Souvenir Playing Cards
Although the first printed and illustrated travel book was published in Mainz in 1486, it was a guide for pilgrims to the Holy land. Until relatively recently the pleasure and profit of foreign travel was dangerous and risky, with highway robbers and outlaws waiting in ambush. Improved road surfaces and speedier means of transport increased the volume of traffic during the 18th century. The 19th century saw the rise of European tourism, especially in Switzerland.
Müller, together with Wüst and Dondorf, were in the forefront of the manufacture of packs featuring costumes of Swiss cantons with Swiss scenes on the aces, or simply a standard pattern with aces depicting Swiss scenes. Other German manufacturers simply modified existing designs to include vignettes depicting local scenes on the numeral cards see example →. Belgian manufacturers toward the end of the nineteenth century were also alert to this new trend. The genre has evolved, so that tourist souvenir playing cards from around the world may depict the aesthetic, political, social and economic conceptions of the countries to which they belong. They may feature beauty spots, local customs, gastronomy, costumes, religious practices, historic ruins or other attractions. We may wish to learn more about the country or even visit it for ourselves. Consequently, souvenir playing cards are a significant means of increasing sales to tourists and attracting visitors to particular tourist areas, as well as creating an interest in discovering the customs and way of life of other countries. In some cases tourist souvenir playing cards reflect state propaganda.
It is said that travel broadens the mind. Do we really believe that a few days spent in a foreign country, hearing babbling voices and smelling strange cooking, will deepen our insight? Certainly the direct personal experience is more rewarding than watching television. Old playing cards can help us to reconstruct an impression of life during an earlier age which otherwise is distant in time and inaccessible.
Most souvenir packs are French-suited (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades). Many souvenir packs show changes in fashion and photographs of actual locales as they were in past times, including trams and early motor vehicles. Many U.S. Railroads took up the idea of souvenir packs of their routes, and in Canada most such cards were manufactured by Chas Goodall of London. During the 1920s and 30s British Railway companies issued the 'Beautiful Britain' series of playing cards with scenes on the reverse of their popular destinations, manufactured by John Waddington. Sales psychologists have observed that female customers are more susceptible to the appeal of brightly coloured picture backs, and the tourist demand for souvenirs has grown whilst every year sees an increase in the number of people visiting foreign countries wishing to buy gifts or souvenirs of their holiday. Playing cards make a significant contribution to the souvenir industry.
And are the roads any safer today than they were in the 18th century?
Member since February 01, 1996View Articles
Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
52 selected views of Scotland by De La Rue (Waddingtons) for GlenAlan Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, c.1960s.
Kings and Queens of Portugal between 1185 - 1279. by V. de J.J. Nunes , Lisbon, Portugal, 1977.
Colour photographs of Turkey, published by Sel Reklam, Antalya, Turkey, c.2000.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Carte da Gioco Toscana souvenir deck, 2002.
Playing cards featuring traditional folk costumes from Romania.
Souvenir pack from Garuda Indonesia, the national airline of Indonesia, c.1985.
Original designs from the French overseas department of Martinique by local artist Martine Porry.
Fifty-five paintings of Bulgaria published as “Sense of Bulgaria” by Land of Roses Ltd, Bulgaria, c.2015.
San Marino stamp designs combined with photographic views by La Fotometalgrafica Emiliana, c.1975.
Annapurna playing cards produced and published by Himalayan MapHouse, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Pack designed by Jean David (1908-93) for El Al Airlines. The courts are named after Biblical characters.
An interesting pack of playing cards with illustrated Indian aces made "Specially for the Bombay Market", c.1915.
Counties of Britain by John Jaques & Son Ltd. c.1930.
Polska with artwork by Katarzyna Tomala & Krzysztof Korzeniak, 2011.
Ethiopian playing cards designed for the Ethiopian Tourist Organization by Afewerk Teklé.
Sapra Studio Original playing cards featuring wild animals of S Africa, 1999.
Genoese pattern with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1920.
Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934.
Bicentenaire de la Révolution Française 1789–1989 created by Christian Offroy.
“Historische Verkehrswege” quartet game published by Verlag für Lehrmittel Pössneck, 1988.
Souvenir from Zakynthos by Euro Card.
Souvenir of Norway deck.
Views of New Zealand published by G.B.Scott Souvenirs, Auckland, c.1960.
Souvenir from New Zealand by Croxley (John Dickinson) c.1950.
“Ocean to Ocean” Canadian Pictorial Souvenir pack by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd, c.1912.
Ocean to Ocean Souvenir of Canada by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd, c.1905.
Red Sea fish identification cards published in several languages by Horus of Egypt, 2005.
Austrian Folklore deck first published by Piatnik in 1934.
Baraja Turística de España by Heraclio Fournier, 1966.
Discover Romania souvenir published by Editura Foton, 2010.
Gold plated souvenir playing cards from the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai.
Romania Unique Places souvenir playing cards by Age Art.
Erlenmeyer City Sights hand-illustrated playing cards by Stephanie Gray, 2015.
Greek Mythology playing cards published by Michalis Toubis S.A., 1995.
Columbian Exposition Souvenir playing cards, G.W. Clark, Chicago, 1893.
Lakeland playing cards by Stuart Lawrence depicting famous characters & views of England’s Lake District, c.1988.
Venezuela Souvenir deck by Heraclio Fournier, c.1980s.
Souvenir playing cards from the culturally diverse southwestern Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.
Jeu des Provinces de France published by Éditions Dusserre, 1979.