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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.

Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher

Card games produced in Germany by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher.

Globe Series Trade Mark

Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher was established in 1883 by Emil Oppenheimer and Ignatz Sulzbacher who were experienced in the stationery trade. The business was to be that of merchants and exporters only, based in Nurnberg in the south of Germany. The company had great success with sales to Great Britain under the “Globe Series” brand. The quality of their litho-printed games became a huge asset and we can see how good it was from the surviving games today. Many of them were designed in the UK but produced in Germany. Titles include: Draughts, Ephori, Fairy Snap, Flipperty Flop, Football, the Game of Numbers, Gerrymanders, Happy Families, Marto, Questions and Answers, Referendum, Karoo, Triplem, Snap, Sons of the Empire and Sweet Wedding Bell. Some games were designed in Germany and it's fun to look through them to find typically clothed German characters in the games.

“Sons of the Empire”

Above: Sons of the Empire published in either card or wooden boxes. The wooden box version cost 1/- so the card box one must have been cheaper, at a guess 6d. These Globe games by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher are hard to date. It seems that they were published between the 1890s up to around the start of the first World War when German sources were cut off.

“Karoo” later reissued as “Triplem”

“Karoo”, later reissued as “Triplem”, by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher, c.1900

Above: “Karoo”, later reissued as “Triplem”, produced in Bavaria for Globe Series by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher, c.1900   more


There are other games which were probably exported to the UK by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher which came from a different supplier without being branded “Globe”. These include two snap packs, one with a child dressed as a policeman on the box and the other a girl with a pony tail skipping, being more suitable for British children.

See the Box

Snap card game produced in Germany by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher, 1920s

Above: Snap card game produced in Germany for Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher, 1920s. The back design is a young couple of children in a circular border inside a diamond shape and an outline border. These cards are larger in size than is usual (67mm x 95mm) and the boxes are telescopic. One edition has “631c British Made” on the box which is odd as the same back design (and strange card size) appears on two other packs which were produced and sold in Germany. Images and notes courtesy Rex Pitts.


See the Box

Snap card game produced in Germany by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher, 1920s

Above: Snap card game produced in Germany by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher, 1920s.

All the Globe Series games were produced by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher for their UK catalogue. I suspect that the snap games were sourced from a different printer than their usual one and came from that printer’s stock as they were printing other games with the same back design. One is a Black Peter game with animal characters and the other a Struwwelpeter in German. These may have been offered by O&S to the UK market to boost orders, but probably not.

Struwwelpeter card game produced by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher

Above: box and 3 cards from a Struwwelpeter card game produced by Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher for German market.

When Hitler came to power Oppenheimer und Sulzbacher was eventually subject to “Aryanisation” because the owners were Jewish. Emil Oppenheimer had died in 1922 and Ignatz Sulzbacher also died later at an unknown date. The business had been run since then by their children Sigmund Oppenheimer and Jenny Sulzbacher. The company was seized in 1938 and Jenny Sulzbacher was taken eventually to Theresienstadt concentration camp where she was killed at age 75 in 1944. Sigmund was arrested, and only after the brave intervention of his wife was able to get an exit visa, maybe because of his medals which she showed them from his service in the German Army from long before the war had begun. They travelled to England and S Oppenheimer Ltd was incorporated in 1939. It remained a wholesaler buying in goods as had the German company. Sigmund and his old school friend Ludwig Goldsmith and his son Fred built the company up successfully.

“EMU” Series

In 1945 the “Globe” brand name was replaced with ”EMU Series”. This was used on a range of stationery goods of which playing cards and Snap cards were a small part. The playing cards were mostly printed by VEB Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik and display a little "Coeur" motif on one of the cards.

Above: an Emu brand playing card box and some cards. The common designs have pale blue outlines on the face and hands of the musicians, but the top pair have black lines. The faces are also a little different and the decoration of the clothing. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

The Company went on later to supply school items like pencil cases and geometry sets even going in for small pocket money toys. In the early 1970s Sigmund and his partner Ludwig Goldsmith created The Playwrite Group Plc.


Above: miniature ‘Happy Families’ set, 40 cards, ‘Emu’ brand, made in Hong Kong, repros of a Spears game but not necessarily connected with the above Emu brand.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Images and notes courtesy Rex Pitts except Draughts courtesy Richard Woodley. Information about the Oppenheimer and Sulzbacher families was kindly provided by Richard Towse, Sigmund Oppenheimer’s grandson, for which I am very grateful.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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