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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.

22: Belgian Makers: Van Genechten

Van Genechten started making playing cards in c.1840 and continued until the founding of Carta Mundi in 1970.

Antoon (Antoine) Van Genechten started printing playing cards some time between 1837 and 1841 in partnership with Jacques-Edouard Glénisson. This partnership was dissolved in 1855 and Glénisson continued a separate card-making business until 1899. Van Genechten, on the other hand, continued into the twentieth century and was one of the component parts of Carta Mundi. A prolific card-maker, he has left behind many examples of his work. In addition to the traditional Turnhout version of the English single-figure courts (based on De La Rue's D3) he produced a most unusual version, which I illustrated on page 19 of this blog.

For a full list of the Van Genechten cards in my collection, click here

Above: Cheap grade, c.1870

Above: A more expensive version, c.1870

Above: From a sample book in the Turnhout Museum, c.1870

The double-ended version was considerably redrawn in the style of many continental designs with human faces. (See also Brepols' version of the design on page 21.)

Above: From the same sample book

Note that the AS of this era is a close copy of Old Frizzle printed in blue; people sometimes think this is a rare version of the English duty ace. IT ISN'T!

He also used a different version of the single-ended courts based on De La Rue's D3, with a double-ended version, too.

Above: From the same sample book

He even produced a turned version of the single-ended courts, which I've never seen done by any other maker.

Above: Turned, c.1880. He also used De La Rue's double-ended D4.1 as a model.

Above: c.1875

And he used Reynolds' single-figure courts (R1) and made a double-ended version of these. Note that, as was quite common in Europe at the time, double-ended courts are made from single-ended courts cut in half with the head half printed both ends.

This is quite an extraordinary range of designs to have available all at the same time. Slightly later his version of De La Rue's D4.1, shown above with fancy decorative additions, was used in a lot of cheaper packs as well, and he did a triplicate version, too.

Above: c.1880

He also turned six of the courts of this design and produced packs with or without four indices, with or without round corners.

Above: c.1880-1900

Much later, in the 1930s, he was using a copy of De La Rue's last design (D9), which had been discontinued in England in the late 1920s.

In the 1930s Van Genechten was also making a lot of cards for India, as mentioned previously, and he used a completely turned version of De La Rue/Goodall's GD10 on very thick card. [See also page 22.]

Above: c.1935

Finally, right up until the 1960s, he used a version of USPCC's US5 with turned courts to put all the pips on the left, which meant a turned QH and a normal-facing JS.

For other Belgian makers, see pages 18, 21 & 23. For some of the non-standard packs produced by Van Genechten, see the wopc website


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...