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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.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934. With the cards having been issued in 1934 maybe they were to commemorate Leopold 3rd’s accession and probably before the death of Queen Astrid, a native of Sweden, when the King and Queen were on holiday in Switzerland. The King was driving their car and lost control and the car plummeted into a roadside forest and hit a large tree. Queen Astrid was killed instantly but the King was only slightly injured.

The Jacks appear to be household or estate employees The Royals are as below:

♠ King of Spades: Albert 1st reigned 1909–1934. Queen of Spades: Elisabeth.
King of Diamonds: Leopold 2nd reigned 1865 – 1909. Queen of Diamonds: Marie-Henriette.
♣ King of Clubs: Leopold 1st reigned 1931 - 1865. Queen of Clubs: Louise Marie.
King of Hearts: Leopold 3rd reigned 1934 – 1951. Queen of Spades: Astrid.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934 Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934

Above: Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934. 52 cards + blank card in box. Gilded corners.

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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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