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Published March 03, 2019 Updated November 24, 2023

Chinese Jokers

Chinese playing card makers have probably produced the widest variety of jokers of any single part of the world.

China Art & Design Collecting Joker Add to Collection

Chinese playing card makers, whether they be based on mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or even Macau, have a reputation for imitation and replication fused with innovation which has produced perhaps the widest variety of joker playing card designs of any single part of the world.

Designs copied in whole or part from Western classic designs are chiefly limited to the more prolific, later American, British and Belgian classic designs by the US Playing Card Company, Waddington's, Cartamundi but also encompass designs by Consolidated-Dougherty, Arrco, Hoyle, Brepols, Biermans and Ducale.

Copies such as this Chinese version of the classic “Bee No 92" poker deck marketed under the brand name BCG are clearly copies rather than fakes.

Bee No.92 original and Chinese copy

Above: Bee No.92 original joker and Chinese copy.


While this anonymous copy of the classic Waddington’s standing jester is a poor quality fake in which no attempt has been made at originality.

Waddingtons original joker and Chinese copy

Above: Waddingtons original joker and Chinese copy.


Chinese versions are often easily spotted by the poor quality printing, paper, and the custom of producing one joker card in colour and another in monochrome or even just not coloured black and white, as this Arrco inspired Chinese pair illustrate.

ARRCO original joker and Dragon brand copies in colour and B & W

Above: ARRCO original joker and Dragon brand copies in colour and B & W.

The later Arrco laughing head jester inspired a run of Chinese imitations with their own adaptations.

ARRCO jokert with Chinese copies

The US playing card company standing jester was copied but incorporating the colouring of the Waddington's standing jester to produce novel variations.

US playing card company standing jester and Chinese copies

Above: US playing card company standing jester, 'Tiger' brand copy and another anonymous copy.


But not as interesting as this design which takes the jester’s face, head, and collar together with the yellow banner from the Cartamundi classic jester, applied to a Chinese original generic unicycling style design.

Chinese joker variations

More Carta Mundi copies.

Carta Mundi joker and various copies

Above: Carta Mundi joker (top left) and various copies.


Ducale joker and copy

Above: Ducale joker (left) and copy.


Hoyle joker and copies

Above: Hoyle joker (left) and copies.


Russell joker and copy

Above: Russell joker (left) and Michaud copy.


De la Rue joker and anonymous copies

Above: De la Rue joker (left) and anonymous copies.


Biermans joker and anonymous copies

Above: Biermans joker (left) and anonymous copies.


Piatnik joker and anonymous copy

Above: Piatnik joker (left) and anonymous copy.

Download Part 2  (980 KB PDF)

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308 Articles

By Matt Probert

Member since March 02, 2012

I have adored playing cards since before I was seven years old, and was brought up on packs of Waddington's No 1. As a child I was fascinated by the pictures of the court cards.

Over the next fifty years I was seduced by the artwork in Piatnik's packs and became a collector of playing cards.

Seeking more information about various unidentified packs I discovered the World of Playing Cards website and became an enthusiastic contributor researching and documenting different packs of cards.

I describe my self as a playing card archaeologist, using detective work to identify and date obscure packs of cards discovered in old houses, flea markets and car boot sales.

2 comments

Julian Siffert's Avatar'

Hey Matt,
I was reading about the history of the joker card and just stumbled upon your fascinating collection.
Especially the comparisons are awesome!
Do you also have the images of Part 2 in better quality and would provide them?
I'd love to have a better look, because when zooming in, most of the pictures appear very pixelated.
Kind regards
Julian

Ian Taylor's Avatar'

Hi Matt, Echoing Julian's sentiments above. I also wondered if you had a higher resolution copy of the Part Jokers? It would be great to see them in all their glory. Keep up the fascinating articles for WOPC. They make great reading.
Kind regards
Ian


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