went into receivership in April 2008.
Spicer & Detmold (1922-48) produced a lot of pictorial back designs. Most decks with picture backs were printed in 4 colours.
Sands & McDougall produced many beautiful Spade Aces and Jokers.
Sands & McDougall, playing card manufacturers, Melbourne, late 1890s-c.1970.
Australian Brewery Advertising
Sands & McDougall Court Cards
‘Pelaco’ playing cards with Aboriginal characters by Sands & McDougall, Australia, c.1930.
William Detmold Limited, manufacturers of playing cards.
“Ausgold” by SNP Ausprint Pty Ltd
A series of SNP Ausprint jokers with the various wording and name changes
Playing cards from Australia.
John Sands had incorporated the earlier playing card manufacturing businesses of Hudson Industries Pty Ltd and Valentine Publishing Co.
“Comic Families” card game from Australia, c.1940s
The Valentine Group, Australia.
Drownin’ Surfer card game
Reed Paper Products of Waterloo manufactured playing cards until the late 1970s.
Excise Duty was introduced on Australian playing cards in 1932
Elevenses is a card game in which respectable 1920s socialites strive to serve the finest morning teas!
The vibrant colours and artwork glorify the symbolism, mood and positive energy in this exciting new tarot deck from Australia.
Artwork for The Watersprite Tarot© designed and painted by Alison McDonald.