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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.

Convoy

“Convoy” WW2 card game published by Tree Brand c.1940, based on wartime naval convoys.

Convoy is a WW2 collecting card game published by Tree Brand in c.1940 based on wartime naval convoys. The Tree Brand was one of the many companies founded and owned by Philip Marx from 1939 up to the 1980s. During the war he published the most extraordinary range of items including children’s comics printed on cardboard and even metal foil because of the paper shortages. Some of the brand names he used were “Marx” “PM” “Philmar” “Amex” and “Bairns” as well as Tree Brand which was also used for “Flash” comics. Philip Marx also founded Ariel Productions

“Convoy” WW2 card game published by Tree Brand c.1940

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“Convoy” WW2 card game published by Tree Brand c.1940 “Convoy” WW2 card game published by Tree Brand c.1940

Above: “Convoy” WW2 card game published by Tree Brand c.1940. 49 cards in box including compass and score cards. Players take it in turns, in partnership with another player, to run wartime naval convoys. The two ‘convoying’ players are chosen at the beginning of the game by spinning the 'Compass' card. The other players try to stop the convoy getting through by collecting certain other cards (mines, torpedoes, submarines etc).

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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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