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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.

Festival des Pains

Festival des Pains Artisan Boulanger (Artisan Bread Festival), c.2003.

Festival des Pains (Bread Festival) by Artisan Bakers partnership promoting a range of products of great taste and nutritional quality, meeting the needs of consumers and their evolving eating habits, published in c.2003. See the information card

  Festival des Pains

Festival des Pains (Bread Festival) Artisan Boulanger, c.2003 Festival des Pains (Bread Festival) Artisan Boulanger, c.2003 Festival des Pains (Bread Festival) Artisan Boulanger, c.2003

Above: Festival des Pains (Bread Festival) Artisan Boulanger, c.2003. 54 cards: 8 bread, 5 grain, 8 accompaniments & 2 jokers plus rules card, all of these cards are supplied in varying quantities to make up the full pack.

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

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IBM Linux One

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IBM Linux One playing cards, c.2018.

Lion Coffee

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Lion Coffee Mother Goose card game, late 19th C.

Gas Warm Homes

Gas Warm Homes

Gas Warm Homes Happy Families game published by British Gas, c.1980.

Zwanenberg’s Kwartetspel

Zwanenberg’s Kwartetspel

Zwanenberg’s Kwartetspel printed by Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland, 1938.

Havermout Kwartetspel

Havermout Kwartetspel

“H-O Kwartetspel” children’s card game promoting quick cooking oatmeal (instant porridge), 1930s.

Werbung die Sticht

Werbung die Sticht

“Werbung die Sticht” deck with artwork by Fritz Bünzli to promote advertising on playing cards by AG Müller 1982.

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes, featuring Feliz and Bonzo, 1920s.

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

“Deal Winners” promotional pack for Dundas & Wilson law firm.

Happy Gas Families

Happy Gas Families

Happy Gas Families published by British Gas, c.1985.

Asperge Kwartet

Asperge Kwartet

Asperge Kwartet published by Knorr.

My Goodness my Guinness

My Goodness my Guinness

Gilroy Special Edition Playing Cards to commemorate the centenary of the birth of John Gilroy, 1989.

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer promotion deck with bear cartoons by Frank M. Antoncich 1968.

Nationale-Nederlanden

Nationale-Nederlanden

Nationale-Nederlanden insurance company, 1984.

Investors Overseas Services

Investors Overseas Services

Investors Overseas Services, Ltd. (IOS) by A. G. Müller (Schaffhausen), c.1969.

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families card game promotion, both full sized and miniature versions, c.1946.

Electric Snap

Electric Snap

Electric Snap by the South Wales Electricity Board, 1950s.

Playtex

Playtex

Playtex - le jeu de la beauté et du destin, Grimaud, 1971.

Jeu de Memoire

Jeu de Memoire

Jeu de Memoire card game promoting Véritable Chaumes cheese from the village of St Antoines in south west France.

Lever Brothers miniatures

Lever Brothers miniatures

Two miniature card games promoting Vim Scouring Powder and Sunshine Soap, 1930s.

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen - Quartett game promoting Kali brand crop fertilizer, 1938.

Menuette

Menuette

Menuette published by Pepys Games, 1947.

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’ featuring Cow & Gate Baby Milk Food, 1935.

Blue Brand Snap Up

Blue Brand Snap Up

Blue Brand Snap Up published by Van den Berghs probably late 1920s.

Mr Bok

Mr Bok

The Merry Game of Mr Bok and his Happy Families, promoting Bok furniture polish, 1930s.

Parkinson’s Happy Families

Parkinson’s Happy Families

Parkinson’s Happy Families published by Parkinson’s of Doncaster, confectioners established in the early nineteenth century.

Qantas

Qantas

Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia and is the world's third-oldest airline still in operation, having been founded in November 1920.

Capilettor

Capilettor

Capilettor cartoon playing cards published by VASS, Leinfelden, 1978.

Cefacidal

Cefacidal

“Cefacidal” / Mead Johnson medical humour advertising playing cards, c.1975.

Cigar Bands

Cigar Bands

A collection of 24 cigar bands with miniature playing cards.

Domestic Economy

Domestic Economy

Domestic Economy published by Faulkner & Co, c.1899.

Carousel Playing Cards

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Carousel Playing Cards commissioned by Tesco stores, 2019.

Chocolat du Planteur

Chocolat du Planteur

Chocolat du Planteur cards (reproduction) by French artist Louis Bourgeois-Borgex, c.1900.

Adverto

Adverto

Adverto card game published by Adverto Publishing Company of Stratford, London, c.1910.

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Alphabetti Spaghetti Happy Families game for Crosse & Blackwell c.1978.

Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw

Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw

Advertising Deck for the Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! promotional playing cards, 1997.

Hendrick’s Gin

Hendrick’s Gin

Nice advertising deck for Hendrick’s Gin, c.2015.

67: Adverts and related material after 1900

67: Adverts and related material after 1900

The final page of material relating to playing cards from British periodicals.

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.

Guinness Posters

Guinness Posters

Classic Guinness Posters, 1999.