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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.

47: Welch’s postcards and De La Rue’s redrawing

There are a number of court card designs that have never actually been produced as cards. It's a shame some of them never were.

J. Welch produced a large number of postcards around the turn of the twentieth century. One set showed a young woman holding a hand of cards on one half and the other half was a playing card. The cards she is holding are those of De La Rue (see the image of the full postcard below) and there are a few number cards, with and without indices. But there's a full set of court cards, which have clearly been designed specially for the postcard firm. They would have made a splendid pack of cards!


Here's a slideshow of the full postcards with the De la Rue ace of spades clearly showing on the king of spades.

Even De La Rue tried to redesign their courts in the 1930s, but only two were drawn and so they were never printed.

Interestingly, though, the Crown court cards of an unusual 5-suit bridge pack by De La Rue have similar design features, even though they are not traditional figures at all.

Thanks to Paul Symons for the scan.

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By Ken Lodge

Member since May 14, 2012

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​I'm Ken Lodge and have been collecting playing cards since I was about eighteen months old (1945). I am also a trained academic, so I can observe and analyze reasonably well. I've applied these analytical techniques over a long period of time to the study of playing cards and have managed to assemble a large amount of information about them, especially those of the standard English pattern. Read more...

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