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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.

Darling

Darling pin-up playing cards designed by Heinz Villiger, c.1950s-60s.

Darling pin-up playing cards with silk screen illustrations by Heinz Villiger, published by Bielefelder Spielkarten Fabrik GmbH, c.1960. Villiger’s signature can be seen on every card.

Darling pin-up playing cards designed by Heinz Villiger, c.1950s-60s Darling pin-up playing cards designed by Heinz Villiger, c.1950s-60s

Above: Darling pin-up playing cards designed by Heinz Villiger, published by Bielefelder Spielkarten Fabrik GmbH, c.1960 (several slightly different editions). The Bielefelder Spielkarten Fabrik logo is on the ten of hearts. 52 cards plus 3 different Jokers.


Two Heinz Villiger 1950s pinups printed on silk, each with printed signature, from a set of 53 images in total.

Villiger’s signature c.1950

These correspond to one of the jokers and the four of spades in the deck shown above.

Source: the-saleroom.com

Two Heinz Villiger 1950s pinups printed on silk
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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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