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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.

Wereldvlucht Kwartet

Published in 1933, this game celebrated the burgeoning passenger services by air around the world. Spears Weltflug Quartette was produced in German, Dutch and English versions.

Weltflug Quartette - Wereldvlucht Kwartet

article by Rex Pitts

Published in 1933 this game celebrated the burgeoning passenger services by air around the world. Most of the new airlines, wherever they were based, were using one of two aeroplanes. The Dutch designed Fokker F VII, nicknamed Fokker Trimotor, was taken to the USA in 1925 to compete in the Ford Reliability Trials and won. This resulted in orders for these aeroplanes by the American airlines. The machine was built with a canvas covered steel tube fuselage and the wings were wooden with a plywood skin and it was powered by three engines; one in each wing and a third on the nose. It could carry 8 -12 passengers and it must have been awful to travel in. The alternative was the Ford Trimotor built almost entirely of metal with a similar engine arrangement. In 1931 when the Fokker had the majority of the market in its pocket there was a serious accident resulting in the death of the Notre Dame Football coach Knute Rockne and when this was blamed on the rotting wooden wing of the Fokker Trimotor in which he was flying the airliner industry was quick to change over to the Ford Trimotor. The rapid advances in aeroplane design, however, meant that by the mid 1930’s this style of machine was quickly outdated.

Spears “Weltflug Quartette” was produced in German, Dutch and English versions and may well have been produced in other languages too. The version illustrated is the Dutch version called “Wereldvlucht Kwartet” and set A is specifically for the Dutch market with pictures of a flight over Holland. Also the set K is a flight to the Dutch East Indies for the benefit of Dutch players. Lieutenant G Koppen carried out trial flights to Batavia (now Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies in 1927 in a Fokker Trimotor to test the suitability for a KLM regular route. His flight out took 10 days and the return flight took 12 days. Illustrated below is a Map of the route that was eventually established.

REFERENCES

“The Games We Play” the history of J W Spear & Sons by Helmut Schwarz & Marion Faber published by the Nuremberg Toy Museum 1998

Above: the back design. All images courtesy Rex Pitts.

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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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