At periods of change in playing card design there are often interesting packs which may well have been short-lived. Between 1875 and 1895 cards changed their appearance from square-cornered, unindexed thick pieces of board to the kind of card we would recognize today, albeit made of different material. For example, Goodall at first seems to have squeezed corner indices at the edges of single-ended pip cards in the mid-1870s. The example below dates from c.1878 and is an early example of round corners, too; the 10C lost its top left-hand '1' in the cutting process. They then reduced the size of the court figures by cutting off the edges of the design to accommodate the indices better, and the pip cards became double-ended from c.1880.
At around the same time they also started to introduce several new grades of card to supplement the standard Moguls, Harrys, Highlanders and Andrews. Why they did this is not clear, especially as some of the resulting cards are difficult to distinguish in terms of finish, thickness and other specifications. The courts and aces are always the same. The grade was printed on the standard AS, as in the examples below.
For most of the 1880s the courts were of the cut-down type (G4.31). One of the advantages of having dated WCMPC packs is that they give an indication of the dates of different types of court card. From 1884-87 the courts of the WCMPC packs were G4.31; the 1888-90 packs were made by Woolley, so are irrelevant. By 1891 the courts have been redrawn as complete designs, rather than old designs with bits cut off. These are G5 and are usually found with long slender indices and were used in WCMPC packs from 1891-1902. Around this time, too, special aces were designed for some of the card grades. Again it isn't clear why this happened, and they don't seem to have lasted for long.
And there are other packs with single-ended pips, G5 courts and the normal AS, even with square corners, like those below. The bottom pack has a plain back and plain faces on the courts, so is likely to be a cheaper brand, probably Club Cards.
Above: three packs of G5 courts, c.1890
The most elusive of these aces is the one for the British American grade from the 1890s.
Even standard G5 packs occasionally had square corners and indices, and the London AS sometimes had no indices even though the rest of the pack had them. The back design of the top pack is reminiscent of the Pompeian designs of Owen Jones of twenty years earlier. The bottom example below has a version of the courts of reduced size (G5.1) with the much smaller 'Limd' AS and is found in the revived Shakespeare pack with square corners and no indices as late as 1917. The box has an address with a numerical subdivision of the postal district and these only came in in 1917. The pack could be as late as 1920.
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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...
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.
Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.
PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History
This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.
Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important historical facts about playing cards and their history.
Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.
Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern
A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.
Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.
Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.
Corner Indices were a major innovation in playing card production.
Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.
A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.
This is a presentation in a more straightforward fashion of the work done by Paul Bostock and me in our book of the same name.
Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.
Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.
Here are a few early advertisements relating to cards from newspapers 1684-1759 and a number of later 19th century documents of interest.
Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.
A continuation of the development of the off-spring of the Paris patterns and a few examples of how the French regional figures have inspired modern designers.
A great many regional patterns were exported from France and subsequently copied elsewhere. Some of them became local standards in their own right.
Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.
On page 11 I illustrated several examples of the regional French patterns from Sylvia Mann's collection; this is a more in-depth look at the figures of these patterns ("portraits" in French).
Facsimile of Tarot de Marseille by Iohann Christoph Hes, Augsburg, c.1750.
Notgeld - Emergency Money - was in rare cases issued on playing cards.
There are some interesting packs from Goodall in the last quarter of the 19th century.
1st edition of famous Bicycle Playing Cards printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885.
Primiera Bolognese by Modiano, c.1975
Facsimile edition of Swiss suited deck first published by Johannes Müller in c.1840.
Archaic Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly by Pedro Varangot in 1786.
Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly in 1682.
“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.
Illustrated playing cards featuring comical engravings and rhymes about saints, c.1740.
Navarra pattern by an unknown cardmaker with initials I. I., 1793.
Anonymous archaic Spanish Suited pack, c.1760
Geographical playing cards sold by Henry Brome, second edition, c.1682.
French suited German engraved cards c1610 to 1650,
“Jeu de Géographie” educational playing cards etched by Stefano Della Bella (1610-1664) and published by Henry le Gras, c.1644.
Cartes des Rois de France (1644) facsimile edition by Edizioni del Solleone, 1986.