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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.

Wild und Hund Skat

Hunting deck designed by Walter Niedl for “Wild und Hund” magazine, c.1977

Hunting themed deck designed by Walter Niedl as a promotion for “Wild und Hund” magazine published by Paul Parey in Hamburg, c.1977. The 12 court cards and four aces feature medieval style illustrations taken from the hunting journals of Kaiser Maximillian, c.1510.

Wild und Hund Jagdmagazin
Hunting deck designed by Walter Niedl for Wild und Hund magazine, c.1977 Hunting deck designed by Walter Niedl for Wild und Hund magazine, c.1977

Above: Hunting skat deck designed by Walter Niedl for “Wild und Hund” magazine published by Paul Parey, printed by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken, Leinfelden, 1977. 32 cards + extra card in box. 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.

Recommended

Fox & Hounds

Fox & Hounds

Fox & Hounds card game published by C.W. Faulkner & Co., c.1899.

Wild und Hund Skat

Wild und Hund Skat

Hunting deck designed by Walter Niedl for “Wild und Hund” magazine, c.1977

Hunting Themed Skat

Hunting Themed Skat

German-suited hunting themed deck designed by Günter Schmitz and made by VEB Altenburg, 1980.

Hunter’s Bridge

Hunter’s Bridge

“Hunter’s Bridge” playing cards by ASS depicting animals and associated symbols of hunting, c.1976.

D’Ye Ken John Peel

D’Ye Ken John Peel

“D’Ye Ken John Peel” by Greta Games, Carlisle, c.1920.

St Hubert’s Bridge

St Hubert’s Bridge

“St Hubert’s Bridge” published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1956.

Stuttgart pack, c.1430

Stuttgart pack, c.1430

The luxury, hand-painted Stuttgart Cards (Stuttgarter Kartenspiel) dated c.1430, with suits of ducks, falcons, stags and hounds.

Flemish Hunting Deck

Flemish Hunting Deck

Set of medieval playing cards with King, Queen, Knave and numeral cards from one to ten in each of four suits which refer to the activity of hunting, as practiced by the nobility.

Spielkarte für Schützen

Spielkarte für Schützen

“Spielkarte für Schützen” deck designed by Karl Heinz Lanz, published by Rudolf Bechtold and Co., c.1966

Hunting Depicted on Playing Cards

Hunting Depicted on Playing Cards

In the Middle Ages hunting was an integral part of life.

Waddington’s Sporting Series

Waddington’s Sporting Series

Waddington’s Sporting Series, 1933.

The Princely Hunting pack, c.1440

The Princely Hunting pack, c.1440

The Princely Hunting Pack, c.1440/45, is attributed to Konrad Witz and his workshop in Basle.