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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.

10: Playing Cards in Germany

The playing card manufacturers of Germany from 1900 until 1939 provide a complicated set of relationships that deserve closer investigation. Here are some of the standard English designs to be found.

The playing card manufacturers of Germany from 1900 until 1939 provide a complicated set of relationships that deserve closer investigation. A lot of the firms ended up as component parts of Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken (later becoming two separate firms, one in the East and one in the West, the latter inheriting the trademarks and continuing many of the patterns). For a full list of the German cards in my collection except for those of ASS (see separate list), click here
For a list of ASS/Altenburger/VSS cards in my collection, click here

Since I don't have access to the necessary records relating to this period, I will limit myself here to illustrating some of the many types of standard English cards produced, some from firms that did not last very long. A number of different models were used, e.g. Dougherty and Goodall, but there are also some interesting in-house designs. The first of these is by Dondorf, which was used in slightly different formats from c.1890-1925.

Above: Dondorf

Along with idiosyncratic clothing, we find an unturned QS with her attributes on opposite sides, an unturned QD with her pip on the left, so her posture is altered, a two-handed KD, a turned QC with arm and ermine from the traditional QS, and an orbless KC. Interestingly, Müller of Schaffhausen used the same style of head and posture, but with completely redrawn clothing.

An example of a close copy of Goodall's courts can be found in an anonymous pack with a Goodall-style AS, blacked out where the name usually appears. The pack is probably by Schmid, even though Wüst seem to have had some kind of tie-up with Goodall and "borrowed" their AS design in other packs, such as the one below with a copy of Dougherty's courts with six turned.

Above: Schmid, c.1910

Above: Wüst, c.1900

There is also an otherwise anonymous, wide-size Goodall copy with Oriental Playing Cards on the AS and box, and Made in Germany on the box. I think it's by F.X. Schmid.

The rest of the illustrations are of idiosyncratic designs by various makers.

Above: Flemming-Wiskott, c.1930. [from Peter Endebrock's website]
Above: Reorex, c.1930, with a copy of Arpak courts. [from Jürgen Platz]

Above: Frommann & Morian, c.1920 with some similarity to Goodall's design and an AS based on Goodall's

Above: F.X.Schmid, c.1935; note the Goodall AS with the maker's name on it, and a copy of Goodall's joker; also the KD is not in profile.

Above: Buronia, c.1936, a short-lived firm of the mid 1930s

In the mid-1930s Dondorf used a different style of English court based on USPCC's wide-size turned set (US4).

Above: Dondorf, c.1933

And about the same time Walther Scharff (Deutsche Spielkarten) used a bridge-size design based on USPCC's narrow Congress courts of the time (US3.1), which eventually was used by the East German card manufacturer in various forms up until reunification. Scharff also used a Goodall-derived AS like that of Frommann & Morian.


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...