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.
Member since May 14, 2012View Articles
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...
Limited edition gift set issued to mark the American Bicentennial, 1776-1976, produced by John Waddington Ltd and the Bristol Pottery for the British American Bicentenary Group, 1970.
Nursery rhyme playing cards by Waddingtons, Leeds, UK, 1975.
South Park characters and famous one-liners, by Carta Mundi for Hasbro Int. Inc., 2001.
A five-suited set of playing cards published by Fleet and Case Games Ltd., Rainham, Kent, UK, c.1980.
52 selected views of Scotland by De La Rue (Waddingtons) for GlenAlan Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, c.1960s.
Publicity items for a group of entertainers, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, 1911.
Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.
54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.
Celebration of the work of David Kindersley, stone letter-carver and typeface designer. Published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, Cambridge, UK, 2015.
Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.
Pack celebrating the rugby world champions of 2003. Produced by MMcardz.
Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
Hall & Son
Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.
In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
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.
Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith
We are deeply saddened by news of the passing of Anthony Rex Pitts (1940-2021).
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.
The Story of Pepys Games by Rex Pitts
Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany
Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.
Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.
The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.
Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games MFG Co., Ltd, London S.E.11
Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.
Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.
Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.
Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.