The World of Playing Cards Logo

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.

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai.

“Maxi Puke 201” Circus Poker produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai, with attractive bird drawings on the court cards and reverse. The words “Maxi Puke" are simply a romanization of the phrase 马戏扑克. This means “Circus [brand] poker” in English. The Chinese word for “circus” literally means "horse show” (referring to stunts in horseriding), hence the presence of horses in both the jokers, the ace of spades and the central medallion on the box. The pip cards are quite ordinary western style pips.   See the cardboard box

“Maxi Puke 201” Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai

Above: the phrase on the bottom of the jokers is 上海文娱纸品一厂出品. This can be translated as “Product of Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai” Wenyu (文娱), the manufacturer’s name, means “Literature and Leisure”. The leaping horse on the jokers shows a backdrop of industrial chimneys which suggests pride of China’s rapid growth in industry.

“Maxi Puke 201” Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai “Maxi Puke 201” Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai

Above: “Maxi Puke 201” Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai. 52 cards + 2 jokers in box.

Notes and Chinese translations courtesy Anthony Lee.

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By Matt Probert

Member since March 02, 2012

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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.

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