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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.

WW1 Commemorative

In 1919 Brepols commemorated the victories of World War I with two new packs featuring portraits of Allied leaders on the court cards and famous battle scenes on the Aces.

Published by Brepols, Turnhout, in 1919.

Although work was almost at a standstill throughout World War I because Belgium was cut off from its regular markets, in 1919 Brepols commemorated the victories of World War I with two new packs featuring hand painted portraits of Allied leaders (Kings, Presidents, Generals and Queens) on the court cards, along with relevant coats-of-arms, and famous battle scenes or events on the aces. These were exported around the world as remembrance of the time of sorrow and suffering.

World War I commemorative playing cards published by Brepols, Turnhout, 1919

Above: World War I commemorative playing cards published by Brepols, Turnhout, in 1919. The maker's name is printed on the king of diamonds. There were too many characters for one deck to accommodate so a second deck was produced. The Joker features King Albert I of Belgium as a mounted cavalry officer; the Calvary was an important factor in WW1.

Right: the Joker and the back. Click to zoom→


REFERENCES

Autenboer, Dr Eugeen van: The Turnhout Playing Card Industry 1826-1976, Aurelia Books, Brussels 1976

Images from the collection of Rod Starling, author of "The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards".


Made by a Belgian soldier at the front, World War I

Above: painted wooden box with the Belgian Lion on the front. Top with Allied flags and laurel wreath with dates 1914-1915 in the centre. Painted in the Belgian national tricolor, made by a Belgian soldier at the front, World War I. Collection of the National Museum of Playing Cards, Turnhout, Belgium.

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By Rod Starling

Member since January 09, 2013

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Rod Starling is one of the founding members of the 52 Plus Joker card collectors club. He has written many articles for the club's quarterly newsletter, Clear the Decks. His collection still encompasses both foreign and American decks. Rod has also authored a book titled The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards.

Also by Rod Starling

Download as Adobe PDF files:

"Playing Card Art Collectors Extraordinaire"

"Some Facts About Facsimiles"

"Something New and Topical"

"Tales From the Stage"

"Shuffling Along With History"

"Steamboat Cards and the Mississippi Mystique"

"Piatnik: High Quality & Longevity"

"Three Rare Playing Card Back Designs"

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