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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.

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134 printed by Brepols for Germany, c.1940s.

This pack was printed by Brepols of Turnhout for Germany, during the occupation of Netherlands, early 1940s. The use of the Wüst star on the 7 hearts and box is probably because it was printed for VASS who had taken over Wüst in 1927. There are several slightly different editions of the deck, including one for Scandinavia with Scandinavian indices.

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134 Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134

Above: Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134 by Brepols, c.1940s. Thanks to Paul Symons for additional research.


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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

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Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134 printed by Brepols for Germany, c.1940s.

Anma US Armed Forces

Anma US Armed Forces

Anma US Armed Forces, 1942.

Loriot Rummy

Loriot Rummy

Delightful comical deck designed by Loriot, the German cartoonist and comedian, 1973.

Victory

Victory

“Victory" cards celebrating U.S. participation in the Allied victory, c.1945.

Hungarian Drinking Skat

Hungarian Drinking Skat

Hungarian Drinking Skat, c.2004.

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.

Inspector

Inspector

Inspector card game published by W F Jackson & Sons, 1940s.

Spy

Spy

Spy card game published by Valentine’s Games, c.1915.

Sister Susie Snap

Sister Susie Snap

Sister Susie Snap published by Valentine & Sons Ltd, c.1915.

Who’s Who

Who’s Who

Who’s Who or Food for Thought, a wartime card game, c.1939.

Gundlach Skat No.100

Gundlach Skat No.100

Skat No.100 by E. Gundlach, Bielefeld, 1949.

Atouts de la Vie

Atouts de la Vie

“Atouts de la Vie” wartime card game created by Madame Lucien Willemetz, c.1940.

Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.

Safety First

Safety First

Safety First card game embodying the Kerb Drill, published by John Jaques & Son Ltd, 1940s.

Victory Snap

Victory Snap

Wartime Snap, a memoir of past times, c.1941.

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap published around WW2, c.1940.

Leipzig Exhibition Skat, 1897

Leipzig Exhibition Skat, 1897

“Leipziger Skat-Karte” depicting scenes from the Leipzig Industry and Trade Exhibition designed by Arthur Lewin, 1897.

No.4 Special Whist

No.4 Special Whist

No.4 Special Whist (American Skat) playing cards made by the Russell & Morgan Printing Company, 1889.

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz card game published by Pepys, 1940,

Mordillo Skat

Mordillo Skat

Mordillo Skat designed by Guillermo Mordillo, c.1979

Löwen Entertainment

Löwen Entertainment

Skat deck for Löwen Entertainment, producers of electronic gaming machines, 1986

Altenburger Bauerntrachten

Altenburger Bauerntrachten

“Altenburger Bauerntrachten” commemorating 150 years of playing cards from Altenburg, designed by Andreas Wachter, 1982.

Geprüfte Sicherheit

Geprüfte Sicherheit

Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Accident Research, 1978

Churchill in WW2

Churchill in WW2

Churchill ‘Walking with Destiny’ playing cards published by the Imperial War Museum.

Micky Mau~Mau

Micky Mau~Mau

Micky Mau~Mau by F. X. Schmid, 1978.

Mapit

Mapit

“Mapit” war map card game published by Geographia Ltd, 55 Fleet Street, London E.C., c.1940s.

Aleister Crowley Tarot – the sombre luminary

Aleister Crowley Tarot – the sombre luminary

Aleister Crowley Tarot - Crowley and Lady Freda Harris worked on the illustrations between 1938 and 1943

Mayall Press Art Studies

Mayall Press Art Studies

Photographic playing cards - each face having an "art study" of a female nude, Mayall Press, Stockwell, London, c.1946.

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914.

Angler Skat

Angler Skat

Angler Skat manufactured by VEB Altenburg, c.1981

Hunting Themed Skat

Hunting Themed Skat

German-suited hunting themed deck designed by Günter Schmitz and made by VEB Altenburg, 1980.

Skat Politisch

Skat Politisch

Political “Skat Politisch” published by ASS, 1976

Skat Express

Skat Express

One end Berlin pattern the other standard English pattern

Siegfried Line

Siegfried Line

“We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line” wartime card game made by William Sessions Ltd, 1940s

Squadron Scramble

Squadron Scramble

“Squadron Scramble” card games for identifying military planes, Whitman Publishing Co., Racine, Wisconsin, 1942.

Temple Press War Planes

Temple Press War Planes

“War Planes” playing cards for aircraft recognition published by Temple Press Limited, c.1940.

Victory

Victory

“Victory” by Pepys Games, a splendid game with caricatures of British and German leaders, published in 1940.

Vacuation

Vacuation

“Vacuation” published by Pepys games, based on the evacuation of children to Reception Areas in the countryside during WW2, c.1939-40.

Le Jeu des Alliés

Le Jeu des Alliés

“Le Jeu des Alliés” manufactured by Mesmaekers N.V., Turnhout, 1945.

England Expects

England Expects

‘England Expects’ card game published by Pepys Games in 1940.