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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.

Australian Excise Duty

Excise Duty was introduced on Australian playing cards in 1932

Australian Excise Duty

The key date is the introduction of the Excise Duty in 1932. From then onward all Australian manufacturers had to have their code number printed on each pack, as well as ‘Made In Australia’. This makes it much easier to identify decks, as prior to 1932 there was no such requirement, and often our local decks can look just like ones printed overseas. Taxation on playing cards was repealed in 1983.

The codes were usually in a circle or a triangle and are as follows:


Paper Products (Reed Paper Products) 1/4


Sands McDougall 1/3

Spicer Detmold 2/3

Hudson Industries 3/3

None known for QLD, Tas, WA or SA. This numbering was also used on matches, cigarettes and beer.

Above: Tiger brand by Sands & McDougall.

Above: the 3/2 off an ‘Alligator’ deck was supposed to be 2/3, from the early days before the printers got sorted with the new regulations. Also has the ‘squeezers’ name. as per USA decks.

Above: St George brand by Spicer Detmold.

Above: Hudson.

Above: Paper Products (Reed Paper Products).

Above: E codes were introduced from mid 1970s until 1983. Spicers Paper Ltd.

Above: Valentine (also has the older 3/3 mark).

Note: all images and notes courtesy John Daniels.