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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.

71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.

Continuing my survey of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts, I will look at the hearts. But first I start with an oddity, an anonymous Garter AS with courts with unusually shaped eyes, neither Type I or Type II; they don't fit with any of the makers I know but nevertheless maintain the traditional characteristics. It's difficult to tell whether it's a fake or not; the AS looks genuine, but anonymous Garter aces are not listed anywhere.

King of Hearts

Top row: KH1a/KH1/KH1b/KH1c

Bottom row: KH1d/KH1e/KH2/KH3

KH1 has Type I eyes, no moustache, a dog-tooth decoration on his shoulder on the left, crenellation on his cloak right and B/R inside his cloak by his leg; the crenellation can sometimes appear to be a thick zig-zag line, if it is poorly cut and has a lot of ink on it. The other variants relate to the colours at the bottom of the design: KH1a has B/Bk/R by his leg; it is often difficult to tell whether the colouring includes black or is just an overlap of the other two colours; KH1b has Bk/R bottom left, rather than R/Bk (by Wheeler); KH1c has B/R/Y (the odd Fuller pack referred to on page 70); KH1d B/Bk/Y, another Fuller pack; KH1e has Y/R on his leg, rather than the usual R/Y (Hardy).

KH2 has Type II eyes, a moustache, a fishbone decoration on his shoulder left, crenellation on his cloak, B/Bk/R by his leg and R/Bk bottom left (early Hall).

KH3 has Type II eyes, cheek shading, a fishbone decoration on his shoulder, a thin zig-zag decoration on his cloak, B/Bk/R by his leg and Bk/R bottom left.

Top row: KH1b with Type II eyes/KH3a/KH3b/KH3c

Bottom row: KH3a/KH3a/KH3d/oddment

KH1b is found with Type II eyes (later Hall).

KH3a has his shoulder and sleeve decorations on the left joined; there are some variants in the colouring of his cuff on the right: White, R or Y. The first could be an error for red. The example second left on the bottom row is odd in that his sword is missing.

KH3b has dog-tooth ornamentation on his cloak and B/Bk/Y by his leg; KH3c is similar, but with B/Bk by his leg; KH3d has no red on his cuff right.

I've added the odd KH because it looks like one by Hall but has a black rather than a blue outline; it has mixed characteristics of KH2 and KH3 and both crenellation and dog-tooth on his cloak, R/Bk bottom left, but cheek shading.

Queen of Hearts

Top row: QH1/QH1a/QH1/QH2

Bottom row: QH3/QH3a/QH4/QH5/QH3b

QH1-3a have Type I eyes only; QH5 is odd in that she has one eye of each type.

QH1 has B/Bk/R/B below her arm on the left, horizontal stripes on her skirt, but no diagonal stripes (Hunt, Reynolds); QH1a has diagonal stripes on her skirt (Gibson & Gisborne, Stopforth, Fuller).

QH2 has R/Bk/R/B below her arm and thin horizontal stripes (Hunt, Goodall).

QH3 has R/Bk/R/B below her arm, buttons on her bodice, diagonal stripes and dots on her skirt and dots on her sleeve edge on the right (Brotherton); QH3a has B/Bk/R/B, but is otherwise the same (Stopforth; the black on the left seems to have covered the space for the first red); QH3b has thick and thin stripes on her skirt instead of dots (Hardy).

QH4 has Bk/R/B/R below her arm, buttons, diagonal stripes and dots, and holds a tulip (Wheeler).

QH5 has R/Bk/R/B, a jagged design on her bodice, diagonal stripes and thick and thin stripes on her skirt, stripes on her sleeve edge on the right and red on her headdress on the left (odd pack from Fuller).

Top row: QH4a/QH4a/QH3b

Bottom row: QH6/QH7

QH6 & 7 have Type II eyes only.

QH4a has no tulip; the Bk/R/B below the arm of the first example is inherited from the earlier Llewellyn packs (Hall).

QH3b has dots in this case and a long face (Creswick, Stone).

QH6 has Bk/R/B/R, no buttons, no diagonals on the second band of her skirt, but diagonals on the third (Hall).

QH7 has Y/Bk/R/B below her arm, diagonals and dots, and holds a tulip (Gibson, Hunt).

Jack of Hearts

Top row: JH2 Type I/JH1/JH1a/JH2a

Bottom row: JH2b Type II/JH2c/JH2d

JH1 only has Type I eyes; the blue and red on his tunic may sometimes overlap.

JH1 has a moustache, a staff base, B/R on his tunic and Bk/Y on his leg on the left; JH1a has no staff base (Stopforth).

JH2 has a moustache, a red beard, a staff base, and B/Bk/R on his tunic (Llewellyn had Type I eyes - first image; Hall had Type II); JH2a has an uncoloured beard, no staff base and dots on his collar (Hardy); JH2b has cheek shading and no staff base (early Hall); JH2c has a moustache, no staff base, dots on his collar and Y/R on both legs (Hall); JH2d has no facial markings and dots on his collar (Hall).

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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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