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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.

Spicer & Detmold

Spicer & Detmold (1922-48) produced a lot of pictorial back designs. Most decks with picture backs were printed in 4 colours.

Spicer & Detmold Ltd

Spicer & Detmold (1922-48) were the successors of William Detmold Ltd. They produced a lot of pictorial back designs, except during the war period. These included series such as Beautiful Australia, Dog Breeds and Popular Film Stars. Most decks with picture backs were printed in 4 colours. In around 1932 the old ace of spades, joker and court card designs were updated, signalling a break from the past. Playing card brands include “Koala”, “Coronet”, gilt edged in four colours and “St George” in two colours. They did produce other decks as well, such as the 500s. In 1948 the company became known as Spicers (Australia).

1922-1932

Above: until 1932, the ace of spades and seated Joker were used, carried over from the Detmold / W. Thomas era, with the word “Joker” in the corners instead of the little jester’s head. The number card clubs are printed rather ‘thickly’.

Above: wide-size court cards from before 1932. After this time they were re-designed.

1932-1948

Spicer & Detmold Ace of Spades & Jokers after 1932

Above: after 1932 a new ace of spades and joker were introduced. We can’t say for sure why they changed; maybe the introduction of playing card tax got them to do a design rethink, after all the coat of arms ace was a bit dated by the 30s!

Above: court cards from after 1932. These later courts are a turned redrawing of the earlier wide ones, preserving a sense of tradition.

Advertising Double Deck for Onkaparinga by Spicer and Detmold c1935

Above: advertising double deck for Onkaparinga by Spicer and Detmold, c.1935. Image courtesy Matt Probert.

Assorted Back Designs

assorted back designs by Spicer & Detmold Ltd assorted back designs by Spicer & Detmold Ltd assorted back designs by Spicer & Detmold Ltd Tintara back designs by Spicer & Detmold Ltd, 1930s

Above: assorted back designs by Spicer & Detmold Ltd. An interesting series they produced in the 1930s was for Tintara. The deck also has special aces. The backs came in at least 2 colour versions each, at least one had 4 different coloured backs. It was a boom time for drinks adverts on cards in the 1930s.

CREDITS: images and notes courtesy John Daniels and Ken Lodge unless stated otherwise.

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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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