Bone Playing Cards

I have recently acquired a set of miniature bone playing cards. They came in a mahogany box with various other sets of playing cards, mainly dating from George III and Victorian, so I am assuming it is somewhere around then. My late mother found the box about 50 years ago in a neighbour's skip. There is no further information regarding their provenance.

There is no evidence of scrimshaw or carving the outlines. Looking at the cards, I think they are just painted or coloured onto the bone in red, blue, black and yellowish brown.

miniature French playing cards painted on bone miniature French playing cards painted on bone

Above: miniature French playing cards painted on bone, each card measures approx 3.5cm x 2cm. From the collection of Becky Bevan.

Bone card set in case, c.1810-1814

Prisoners use all kinds of materials including waste products to pass the time making things.

Bone card set in case, c.1810-1814

Above: bone card set in case with cribbage score-board, hand-painted by a French soldier in English captivity during the Napoleonic Wars, c.1810-1814. From the collection of the National Playing Card Museum, Turnhout, Belgium.

Miniature Bone Set in V&A Museum

Yet another 19th century miniature set of cards inside a cribbage box, made on small rectangular pieces of bone, is preserved in the V&A Museum, London. The set is described as of English origin, coloured in yellow, blue and brown as well as red and black. See here

Last Updated November 14, 2021 at 05:18pm


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