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The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards was founded by Royal Charter in 1628.

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The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards was founded by Royal Charter in 1628. London cardmakers had for some while resented imported playing cards undermining their business, and had appealed to the King for protective measures. All future imports of foreign cards into England and Wales were forbidden. In return for this, taxation was levied on playing cards at the rate of one farthing per pack. The tax varied over the years, and was finally abolished in 1960.

In 1882, at the annual banquet to mark the inauguration of the new Master and Wardens, each Liveryman was given a pack of cards specially designed for the occasion. The custom has been continued ever since, providing an interesting historical record as the backs of the cards illustrate important events from each year. Each year these luxury packs are produced in limited editions of about 350-400 packs.  Some of these are illustrated below.

Every year the design and official photo used for the Ace of Spades is entered in a leather bound book housed in the Guildhall. In that book is also shown the names of the Clerks of the Company.


1882: This design shows the Arms of the Company supported by men in armour, with four Knaves of Clubs set cornerwise.  The Ace of Spades bears four suitmarks superposed and "Goodall & Son".  Square corners, no indices shown on the cards.

1897:  Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee 1837-1897. The Ace of Spades with the inscription Diamond Jubilee 1837-1897 set in a diamond with the name of the Company and the Master.

1911:  "In Commemoration of the Coronation of His Majesty King George V.  June 22, 1911". The design, which is by Mr Seymour Lucas, R.A. is of fifteenth century style, because it was in the reign of King Henry VII that cards became fashionable at court. The three galleons are symbolic of the King's association with the Navy and support a crown with the initials G.R. The Ace of Spades has the inscription Coronation 1911 set in a circle surmounted by the Royal Crown, the name of the Company, and the names of the Master and Wardens. 700 packs issued.

1920

1920: Commemorating the Prince of Wales' around the world voyage to visit the Colonies. Portrait encircled by gold leaves and four oval views of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. A double pack was sent to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.

1928

1928:  "Tercentenary of the Granting of Charter by Charles 1st."  Portrait of King Charles I (after the painting by Van Dyke).  Design by Goodall & Son.  4000 packs issued.

1929:  "Our King restored to us.  Corde Recto Elati Omnes".  In relief and gratitude that the King recovered from illness.  4000 packs issued.  A special case containing one dozen packs was presented to King George V.

1932 1949 1951 1953 1954
1932 1949 1951 1953 1954

D-Day commemoration playing cards showing the Normandy landings by troops of the Allied Forces on 6th June 1944

Above: D-Day commemoration playing cards showing the Normandy landings by troops of the Allied Forces on 6th June 1944, issued by the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards, sealed in duty wrapper.

Royal Visit to South Africa by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, 1947

Above: the Royal Visit to South Africa by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. H.M.S. Vanguard arriving at Cape Town, 1947.

Commemoration of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede, 1965

Above: Commemoration of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede, 1965.

900th Anniversary Service at Westminster Abbey, 1966

Above: 900th Anniversary Service at Westminster Abbey, 1966.

Investiture of Prince Charles by Waddingtons for WCMPC 1969

Above: Investiture of Prince Charles by Waddingtons for WCMPC 1969. Image courtesy Matt Probert.


1917 Wills's Cigarette Arms of Companies series

Above: the 1917 original Wills's Cigarette "Arms of Companies" series cigarette card depicting the "Playing Card Makers". Courtesy Matt Probert.

1917 Wills's Cigarette Arms of Companies series
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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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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.


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