The “Star” special pack of playing cards was manufactured by Thomas De la Rue under their Empire Card Co subsidiary (active c.1888-1915) for selling cheaper grade cards (red/black courts) to keep competitors out of the market. It has the standard DLR joker and the ace of spades is nicknamed the “Doily” because it resembles an ornamental mat. Sometimes the ace has the subtitle “The Empire Card Co., London.” Patience size packs are also found and, occasionally, packs with ‘Pneumatic’ finish.
The box advertises the “index pips” and “round corners” which at that time were a selling proposition to persuade customers to switch brand.
More examples of playing cards by the Empire Card Co., the subsidiary of Thomas de la Rue & Co (active c.1888-1915). It's not clear whether the doily ace predated the Empire Card Co.
The Empire Card Co. was revived intermittently during the 1930s and 1950s by both De la Rue and Waddingtons. This appears to have been for the purpose of selling otherwise anonymous packs, or else lower grade cards.
Above: De la Rue “Favourite” brand in printed Empire Card Co tax wrapper, c.1930. (click to zoom).
Above: pack by Waddingtons stamped “The Empire Card Co London” on the tax wrapper, c.1955 (click to zoom).
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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.
52 selected views of Scotland by De La Rue (Waddingtons) for GlenAlan Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, c.1960s.
Publicity items for a group of entertainers, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, 1911.
Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.
54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.
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Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
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Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.
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Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.
Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
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The ‘Rinker’ highly amusing snap game, c.1910.
Round the World Happy Families by Chiefton Products Ltd of Bristol, c.1950s.
Abbatt Toys Animal Families, c.1970.
French for Fun instructive card game published by John Jaques & Son Ltd., c.1930s
Counties of Britain by John Jaques & Son Ltd. c.1930.
Radio Banker by John Waddington Ltd for Marconiphone Co Ltd.
Jigstar film star card game by Murphy Games Ltd, 1936.